Friday, April 28, 2006

Nate Bouknight, a real estate developer from East Norriton, Pa., said it now costs him about $60 to fill his Ford Explorer SUV, up about $17 from last month. The vehicle gets about 12 miles to the gallon.

Bouknight said President Bush should do more to ease the high prices, adding he thought the call for an investigation into price gouging was just a sham.
Apparently it never occurred to Nate that the extra gas his SUV requires is as much a factor in prices as the geopolitical situation. But hey, why get into a discussion about supply/demand, the ethics of capitalism and the complex situation surrounding oil and the countries that it comes from? We want our standard of living and convenience undisturbed, and cheap.

Let's turn the statement around, just for fun: "President Bush said Bouknight should do more to ease the high prices, adding he thought the griping about price gouging while driving a recreational vehicle was just a sham." While I fully understand that the President of the United States will always bear the blame for negative pocketbook news just by virtue of his position (if nothing else), I also understand that it is easy to scapegoat without looking at one's own practices. My car gets more than double the gas mileage of Nate's, which could land him a net savings of at least $13 a tank over what he used to pay. If I would move closer to work, I could save at least half again.

It seems a little ironic that many of the same voices who used to endlessly shout the "No war for oil" cliche now accuse Bush of causing oil prices to go up by attacking Iraq. Unless one supports Hollywood's (à la Syriana) murky idea about the U.S. getting into political conflicts so that we can own oil that doesn't belong to us, it is pretty easy to conclude that if our only Middle East motive is petroleum, it doesn't make sense to spend billions on a war that hasn't even begun to turn Iraqi oil acres into US territories, or budge the price of crude oil downward.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Looking for a platform for evangelism, the Rev. Mark Evans paid a visit last year to Susie's Pub, which advertises itself as the "Cleanest Pub in Lockhart." The bar is not far from Evans' congregation, Northwest Community Church.

Evans, 50, asked owner Susan Duncan what her slowest night was. Duncan said Monday, and the result was "Two-Beer Bible Study -- All Welcome," in which the minister pays for two brews for anyone who will sit for an hour of Bible study, beginning with a verse of Scripture.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Totally useless piece of trivia for the day:

Giuseppe Cerri, the man the Bolognese credit with the happy invention of the tortellino, claimed to have been inspired by a vision of Venus’s navel.

I will have to remember this the next time I order tortellini. If I owned a restaurant, I'd make a giant one so that people could say, "I'll have the tortellino, please."

Friday, April 07, 2006

My last semester of college was spent at Oxford University. It was a summer semester, and I was enrolled there for six very enjoyable weeks. For all of its benefits, and I must say I found myself wishing that all of my bachelor's degree had been earned there, I did not find Oxford a place given to convenience. To prove the point nicely, I will now give you the process by which photocopies can be obtained in Oxford's Bodleian Library. This is not a page of the script from a Mr. Bean episode. It is actual.

The very first thing you need to do is find the books you are looking for. If the books are newer than 1970-something, you can find them on computer. If they are not, you look up the titles in these oversized leather tomes where all of the entries have been pasted in from separate scraps of paper.

Once you find your books, you write down their titles and numbers on a little form, and turn that in at the desk. Then you go out for lunch. Because you do not get the books yourself, they have to be delivered, which typically takes a half-day.

When the books arrive, bear in mind that the Bodleian is not a checkout library. All books must be read on the premises. Fortunately, they at least give you a reserved shelf space for books you want to come back for.

Here's where it gets fun. When you locate a passage that you want to photocopy, you go to the area in the library where they have the photocopy forms. For each book to be photocopied, you fill out a separate form. I don't remember the form in detail, only that it seemed much longer than a form for making photocopies by any measure of sanity should be.

When you are finished, you take the forms to a man behind a desk, who assesses the cost of the photocopies to be made. He doesn't tell you this price, he writes it down on your copy of the form. Also, you cannot pay him directly, that would be convenient. You must go to another part of the library, which happens to be on a different floor, and buy stamps of various denominations. Say maybe two fifty-cent stamps, three ten-cent, and six one-cent. Once you have all the right stamps, you lick them and affix them to your forms. Then you take the forms to another part of the library, and for the life of me I can't remember if it's where you were told the price or in a third place. Either way, it doesn't take long before the question comes to mind, "Could we possibly move the stamp machine?"

After the forms are submitted, they get stamped with a kind of postmark (if everything is in order), and you can expect to find the photocopies processed for you the next day, and placed in little alphabetical mailboxes, plastic wrapped.

The whole things was just so absurd. I still have a couple of the forms with the stamps stuck to them.

The Radcliffe Camera, a building containing reading rooms for the Bodleian.

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