Of course, that would make us completely dependent upon the price set by the gas company, which can be a little erratic. However, we've never *knock on wood* had a gas interruption, because it's a better shielded and more robust service (since it's completely under ground). I'm willing to pay a little more for the peace of mind and greater reliability. Maybe I'm being nutty, but this makes sense to me.
I've been told that I've been OCD over cars, this from a friend, not my wife. It appears that I talk about little else and some have found it irritating, so I'm going to drop it for a while. Sorry if I've been annoying. So, I've decided to talk about another passion of mine, pipe smoking, and I'll start that off with some affordable favorites that I've enjoyed. You may not have heard of them, but Medico has been making pipes for quite some time, and they're cheap (starting <$20). Are they any good? Surprisingly, yes, they aren't bad at all. Sure, they don't dissipate heat as well, and they aren't as durable, plus there are no fancy silver inlays, but if you're looking for a solid starter pipe, you can't do much better (and can do a lot worse). I've not gotten a bad Medico yet, so dive in and try them out, they're a sound bargain. The following are a few I've personally bought:
Medico "Lancer" - smallish bowl, decent draw, nice style, easy to clean. $19US.
Medico "Windsor" - medium bowl, good draw, attractive, easy to clean. $22US.
Medico "Varsity" - large bowl, very good draw, clean look, fairly easy to maintain. $30US.
Of course, you'll need a pipe cleaning tool (<$5), some basic pipe cleaners, tobacco (of course), and a protective pouch if you want to carry it around, but it can be an inexpensive and rewarding hobby... especially if you're a cigarette smoker and looking for a much less harmful alternative. As far as tobacco goes, start mild with a nice Cavendish blend (lower heat, less bite), maybe with a light vanilla flavoring. Then branch out from there and explore and sample other varieties. My best advice in this area is to find a local tobacconist and try whatever catches your eye, often they'll let you do that for free. You won't know for sure until you've puffed a type for yourself.
I'll add more later, discussing mid-range pipes (which are IMO the sweet spot in terms of value) and pipe care, so stay tuned.