Online Coupons by the Score

Despite widespread perceptions of economic adversity, and the very real decline in production, sales and jobs in the past quarter, the peak retail season opens today with a (perhaps somewhat diminished) flourish. Sales at upscale retailers are in significant decline, but discount retailers have witnessed a modest surge in turnover.

What is a prudent shopper to do?

One alternative is to use coupons wisely and more aggressively. In earlier posts Coupon Exchange Update and TV or not TV and Coupon Exchange we’ve discussed the library’s coupon exchange program and the federal program to aid digital TV conversion (more about this later). But there are even more extensive resources available to the coupon-oriented consumer on a number of online venues.

RetailMeNot.com touts itself as “the world’s largest coupon source,” with coupons for more than 20,000 stores online. You can search the site by topic, store name or keyword for hundreds upon hundreds of potentially money-saving deals.

CouponCode.com offers coupons for more than a thousand retailers, featuring a front-page listing of their most popular offerings.

CouponMom emphasizes grocery store and restaurant coupons, and further includes a blog and shopping advisories. One feature allows you to print over $100 of free coupons to get you started.

Other sites which may prove of interest include Coupon Cabin, CoolSavings, Ebates, FatWallet, MommySavesBig Printable Coupons, and The Budget Fashionista (specializing in women’s fashions, and supplemented with product reviews and fashion advice).

You’ll find even more online coupon sites and consumer affairs information in our Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Web — access the guide from our main page and look for Consumer Affairs and Consumer Affairs–Coupons.

Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 10:32 am  Comments (3)  

Library Construction Update

The current projected completion date for the new library is March 27th. If everything remains on schedule, we anticipate holding the grand opening on May 3rd, the tenth anniversary of the devastating tornado which wrought so much destruction in Haysville.

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Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Reminder

Just a reminder, if you’re planning on flying to and fro this Thanksgiving holiday, about our earlier posting on Holiday Travel Flight Delay Information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center. This website offers a nationwide map of major hub airports complete with color-coded status reports on Flight Delay Information, as well as a text-only report on the status of major airports.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preview: Ulysses S. Grant

The American Presidents series, published by Henry Holt and Company’s Times Books division under the general editorship of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., now has at least 33 short presidential biographies in print. (All appear to be in the vicinity of two hundred pages or less). We’ll be looking at a number of these works, each by a different author, over the course of the next few weeks and months, beginning with Josiah Bunting III’s Ulysses S. Grant. For the moment, a brief introductory excerpt:

“The nature of the future of the American polity has on occasion been defined by the actions of a few citizens. In the week before the Appomattox meeting, and on the day itself, April 9, 1865, these two men [Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee], by their actions and words, largely determined the character of what would follow four years of civil war, and by their example summoned successors to heed always the counsels of their best selves. It was not only a matter of authority or stature; it was an achievement of communicated sympathy, of magnanimity and understanding on the one hand, and of transcendent courage and farsightedness on the other. Had these two men not been the makers of the surrender, had they not understood and thereafter supported the elements of that surrender, and had Ulysses S. Grant not served as its guarantor, the consequences for the United States would have been profoundly different. For if Grant was determined to win the war, which meant dissuading Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia from all further resistance, knowing that Lee’s surrender would almost surely precipitate the surrender of Southern arms everywhere – if Grant was determined to win the war as rapidly as it could be won, he understood also that the object of the war, ultimately, was not victory but peace, and that the work of reconciliation and reconstruction must now be undertaken (it had already begun) as soon as the surrender occurred.

“Grant had met with the president on March 28 on the steamer River Queen, and no doubt he was powerfully impressed by Lincoln’s insistence that the rebel armies be treated magnanimously following the surrenders that now seemed certain. Lincoln urged generous terms, stressing the need for reconciliation as soon, and as completely, as possible: ‘They won’t take up arms again. Let them go, officers and all. I want submission and no more bloodshed . . . . I want no one punished; treat them liberally all around.’ Like his hero, Grant must be a principal in this final act. The Appomattox terms were astonishingly magnanimous (as the instrumentality by which a civil war of four years’ duration was ended); and they were immediately recognized as such by a Southern commander who not only understood but was prepared to enforce his understanding that to continue the war as a guerilla campaign would guarantee a future of bitterness and hatred that would poison irretrievably whatever final arrangement might ensue.

“This was Ulysses Grant’s finest hour, as it was Lee’s For the next twelve years, Grant would labor to fulfill what he took to be Abraham Lincoln’s vision for a nation made whole.”

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 12:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Federal Reserve Maps Credit Conditions

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers a pair of interesting interactive maps which outline credit conditions nationally in an easily interpreted graphic format.

One set of maps focuses on Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquency Rates by state and county. Sedgwick County is in better condition than much of the country at present with the 60+ day bank card delinquency rate at 1.76% and the 90+ day mortgage delinquency rate at 1.61%.

A second set of maps displays Subprime Mortgage Conditions by state. Again, Kansas is comparatively fortunate at the present time, with subprime loans per 1000 housing units at 12.2, and those in foreclosure per 1000 units at .8. In contrast, the rate of foreclosure in Florida is 6.9, in California 4.2, in Ohio 2.7, in Colorado 1.6, and in Oklahoma 1.3.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Preview 4: How the Scots Invented the Modern World

Arthur Herman on the ‘what ifs’ of history, in another November, 263 years ago:

“In one sense it is idle to speculate what might have happened if Charles and his little army had decided to press on to London, but the temptation is overwhelming. Could Charles really have taken the city, proclaimed his father king at Westminster, and then crafted a political settlement that would have put the Stuarts on the throne again?

“It does seem indisputable that if Charles had marched further south, he never would have made it. Not just one, but three British armies were now converging on him, including the one commanded by King George’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, recently arrived from campaigning in Flanders. Thirty thousand troops were now available for action against the Stuart army of barely five thousand. From a military point of view, those who counseled Charles to abandon his plan to march on London were right. He never had a chance.

“But this raises a more interesting point: that the odds against Charles in November of 1745 were more military than political. In other words, if Charles had somehow evaded Cumberland (very unlikely), and if he had made it to London, it is hard to see how anyone could have stopped him from carrying out his plan. Despite the hopes of English Jacobites, the great majority of their countrymen were not going to rise up in support of the Stuarts; but the same majority was not ready to risk life and property to keep the Hanovers. A compromise between Parliament and the Stuarts was not only possible but probable. As early as 1739, when the War of Jenkin’s Ear was starting to heat up, Robert Walpole had sent secret letters to James asking what his intentions were regarding the Church of England and the personal safety of the members of the House of Hanover, if the Stuarts should come back to the throne again.

“If they had, the English constitution would never have been the same. The notion, enshrined since 1688, of the sovereignty of Parliament would have died on the spot. But in 1745, not only sentimental Jacobites but most Englishmen would have willingly traded it in to avoid a civil war and have a little peace and quiet.”

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Terrible Lizard

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An important and interesting story, artfully and insightfully told – such is Deborah Cadbury’s Terrible Lizard: The First Dinosaur Hunters and the Birth of a New Science. Replete with such interesting characters as the remarkable Mary Anning, the whimsically eccentric William Buckland, the brilliant, discerning and tragic Gideon Mantell, and the execrable Richard Owen, Terrible Lizard relates the story of the emerging cognizance in the first half of the nineteenth century of the past reality of the age of dinosaurs. Ms. Cadbury, a science producer for the BBC, deftly explains the course of growing understanding which eventually led to the illuminating revelations of Charles Darwin. Aside from its own intrinsic merits, Terrible Lizard is a worthy complement to, and fills the temporal gap between, two other recently reviewed books: Paul Chambers’ Bones of Contention: The Archaeopteryx Scandals, discussed in Archaeopteryx: Fight of Flight?, and Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

If you have even the slightest interest in paleontology, dinosaurs, fossils, the history of science, or even the social milieu of nineteenth century Britain, this book will capture, retain, and richly reward your attention. Likewise, if you have read and enjoyed such classic works on the period as Loren Eisely’s Darwin’s Century or William Irvine’s Apes, Angels and Victorians, here is another book for you.

See previous posts for brief excerpts from Terrible Lizard on William Buckland, on Mary Anning and, most recently Gideon Mantell.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preview 3: Terrible Lizard

Gideon Mantell and the History of Life

“Gideon Mantell followed each development with great interest. His wife had returned to him and they had renewed their efforts to repair any misunderstandings; she had even come with hime to the quarry, an outing that Mantell described as ‘glorious’. Unlike some of the gentlemen scholars in London, Mantell was acutely aware that the astonishing beasts that were reported were not isolated examples. From his almost daily forays into the quarries of Sussex which he would not give up – even for his wife – he knew that reptilian remains were abundant. ‘Some of the reptiles, from their organization, have been fitted to live in the sea only,’ he observed, ‘while others were terrestrial, and many were inhabitants of rivers and lakes.’ Now there was evidence of reptiles in the air.

“How did this fit in with Cuvier’s ‘Age of Mammals’ in the more recent Tertiary strata, which lay above the Secondary rocks in which the reptiles were buried? A jaw from a mammal, an opossum-like creature, had been found in the ancient rock at Stonesfield, but apart from this, there were no mammals in the Secondary rocks. A distinct order was beginning to emerge in the fossil record of animal life on the planet, much as Adolphe Brongniart had revealed in the case of plant life. Mantell wrote:

“‘The prodigious quantity of the remains of these reptiles which has within a comparatively short period of time been found in England alone is truly astonishing. If to these we add the immense numbers that have been discovered in France, Germany &c and reflect that for one individual found in a fossil state, thousands more must have been devoured or decomposed; and that even of those that are fossilized , the number that comes under the notice of the naturalist must be trifling compared with the quantities unobserved or destroyed by labourers, we shall have a faintest idea of the myriads of ‘creeping things’ which inhabited the ancient world.’

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sci Fi from New Sci

This, from the recent New Scientist magazine poll of readers on their favorite science fiction:

“By far the favourite of the 254 books you voted for was Dune, Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic set on the desert planet Arrakis. The comments accompanying your votes reveal just how much this book blew your minds: ‘The immersion into an alternate universe/culture/environment is incredible,’ wrote one voter. But you weren’t impressed by the film based on it, directed by David Lynch (one of you described it as ‘disastrous’).

“Second place went to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which started out as a short story collection published in 1951 (‘The history of the future,’ wrote one voter). Douglas Adams’s sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the New Scientist staff’s favourite sci-fi book) came third. ‘Full of brilliant speculation masked by liberal doses of humour,’ wrote one voter. The 1985 Orson Scott Card novel Ender’s Game (in which child genius Ender Wiggin must save the world from aliens) was voted in fourth, followed by Dan Simmons’s Hyperion series — a futuristic Canterbury Tales, the first of which was published in 1989.

“Showing that New Scientist readers are up with the modern stuff too, also popular were Neil Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk (or post-cyberpunk?) novel Snow Crash and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy about colonising the Red Planet, published in the 1990s. The most amusing entry must be this one advocating The Bible: ‘A superman creates a lot of rubbish out of dust and sets up a version of a “simulation of a city” game . . . there’s a twist at the end but I won’t spoil it for you.’

“Science fiction is a genre often ignored by the mainstream, but this poll reveals the profound influence that sci-fi has on many of you . . . Many of the comments that accompanied your votes reveal how a film or book caused you to question the world and what it means to be human. ‘Dune pretty much blew my mind when I was a teenager, and I still think about it more than a decade later,’ wrote one voter. Another described Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke: ‘This book changed me as a person like no other. When I first picked up this book at the age of 13, little did I know where it was to lead me.’”

Published in: on November 19, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gettysburg Address

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It is 145 years to the day since Abraham Lincoln, after hours of nearly incessant rhetoric from Edward Everett, delivered a brief three-minute speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The words of Lincoln in the Gettysburg address still shine across the decades, illuminating our past, enlightening our present, and serving as a luminous beacon radiating our yet untraveled path into the future:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. “

Published in: on November 19, 2008 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Preview 2: Terrible Lizard

Deborah Cadbury relates the incomparable Mary Anning’s discovery of Plesiosaurus:

“Black Ven cliff at Lyme Regis, a dark, forbidding shape visible even through sea mists from the Cobb and the harbour a mile away, continued to surrender to Mary Anning the wreckage of the Jurassic age. After ten years of searching for fossils, every part of the cliff-face had become familiar to her. The grey limestones and shale, the rocks that had precipitated the early death of her father, now provided income for the family. By the early 1820s, Mary had developed such a skillful grasp of where to find fossils that according to one report: ‘she would have been able, for instance, out of fifty “nodules” all looking . . . much of a muchness, to pick without hesitation the one which, being cleft with a dextrous blow, should show a perfect fish embedded in what was once soft clay’.

“Since Lieutenant-Colonel Birch’s sale of his private collection in 1820, which included many of Mary Anning’s finds, she had uncovered several different species of ichthyosaurs. In May 1821, accompanied by her dog Tray who would guard her discoveries while she went for help, she excavated the first Ichthyosaurus platyodon, a creature almost twenty feet long. Two months later she found a five-foot fossil close by that was named Ichthyosaurus vulgaris. Early the next year another large ichthyosaur, this one nine feet long, was retrieved. But despite this success, Mary and Joseph and their mother Molly were often short of money. The fossil-hunting business was erratic, and already by the early 1820s there was increasing competition from other collectors.

“So it was with an unaccustomed sense of anticipation that on the evening of 10 December 1823, as she worked at the foot of Black Ven cliff, Mary Anning uncovered something she had not seen before. The object looked like a creature’s skull. Yet it was not long and pointed with huge bony cavities for eyes like an ichthyosaur’s, but small, a mere four or five inches long, more like that of a turtle. As she excavated around the deeply embedded bones, beneath the circling gulls, it became apparent that the animal had a greatly elongated serpentine frame, with a large number of vertebrae making up the backbone. The neck of the beast appeared to be at least as long as the rest of the body and tail. It was quite dissimilar to any creature yet known to science.

“With the help of some villagers, Mary worked through the night against the incoming tide. The conditions were bitter as the winter winds whipped up sand and spray until all were drenched and numb. By early morning, they had gradually revealed the spine of the beast, consisting of ninety bones: the bizarre ‘turtle’ was nine feet long, more like a snake. They retrieved fourteen ribs and the bones of the pelvis, deeply embedded in shale. Rather than legs like an amphibian’s, or fin’s like a fish’s, it had paddles made up of many fine bones.

“Mary Anning knew that the experts, such as Buckland’s friend Conybeare, had long suspected that in addition to ichthyosaurs a second kind of sea lizard had once roamed the ancient seas. While preparing his study on Ichthyosaurus in 1821, Conybeare had reported large bones that did not match those of the first sea lizard. In Somerset he had come across a skull that resembled that of a turtle, but was not associated with any shell; paddle bones and unusually shaped vertebrae added to the mystery. Although he had only a few fossils, the Reverend Conybeare had felt sufficiently confident to suggest a name for the unknown beast: Plesiosaurus, meaning ‘near to reptile’. Yet even Conybeare had accepted that ‘there was reasonable grounds for suspicion’ that he had inadvertently created a fictitious animal from the juxtaposition of bones belonging to different species. As Mary Anning surveyed the strange beast before her eyes, she wondered if this could be the entire skeleton of the creature Conybeare had been predicting.”

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Read Red, Read Blue

Some time soon (probably over at the BellerophonChimera blog) we’ll get around to doing a brief writeup on a few of the more interesting analyses to appear in the aftermath of the recent election. In the interim, if you haven’t already checked it out, Amazon.com has an interesting little Political Book Map feature running which tracks comparative sales of “red” and “blue” books by state, and notes the top seller in each respective category. In Kansas, for example, the ratio is 59% “red books” to 41% “blue books”. In the purportedly red category, Bill O’Reilly’s A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity is the leader over the past sixty days, while the blue category is topped by Thomas Franks’ What’s the Matter With Kansas? As you might expect, Kansas is the only state in which the latter leads this category.

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment