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The most blatant example I recall of a financial sales pitch was one time when I was shopping for a new car. I had almost made my decision, when the sales person asked how I would be financing. When I told him I would be using my credit union, his eyebrows raised in astonishment and he asked me to wait while he got the "finance manager" to come and talk to me.

When said manager arrived, I was utterly blown away by his argument that, even though the interest rate he was offering appeared to be higher than that of the credit union (by about two percentage points as I recall), in fact I would be paying less. When I asked how that could be, his reply was that, while I would be paying the credit union once a week [I have no idea where he got that idea, but by this time I was fascinated], and thus be making 52 interest payments per year, nevertheless he could offer me a plan where I had to make payments only once per month, thus making only 12 interest payments per year. Therefore, I would be paying him less in interest than I would to the credit union. Q.E.D.

Presumably there are people who would be taken in by this, but I simply got up and walked out while they shouted after me something to the effect of "If you leave now, you won't get this opportunity again". Well, thank goodness for that!

The subject of casinos and gambling is endlessly fascinating to me. The most interesting thing is the business model of casinos. As you pointed out, getting the numbers to approach the average is the win that the casinos rely on. Note some time when you are in Vegas how you are forced to enter the gaming rooms in order to get around. There is a very reliable calculation that every body that enters the casino floor is worth $X (X was 10 a few years ago). Even if you have no intention of playing, Harrahs can rely on that very simple calculation -- if they put up false "sidewalk cleaning" signs that force you in the door, they can chalk up $10 of revenue. Casinos are a volume buisiness; they don't care if you put in one quarter and win $10,000. They just made a $10 because behind you 1000 people just walked through the room.

Happy birthday!

On putting shelves & drawers together, what happened to the nice work bench with drill bits and screw drivers you had in DC. Did you not ship that 'most important' commodity?
It would have been faster than struggle with the lady on the phone and overcome the "inebriated wild monkeys with poor depth perception ".

In your first paragraph regarding your recent encounter with the latest in "do it yourself" furniture you said it was as if "constructed by wild inebriated monkeys with poor depth perception"...In a way that's probably a very accurate description of the workers (we are a kind of monkey to everyone but us) who manufactured the pieces to that "assemble it yourself" furniture. You could have added that they were probably paid a pittance, had no insurance or retirement or education or safety features or adequate ventilation or effective respirators (which makes the liklihood of inebriation a very real one, since most of the product they're making consists of glues, aeorsols and solvents), though maybe their children will (when/if they get old enough to have some of their own). Next time, why not go back over to the jeweller who re-sized your ring and ask if they knows any furniture makers in the arts and craft community (which still exists, y'know) and buy something that you'll be happy to hand down to your kids or somebody's kids. Maybe one of the kids of the girls and boys who manufactured those parts will one day live next door to's becoming a smaller and smaller world.

Doug, Doug, kindly take a moment to climb down from your self-righteous high horse and lay off the needless guilt-tripping. Please. :) I am hardly insensitive to poor working conditions in third world countries, and if you read my earlier post about the ring carefully, you'd note that I try to support small local businesses when I can. That doesn't mean tolerating poor craftsmanship because of some misguided sense of white liberal guilt. We are all held accountable for the quality of the work we do. Sometimes we fall short. And we suffer the consequences.

As for the monkeys with poor depth perception -- it takes a special kind of mean-spirited mind to twist that into a racist comment and assume that I intended it as an "accurate description" of the workers. Congratulations.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.