Saturday, September 16, 2006

Plat du jour

Hooray for J!

(and I ♥ NY also)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Another Republican bites the dust

I've posted two or three things about Ohio Republican congressman Bob Ney since last January, when he stepped down from his leadership position because he was being investigated for corruption. Now, after months of proclaiming his innocence, he has agreed to plead guilty. His deal apparently provides for 27 months in prison.

I love to see these former high officials heading off to jail--especially when they're Republicans.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Goodbye Discover, hello American Express

Since 1994 my Discover Card has been my main credit card. It has a cash rebate feature, basically 1% on purchases over a certain amount per year--$6,000, if I remember correctly, with lesser percentages on lower amounts. Since I use it for almost everything I can, my monthly bills (which I always pay in full), are always four figures--occasionally even the upper four figures. They also have a "Get More" program, which gives a 5% rebate for some purchases. And finally, if you use the rebate to purchase gift cards from certain merchants, you can get up to double the amount.

But recently I discovered (ha ha) that the American Express Blue Cash card has a better rebate program: 1.5% above $6,500 in annual purchases. They also have 5% rebates, though no gift card program. Still, at my level of credit card usage, I should do better with the Amex card.

The Discover 5% rebates are limited: only at certain merchants, up to certain amounts, during certain times of the year, and they make you sign up for it each time--the whole thing is too much to keep track of. Amex gives 5% for all supermarket, gas station and drug store purchases, all the time, no limits, no signups, once you pass the $6,500 mark.

Discover's gift card program is not terribly useful. The number of merchants that offer double have dwindled to a handful of places I don't particularly want to shop at (it was great when Borders offered double). Most now just give a 25% bonus, so it's like getting a 1.25% rebate. And it's also just a hassle--you have to order them, and remember to take them to the store. It can be a pocketful, as most only come in $25 denominations.

There are a couple other reasons why I want to switch to Amex. The Discover card still isn't accepted at as many places as American Express. So my rebates will be higher for that reason alone. Finally, I am sick and tired of the huge number of calls I get from the Discover fraud prevention department. I have gotten so many messages from them on my answering machine that I have their number on my speed dial. If they were calling about unusual activity on my card, or about large purchases, I would understand it. In fact, I would welcome it--who wants their account to be used fraudulently? But that's seldom what prompts these calls. Most of them are about small, normal purchases at places I use the card all the time. Apparently the algorithm for generating these calls is largely based on the frequency of use. The more you use the card, the more calls you get. I wonder what the Discover marketing department would have to say about that.

So it's goodbye Discover, hello Blue Cash. Coincidentally, I am switching my brokerage accounts from Morgan Stanley to Merrill Lynch, because my stock broker is switching. Morgan Stanley owns the Discover Card. They're losing me as a customer twice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Plat du jour

No, thanks, I'll just watch.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11--no need to remind me

It's the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. The second attack actually. I was in both of them.

In the first one, 1992 I think, I marched down 67 flights of a dark, smokey stairwell from my office in 2 World Trade. Fortunately I had a little flashlight in my briefcase.

On 9/11, though, I had a different job, and I was working across the street from 7 World Trade. I don't need any memorials, let alone bogus docu-dramas, to remind me of what happened. What I saw was too horrible to forget.

Personally, I fared pretty well, though. We were evacuated between the two towers coming down, and I wasn't caught in either dust cloud. Despite having worked in the Trade Center until 1998, I didn't know anyone who was killed there. My old company got just about everyone out safely, and all the rest of the people I knew who worked in the Trade Center also got out. Afterwards I got to work from home for a few weeks (which I liked), and then in a temporary office in midtown for several months more. Eventually my company returned downtown, to the same building. It was always weird going down there, with the towers gone and so many businesses closed.

A recent poll found that a majority of Americans thought 9/11 was more significant to the country than Pearl Harbor--which means a majority of Americans know little of history. As the article pointed out, there was a generation gap here--voters 18-34 were the most ignorant. But I guess it's understandable--people want to think what they are going through is the most important time in history. But heightened security for air travel, and for getting into buildings, is nothing compared to what happened after Pearl Harbor. The "War on Terror," as the Bushites like to call it, will never have more than a tiny percentage of the casualties of World War II--even if you include Bush's War of the Saddam Obsession. We don't even have a draft now, let alone the rationing of meat, gasoline, and I think sugar, that Americans experienced then.

But getting back to today, I'll be avoiding all the memorial TV shows, movies, newspaper and internet articles. I don't need them to remember--as much as I would like to forget.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Plat du jour

An Audi is not a bike.