Once again, it's time to take on several subjects, none of which is probably worthy of an entire essay, but all of which have been on my mind of late. Feel free to skip any or all, as you so desire.
Marketers and Chamber of Commerce types and such all have their precious little indices: statistics, possibly of valid derivation, which will prove, or at least fail to disprove, whatever premise is being sold at the moment. In this town in particular, we are beset by a bunch of characters who extol the not-inconsiderable virtues of Buying Local, even as they whine about not getting Chain Store X, which instead is putting down roots in [name of town, but it's usually Tulsa]. The usual excuse made is that our upscale neighborhoods are too spread out, and national retailers, short-sighted lummoxes that they are, want a whole bunch of wealthy people within walking distance of their door, not that any of them are actually going to walk, doncha know. My eyes glaze over at that word "upscale": they keep using that word, but I do not think it means what they think it means, or at the very least I find their definition somewhat arguable. I look at my own ZIP code, which in its seven square miles contains some of the ritzier neighborhoods in this quadrant, and some other neighborhoods utterly lacking in ritz; overall, we're close to the city average, maybe a tick or two above, which means we're terribly, terribly downscale, those millionaires notwithstanding. Census tracts nail things down a little better, but only a little. So I decided to develop my own system, which goes like this: Set the boundaries for the urban area you wish to evaluate. (For reasons which will become obvious, this will not work well in sparsely-populated zones.) Draw a circle with a radius of 1.5 miles, with its center at the geographical center of the test area. Start with 100 points. For every storefront within that circle whose signage prominently displays the word "CASH," subtract two points. (Your average payday lender/cash-advance operation does not locate in places where their services will not be needed.) There are locations in this town where 90s are possible; there are locations that will struggle to get out of the 30s.
I continue to be alternately amused and annoyed by the people who want to live just a hair larger than their finances permit. A recent example:
Got a new Lexus RX350 and love it but trying to save on gas, I was wondering how truly crucial it is to use the premium gas recommended. Does it really damage the engine? Or does it just decrease the performance minimally and not worth the cost?
Um, you just spent forty-five thousand goddamn dollars on a car, ten thousand of which is for a fricking badge, and you're trying to save thirty cents a gallon? What's wrong with this picture? Don't get me wrong. There's nothing in the world wrong with owning a Lexus. Some of my favorite people in the whole world own a Lexus. I might even have considered one for myself next time around, were it not for their stupidly ugly design language. But if you dance to the music, you've got to pay to the piper, and this particular piper will charge you out the wazoo. If you can't deal with that, you shouldn't be shopping premium brands. There's a reason they're maybe 11 percent of the car market yet produce half the industry's profits. (And actually, since about 2014, the RX has been retuned to run on regular — except for the hybrid, which expects premium. But dammit, it's the principle of the thing, and people who can't read owner's manuals shouldn't be allowed to drive anyway.)
Finally, I don't want to hear the word "electable" ever again. The pundit class, always given to making portentous predictions based on rectal extraction, is constantly telling us that Candidate A is electable, whereas Candidate B is not. Anyone who remembers studying American history, which used to be taught in public schools, should already know that rather a lot of Presidents started out as Candidate B. (More recently, B-minus has been the rule.) And they can cite all the polls they want; not one of them means anything half an hour after it's been taken, let alone when the voters finally get around to start pulling levers. One uniquely American truism is the notion that anyone can become President; the worst part of that, of course, is the fact that it's true. Then again, there's nothing like watching 21st-century American politics to turn someone into a full-fledged monarchist.
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