Monday, April 9, 2018

On April 10 Daily Getaways offers Choice Hotel points for a half-cent each; run don't walk for this deal

    If you like to travel on the cheap, offers heavily discounted hotel points along with other travel offers starting today. The annual promotion goes on for five weeks, which is two weeks longer than previous years.
    Points on offer include those from Hilton, IHG (Holiday Inn), and Choice. Marriott isn’t included in the first two weeks, but will likely be added later. If you want to buy some of these really cheap points the first thing you need to do is have a membership in the corresponding loyalty club; so do that right now!
    In my view, the best offer by far is the Choice Hotels points being offered for just under one-half cent per point; this is almost a 20 percent increase over last year’s price, but these are still a great deal. The Choice brand includes 11 mostly down-market hotel chains, although included in that is the semi-luxury Ascend Collection and the usually reliable Comfort and Sleep Inns. On the lower end are the EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn. Yes, you can earn points for staying at an EconoLodge.
    Even though the Choice hotel brand doesn’t include the most luxurious hotel brands, this point offer (and their loyalty program) offers great value. I’ve been buying these points since 2011, when I paid just over a third of a cent per point, thanks to a no-longer-offered American Express discount. That summer I was able to book four rooms in Venice, Italy for 10,000 points per room, or $35 per night. To understand what a value this is, do a search for Venice hotel rooms.
    Not every hotel offers rooms for only 10,000 points, as redemptions cost as much as 30,000 points per night, and 25,000 per night is common. But on the top end rooms in New York City at a Cambria or Comfort hotel go for 25-30,000 per night, so with these discounted points the cost per night would be $125 to $150 per night. For New York City that’s not a bad deal. Last fall I booked a room in Tuscaloosa on a ballgame weekend for 25,000 points when the going rate was roughly $350 per night. Choice frequently puts one or two European countries on “sale” for lowered point amounts. Right now rooms in Paris can be had for as little as 12,000 points per night and rooms in London near Hyde Park for 16,000. At $5 per thousand points that's $60 and $80.
    The Choice points go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, April 10, at Noon Central time. In past years these points were so popular that they were sold out within a few seconds of being offered, although you could repeatedly try to buy them and get lucky when someone else’s sale fell through, either because their credit card didn’t process or because they didn’t have a valid membership number. I would open three different browsers in order to get as many points as possible. With this year’s 20 percent increase in price comes a 10-fold increase in the number of point packages offered, so odds are that lightning fingers won’t be needed, and the points might be available for several hours if not days days. But if you want these points it’s still a good idea to be sitting at your computer at the crack of noon!
    Also being offered are IHG points (formerly Priority Club) for $5.80 per thousand on April 11 and Hilton points at $5 per thousand on April 12. I have purchased a small number of IHG points every year and manage to put them to good use, although the savings aren’t nearly as extreme as those from the Choice points. Hilton points at a half-cent each are a pretty good buy, but I wouldn’t stock up on them unless I had already priced out a trip and could see the savings up front.
    There are a lot of good deals being offered during the Daily Getaways promotion, but I’m going for the Choice Hotel points; that’s where the savings are.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Gun control proponents keep denouncing semi-automatics; do they know what they are?

    In all of the grab-the-guns hysteria going on right now it’s clear that a lot of gun critics don’t know what they are talking about. Again and again I read or hear people say that semi-automatic weapons should only be used by the military, that there is no need for any private citizen to own a semi-automatic weapon, and that they need to be confiscated.
    These people apparently aren’t aware that the majority of guns in this country are semi-automatic weapons. Most hunting weapons are semi-automatic. Most pistols are semi-automatic. Revolvers aren’t semi-automatic, but they might as well be. A semi-automatic weapon shoots one round with one press of the trigger, at which point the energy from the fired round automatically ejects the spent shell and loads another round; but the gun will not shoot again until the trigger is depressed for a second time. A non-automatic weapon requires the manual operation of a bolt or pump to eject the spent round and load a new one, or else the manual reloading of the gun.
    An automatic weapon is most commonly known as a machine gun. They have been essentially outlawed through taxation and regulation for the better part of a century. If you want to own a machine gun you will need around $40,000, a very clean record, and a lot of patience.
    What are popularly called "Assault rifles” are hunting weapons that have been gussied up to look like military weapons. But they still fire just like hunting rifles; if anything, they are less accurate. They are often fitting with extended magazines holding 10 to as many as 30 rounds of ammunition. At one time magazines holding more than 10 rounds were illegal under federal law, but this law expired. Many, but by no means all, hunting rifles can accept larger magazines.
    It’s possible to modify some semi-automatic rifles to act in a manner similar to an automatic. For example, the Obama administration issued a ruling that bump stocks were legal. These stocks cause a rifle to bounce against the finger and act as an automatic weapon, albeit with terrible aim. The NRA has urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to ban these. I believe the ATF also has the authority to ban any gun designed so that it can easily be modified to become a fully automatic weapon, and they should.
    I'll save my Second Amendment arguments for another day. But if the issue of gun control is to be debated I do think it is important for people to understand the difference between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Holly Springs Methodists to celebrate reopening of sanctuary after wall collapse threatens church

Click to Enlarge
    The Holly Springs First United Methodist Church will return to its home this Sunday, Feb. 25, after six months of repairs due to the collapse of a wall. Congregants have been meeting at the Rust College chapel while the church has been under repair. The announcement was made on the church's Facebook page.
    Whether due to Divine Providence or luck, two priceless stained-glass windows were nearly lost in the wall collapse but sustained no damage. I don’t know the exact construction date of the church, but it was standing at the time of the War Between the States as Union soldiers used it as a stable for horses. I would assume the windows are as old as the church and always find them a sight to behold whenever I visit.
    You can see in the photos above just how serious this wall collapse was. The church wall collapsed on August 22 following heavy rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. Church members rushed to protect the church with tarps following the collapse, as rain from Hurricane Irma was on the way. Because of the age of the building there were fears that the entire wall might give way, destroying the church.
    The Holly Springs United Methodist Church is one of the few churches these days to have a traditional service. For those who prefer the “Old Time Religion,” this is the place. I hope to join them on Sunday and everyone is welcome. Sunday School is at 10 a.m. with Worship Service at 11 a.m.

Photos taken from Facebook posts by Susan Kemp Jones and Lacy Horton Tollison.