Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Store Brand Soft Drinks: Great Taste, Stupid Names

Author: Nick
Category: Money

comic 25 - soft drink names

I’m a firm believer in choosing store-brand and generic products over similar name-brand items. That’s because, 97 times out of 100, the generic product is just as good as the more expensive fancy-label item. Nowhere is the similarity between generic and name-brand product quality more apparent than in soft drinks. Sure, some people insist that their favorite name brand of diet cola is tastier than any store brand, but those people usually shut up when I remind them they’re drinking heavily sweetened and colored sugar water for about 1,000 times the price of unsweetened, (hopefully) uncolored tap water. And if you’re like me and only drink soft drinks when they’re mixed with various types of alcohol, then you really don’t give a crap what the soft drink tastes like.

Most grocery stores, supermarkets, and other vendors of bottled soft drinks typically carry three or four lines of soft drinks: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, perhaps some other lesser-known name brand line, and a store brand. For example, most Wal-Marts carry three lines of soft drinks, one of which is its very own Sam’s Choice offering, likely named after its heavily caffeinated founder, Sam Walton. In fact, some say there’s a hint of Sam in every bottle, but I’m not really sure I want to know what that means.

If you walk into your average supermarket, you’ll find that the top brandmakers—Coca-Cola and Pepsi—typically retail their 2-liter bottles for somewhere between $1.29 and $1.99. More often than not, however, one or both brands are on sale, sometimes for less than half the regular retail price. On the other end of the aisle you’ll usually find the store brand soft drinks. Their normal retail price is usually under a dollar, sometimes as low as 60 or 70 cents on sale. Depending on what’s on sale at what time, it’s quite possible that the store brand sodas could be more expensive than the name-brand sodas, but I’d say this only happens about 10% of the time.

Regardless of price, taste, or any other factors, perhaps the most remarkable feature of generic and store-brand soft drinks is that they have the most retarded names for products you’ll ever hear in your entire life. No other generic products have such goofy, ridiculous, and often just plain stupid names as generic soft drinks. That’s because most generic products are comfortable with taking for their names what they are. For instance, my favorite supermarket’s brand of paper towels is called, wait for it, Paper Towels. And people will buy Paper Towels without question because it’s cheaper than Bounty or Brawny or Porny or any other name brand paper towel.

Not so for soft drinks. You can’t just stick a generic bottle of green soda on a shelf, call it Green Soda, and expect it to sell as well as Mountain Dew. That’s because most people won’t realize that your product is a pretty good clone of Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, you also can’t just call it Mountain Dew unless you want to get Mountain Sued by Pepsi. You could just slap a label on the bottle that says something like “Compare to Mountain Dew!” and hope people will make the connection. Or you can do what Sam Walton did and call your Mountain Dew rip-off something even more insane than Mountain Dew, like Mountain Lightning. Now Wal-Mart’s customers will know that that bottle of green liquid tastes like Mountain Dew, and Pepsi won’t suspect a thing since Dew and Lightning are totally different.

I wish Mountain Lightning was the stupidest store-brand soda name out there. In fact, it’s probably one of the best. If you don’t believe me, here’s a listing of some of the craziest store brand soft drink names organized by the name-brand colas they’re meant to imitate.

Coca-Cola Classic, Pepsi

  • Big Fizz Cola, Rite Aid
  • Bubba Cola, Save-A-Lot
  • Chek Mate Cola, Winn-Dixie
  • Go2Cola, Safeway
  • Rally Cola, Giant

7-Up, Sprite, Sierra Mist

  • Bubble Up, Dad’s Root Beer Company
  • Citrus Sling, Albertsons
  • Quist, Giant
  • Sun Pop, Stop & Shop
  • Twist-Up, Sam’s Choice
  • Vess Up, Vess

Mountain Dew, Mello Yello

  • Citrus Drop, Kroger
  • Heee Haw, Hy-Vee
  • Moon Mist, Faygo
  • Mountain Breeze, Safeway
  • Mountain Frost, Aldi
  • Mountain Fury, Roundy’s
  • Mountain Holler, Save-A-Lot
  • Mountain Lightning, Sam’s Choice
  • Mountain Lion, Food Lion
  • Mountain Maze, Albertsons
  • Mountain Mojo, Foodland (thanks, Angel!)
  • Mountain Roar, Harris Teeter
  • Mountain Yeller, Piggly Wiggly
  • Ramp, Giant
  • Rocky Mist, Meijer
  • Sundrop, Cadbury-Schweppes

Dr. Pepper, Mr. Pibb

  • Dr. Bob, Tops Markets
  • Dr. Bold, Albertsons
  • Dr. Chek, Winn-Dixie
  • Dr. Faygo, Faygo
  • Dr. K, Kroger
  • Dr. M, Meijer
  • Dr. Perky, Food Lion
  • Dr. Phizz, Schnucks
  • Dr. Riffic, Eckerd Drug
  • Dr. Rocket, Kmart
  • Dr. Skipper, Safeway
  • Dr. Smooth, Real Canadian Superstore (thanks, Susan!)
  • Dr. Thunder, Sam’s Choice
  • Dr. Topper, Clover Valley (Dollar General)
  • Dr. Wham, Buffalo Rock
  • Mr. aahh!, Giant Eagle
  • Mr. Pig, Piggly Wiggly

Am I missing any of your favorite wacky store brand soft drink names? If so, leave a comment here and I’ll add it to the list.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stop Being Evil With Your Money

Author: Nick
Category: Money

comic 24 - money vs evil

A lot of people have written in with comments on last week’s article about how the economic stimulus rebate payment schedule is unfairly biased towards sucky people. Reader Erica’s e-mail best summarizes the majority of the comments received:


My Social Security Number ends in the digits 17. Does this mean I’m a terrible, evil person?


Thanks for writing in, Erica. The answer to your question is pretty simple: you probably aren’t a terrible, evil person right now, but you certainly have the potential to become one. In fact, if left unchecked, the evil in you right now may very well transform you into a minion of Satan by next Thursday.

Erica isn’t the only one who should worry about turning to the Dark Side. You may be familiar with the expression “money is the root of all evil” (the full quotation is “the love of money is the root of all evil”). Well, it’s often true. Think of all the rich people you know who are also rather evil:

  • Drug dealers
  • Terrorist leaders
  • Evil dictators
  • Most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies
  • Politicians
  • Lex Luthor

See? Even moderately wealthy people with net worths below seven figures can be doers of dastardly deeds. Yes, that means even you could be evil with your money.

“But Nick, I don’t want to be evil with my money.”

Fear not, goody two-shoes. You can still save your immortal soul and keep your 401(k) well funded, but it’ll take some extra work to make sure your money doesn’t contribute to sin and wickedness. Here are some dos and don’ts that’ll help you keep your money on the path of righteousness.

  • DO give generously to worthy causes. The Red Cross is a worthy cause. The American Cancer Society is a worthy cause. The National Association for the Advancement of Robot Hookers—not so worthy.
  • DO pay back your debts. You may have read about troubled homeowners walking away from their mortgages as interest rates skyrocket and home values drop. This might be an acceptable alternative if you can no longer afford to pay for your home and you’re on the verge of bankruptcy. But in general, skipping out on your debts isn’t just a poor financial move—it’s also selfish and dishonest.
  • DO good things with your money just for the fun of it. Take a friend who’s been feeling down out to dinner, be a generous uncle or aunt for your less-fortunate nieces and nephews, bring in doughnuts for your co-workers. Money might not necessarily be able to buy yourself happiness, but it’s really easy to buy some smiles for other people for a few bucks.
  • DO give your business to especially ethical companies. If you’re afraid your money is going to companies that make their products with slave labor, or if you think your dollars are funding terrorism or Communism or some other bad “ism,” you’ll want to check out Money and Values, a website that’ll teach you how to be frugal without dooming 6,000 orphans to work in fields just to make you a pair of sneakers.
  • DON’T patronize businesses you know are evil. The diner on Main Street might have the most delicious meatloaf you’ve ever had at a price that’s right, but if that meatloaf is made by the owner’s five-year-old children who work in the kitchen all day instead of going to school while the owner’s other children are off stealing kittens for tomorrow’s batch of meatloaf… yeah, do I even need to finish this point?
  • DON’T waste your fortune on vices. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t ever drink or gamble for fun or whatever, but you shouldn’t be dumping your life savings into those habits either. If you can’t help but spend money on these kinds of things, get some help. Don’t worry, I’ll hang on to your money while you do.
  • DON’T take advantages of those less fortunate. It might be tempting to take that $50 the little old lady next door offers you to fix her dishwasher, but if all you do is replace a two-dollar part in five minutes, you better not take her money.
  • DON’T be a jerk with your money. Yes, you have $8,000. Yes, your friend has $8,000… in debt. No, you don’t need to remind him of these facts every time you see him… unless you’re ready to write him a check.

Now your soul is safe from the stranglehold of Satan, and you’re an even more upstanding member of society than you were yesterday.

And Erica, I was just kidding when I said you might be an evil person. And while I appreciate your follow-up e-mail offering to sell me some drugs, I get everything I need from the guy who runs the diner on Main Street. But thanks anyway.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stimulus Rebate Payment Schedule Is Racist Against Awesome People

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 23 - social security number

As of tomorrow, about 75 percent of people who filed their last tax return specifying a direct deposit account should have received their stimulus rebate-a-ronis in their bank accounts. This is based on the schedule of payment on the IRS website. According to that schedule, tax filers with Social Security Numbers ending in the digits 00 through 20 would receive their directly-deposited stimulus rebates by May 2nd. Assuming a proportionate allocation of SSNs, that means 20 percent of direct deposit rebate recipients have their cash in hand right now. The majority of rebate-kateers—those with SSNs ending 21 through 75—will get their payments by tomorrow, May 9th. And an unfortunate few with SSNs ending 76 through 99 will have to wait until May 16th to get their rebates credited to their bank accounts. (As for people getting their rebates by paper check, some with unluckily high SSNs may not see their checks until mid-July.)

I wasn’t too upset about this payment schedule until I realized a few things:

  1. My SSN falls between 76 and 99.
  2. That means I won’t get my $1,200 rebate until May 16th.
  3. Two weeks worth of 3% APY interest on $1,200 is almost $1.40.

Thus, the Federal government, by staggering the payment of these stimulus rebates, is cheating millions of people out of their $1.40. By my calculations, that’s about $140 trillion dollars people like me are being cheated out of, more than the entire economic stimulus package amount!

The reasons for the staggering payments have been cited before: the IRS and U.S. Treasury just can’t send out tens of millions of electronic and paper payments all at one time due to the fact that the entirety of the Federal government is still run on Apple IIe computers from the 1980s. So splitting the payment distribution into chunks by Social Security Numbers—which are more or less randomly assigned and evenly allocated by geography, financial status, ethnicity, etc.—seems to make some sort of sense.

Well guess what—it’s inherently biased against a really swell group of folks. That’s right, I’m talking about awesome people.

You see, just about everyone I know who is awesome has a Social Security Number ending somewhere between 76 and 99. For example, me. Here’s a list of just a few of the really awesome people whose SSNs fall in that pitiful 25% range of taxpayers who’ve been shunned by the IRS and the government:

  • Most New York City firefighters
  • That nun you see in the grocery store buying food for the homeless
  • 90% of orphans
  • Vietnam and Iraq War veterans
  • Almost every Starbucks barista east of the Mississippi
  • Santa Claus
  • Spiderman
  • All of the good living former U.S. Presidents

And if it isn’t bad enough that all of these amazing people are being punished just because they showed up too late (or too early) at the Social Security office, it turns out that a lot of terrible people were assigned SSNs with last digits between 00 and 20. Here’s just a sampling of the kinds of scum who are getting their rebate money before fine people like me:

  • 67% of prostitutes
  • 39% of convicted rapists
  • The guys who canceled Star Trek
  • Unwed teenage mothers
  • Zombie Hitler
  • The person you asked to the prom who turned you down because you were a nerd

Just how did so many losers end up with lower-ending SSNs while we monuments to humanity got the high ones? There are many theories, ranging from DNA profiling to covert behavioral analysis. But whichever school of thought you buy into, there’s little arguing that something is amiss with the way we’re being numbered.

By now you’re probably as outraged at this blatantly obvious conspiracy as I am. While the minions of evil are out there purchasing new cars and big-screen TVs with their rebates, people like you and me are stuck at home eating leftover lima beans and reading last month’s Reader’s Digest for the third time. And I bet you wish you could do something about it.

Well, there is. To be precise, there are three things you can do about it:

  1. Write your local Congressman and let them know just how irate you are over the supposed “random” rebate payment schedule. Tell them that you’re just as awesome as, if not more awesome than, people with lower Social Security Numbers. Suggest that the next time there’s a stimulus rebate that payments be issued according to some more noble metric such as number of volunteer hours performed or number of homeless kittens adopted.
  2. Write to the IRS and the U.S. Treasury demanding your $1.40 in interest. And if you’re getting a paper check in July, you should demand as much as $7.00. Be sure to let them know you’re a Punny Money reader so they understand right away just how awesome a person you are.
  3. Refuse to stimulate the economy. The best way to say “screw you” to a government that has wronged you is to do the exact opposite of what they want you to do. For the stimulus rebates, that means not injecting that money into the economy. Put it in savings, stuff it under your mattress, burn it—just don’t spend it. That’ll teach those government number-crunchers to piss off the awesome people.

Finally, if the wait for your stimulus rebate is too painful to bear, feel free to print out the following simulated stimulus check and hold it in your hands for as long as you like.

fake rebate check

Just don’t try to cash it at the bank or you might end up in Federal prison where the only stimulation you’ll receive will be of the surprise-from-behind variety, probably from someone with a low Social Security Number.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Five Stages of a Product’s Life: Saving You Money on Replacing Expensive Household Items

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

comic 22 - product life stages

The end is near for my five-year-old laptop computer. I built this thing myself from parts just before my last semester of college. I’ve replaced just about every part since then at least once except for the casing and screen. Unfortunately I’ve just about reached the end of the line for what upgrades and repairs can do to keep it going. The keyboard is missing several key caps (I pulled off one of the “Ctrl” keys and put it where the “E” was), the power supply jack is wiggly, the memory capacity has been maxed out at 2GB, and the hard-to-reach internal Wi-Fi died long ago. Still, the laptop is capable of performing as well as a laptop you’d pay $800 for today, but it’s only a matter of time until a major component fails or more of the casing starts to fall apart and I’ll replace it altogether. My laptop is at Stage 3: Wait and See.

For a few years now, I’ve used a system of assigning ratings to expensive items I own in order to track where they are in their useful lifespan and make budgetary plans for items I may soon need to replace. For instance, a brand new item at the peak of its performance is in Stage 1: Good As New while that same item that just broke in half and no longer works probably belongs in Stage 5: End of Life (though it might only be in Stage 4: Obsolescence).

What exactly do these ratings mean, and how can they save you money? Let’s look at each rating and consider the circumstances under which you would use each of them.

Stage 1: Good As New

If you just went to the store and bought a product off the shelf, it should fall into this category. And if you properly use and maintain that item, it should stay in this category for a long time to come. Items that are Good As New are in flawless or nearly flawless condition and are as good as or even better than similar items currently on the market. Every feature of the item still performs as well as the day is was built. Good As New is obviously the best category of products to own, but it certainly isn’t the cheapest.

Product Examples:

  • A new car fresh off the dealer’s lot.
  • A refrigerator you just bought new at the appliance store.
  • A refurbished DVD player you bought for $100 less than a brand new model.
  • Your grandmother’s set of cookware, painstakingly maintained and better than anything you can buy on the market today.

Notice that Good As New doesn’t necessarily mean “brand new.” In fact, the age of a product is often irrelevant to its life stage. What matters is the condition. Some items, including many appliances and tools, can be kept in Good As New condition for decades with careful maintenance. (Others, like pretty much any consumer technology product or gadget, can be in perfect condition yet still fall out of Good As New status. More on that later.)

When to Replace: Items in the Good As New stage should almost never be replaced. Instead, money that would have been spent replacing the item can be used to repair and maintain the item to keep it in Good As New condition. If you’re in the habit of replacing items that are Good As New, you might as well take your existing products to the store, give them to the store for free, and then buy the items back from the store. Yes, replacing Good As New items is that dumb.

Less than 1% of new products you buy should be to replace items in the Good As New stage.

Stage 2: In Working Order

You probably think most of the items in your household right now fall into this product life stage. (And you might be right.) Products In Working Order still do the job they were originally tasked to do. They work well, they might be a little old, but there’s something newer or better out there. If you had an infinite supply of time and money, you would throw these items in the trash and buy some Good As New ones instead.

Product Examples:

  • A 12-speed whatchamacallit when they just came out with a 15-speed.
  • A fairly-equipped five-year-old car with no mechanical problems.
  • A basic toaster that still toasts toast.
  • Any functioning iPod that’s more than six months old.

Even without much maintenance or care, many products will stay in the In Working Order stage virtually forever. Unless something malfunctions or degrades due to wear and tear, that basic two-slice toaster could very well toast your great-grandchildren’s toast. Don’t try to tell them that though, because they’ll be using their 30-slice laser toaster while you’re still using Old Toasty.

When to Replace: If a product in your house is In Working Order, you should try to hold off replacing it for as long as possible. The toaster still toasts your bread like it did when you got it ten years ago; it just doesn’t toast the face of your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters into it like some of the new ones do. Or maybe it toasts 99 slices out of 100 properly, but it turns that unlucky one slice into charcoal. Instead of replacing In Working Order items with Good As New ones, you may be able to repair it or even enhance it with replacement parts (like I’ve done with my laptop).

Sometimes, though, it does make sense to replace In Working Items simply because newer versions with useful features or lower maintenance and operation costs exist. Since the current item is still doing the job, you should take your time to research newer versions and wait for a really good deal to come along. But only 5% of products you buy should be to replace items In Working Order.

Stage 3: Wait and See

Items that fall in the Wait and See stage of life are still quite useful and typically in fairly good condition, but they may have some problems or may be moderately out-of-date. You may be able to hold out for some time with an item that is Wait and See, but there are certainly a growing number of advantages to finding a replacement in Good As New or In Working Order condition.

Product Examples:

  • My good old 1991 Nissan Sentra.
  • A low-efficiency but working furnace that still keeps you warm during the winter.
  • VHS tapes, or any other entertainment medium for which players are becoming rarer.
  • My cell phone; it calls people and that’s about it.

Hanging on to items that are just Wait and See can sometimes be painful. Your neighbor certainly isn’t helping when he brings home a 10-speaker surround-sound entertainment system while you’re still watching TV on your 19-inch Sorny-brand tube.

When to Replace: Wait and See items belong on your Christmas list, even if Christmas isn’t for another six months. That said, you may want to replace the item yourself, especially if a newer item comes with great features that’ll save you time or money. But before you zip on down to the nearest big-box store, you’ll need to do your homework. Can your current product be repaired at a reasonable cost? (And if so, is there a good chance it will break again before long?) If repairs are out of the question, shop in-store and online for a replacement, comparing a variety of items and feature sets. Since your current item is still doing (most of) its job, you can afford to take your time here. Once you’ve found the right replacement product, consider selling the old one on your favorite internet market place or at a yard sale to help recoup some of the cost of your new purchase.

No more than 15% of products you buy should be to replace items at the Wait and See stage.

Stage 4: Obsolescence

You probably don’t have too many items in this category lying around the house; if you do, they’re probably gathering dust in the attic and you may have a bit of a pack-rat problem. Items in the Obsolescence stage suffer either from moderate to major mechanical failures that would be expensive to repair, very high maintenance or operation costs compared to newer versions, or incredibly outdated feature sets. Even if they still perform some of their original functions, you’re almost embarrassed to still own these products.

Product Examples:

  • The car you spend $4,000 to repair every year. And there goes the transmission…
  • Your desktop computer that can run Windows 98. Barely.
  • A two-slice toaster that only toasts one slice at a time, and it takes 15 minutes to do it.
  • Your 30-year-old vacuum that still sucks up 99% of dirt in your carpet… and redeposits 40% of it on your hardwood floors.

When to Replace: The typical item that has reached the Obsolescence stage in your average American household will get replaced inside of a week. That’s not always a bad thing, but it does mean that most people don’t shop around first for a good deal. Just because your washer and dryer are on their last legs doesn’t mean you have to replace them today. You might be able to bum a couple of loads off of neighbors, or you could always hit up your friendly local laundrymatista. For entertainment or convenience products, you may be able to wait quite a while for a bargain price to come along before pulling the trigger.

Still, you may not be in a position to wait months or even weeks to replace items you use frequently such as major appliances, automobiles, or computers. As usual, consider the repair cost and frequency before dropping a wad of cash for a Good As New replacement. If fixing the product isn’t possible and its days are numbered, start frequenting internet deal sites, keeping a close eye out for prices that are “good enough.” You might not be able to score the deal of the year based on your timetable, but you don’t need to settle for the first new item you see.

30-50% of products you buy should be to replace items at the Obsolescence stage.

Stage 5: End of Life

It’s over. Finito. Kaput. Your product has gone to that great junkyard in the sky. You might as well not even own the item anymore. (It might be cheaper that way for some things, since large appliances can be difficult to haul away.) If it’s a product you absolutely need right now, then you better hit the road (assuming it isn’t your car that bit the bullet) and do some serious shopping. Hopefully you saw the untimely demise of your product coming (i.e. it didn’t just jump from Stage 1 to Stage 5 overnight) so you’re already looking around for a replacement.

Product Examples:

  • The only thing coming out of your toaster toasted is itself.
  • Your car just exploded. A lot.
  • You now have two whole-house heaters: your furnace and your air conditioner.
  • You just burnt dinner, your whole house is smokey, and the smoke detector with the new battery just sat there silently.

When to Replace: As with items in the other stages, consider if repairs are possible and economical. If they’re not, determine your timeline for replacement. Much like items in Obsolescence, End of Life items may not need to be replaced right away if they’re products you don’t use all that often. If your portable MP3 player just played its last tune, you’re certainly not going to die if you wait a week or two for a good deal on a new one unless you have some sort of strange disease where you need to hear music all of the time or else your brain implodes, which you don’t. Even items you think you need to replace today—dishwashers, microwaves, televisions—can probably wait a bit… at least until you have a chance to scour the internet for a baseline of prices.

And if the idea of dropping a ton of money on a Good As New item makes your stomach turn, you could always look for an item In Working Order or Wait and See condition. Some products, like cars and electronics, are easy to find used at a good price and in good shape.

50% or more of products you buy should be to replace items at the End of Life stage.

By keeping your product replacement habits in line with the suggested budget percentages listed in this article, and by taking care of the things you already own, you can help control the natural consumer impulses to buy the newest, biggest, and best items available. And if following this advice means that you end up with a house full of items in Stages 2 to 5, don’t be embarrassed; be proud that you’ve resisted the urge to splurge needlessly.

As for me, I’m still on the lookout for a new laptop, so hopefully no more keyboard letters fall off until I can find one at a dcnt pric. Oh crp.

Monday, May 5, 2008

If Gas Suddenly Cost $100 a Gallon, Could You Survive?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 21 - world without oil

According to some guy who thought we were all gonna die on Y2K, the skyrocketing price of oil may soon doom suburbia. In place of the sprawling suburban landscape will be a return to small towns situated around retail hubs with everything in walking or bicycle distance. You’ll travel between towns by trains powered by enslaved poor people, and you’ll never eat fruit out of season again.

Okay, so maybe this guy’s just a bit of a nut-job and the future of American society isn’t that grim (or hopeful, depending on how you view suburbia). But there’s no debating that today’s world of the 100-mile commute only came about thanks to gobs and gobs of dirt cheap oil. If anything ever happened to that cheap oil, a lot of things we take for granted today would become a thing of the past.

So what would super-expensive oil mean for your life? Well, if you buy into the end-of-the-world theory, then things would quiet down pretty quickly after an initial few months of rioting that would leave millions dead of violence or starvation. Those small towns I mentioned would start to form gradually with support from local farms and nearby light manufacturing. If your current career is physician, barber, handyman, or prostitute, you’d continue in your profession; otherwise, you’ll become a common laborer hopping from job to job.

The good news is that all of those environmental catastrophes that scientists are predicting for us would go away because nobody would be paying scientists to make those sort of predictions anymore. The air would become cleaner, people would get more exercise from walking and performing more physical work, and the average American’s quality of life would ultimately reach a new high. Eventually your town would put up one of those adorable signs that says “Name of Town, Population: Some Teeny Number.”

Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever end up like this because most people would probably shoot themselves before giving up their automobiles. Or perhaps science will invent us a way out of this with a cheaper, renewable alternative energy source that will be quickly adopted and is already available in large quantities. And if not, when we’re lining up to exchange our office jobs for small-town work, I call blacksmith.