Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Now is a good time to buy lots of deeply discounted groceries -- just in case

    The Ebola epidemic has now reached the United States. Given that our Jackass-in-Chief has refused to secure our nation's borders, more cases are no doubt on the way.
    I have no doubt we will be better able to contain or slow the spread of the disease than the impoverished countries in Africa where people are dropping like flies. But the fact is none of us know how bad things will get.
   I don't stockpile food in the way that survivalists do. But I do buy large quantities of regular food items when they are on sale: Ragu for 99 cents, pasta for 50 cents a pound, cheese for $3.00 per pound, sugar at 25 cents per pound, and so forth. The photo above shows items that I've purchased at very deep discount -- half to two-thirds off. For example, I've got about 60 bottles of Ragu, 50 pounds of pasta, 80 pounds of sugar, and so on. If disaster strikes I'll have a little something to eat. If not, I'll save on our grocery bill.
    Ash wanted to know why I had the Hefty storage bags in the photo. "You can't eat Hefty bags," he declared. And indeed you can't. But they are great for food storage, which is part of ensuring enough to eat. Several years ago, while still living in Kentucky, I was able to find Hefty storage bags on sale for $1.50 with 50-cent coupons attached to the boxes. The coupons were doubled, bringing the per-box price down to 50 cents. I bought 50 or 60 boxes, and in fact just this year found myself running out of some sizes.
    We probably won't have a massive ebola epidemic; neither the sun nor a nuclear bomb is likely to cause an electro-magnitic pulse; we aren't likely to have a massive earthquake. But in a world where bad things might happen it's better to have food and not need it than to need food and not have it.
    I make a point of not spending "extra" on survival food; I just buy lots of stuff on sale. But given that ebola has now made landfall I'm likely to buy a little powdered or shelf-stable milk, a little extra cooking oil, and so on.
    Beat the rush -- stock up on non-perishable groceries now; because if disaster strikes food will not be available. As they warn at the dog track, "Don't be shut out."

Friday, September 26, 2014

I bet they would raise more money if they offered people a chance to have dinner with Chris McDaniel

Click to enlarge
    If you don't think a lot of people are still mad about the race-baiting and possible election fraud that occurred in the Republican runoff election between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, just look at the response that a recent sponsored Facebook post offering dinner with Haley Barbour got. As always, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.
    Offering conservatives the chance to have dinner with Haley is like throwing gasoline on a fire. They just need to let this man keep a low profile and do his race-baiting behind the scenes. Are these people not aware of just how unpopular Barbour is right now, even among some Cochran supporters?
    Even worse, since it is a paid advertisement it keeps showing up again and again. And the response is uniformly negative. These ads are being targeted at conservatives, and conservatives are clearly not fond of Barbour.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Like a dollar, Dad's wisdom grew with time

    My dad put this on his office door about 30 years ago and it's still there. I can't help but think about Mark Twain's Quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
    It may have taken me a little longer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Somebody thought this promotional email seemed like a good idea at the time

    I received an absolutely groveling apology Monday from Parksleepfly.com over a tounge-in-cheek email they had sent me earlier in the day.
    "There is no excuse for the topic of the recent email sent to our customers, and we can only extend our deepest apologies to those disrespected by it," the email read in part. Well, of course I had to go back and see what all the hoo-ha was all about. Apparently they forgot that a real person died amid all the chuckles.
    I will say the reservation service often offers good deals on hotel rooms for those wanting to leave a car at the hotel for no charge for a week or two. I used them once and the hotel was heavily discounted and the parking was free.
    They should blame this one on the intern.
Click to enlarge

Bright eighth- through tenth-graders need to take the PSAT on October 15; call your school today!

    The PSAT or National Merit test is going to be given at virtually every high school in the nation on October 15.
    Juniors who score in the top one percent of their state and qualify as Finalists get full-ride scholarships to about half the schools in the SEC, plus many more. These schools have outstanding honors colleges. A student who was in roughly the 97.8th percentile of last year's test-takers was in the top one percent of Mississippians and thus earned Semifinalist honors. Usually a score in the 97.5th percentile is sufficient for Mississippians.
    The test isn't just for juniors. In fact, the College Board reports that 54 percent of those taking the test are in 10th grade or below. Why? Practice!
    How should a parent know whether their children have a chance to make National Merit Semifinalist? Simple. If they have scored well on other nationally normed tests then they should, with practice, score well on the PSAT.
    My view is that any Duke TIP participant who scored a 21 or higher on the ACT in seventh grade ought to be a National Merit Semifinalist in Mississippi, provided they work at it. Part of that "work" is taking the PSAT as an eighth, ninth- and tenth-grader to get a snapshot of where they stand.
    Don't expect the eighth- and ninth-grade scores to be anywhere near the cutoff level, either. The college board hasn't released the percentiles for these groups, but I'd guess that a score of 160 in eighth grade, 175 in ninth, and 190 in tenth will put students within striking range of the 203-210 that they will need to be Mississippi Semifinalists.
    As I've said before, the PSAT is the most important test that really bright students will take in their entire lifetime. Yet it's not even on most people's radar.
    If your 8-10th grade child has past test scores placing him in the top decile, call your school's guidance counselor today and make sure he is signed up to take the PSAT on October 15. A free-ride is a financial miracle; the honor of being a National Merit Finalist is priceless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's good to know you have seating for disabled, but I'm not happy about disabled feature on website

    I clearly need lessons in expressing myself more clearly. Here is an email I wrote today to today to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra after visiting their website and finding that I couldn't select which section I'd like to buy tickets in.
    The only option was to take the "Best Available" tickets, which are $79. I can't afford this, and from my prior visit to the Cannon Center in Memphis I found that every seat is a good one.

Subject: Have you disabled seat section selection?
I know the orchestra is trying to raise more money, but I can't afford to buy the most expensive tickets. That is the only option I am given when I try to buy tickets online. In the end I think you will sell fewer tickets this way. Or perhaps this is just a problem with the website?

Oxford, Mississippi

    And their response:

I apologize for the inconvenience of purchasing tickets online.  We do have disabled access seating in most price ranges of the Cannon Center for our First Tennessee Masterworks and Pops concerts.  Accessible seating is also available at Germantown Performing Arts Center for the Sunday Masterworks, but all seats there are the same price of $45.  For our Paul & Linnea Bert Classic Accent series, again the seating is all the same price, $39, at LIndenwood Christian Church and it does offer accessible seating.
If you would like any assistance in reserving your seats, please feel free to call the Memphis Symphony Box Office during our business hours, Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. 
    I don't want wheelchair seating. I just want to pick my section! I'm sure I will manage to get orchestra tickets before it's over.
    The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has a slightly less ambitious schedule this year, but they still have some very interesting performances. I'd like to see Ride of the Valkyries on Nov. 15 -- thankfully Ole Miss isn't playing that weekend -- and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on May 2.
    Click here to see their calendar of events.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oxford Grillhouse has great steaks, but next time I'm going to try the Mr. Phat's Chinese menu

    I visited the Oxford Grillhouse the other night with my daughter Lucy. It was the first time I've visited since it opened on the Square.
    I give them a solid B, and the steak a solid A-plus. Others might not grade the steak so high, for reasons I'll explain in a moment. But I thought the steak was outstanding.
    I didn't order from the Chinese menu that the Grillhouse has on Thursday nights. They have arranged for Mr. Phat -- formerly of Two Stick and before that Ruby's Chinese Restaurant -- to prepare a few of his specialties on Thursday nights. Ruby's was one of my favorite Chinese restaurnts ever -- the other was in Cayce, South Carolina -- and I can't wait to make a Chinese night of it.
    Now for a couple of negatives, some of which can be cured with wiser ordering.
    First quibble: the Grillhouse has joined Boure' in using stemless wine glasses. These are nothing more than water tumblers, and I don't care for them. Fortunately I was able to get a stemmed glass for my second order. So if you prefer a stemmed wine glass, ask for it.
    Second quibble: I ordered the wedge salad, and was surprised that it had what appeared to be a good bit of French salad dressing. I pulled the menu up after I came home and found that the wedge salad comes with "a touch of sweet balsamic drizzle." I didn't get a touch; it was a slathering, and pretty much ruined the salad. In the end it was my partially my fault for not studying the menu more carefully. A wedge salad should have nothing but blue cheese (or preferably, Roquefort) dressing.
    My steak was outstanding and cooked a nice medium-rare. It was well seasoned, and might be a little too seasoned for some, but perfect for me. I always get a little Worcestershire Sauce for my steak, but mine really didn't need anything else. It had a good bit of coarse salt, which for me is a bonus; I love salt. But if something is salty enough for me that means it is too salty for most people. So salt-haters might request that they use an easy hand with the salt.
    Lucy ordered the Redfish Stuffed with Crawfish & Asparagus, served over risotto. The fish was outstanding, but Lucy hated the risotto. I took a taste and hated it, too. I realize some may say "hate" is a strong word, but the risotto remained uneaten.
    For dessert Lucy and I shared a molten lava cake with ice cream. We enjoyed it.
    Although I've mentioned a few things I didn't like, I'm looking forward to going back. Oxford Grillhouse does an amazing job with steaks, but next time I'm going to try the Chinese menu.