Friday, May 30, 2008

Craigslist: Buyer Beware

I talked to two separate people today who found cars for sale on Craigslist and got ripped off.

I firmly believe people are essentially good-hearted but here is the most helpful tip with regard to buying things from private parties:

Actually take possession of the item at the time of sale.
No Goodies = No Money.

Don’t send someone money, especially through PayPal, ahead of time. I mention PayPal specifically because they are not a bank and therefore play by their own rules. In the event of fraud their obligation to you would be different than a credit card.

Think about PayPal (or sending a check even) like promising to put money under a rock then coming back to that rock the next day to find your item. And good luck with that plan.

Craigslist is a great way to buy/sell items but remember that there are folks out there who are actively trying to steal your money. Like eBay a year or so ago, it’s the hot new forum for fraud.

Incidentally there are other important things about buying cars. For one you will want the title and a bill of sale. It'd also be nice to have every piece of ID you can possibly verify for the selling party in case it all goes bad and you need to track them down later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And A Chicken Shall Lead Us

Yes, okay I'm stealing this. It was taken from Avert Your Eyes but she stole it from someone else. Enjoy:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a CHANGE! The
chicken wanted CHANGE!

My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the
need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the
other side of the road!

When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross
the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure --
right from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the
chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about

*_DR. PHIL:_*
The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he
must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it
goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to
do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his
'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why
he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken
learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm
going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the
road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want
to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken
is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite
image of the chicken crossing the road...

We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet
been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against
it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's
intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in
his eyes and the way he walks.

To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a
standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price
dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider

Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the
chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

To die in the rain. Alone.

Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?'
That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken
is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we
boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal
media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other
side.' That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain
and as simple as that.

In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody
told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the
chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it
experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its
life long dream of crossing the road.

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in

I have just released eChicken2007, which will not only cross roads,
but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check
book. Internet Explorer is an integral part of the Chicken. This new
platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C% .........

Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of

I invented the chicken!

Did I miss one?

Where's my gun!

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Stoner Idiot

Alaska is a very liberal state with regard to marijuana possession and usage in your own home. I’m cool with that although I’m a food junkie so adding marijuana to the mix would simply exacerbate my issues. Oh yeah and my job prohibits it. So problem solved.

So if you indulge in a little ganja now and then – hey, smoke it if you got it. Yet if you drive down the highway with a bong on your lap taking hits as you drive, you are a complete moron. And when several citizens call to report your stupid ass, simply putting the bong under a coat in your passenger seat just before the office behind you turns her lights on to pull you over is a weak plan at best.

Personally I don’t believe we need to waste (if you pardon the pun) any jail space on your flea-ridden ass but I firmly believe you need a little walking / bus riding time under your belt.

Oh and your nasty patchouli is a) not making your drug use invisible and b) more annoying than the smell of stale marijuana smoke.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living The Dream

I am fascinated by people who feel “called” to do something.

Patti DiVita had such a calling, in her case to make a positive film about restaurant wait staff. The result is “Did I Say Thousand Island?”

Here is a quote from her website:

Hi, I'm Patti DiVita. I'm a waitress, not a filmmaker. But I know I was called to make this movie. It's a romantic comedy, based on the incredible things I've seen in 30 years as a waitress.

I knew zippo zilch nothing about making a movie. So I read everything I could about how to make an independent film.

It was crazy. Everything about this movie just kept falling into place. I got actors and crew through word of mouth.

When I was writing, I felt like an antenna. The movie was already out there and I was the one who got to write it. I don’t care what you call it — synchronicity, the universe putting it in my way, for me it’s God. I'm not looking for world peace, but how about a little politeness?

Here’s a nice little article about the movie and the waitress behind it.
Waitressing: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Download her movie or, better yet, buy her DVD.


Celebrate: National Waiters and Waitresses Day (which was May 21)

On that note, your friends at the Panic Blog wish to remind you:

Servers are not servants.

They put up with your bullshit because they are paid to do so.
Part of that payment is in the form of tips so please tip appropriately.
By appropriate I mean well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Addressing An Important Problem

Caller: I need help

Police: What’s your address?

Caller: 1234 Main St

Police: Is that a house or an apartment?

Caller: an apartment

Police: (incredulous after all these years) is there an apartment number?

Caller: number 8

This exchange happens at least dozen times a day, every day and it drives me crazy.

The hint is when I ask you if you are in a house or an apartment.
You’re supposed to say, “oh yes. I’m sorry. I should have mentioned I am in apartment 8.”

Your apartment number is


part of your address.

Tack this up next to your phone if you need the reminder.

Oh and these are just regular ol' business line calls, not 911.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How Owning A Condo Can Devastate You Financially

My grandmother owns a 1 bedroom apartment style condominium unit in a two-building 100-unit condo association in a very desirable part of Los Anchorage. In 2007 her property tax assessment was $210,700.

Last June a plumber’s apprentice, not being supervised appropriately, accidentally started a fire which caused one of the buildings (approximately 50 units) to be considered a total loss. Luckily my grandmother lives in the other building. 50 families have no homes now but still are required to pay their condo dues (which are in excess of $400 per month).

Here’s where her luck stops:

It turns out the condo association was drastically under-insured – somewhere between $4,000,000 and $10,000,000 under-insured. Guess who is going to make up the difference?

Winner, winner, chicken dinner – you guessed it: grandma (and 99 of her closest neighbors). She was just notified by the condo board of directors that all owners should expect a special assessment of about $70,000 (middle ground of the two ends of the shortfall continuum).

70,000 dollars. That’s a lot of tall green.

Who can afford to write a $70,000 check? Chances are if any of the condo owners in her association could write such a check they’d be living in an even more desirable area of town.

After the fire (but before the consequences of the fire were fully known) my grandmother obtained “special assessments insurance” which would cover such a check but it’s doubtful they’d cover an assessment for an event which occurred before coverage started.

Either way there are lots of people who are not merely screwed but really most sincerely screwed.

For the foreseeable future no one will be able to sell their condo. Who’d buy such a thing with that special assessment time bomb coming? And since they don’t have any real idea how much that assessment is going to be, how would you put a value on the property? Would any title company clear the property for a mortgage company?

Speaking of mortgages, my grandmother owns her condo outright. For those who still have mortgages on their property they will need to take out and additional $70K loan. Ouch.

This will take years to sort out. A lot of owners are elderly and frankly a lot of them will be dead and buried before the final bill becomes due. Imagine the estate nightmare.

The only positive thing is that her 2008 tax assessment is $160,000. Hooray. Sort of.


Fun fact: if you are under-insured you are soundly penalized. It’s called “co-insurance” and what it means is that if you are under-insured then the insurance company assumes you are self-insuring the rest. If you have a claim they will pay based upon the percentage of co-insurance they cover.

It breaks down like this. Say when you bought your house it was valued at and insured for $150,000. But now say your property has appreciated (through natural market forces or by improvements or whatever) such that the house is now worth $200,000 but the insurance was never modified to reflect that. The insurance company is going to assume you meant to be only 75% insured.

So let’s image that Hurricane Jimminy comes by and blows part of your roof off. The cost of the roof repair is $10,000. The insurance company is only going to pay $7500 less your deductible.

Who’s responsible for keeping up with whether you are properly insured? You. If it’s a condo association then it’s the condo association board of directors. In the case of my grandmother’s condo the insurance broker might have some liability but that’s only if he didn’t follow his rules and responsibilities to notify. I’m certain that each board member will be sued. Another reason not to be on the board.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Stop The White On Rice Violence

Rice, at times a symbol of asceticism, will soon be a symbol of affluence.

The Great Rice Panic of 2008 is upon us, ladies and gentlepersons, and the Panic Blog is here to provide you moment by moment coverage of the ongoing side dish debacle from our PanicTracker9000 Mobile News Center (aka my SUV which is only two years younger than the SUV of my least favorite Los Anchorage panhandler).

My wife works at a BigAssed Membership Warehouse Store and these are her observations from the battlefield.

Thursday there were two people having a tug of war over the last BigAssed bag of rice and said bag ripped, spilling rice all over the aisle. Security, or the biggest loss prevention guy, had to separate the combatants. Oh yes, and someone else bought the damaged bag of rice.

Every morning people have been crowding the front doors prior to the store opening, ready to stampede like they’re at a Who concert. They shout to the employees going into work “hey, do you have any rice today?” People are taking rice out of other people’s carts in the store. There have been several fights.

It’s not just her store. Stores all over town are running out of rice. Small Fashionable Yuppie Asian Market didn’t have any white rice for sale, just small packets of wild rice. And wild rice isn’t even rice, it’s like twigs and dirt and stuff.

The Powers That Be tell us there is no actual shortage of rice just a perceived shortage. Well, brothers and sisters, perception is reality. It’s easy to be an existentialist in the foxhole of a Grain War.

Will this escalate into rampaging violence in the streets? Shall we form the Minute Rice Men? Will Uncle Ben have to gird his loins for battle? Where will this end?

Oh the humanity.

Myspace Code Generator

and hey, the Los Anchorage Daily News has a story today on the same topic.. great minds, eh? Here's the story:

Rumors of rice shortage spur daily rush at Anchorage stores

Monk receiving breakfast rice in begging bowl photo:

Uncle Ben photo: