Category Archives: Universe

Happy Valentine’s Day: DeBeers Diamond Class Action Settlement

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I knew $97.99 for the 143-carat pinkie ring I bought last year was overpriced.

Now, you can get some of your money back from DeBeers …

Do you qualify?

“People and companies who purchased Diamond Products for personal use, including to give as gifts. This is the Indirect Purchaser “Consumer Subclass.”

Yes, you are subclass but you might get some money and/or coupons :-)

What was the original class action lawsuit?

“The lawsuits claim that the largest suppliers of diamonds in the world—De Beers S.A. and its associated companies—violated antitrust, unfair competition, and consumer-protection laws by monopolizing diamond supplies, conspiring to fix, raise, and control diamond prices, and disseminating false and misleading advertising. De Beers and the other companies deny they violated the law or did anything wrong. They also say that because they do not do business in the United States, the courts in the United States do not have authority over them.”

What happened in court? No surprise, DeBeers would rather settle …

“There have not been any trials of the lawsuits, and the Court has not decided who is right or wrong. Instead, the Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed to a Settlement on behalf of Class Members. Both sides negotiated the Settlement for several months with the help of professional mediators. By reaching a Settlement, they avoid the risks and costs of further litigation, including a trial, and Class Members have the opportunity to receive money and other Settlement benefits. You can read the entire Settlement Agreement by clicking here.”

Qualify?

“First, you must have purchased a Diamond Product in the U.S. between January 1, 1994 and March 31, 2006. A U.S. purchase is any purchase where the Diamond Product was delivered to you in the U.S. and includes purchases made from establishments in the U.S., as well as purchases from establishments abroad that were delivered to you in the U.S.. Second, you must have resided in the U.S. on October 1, 2007. For individuals, this means that you maintained a place of residence in the U.S.; for companies and other business entities, this means that you were organized and existed under the laws of any state or territory in the U.S. or maintained a place of business in the U.S.”

Read all about it here.

The FAQ.

You can also file your claim online. Or via printed PDF here.

The settlement for consumers is out of a pool of @$135 million.

Along with my government tax rebate check, I can finally afford the CARS Speedway of the South set.

More about diamonds? How the mofo of diamonds, it’s way, way, way, way, way, way larger than you think …

How and where diamonds are found.

But who needs mines – just pressurize your own.

But diamonds are boring … gold? That’s a cool journey across the cosmos …

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“According to Tyson, author of Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandries, all gold on Earth started out in the center of a star; he says stars are “in the business of cosmic alchemy.” Via NPR.

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Black Friday, Black Holiday: Gifts to Avoid

As someone who once worked in retail, it’s not hard to get cynical about Christmas – I actually saw & witnessed people buying presents by the pound – actually holding it up and declaring loudly that it’s price to bulk weight ratio was sufficient … sufficient for what? To not be excluded from the reading of the last will & testament in the ensuing years? I’ve seen the dead and haunted eyes and the death maul dragging of their bodies on a FORCED DEATH MARCH to the malls and shops to fulfill the ritual of celebrating the coronation of another year… but without meaning – it’s all just the transfer of crap from the malls into the homes of those you allegedly care about … “just to get it done” robs it of all meaning.

So, when you are out there – don’t make it seem like Sir John Franklin wandering aimlessly looking for a Northwest Passage into your loved one’s hearth and heart and metaphorically – freezing to death, going mad or forced to utter the phrase “I’ll eat Johnson first, Gordon has a gammy leg.”

In other words, don’t buy these …

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Yes, the Wii is hard to find. But do not resort to this from WM unless the following is true:

I like to taunt my kids.
I like to traumatize my kids.
I would like my kids to hate me.

Yes, the Wii is hard to find but this card literally guarantees YOU NOTHING. It merely states you had $249 dollars you were willing to convert to a plastic card with a picture of Wii. This is not a HOLIDAY for anyone under the age of 24. If they’re graduating college with a degree in tractor air conditioning repair, that’s fine – they’re old to know that sometimes in life you ask for a fun, you get a picture of a guy having fun … so if you want to show the kids you searched high and low and far & wide, make a photo scrapbook of all the stores you visited in vain … they’ll think their parents are crazy but at least they won’t think you’re mean … there is a difference.

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Now, Costco doesn’t sell a lot of things too kooky (well, maybe coffins) but this is just bizarre. I did not realize this was a problem in America … man, I have a lot of canned food goods and man, I just do not have the time to properly rotate them as I should.

Do we really need to spend $50 to $320 to add a device that rotates our cans?

First of all, maybe you have too DAMN MANY CANNED GOODS in your house if they’re going boutalism and bad in your household cabinets … OR maybe you are just not eating them fast enough. Now I know Costco likes to sell everything in the 144-pack but maybe you have too damn many beans if you need to rotate the 140 cans you have left or maybe you should eat the beans you have before buying more?
To the two ladies in the photo, STOP BUYING CANS! Enough already. Is the can goods council of America your neighbors so they might pop by for a quick look and you want to avoid the social embrassment of having less than a thousand cans? Maybe your family might want to consider other kinds of food packaging – even frozen? And if you really need to have 300 cans in your pantry – shouldn’t you have a butler that can do that for you? After all, Del Monte peas need as much care as a 1996 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon?

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If you ever thought, I need to class up my life, I need to break from the mold of norm, I need to introduce color to my ass …

Yep, colored TP.

Too many jokes … please make your own.

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If you’re the sort of person who likes to back up puns … sure, anyone can say someone else else is corny but how many people can back it up with $64 of fun … specifically a giant corn on the cob? And if that’s too corny for you, they sell another 100 giant items.

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While you’re stepping up in the world of TP – why not step up your furniture? Do you keep running into your neighbors at the Goodwill store – you want to upgrade but you can’t now that your mortgage APR is 27.6%? Have you ever been in that HoJo in Decatur and thought, nice sofa but I could never afford this quality in my house … your prayers have been answered. Now, take that furniture home from your favorite hotel/motel/bungalow/double wide … they also sell used mattresses …

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If this global warming thing is true – time to step and motorize your cooler to double duty … now in electric versions! Your teenage kids will love a ride in this to school.

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If you can ignore the girl for a second, just a second, what is the Gray Kangroo? It’s a filter for your cheap liquor (mostly voka) so your Seagram’s will taste like Grey Goose … now if you buy it yourself and your friends don’t notice, woohoo your bank account and maybe your friends are all drunken clowns … now, if you get this as a gift, what are people saying about YOU?

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It’s a stun gun, it’s a flashlight and it’s a keychain. Sure it can be used as self defense but honestly, don’t you think the following scenario is likely to happen:

When they need a flashlight, they will trip, fall on it and they will activate the stungun.

When they need to stun someone, they will shine a puny light in the chest of their attacker, annoying the blazes out of them?

It also has a ‘Nap Zapper’ … which if you replace the letters AP out of the first word and replace it with UT – that is what is most likely to happen?

Oh the other hand, it can be fun watching your brother-in-law fall asleep on the 25th and the keychain slips to his groin area … gather up the kids and fire up the videocamera …

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Art? Infantile? You & your significant other have sexual identity issues? You & your significant other stumble around in the dark too often in a drunken stupor? What are your friends saying when you get this as a gift?

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If you only wish your husband or boyfriend had a hobby that could also be potentially* profitable? For only $2,500.99 (yea, that $.99 is going to bring in all the fence sitters on this item), you too can change not just your odometer but all the neighbors also – a hobby that is both fun, brain teasing and potentially profitable! Roll back your ’88 Buick LeSabre to 12 miles – it’s a collectible!

*Potentially could mean lots of things – like jail time also but hey, maybe $2,500 is a small price to pay to send him up the river?

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Sure, there were lots of funny scenes in the Godfather but the horse head was the funniest gag involving a bloody horses head since FUNNY GIRL … now relive it over and over and everyday with your understanding spouse … it just kills me!

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5 Lbs of Silly Putty – no problem, you want that in pink, purple, blue, or yellow?

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Pee Goooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, feel free to buy these for YOURSELF but do not gift these items, please, just buy them a gift card … or better yet …

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Or a ssheet of $50 dollars uncut – practical AND exercise … if you need to eat, just snip off a piece …

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And don’t buy anything for your best guy or girl here … better save it for Valentine’s Day … nothing could be more romantic than a SYNC OUTLOOK UPGRADE?

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Dr. Grordbort’s Rayguns Courtesy of WETA Are Out of This World

Cheesy headlines aside, haven’t you ever wanted to own a raygun? Or at least one that looks and feels like it was a close to a real one as possible?

Well, the good folks that helped bring The Lord of the Rings and its slate of collectibles to life have created a new division down in Kiwi-land to help build an array of incredibly detailed limited editions raygun collectibles worthy of display.

Dr. Grordbort’s Rayguns

Dubbed “Doctor Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators” these Rayguns are created as limited edition pieces. They will be making only 500 of each gun worldwide, all of which will be handcrafted and made out of metal with some glass parts. Every Raygun comes with its own velvet lined pressed tin case, Certificate of Authenticity and an assortment of implements and crafting tools.

Here is the Manmelter 3600ZX Sub-Atomic Disintegrator Pistol:

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Not only that, these weapons are not made in Hong Kong out of skimpy metal or painted plastic.  These suckers weigh in at over 7 pounds each and are no light investment by weight or by cost unfortunately (these babies will set you back $690 + tax U.S.).  The rayguns are being limited to runs of only 500 signed and numbered editions.

A catalogue for reviewing and purchasing these limited edition rayguns called “Doctor Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory” can be purchased in January 2008 for under $20. Items such as getting ammunition for your Manmelter which takes Phlogiston and Compressed Aether phials can be ordered through the Doctor’s the upcoming Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory.

A smaller and less detailed Miniature Manmelter was put up for sale as an exclusive at this year’s past Comicon and the 500 short run quickly sold out (and was a steal for $30).

Lots of fun artwork and even a short film can be found at the main web site here where you can gaze your eyes on the lovely Moon Mistress:

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All hail the Manmelter!  Death to Venusians!

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Hyper Clear Photos of Space Shuttle

 Wow!  Here is one snap from a web site I just came across…the photos are amazing!

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Apparently, this site has some connection via a staffer at NASA itself.  Clearly, who else could have taken these?  Well, there are those little green, big round eye dudes and maybe the Russians, but that’s about it.

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Private Islands For Sale

The end of summer is near and as the days get shorter, blustery and colder … it might be time for an island getaway.

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Perhaps your own island might be nice. The best photo book on the subject?

Luxury Private Islands is a great place to start. Every page, a great photograph spread – not a lot of words – after all, what are words when you see a beach, a house and blue water?

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Check out some properties available at Sotheby’s, or at Private Islands Online, or perhaps the Caribbean (lowball them during hurricane season!) or WSJ’s Real Estate Search. Check out Private Island Mag or when they say Luxury Real Estate, they are not kidding.

You need a proper agent?

Or maybe just a vacation in luxury?

Or the new destination resort in the Maldives (hurry, island country apparently will be under sea in 50 years)

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Or if you’re stocking up on islands, you might want this to get around.

Or it’s not too late to own an man-made island that is a miniature version of a country …

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Vasectomy, Dementia & Star Wars

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And now for something completely different.

Sure, we mostly cover tech, computing and fun stuff but a friend mentioned he had to break his appointment for his big Vasectomy because of some crisis at work so I had to forward him this study linking dementia and vasectomy’s – as I’m not a doctor, I cannot say there’s any validity to it but just in case you need some ammo not to get the big V.

But as in all cases, a Star Wars quote once again proves to be fitting for this situation …

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“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

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Memorial Day Gasoline Pricing

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There are a million ways to approach this but let’s cut to the chase.

There are some people who love to cry we’re at the “peak oil” stage which in theory means production will never be as great as it stands now but that hardly seems the truth. There is plenty of oil left on Earth, there may not be much cheap oil that gurgles out of the ground or the lighter crude that’s easy to get but we have plenty of oil. You can read more at Wikipedia – and if we count oil shale, the US has enough to last over 100 years and sure, eventually we will run out of oil but frankly, why should we really worry? We humans are pretty clever – just like people in 1965 thought we’d run out of food by the late 1970’s and there would be worldwide food riots. And while the population has doubled in the past 20 years, we are generating enough food to feed everyone – our only problem is that on occasion, politics get in the way.

So, I’m not worried about running out of crude or whether in 4 generations, how will people move about in society. I honestly do not believe people will just fold up their tents and start going bipedal again. We’re too smart and frankly too lazy.

No, the problem is that the whole pricing scheme was based upon a system that no longer works as it should because the oil industry & the financial industry changed the conditions.

First, you should note that the price that’s quoted and bandied about is the price of a short term SPOT contract to purchase a barrel of crude oil (a barrel is 55 gallons BTW) – what does it actually mean? Not much of anything – the major oil companies do not need to buy oil on the spot market, they have LONG TERM contracts with different countries. What does it actually cost them to dredge up a barrel of oil? A couple dollars to around $15 dollars – so of course, anything above that is profit.

Everyone has different deals with different countries so there’s no set formula but back in the old days, the system made sense, most countries (with their major oil company partners) produced the oil but also needed an open “marketplace” for refiners to buy. Most refineries were owned by independent or different companies which naturally wanted to pay as little as possible. Now fast forward to 2007, most refineries in the United States are now owned by the major companies or equally large gasoline interests and there’s very little competition. It’s great to be in business where you can save on maintenance because if the plant catches on fire and you shut down, you actually make MORE money because of shortages.

Now, it is complex because, it is true, most people do not want a new refinery built in their neighborhood but then the oil companies don’t try very hard to get new refineries approved – why should they? When they started merging, people were all worried they would own all the gas stations but no one noticed where the real power and profits resided, in the refining business.

So, now, the refineries don’t really care what the cost of a barrel is because they’re just taking money from their own pocket to put it into another pocket. Basically, it would be like if you charged your family $5 to drink a glass of water – you would pay too but what you care, that $5 dollars is just moving from your left to right pocket.

We also don’t know how much is manipulated DIRECTLY by the oil companies (again, if they’re digging it out of the ground for $15 dollars a barrel, why not bid the price of a spot barrel higher, that’s just more money for them) or the newfangled hedge funds?

You just have to look at Katrina – sure, I understand where the Eastern Gulf States might have shortages and prices might rise but really, how many cars were taken off the road in 2 to 3 states for months at a time – especially in Mississippi? So basically the price was bid up on a PERCEIVED shortage – I’m on the West Coast, how much gasoline do I pump into my car from Louisiana or Mississippi? I would venture ZERO? Yet, we let the price jump on speculation, why?

Isn’t gasoline really a necessity of life now? Should it be as freely traded (or manipulated) when the market is so closely held? When it’s not really a free market system at work but dueling monopolies? Of countries and major conglomerates as large as countries (Exxon has some $35 billion in cash reserves, in 2000 during a down year for them, if earnings were GNP, they’d be the 26th largest country … where are they now, 20th?).

Now, I’m not a communist nor a socialist and I have no problems with a company that makes a profit – even a huge profit but I do question when the setup is all skewed. If the price of timber goes up, everyone who produces paper products (and ultimately the consumer pays more) but for oil companies, when crude oil prices go up, they make more profits because their costs don’t change at all, when the refinery is closed or partially shut down, they make more profits and of course, as soon as the spot contract price changes, they raise prices at the retail level IMMEDIATELY … and when they fall, it falls VERY, VERY slowly. Why do they get to change prices by the minute? The costs of production have not changed, the cost of transporting hasn’t changed … what changed? The price for a FUTURE spot contract to a price they don’t actually pay? None of it makes any sense.

Here’s the CEO of BP explaining why $22 billion is profit is really nothing.

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So, what can we do, pretty much nothing …

And as long as we let the politicians work the solution, we’re more screwed … ethanol anyone? Haven’t seen a drop of it but apparently the diversion of corn to make it has raised the price of corn 20% and feed for cows, steers and pigs so food prices as well as transportation costs are going higher – yea, good thing we have all this ethanol – otherwise we might be paying $3.00 a gallon for gas, oops, make that $4.00.

Oh and this, “Oil refiners receive a 51-cent tax credit for every gallon of ethanol they blend into their gasoline. That alone will cost taxpayers more than $7 billion over five years …” and if you’re an environmentalist, we’re getting Brazil to plant more corn – humm, guess we need some more flat land without any trees …

So, in summary, more profits, more subsidies, less corn, food prices going up. Brilliant … well, not for us – for someone.

So, what can we really do? Not much. Sure, you could drive less or buy a smaller car but what’s that really going to change?

Well, Mythbusters answered the question of whether you should drive with the air or the windows down?

“REVISITED: Running a car with air conditioning on is more fuel efficient than running with the windows down. (From episode 22)

Partly Confirmed

The fundamental flaw in the MythBusters’ test was that the point where the drag becomes powerful enough to inhibit a car’s performance with windows down was inside their 45 – 55-mph margin at 50-mph. Going less than 50-mph it is more efficient to leave your windows down, but going greater than 50-mph it is more efficient to use your A/C.”

Also, make sure to buy gasoline really early in the morning or in the middle of the night – gas apparently expands as it gets hotter in the underground tanks so you actually get less …

You can also read everything at DAILY FUEL ECONOMY TIP.

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