Gas Causing You Discomfort?

On one hand

It seems really stupid for me to complain about gasoline prices since we, the American public, pay less for gas than those in just about any other country. The reason? Mainly the low federal tax, about 12% in the United States versus 40%, 50%, and higher around the world. Here I am, about to complain, when the price of gas per gallon is barely more expensive than a gallon of milk or soda, and only twice as expensive as the cheapest bottled water.

On the other hand

I’m less upset about the overall average price compared to the rest of the world than I am the disparity of pricing around the United States. According to various reports in the media, the average price of gas per gallon in the United States is around $1.65, yet the price at the pump in the Bay Area has been around $2.10. That’s almost 30% higher than the average. Odds are, assuming a smooth statistical bell curve, some yahoo in Kentucky is paying only $1.20.

None of it seems very fair, does it?

Update (2012)

Thanks to GasBuddy, there’s no more guesswork and — judging by prices from the previous twelve months — the low-paying yahoo was more likely to be in New Mexico, not in Kentucky.

Stop WinXP from Caching Thumbnails

The Problem

It seems that I am forever deleting those THUMBS.DB files that Windows XP creates automatically, whether I want the file created or not. I delete the file, look in the directory some time later, and — POW! — there it is again! If you’re like me, you’re probably mumbling to yourself, “I never want to see another one of thsose dåmn THUMBS.DB files again!”

The Solution

Well, the solution is surprisingly simple, but not completely intuitive. In your My Document folder or Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer), click the Tools menu, then choose Folder Options. Click the View tab and, under the Advanced Settings, put a checkmark in the box that reads “Do not cache thumbnails”. Click the OK button.

It’s really that easy!

Ancient History of the World

Ziggurat at Ur — Photo © Artak Davtian

Several thousand years ago, the center of the civilized world was Sumer, a fertile land developed with sophisticated irrigation systems and the home of the world’s earliest form of writing, cuneiform. Later, this same area cultured a complex legal system known as the Code of Hummurabi upon which many legal systems and beliefs are still based, designed to “destroy the wicked and evilness.”

A thousand years later, Nebuchadnezzar II built nearby the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, solely to please his mate Amytis (historians are not certain whether she was his wife or a concubine) who was homesick in the flat plains of Babylon for her mountain ancestral home in Media, now part of northwestern Iran.

Twelve hundred years later in 633 AD, an army of 18,000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khālid ibn al-Walīd, reached the perimeter of the delta. The Muslims offered the inhabitants of the region an ultimatum: “Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame.” The mostly Christian local tribes, after much bloody fighting, eventually succumbed to the Islamic conquest. As a result, the native Persian language was converted to Arabic, and the official religion became Islam.

The region’s capital city, just a few scant miles from the ancient Hanging Gardens and the birthplace of most modern civilizations, became second in size only to Constantinople, possible only because of its mastery of the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers and the construction of a myriad canals, dÿkës, and reservoirs around the city.

Now, almost a millennium and a half later, American tanks roll through the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, intent on the capture of that city — Baghdad.

Mesopotamia continues to remain worldly significant after almost 6,000 years.