A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

11 June 2004

What is the Sound of One Hand Blogging and Other Filosophical Topics

So what sort of a week have you been having?

Oh fine. Be that way.

This morning at whatever godawful hour I fell out of bed at, I decided to have a look around the Web for freelance writing jobs. Here's one of the pages I dug up. It's mostly US, which makes a lot of it fairly safe--isn't there some law against non-U.S.ians making U.S. dollars?

Of course there are similar rules in most developed nations. The point that I was about to make, however, is that if you examine the jobs listed at that page, you'll mostly find that they fall into one of three categories:

  • Calls for punditry--particularly "conservative"

  • By which I think they mean something like this.

    (Mike Savage escapes charges of fascism by being too extreme, however his brother Dan is making up for it. Check out this selection from his book.)

  • Calls for un(der)paid work or "spec" work--witness the ad for film scripts.

  • This sounds seriously suspicious: "We'll pay $2000 for your film script if you like it." No other promises. You have to hand it over, let them read it (see also mining others' work for ideas), and then they'll get back to you?

    The rates I have observed at this page are pathetic. One outfit is asking for book review essays at $7 a page. Excuse me? for what I churn out darling, I might consider 6¢ US a word. At 250 words per page--a not unreasonable figure, double-spaced--that's $15.00 per sheet. On the subject, by-the-by, read this.

    The lowest rate from the find-a-writer section is 10¢ Canadian per word. Referring to the 250 words above, we're now talking $25 a page--or $15.00 US at today's exchange rate.

    So obviously this is a rather dodgy job board in the first place. Then we get to the third category of available employment.

  • "Academic writing" and "student writing" services.

  • There is a legitimate need for both writers and editors in the academic fields. Some Master's thesis writers, no matter how brilliant they may be in the field, simply can't write well, and they need help.

    But there's a distinction between that and the student who is advertising online for someone to write his papers for him. That's just ducking eveolution and promoting the stupid. I mean, if money were the sole deciding factor, we could end up with a moron as president of the US!


    What, twice?
    (Of this more later)

    Plagiarism, as we all know, is a mortal sin if you want, for example, to aspire to high public office in later life. Oh--except for provinces where the literacy level varies with the number of out-of-towners visiting relatives. Such as this one.

    Oh--You may not know what I'm talking about. Click here. If you're from that province get a passing foreigner to read it to you.

    {To those whose responses to that last were less than friendly. Kindly look up the definition of the word satire in your dictionary.


    Well forget it then. But you could stop in here for a hint or two.}

    Came across this while I was searching for plagiarism links. It's enough to make "a happy man slit his wrists on a fine spring morning" (Terry Pratchett). Could all these deranged people ask for a better forum for disturbing, self-absorbed, navel-gazing, masturbatory, flaggelistic self-and-other abuse than the 'net?

    Not that this crap means anything--I don't see any of these whiners saying: "From here on in I'm gonna change. I'm gonna be nice to small children, I'm gonna help old ladies across the street, I'm gonna volunteer two hours a week at a homeless shelter."

    This is shriving by public, anonymous confession,for those who can't afford to meaningfully out themselves on Oprah.

    I suppose I ought to be grateful that they've found an outlet and they're not killing puppies and kittens. But that might actually be a useful activity.

    By the way, with the current mood in the White house (and I mean white), there's a move on to have Reagan canonized. I agree. . .oh, sorry. I thought that meant to shoot him from a cannon.

    Reagan was not only no saint, he was a poltroon and a fraud. Hell, he made his living acting. There's little use in speaking ill of the dead, (Headline from The Onion: "Reagan's Body Dies") but for the love of pete why make a saint out of a man who was only loosely connected to the real world at his peak?

    Let me explain my loathing. Reagan looks good to neocons because he presided over the fall of the "evil empire"--the Soviet Union. Since most neocons (indeed, many actual people as well) would agree that the disintegration of the USSR was inevitable, why ascribe personal responsibility to RR? He just happened to be there when it happened. One might as well blame him for eclipses.

    His hard-ass attitude (relic of several cowboy B-movies too many) might have helped, might have hindered. But it was entirely irrelevant in comparison to socioeconomic factors within the USSR.

    (I had to link to this. I read it half-way before giving up. Fascinating, studious, historical discourse in ESL)

    He presided over a defecit that became a historic figure in its own right: He was the first world leader anywhere to claim that a trillion-US-dollar defecit was somehow legitimate. The US is apparently considering putting his face on the $10 bill--wouldn't an I.O.U. be more appropriate?

    He accomplished nothing, undermined civil rights and the EPA, and demonstrated his unfitness for the job he held by making statements that, among others, claimed he had personally liberated Nazi prison camps (he was in a movie about it once).

    Ronald Reagan was without a doubt charming. I wanted to find more positive qualities and I'm sure he had some. If nothing else it was impossible to fault his depth of blind faith in America, country of the right, and of the Right.

    But let's not pretend he's some kind of hero just because he died. okay?

    The main reason people are nostalgic for Ronald Reagan is that he makes the current US administration look good.

    On other matters: The SO has a nasty cold this week. She claims it's partly a legacy of shopping for a car.

    It's like this: Upon graduation, my mater and pater decided I'd saved them a great deal of money by taking a 2-year $30,000 (living expenses et al)college diploma at 30+, vice taking, in the case of sibling now known as 2-of-3, ten years to an MBA (at a cost of $125,000 US--which is about what she earns per year I think, so it certainly pays off). So they offered me a car.

    Initially, we were looking at used vehicles. But then my OM noticed an ad in the paper.

    You can buy (until June 30, 2004 at least) an '04 Pontiac Sunfire or Chevrolet Cavalier sedan for $11,998. As a recent graduate, I qualify for $1000 off. So we're at $11,000, roughly. The MSRP on this vehicle is $16,000 or so.

    Here in the land of the not-so-much-free-as-negotiable we pay 14.5% in sales taxes. That's another $1500 or so, so we're at $12,500. Add to that "documentation" (the price of having the dealer fill out the paperwork to permit you to buy a car from them) at $200+, the environmental levy of $20, and PDI ("Pre-dealer Inspection"--the alleged cost of putting $5 of gas in it and making sure there's a wheel on each corner) at around $100.

    In the used department, the $5000 I'd been contemplating would get me a domestic car around ten years old (the Malibu likely has something intriguingly wrong with it). Imports? Don't even think about it--you're talking a 1988 Hondaor so, at best.

    In used cars, I have found the best approach is to guesstimate upcoming repairs on all vehicles over a decade old as half the cost of the vehicle. This percentage (it's possible to work it out in numbers, but this is easy) is on a sliding scale.

    A $5000 car ten to fifteen years old will require $2500 or so in repairs to become like new mechanically (it'll still look like a gob of . . .). But a 5-year-old $100 car will require about twenty times its value, and a 20-year old $5000 car is probably in good shape, so there are exceptions.

    But assuming I did my homework, read recall notices, and subjected two or three cars-of-my-choice to mechanical inspection, there was a good chance I could get into a solid deal 1990 Honda for about $6000 plus fees taxes etc.

    So why? Why spend $6000 on an older car with a lifespan limited by how the four previous owners have treated it? When for just over twice that (cash price--no financing allowed) I can get a car which'll have a warranty on it for 3 to 5 years, roadside assistance, and all sorts of other goodies.

    To try and justify buying used (I can do my own maintenance on older vehicles) I tried to check the price of a tune-up on a hypothetical Ford Focus.

    I called a local garage and asked: :What do you charge on for a tune-up on a Focus?"

    The garagiste replied, sounding nonplussed: "Uh. What year?"

    Grabbing a figure out of the air I said "2000".

    "Oh" he replied "it shouldn't need a tune-up yet".

    So I started searching.

    Let me save you some time: Here's my ranking of vehicles based on the following principles.

    1) I don't need an SUV. I have no penis size issues.
    2) I don't need a sports car, see above.
    3) I want a car that will leave bank accounts standing.

    This quickly boils down to "econo/small/midsized car".

    I started with a list of approximately a dozen cars. Most were dimissed for price, and that's where I lost all the imports but two. After dropping the Dodge SX 2.0 for price and the Neon for quality (see Lemon-aid--and while you're there note the "best buys", which include the Cavalier/Sunfire and Focus both)I was left with:

    5) Toyota Echo: A bit pricey for me, but compact, handled well, and is a gas miser. Hatchback or sedan okay.

    4) Chevy Aveo: Basically the bowtie competition to the Echo, see above.

    3) Chevy Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire: Plain-jane sedan, solid, with a good reputation now that the imploding head gasket thing's been sorted out. 2004 is the last production year, so they're selling cheap and will only get cheaper. Note: Crash impact safety ratings are so-so, if you're more concerned about surviving accidents than staying out of them in the first place.

    2) Hyundai Accent: Good repute again, cheap cheap cheap, and the best warranty in the car business. Now reccomended by Click and Clack since Subaru decided to sell out and screw EPA standards.

    1) Ford Focus: Seriously solid car with great ratings all around--unfortunately the only single-cam vehicle in the bunch, and fuel economy a bit worse than that of the other cars in this selection. But a great performer, high on consumer satisfaction ratings, and it's neither the first nor last model year.

    The Echo fell out early, mostly on price and interior room. The tinyosity of the hatchback is simply silly. The Aveo lost us almost from the time the salesman claimed that "the drive train is identical" to the Echo while simultaneously telling me it was dual-overhead-cam and the Echo was single overhead. In the end, price and seating room kept us away.

    By the way: A big selling point for the Aveo has been the claim of "more leg room than the Echo". The difference is 4 millimetres (less than 1/5 of an inch). But you have to admire the chutzpah.

    The SO simply claims to hate the Cavalier/Sunfire for its--and I quote: "extruded-out-of-a-cat's-ass" good looks. SO also claims that the driver can't see the rear of the vehicle while backing (a feature I thought was common to most cars). She has a point though--the front end curves downward and "peaks" over the driver's horizon, making distances tough to judge for newcomers. Personally I think the SO's issue is more to do with confidence, but I like her, so I listened (after repeated inquiries and bagdering).

    The Hyundai came in at #2. We didn't test-drive the 4-door sedan, as I'd hoped, but an "ice-blue" 3-door hatchback. The price though, was a bit high, and personally I dislike 2-door vehicles. In the end, it came down to:

    The Ford Focus: a nice ride, plain and comfortable, and they matched the Chev dealer. My total came to just under $13,000. On a unit with a supposed MSRP of $16K plus before fees and taxes I feel it's a decent deal.

    Certainly better than this. Click the "Build Your Own" link to see the MSRP.

    Gotta go. Nice seeing you again, though.

    Damn! I love this link. The Trabant is a 2-cylinder pollution-belcher that helped colour the skies of East Germany black during the Cold War era. But they're cute cars, much like the Metropolitan (see "Hoosier Mets" at right).

    Here's a scary piece of nostalgia. Why is it that when a compact car designed to be affordable in the forties-to-sixties resurfaces as a nostalgia piece it always carries a ludicrous price tag? Witness the "Mini" (actually a "hell of a lot bigger"--but that wouldn't fit on the fender) and Beetle (see "pricing").


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