I just got back from a Stop and Shop enlightenment.

As I was browsing the bottled water aisle, I asked the lady who was stocking other items how much a certain brand of water costs. Right after I asked the question, I noticed the price. It was about $6.99 or so for a 24-pack. So I said, "Oh, I found the price, thanks, anyway." At which point she responded, "That's a really good price." My first mistake was responding to that outrageous claim by saying, "Um... not at all. That's a horrible price." Then she responded with some unintelligible words about it being an okay price and working at Stop and Shop. After about 10 seconds of back and forth banter about the quality of the price, she began to explain to me why goods are so expensive; she blamed China. She said that it's so expensive to ship the goods over to the United States that prices, in turn, are raised so much. However, I think she forgets the task of the "market" in capitalism. If it were cheaper to produce the goods here, in this case, plastic bottles, they would be produced here. Therefore, since the goods are produced in China, it stands to reason that Americans are actually buying the goods at cheaper prices since those goods are still being produced in China. (The "horrible" price I was referring to was in relation to the other cases of bottled water).

Another flaw in this lady's reasoning had to do with tariffs. She stated that tariffs are partially responsible for such high prices. Tariffs do make goods more expensive because a tariff is a tax on a good that an exporting country must pay to have that good imported into a certain country, thus dissuading particular countries from exporting to other particular countries and persuading countries to produce goods on their own. For example, a while ago, a tariff was placed on Chinese paper being imported into the United States so that more paper would be produced in the United States. I rejoiced because I am big fan of tariffs and not of outsourcing. I think we should have a closed economy (yes, I know that would spell out disaster for the United States, but if I could start this country over or start my own country, it would be closed). However, that tariff on China made semi-big news because there aren't really any tariffs on goods from China - that's what free trade is about (and obviously something of which I'm not really a fan). So, her reasoning that tariffs are responsible for high prices of all goods? Wrong. Because there are essentially no tariffs in existence.

So, I thought to myself, this lady has thought a little about economics, and good for her since I love economics.

After her tariff rant, she told me that she was an economist, and that is the reason why she's familiar with these economic concepts. Most unlikely, but possible. She did have a heavy Russian accent, so it's possible that in Russia she was an economist and the only work she can find here is stocking shelves. Sad, but unlikely, because an advanced economics degree, especially with experience as an economist, in any country, transfers over very well to the United States as long as you speak English. She spoke English very well.

Then, she told me that she's working as an Undercover economist. She said she's just working at Stop and Shop to learn about goods at the consumer level - the lowest level. I guess that's reasonable. I mean, Barbara Ehrenreich, a successful journalist and writer, somewhat did it in the Nickel and Dimed, where she went undercover and worked as a waitress, a maid, a cashier at Wal-Mart, and a few other places, to see if she could survive on minimum wage. Ehrenreich, however, kept her secret identity a secret, unlike this lady at Stop and Shop.

So, I wonder, was this lady absolutely crazy or... well, I'm sure she was crazy, but maybe she really wants to write an book on her experience with goods and consumers. Good for her, either way. If she is indeed crazy, then she's probably enjoying her job as an "undercover economist," so that's nice. And, if she is really is an undercover economist, then even better. It's a win-win for her. Mazel tov.

This experience makes me wonder even more... how many Stop and Shop employees are undercover? Are all of them undercover? Is this some sort of conspiracy? Who would have thought the lady stocking bread and water was a clandestine journalist who threw herself into the unsurvivable world of minimum wages in order to write an expose on... what would she write it on? The fact that minimum wage is not a living wage is no secret, and numerous exposes, books, articles, papers, etc., have already been written. Who knows. I guess I'll have to wait for her book to be published to find out.

Maybe the baker is journalist for Bon Appetit magazine. Or maybe the guy selling lottery tickets behind the customer service desk is really a lobbyist for some anti-gambling group. Who knows. I guess I'll have to wait for their books and articles to come out, too.

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Kosher Food in Prison

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | , , | 4 comments »

I wonder, Is it possible to get kosher meals in prison? In the workplace, employers cater to religious persons, because its the law and they want to be accommodating, maybe it's the same in prison. I doubt it. Since the food is all mass-produced the answer is probably no... unless it's a Jewish prison, which doesn't exist outside of Israel. Would jail chefs cook special food for one lone kosher-keeping Jew in his prison? I would hope so.

What if I end up in jail for some reason? Not that I would ever break the law, but what if I'm framed? What if some ingenious criminal frames me so perfectly and elaborately that my lawyer can't prove my innocence? Then what? I'll be stuck in a prison cafeteria eating... I wonder what the halacha (Jewish Law) has to say on the issue of what to eat in prison. I'm sure the ruling would be that if you are imprisoned and there's no alternative to unkosher food, you'd be able to eat the unkosher food so you wouldn't die. However, since your food options are so limited, should you avoid the worst unkosher culprits? Besides the occasional pasta, the only protein sources in prison are meat, so what would you do? You need protein.

I hope I don't go to jail. Please don't frame me.

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I wish walking sticks and canes were still in style. Not the wooden or plastic ones people use to hike or are ones that are in any way truly useful, but the type used in the 19th century in England by the upper class because they were fashionable.

This picture was the best I could find. I'd want a black cane with silver decoration instead of the one pictured, but the top hat shown is acceptable.

I'd take the cane and wear the top hat everywhere. Top hats add a touch of class to your life, not to mention add an extra foot to your height, which wouldn't be so bad. And canes? Oh, man, I can't even begin to express how much an awesome, black and silver walking cane would improve your life.

So, with a combination of a top hat and a cane, I would be unstoppable. Totally unstoppable. All day, I would just roam the streets in the huge hat with the cane thinking about how awesome it is to have that beautiful hat and cane.

I do not have many regrets from my life, but one of them is that I never rented a top hat and cane along with any of the tuxedos that I rented for the proms I attended. I do, currently, own my own tux... maybe I should make the outfit complete and make some purchases...

The only annoyance regarding canes is that when you carry it around, you now have only one free hand. That is a big issue since I like both my hands free. However, since, for hundreds of years, people managed to deal with the use of only one hand while using the other to carry a cane, I think I can get used to it, too.

There are no issues, whatsoever, with wearing a top hat [all the time].

That settles it, one day I will buy a cane and a top hat. Wait for that day, because, my friends, that will be a glorious day.

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I never pay retail prices for anything... ever. There are always ways to pay nearly nothing for nearly everything. However, there is one thing I pay retail price for. That is having my tennis racquet restrung (including the strings). Why do I pay for this? Because I can't string a racquet myself since I don't own the machinery. Besides, you buy the strings and stores string the racquet for free. So, I paid $35 or so for a new (totally amazing) grip, a restringing, and new strings.

My tennis racquet is a masterpiece of awesomeness. I would take it everywhere with me if I could. Maybe I'll take it to work and just let it sit beautifully on my desk. It would probably distract me, though, and all day I'd most likely just stare in awe at its captivating perfection.

Was it worth the $35? Oh yeah, totally. The racquet, with the new (kung-fu-like) grip, will finally stop slipping out of my hand from sweat while I'm in the middle of a point. Plus, I had the string's tension adjusted to 57. What does 57 mean? It means awesomeness.

I cannot wait to play another match with my captivating racquet.

P.S. my shadow (behind the bottom of the racquet's head) looks like the cookie monster.

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YES. Candy Corn!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

That is my hand holding a 3 pound bag of unbelievable kosher candy corn imported from the great township of Teaneck, New Jersey, courtesy of my mother.

In case you are a new reader of my blog, see this post: Candy Corn Secret, so you'll understand what I am so happy.

Nuff said.

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The Torah View of Man

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Every day, I receive emails from Aish.com. One of those daily emails is entitled "Daily Lift" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. I really liked this "lift" from August 4th, and so I thought I'd share it. Perhaps it will offend you for some reason? I hope so.

Daily Lift #369

The Torah View Of Man

From the Torah viewpoint humans are the goals and the purpose of the entire creation. Without the Torah perspective, there is no essential difference between a human and a donkey.

Someone looking at the world from a completely secular viewpoint has no basis for the value of man. On the philosophical level, man would have no more inherent worth than any other piece of matter.

(Gesher Hachayim, vol.3, p.52, Gateway to Happiness, pp.118-9)

If you liked this email, I'd encourage you visit Aish.com and subscribe to this daily email yourself. You can always cancel if you decide you don't like it. But these emails are REALLY short, as you can very well see, and its always nice to get a little bit of Torah in your inbox.

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The Importance of Sideburns

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | | 0 comments »

Ever since that serendipitous summer at Camp Maplewood about 13 or so years ago when I first realized the awesomeness of sideburns, I have always wanted them. A counselor, whom I thought was the "coolest guy ever," had sideburns. So, I decided right then and there that it was going to be one of my goals in my life to have sideburns. (I continue to have sideburns because I think they are awesome, not because I think that guy was awesome).

I had a little issue though, because what 11-year old can grow sideburns? I circumvented this problem by simply growing my hair on sides of my ears extra long... (a little like peyas). Issue solved.

As I grew, so did my actual sideburns. No more fake, wannabe-sideburns. I had the real thing. Looking back at photos, I noticed that during the summer after my first year of college, I nearly had muttonchops... that was a big mistake. Sorry.

Over the years, I have developed perfect sideburns. Currently, they are a little too short for my liking, but that will be remedied very shortly.

Every single morning I look into the mirror and smile at how awesome my sideburns are. I truly appreciate my sideburns and my ability to grow them. When other aspects of my life aren't going so well, I think to myself, "Hey, I've still got sideburns. It seems that G-d is still giving me something to hold on to." Then I continue on my awesome day because I have sideburns.

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Are you Unique?

Monday, August 11, 2008 | | 0 comments »

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This post will be the first of many devoted entirely to ninjas. Why? Because ninjas are unstoppable. That's why.

(Click the picture to enlarge it so you can find the four stealthy ninjas)

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This video about Iran, I feel, is apropos (yup, I heard a rabbi use that word about 3 years ago, and since that day I can't get it out of my head. However, when I use that word, it just sounds pretentious, so pretend I used one of its synonyms, "relevant") to Tisha B'Av, which started tonight.

Tisha B'Av, Hebrew for the "Ninth of Av," "Av" being one of the Hebrew months, is a day that recognizes many of the worst tragedies befallen by the Jewish people that occurred, specifically, on that day. From the denial of the Jews' entrance to Israel in 1312 BCE, to the destruction of both the first and second Temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively, to the beginning of the deportation of Jews to Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered on this day alone (millions of Jews died as a result of all the events occurring on this day). So, a mournful day, indeed, today is. (sorry for the awkward sentence, but sometimes I occasionally speak like Yoda, and apparently type that way, too).

Back to this video on Iran. Since today is a sad say, it is a day Jews demonstrate our sadness by focusing on... sad things. So, I've embedded the video, Jews Undercover - Iran, by Journeyman Pictures, for you to watch. Although parts, toward the end, are [a tad] uplifting and positive, the general message is that although Jews are becoming more devout in Iran, its still Iran.

Being 13 minutes long, it's a relatively long video for someone with the average American attention span, or at least the average person who watches videos on youtube. So, not relatively, it's a short documentary about the Jews that are still left in Iran and how they live their lives, Jewishly. Before watching this video, I was under the impression that there weren't any Jews left there, but minorities are "protected" under Iran's democratic law, so 1/4 of Iran's Jews are still there.

So, learn something, be sad, and watch this video:

If you can't watch it in my blog, click here to watch it on the youtube site.

Did you like it? Good answer.

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Hello. I am starting a new business, in my free time, which I have a lot of. That was a beautifully constructed sentence.

Anyway, I am starting a business. It will be fantastic. My company is called TravelPaks. Soon, I will register the name with the state. I already own TravelPaks.com.

Startup costs? I'll basically have only costs associated with setting up the website and a few products, so about $200, plus whatever fees are associated with registering a business. I've set up my business model so that I'll incur costs only after the sale to the customer is made, initially at least.

What is TravelPaks.com? I'll be selling travel packs (but I spell it paks because that's cooler [incidentally, not typing the "c" is much more fun and saves a ton of time, too]).

When traveling, it's a huge hassle to carry, organize, remember, and pack big bottles of shampoo and conditioner, soap, cleansers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. So, you instead, you can buy a travel pak from travelpaks.com with everything prepackaged! It's easy, convenient, small, unforgettable, inexpensive, and looks awesome. So far, I've planned out 6 different toiletries/travel paks, 4 pak-add-ons, and 6 extras. Some paks are already ready to be assembled and sold. I'm now just waiting for the samples of different types of bags from a couple of suppliers... then I'll be ready to go!

What are the paks I'm selling, you ask? Good question.

  • Basic Pak
  • Deluxe Pak
  • Men's Pak
  • Women's Pak
  • Airplane Pak
  • Relaxation Pak
As profits soar and I become more familiar with the market, the suppliers, and running the business, I'll create more paks.

I think it's worthwhile to note that I've somewhat based my business/sales model on In-and-Out Burger's menu. I used to frequent this unbelievable non-kosher establishment when I lived in San Diego and before I kept kosher. Their model is, in my words, "Keep it simple, very simple."

I have also given myself a title. My title is CEA. Chief Executive Awesome. I think it flows nicely.

And that, my numerous readers, is my business, in a nutshell... or a blog post, rather.

You now may be asking:
  • Why don't people just use the items from hotels?
  • Can't they already buy things like this online?
  • Can they take your items on a plane? Are they TSA approved?
  • Who would spend money on something like this?
  • Um... your idea is stupid, yes?
  • Since when do you know how to build a website? I've seen your blog layout and it's pretty clear you have no website-building talent...
  • How will you market this?
To all those questions, and to any other questions you may have... my answer is:
"I do have perfectly and ridiculously satisfying answers to all your questions, but I choose not to share them with you. Instead, most of your questions will be answered when my website is launched. For those of you who are eternal pessimists and believe you can foresee* my business's failing outcome, you should also foresee that I will destroy you."

I would like to end this post on a note of destruction. So, fin.

*did you know that a synonym for "foresee" is "foreknow"?? Awesome.

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I always keep lists. Lists of everything. Things I want to buy. Things I want to do. Things I have to do. People I have to call. Places I want to go... etc.

I'd like to share my latest list of awesome products.

To preface this list, you should know that I have an an obsession with backpacks, for some reason. I have different backpacks for different scenarios, which I'm sure everyone does to some degree, but by the time I'm a crotchety old man, I plan to have accumulated hundreds of backpacks for all my different needs. My collection will consists of a backpack for backpacking around a country, one if I'm hiking, one if I'm traveling in luxury, one to carry my stuff (mainly food) around town, one to carry lots of stuff around town, one for my computer, one weird looking one, one black one (in case I want to be in stealth-mode), one green/camouflage (in case I'm in a jungle), and so many more. I could go on forever, but I digress...

So, soon, I will buy some of these awesome things:

The iStraw. An emergency water filtering straw! It even filters out the bacteria... absolutely amazing.

The Juno movie soundtrack. Have you seen this movie? You can't help but smile when you hear its songs.

I definitely need speakers for my computer since I can't ever hear what I'm listening to, and seeing as though I'm saving money by not having cable and by just using my computer as a TV, I think it's okay to spend some money on speakers. Anyway, what better ones than these?

I've already got a 1 Liter Sigg bottle, but a smaller one would be more convenient when I don't want to carry my huge bottle with me everywhere. It also saves money in the long-run because you don't buy new bottles, you just reuse this one. Plus, and most important, it, being aluminum, somehow hinders the growth of bacteria.

Weirdest backpack ever. If somehow a ninja turned into a backpack, it would be this backpack.

Greatest backpack ever. Totally transparent. Look at that guy riding the escalator. He's probably the greatest person of all-time. I will buy one of these backpacks.

For some reason, my mom never bought a normal bread toaster, but instead, a toaster oven. It has been my dream for many years to own and use a regular toaster. This dream may come true, and in a transparent fashion, thanks to Dyson, who produces this promethean piece of kitchen art.

I love the Even Stevens show; it's definitely one of the best Disney TV shows of all-time. A few weeks ago, the Even Stevens movie was on the Disney Channel and was an hour and a half of pure hilarity. My minuscule DVD collection will be complete once this piece of comedic genius is added to its shelf.

That's the list for now.

Sometimes little things can enhance the quality of your life. Although I don't spend much money on material things, I realize that, sometimes, purchases can enhance the quality of your life. So, before I buy anything, I ask myself, "Will this actually improve my life in the long-run?" Most of the time the answer is "no," so I don't buy it, but if it will, depending on a few other factors, I buy it. That is the lesson from this post. It's financial lesson #1.

Speaking of financial lessons, I've deleted my personal finance blog, so I may include, from time to time, some personal finance posts. You'll enjoy them. Yes you will.

Back to awesome products... actually, not back to awesome products because I am done writing this post.

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I am almost somewhat kinda famous. Really. Well, not really.

But, if you type in The Greatest Site Ever in google, my blog appears on the second page. Here's a screenshot (click to enlarge):

I would like to thank my loyal readers, my fans and fan club, my stalkers, my family, my friends, and you, for boosting thegreatestsiteever.com's google rankings when you search for "the greatest site ever". On June 30th, it was placed on page 10, and today, page 2. Without all my readers, my blog would remain readless. Yup, readless. I just officially created that word. (readless = unread)

For accomplishing this feat of placement elevation, I would like to give some of my loyal readers a gift. Yes, a gift. And not just any gift, but a supremely coveted piece of Americana...

If you would like, I will give the first three readers who respond to this post a free @thegreatestsiteever.com email address. Imagine that! All you have to do is email me at the address above and to the right or click here . It's as simple as that! You'll be famous, too! People who see your email address will say: "WOW. You have the greatest email address ever! And you're associated with thegreatestsiteever.com? You must have some pretty powerful connections." At which point all you have to do is nod and everyone within visible distance of you will be in awe. Total awe. It happens to me all the time.

So, go ahead, email me.

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My Favicon

Sunday, August 03, 2008 | | 0 comments »

One of my first tasks as a professional (unprofessional) blogger was to create a favicon. What is a favicon, you ask? Well, take a look to the left of the this web address on the address bar. See the weird smiley face? Yup, that's it. That, my friends, is called a "favicon." I love it.

I love it so much that I want to share an enlarged version with everyone. Before I do that, though, I want to answer a question that you probably didn't ask: "How did you create this beautiful and professional image?" Well, I used MS Paint, the most basic, featureless tool of the master web-designing novice. I have since, though, upgraded to a program called Paint.net, which is still pretty basic, but offers a plethora of more features, looks nicer, and is oh so much cooler. ANYWAY, I don't remember how I actually created the favicon. I think I downloaded a program to convert it to the necessary type of file. If you really want to know, send me $5 and I will do some research and tell you.

So, the moment you've been waiting for... my favicon. Here it is: large, somewhat in charge, and exposed in au naturel:

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Sunday, August 03, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

What is awesome? Wakerupper.com. It is totally amazing.

Last week I decided that instead of setting an alarm, I would try a wake up call. I also didn't want to pay for this wake up call. So, I googled "Free Wake Up Call" and Wakerupper.com came up. I tried it, but my phone didn't actually wake me up since the alarm volume was set low, so Wakerupper left me a voicemail, which was fine. So I tried it again later that day and played around with some options. I programmed it so that my own recording is what I hear when wakerupper calls me. It worked perfectly every time.

Using the website is so easy and intuitive. It's also totally free, as far I can tell. If I get a huge cellphone bill from Verizon, I'll let you all know. Anyway, you can schedule calls for anytime, not just wake up calls. Soon, I'll begin using it to remind me to do things at certain times, or I'll set it up to call me when I'm out with someone I don't like so I'll have an escape route.
This website is ingenious.

Here's a screenshot (Click it to enlarge):

You can schedule a test call to sample this service before you sign up. I would recommend that. MAN, this service is awesome.

Another great website is kukuklok.com. It's awesome, too, but not as awesome as Wakerupper.com. It's an online alarm clock. It's very simple, and it offers about four or so different sound options for alarms. My favorite is the rooster, especially since the other sounds are so annoying that I'm afraid my body will force itself into a coma rather than wake up as to avoid listening to those sounds.

Here's a screenshot:

P.S. I love using screenshots.

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