Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look out America, here come the Chinese!

"Too many people have to get out of work to try to get to this game."
- Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on Tuesday's re-scheduled Eagles game, apparently forgetting about the logistical circumstances surrounding "Monday Night Football"
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the hordes of Chinese, who are ready to take over our snowbound country after we wussed-out and postponed a football game on Sunday. What I'd like to know is what the Chinese even know about American football. If we told them we were postponing a game because a foot of snow was falling on the stadium, I'd guess they would say, "OK."
"What do you think Lombardi would say?" he asked. I'd guess that Lombardi would say, "What the fuck is a governor doing on an Eagles post-game show?" Ed doesn't have the proper historical perspective on what Vince Lombardi would say about the current state of American football.
So, I'm ready for the Chinese. Once they finish playing that weird game of checkers on that circular board, I figure they're only a few minutes away - like Zaberer's - if you know what that means.
Those Chinese must be ready to pounce, if the governor is any indication of what's going on in the world -- and who is a better indication of world sociology than the governor of a moderately small American commonwealth? Nobody, right?
Here's a clue, Ed. Knock off the comb-over. It's so 80's. Just go with the balding look. And stop staring at the camera. It knows where you are, you don't need to keep looking at it.
Mostly, we're tired of hearing Ed talk. He talks and talks. He talks after Eagles games, on the Comcast Eagles Post-game Show. He is one of four panelists, including former Super Bowl champion Vaughn Hebron, Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger and host Michael Barkann. The governor is a fan who happens to preside over a state who regulates cable television - who programs Comcast, who employs the governor on its post-game show. Strange? You betcha.
Then, he weirdly stares into the camera while he postulates on a game he supposedly watched and makes those of us who watch the post-game show feel strange about ourselves because the governor is staring at us. Nobody told him about television.
But he keeps talking. Supposedly, he's trying to get a big deal with MSNBC or one of those big cable networks once his governor job runs out in a few weeks. It must be tough being a politician or having a job whose term is finite.
You have to think about what you're going to be doing for a living in February, because your wife likes to shop and you'd better be able to pay those Lord & Taylor credit card bills or else your ass will be out on the curb. Ya gotta think.
So, you come up with an opinion that makes the news so that your name is out there and people will want to hear the crap that comes out of your head. Where did I go wrong? I didn't get a big-time political job, that's where.
I suppose Comcast will keep him on the post-game show because he's controversial, and TV loves controversy. My fervent hope is that Ed gets a job with a big-time cable outlet like Fox News, and he starts sparring with Hannity every night and is so tired from arguing that he can't bring himself to limo to the Comcast studio every Sunday night to do that dopey post-game show, where he stares into the camera and makes us feel strange.
Me and the Chinese - hoping against hope. C'mon, hordes. Save us from our wussie selves.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Who are you calling a wuss?

"We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."
- Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on the postponement of a football game.
Short-timer Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had some harsh words for the NFL, who saw fit to postpone the Eagles' scheduled Sunday night game against the homeless Vikings. Mayor Nutter, after all, declared a State of Emergency, and one would assume that football fans driving to a game during a snowstorm ... er, blizzard ... constitutes needless travel to at least a few people with whom they may collide. But I digress.
The Gov said that "we have become a nation of wusses" by not playing a game in the snow, wind and cold. I guess he said wusses because he couldn't say we were a bunch of pussies.
Football is seen by football fans as some sort of manly enterprise where you play in all sorts of conditions. Football games aren't cancelled merely because the fans may not be able to safely get to and from the game or they risk hypothermia if they do manage to attend.
It's easy for the Governor to say they should have played. He doesn't drive himself to the games, and he sits in a luxury box with food service and a big TV. It sounds like he ought to sit in the stands with the rest of the wusses. Never mind that SEPTA's Regional Rail system shut down and people were ordered to stay off the roads so that the plow crews could work, and the forecast was for 20 inches of snow. There's a football game to play.
His stupid proclamation was the lead story on ESPN's web site for a while, so now America thinks we have a dopey governor who cares more about some antiquated notion of masculinity instead of the safety of his constituents.
It's funny how some people see discomfort as a sign of toughness, as though sitting in the elements like a moron somehow makes you tougher. Tell that to your boss when you miss a day of work because you can't feel the ends of your fingers. You're entitled to spend $85 for a ticket and $25 to park your car, but if you decide to stay home because you might see $110 as a bad return on your investment, you're a wuss.
I wonder if that philosophy extends to taking an aspirin if you have a headache, wearing a jacket if you're cold, turning the air conditioner on if you're hot or wearing comfortable shoes so your feet don't hurt? Or does it only apply to something as important as football?
You wuss.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here we go again.

The local news is leading with it. The weather forecasters have woodies in their pants, they're so excited. Local supermarkets are jammed with people stocking up on things that they'll probably never eat.
Why? There is snow on the way.
There is so much snow that the NFL has decided to postpone the Eagles game until Tuesday. My standard answer as to why things like that happen is always either money or television. In this case, it's television. The NFL doesn't want the game to compete with its popular Monday Night Football franchise, so they put the game off until Tuesday. Never mind that the Eagles are fighting for a division title and will have a very short week to face the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Television rules.
Philadelphia Mayor Nutter has declared a State of Emergency, even though, at 2:00pm, there is about a half inch of snow on the ground. We trust the weather guessers too much sometimes. One figures that in this case, they are correct, but it still remains to be seen. As for me, I've declared my own State of Emergency, and stopped in one of our satellite offices earlier today and picked up enough work so that I can remain busy in the comfort of my home while the rest of the area shovels and drives around like crazy in what we expect to be over a foot of snow.
I'll have the TV tuned to the local news, who will have several reporters in various areas to show us how bad it is, as if we couldn't look out the window and form our own opinion. Meanwhile, they'll tell us "if you don't have to be out, stay home," as though people will aimlessly drive around in the snow for no reason. I'd guess that the TV news people are among those who do not need to be out, but there they are.
They live for this stuff. Me - not so much.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tidings of comfort and joy.

I had an epiphany on my way to work today. My moments of clarity come without warning, and I'd prefer that they occur behind a keyboard rather than in my car, but the brain is a funny thing - at least mine is. This one: Christmas is a miserable time of the year for me. I don't understand it and I don't enjoy it, so why do I participate? It's a classic example of "it was like that when I got here."
We do a lot of things without thinking about why we do them. Sociologists call them traditions, and the more complicated and deep-rooted the tradition, the more dedicated we are to it and we are less inclined to ask why we do it. Some of the new, stupid ones like Boss's Day are short-lived. We see it on the calendar or a TV ad and wonder, "What the fuck?"
We carry on the Christmas tradition with nary a "what the fuck." Our parents, their parents and generations before all did it, and it gets more ingrained and complex with each passing generation. We're in deep now, and the top of the hole is above our head.
Why do we willingly walk into this ring of fire whose "season" begins earlier with each passing year? What's with all these gifts? Why is it such a big deal?
The retail industry has us by the short hairs because they know how weak-willed we are and how we equate love with things. Shopping centers are packed with sheep who have almost endless lists ... Buying for their brother, their brother's kids, their friend and their friend's kids, their co-workers ... on and on, like the world's largest gift chain-letter. Buying for one qualifies the next in line, lest evil befall you - or the guilt of omission.
It's the common refrain, "Oh, I didn't get you anything," as though receiving a gift automatically requires you to give one. You gotta love our culture.
I think the retail industry relies on our short memories. We forget, after nearly a year, how much of a nuisance Christmas is. The song says "it's the most wonderful time of the year," but I stopped listening to songs when my parents told me to put my Black Sabbath records away. Besides, if it was such a wonderful time of the year, it wouldn't be 25 degrees and windy. If you really wanted to plan a legal holiday of consumption, you would do so in the summer when we have the energy to go outdoors.
The religious types would tell you that it's Jesus' birthday. Not only is that a fallacy, but it also requires that you believe that Jesus was the son of God. I don't have the time to explain it, so read this and pass it along. Meanwhile, ask your religious friends this question:
If your God had wished us to observe his son's birthday, wouldn't we know exactly when it was? December 25 is an arbitrary date and none of you know why. Jesus was born about 6 weeks after Passover, nearer to September than now. Those "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas" people are severely misguided, since Christ has nothing to do with Christmas. They should be dancing around their Pagan tree with their other Christian friends and praying to Santa Claus.
Mostly, we observe Christmas for two reasons (1) People tell us to and (2) We like getting stuff. The gravitational pull of Jupiter isn't as strong as peer pressure and greed. It's a great basis for a holiday.
It's tough to get out. It's harder than throwing a trash can away. (It keeps getting returned to you because you can't possibly have meant to leave it in the trash.) There is no network or formal pronouncement you can make. It's more likely that they'll buy you junk anyway, so you have to make a pronouncement around Thanksgiving (the former beginning of the Christmas marketing season) and hope that people take you as seriously as they take people who quit smoking or decide to lose weight.
All sorts of people are committed to one lifestyle or another. They're vegetarians, sports fans, non-drinkers and non-smokers, among other things. Nobody bugs the sports fans or non-smokers because they chose to opt out of a particular lifestyle, yet you'll probably be questioned severely when you proclaim your aversion to Christmas. Somebody once told me that "because I don't want to" is the best reason for not doing something, and the only one you need.
So, I don't want to, and I'm done with it. I'm just sorry it took this long for me to figure it out. Why should I participate in self-induced stress and misery if I don't have to? Peer pressure is a bad reason for kids to start smoking, but it's an acceptable way for them to start a silly tradition like Christmas. That makes good nonsense. You can't blame peer pressure and embrace it too. It's either good or bad. So, let you kids smoke if you think peer pressure is OK.
If going through this Christ-mess makes you feel better, have at it. But if you're stressed-out and wondering why you do all of this, then ask yourself why and make an effort to stop - just like you would stop eating too much if being 300 pounds could make your heart explode.
Get out. It will be easier than you think. If you want to lose weight, you have to change your life. To get out of this Christmas scheme, all you have to do is make it through a month.
Then, you'll have amassed valuable experience that you can use to work on Valentine's Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm feeling better about my mundane life.

One of the more curious spectacles on television is the MTV show 16 & Pregnant, where high school-aged girls are paraded around in front of a camera extolling the virtues of their teen pregnancy. It was part of a marathon of shows, followed by its apparent spin-off Teen Mom. Seriously.
Tonight's episode featured a hick and her boyfriend who live at her parents' house "because we can't afford a place of our own" [duh - you're 16] and her baby shower. I guess when you're a kid and pregnant, you may as well get as much stuff from people while you can, and no matter that you might want to embrace the shame rather than the joys of motherhood. The mother's cake featured a John Deere tractor. I didn't see the whole show, so I'm guessing that's where the little bastard was conceived.
I could only make it through one segment, and turned it off in disgust. Shows like this are just another example of television programs that exploit the oddities and dregs of society. Bad singing, obesity, arguing homosexuals, people with a house full of junk and other such anti-social segments of society are now featured entertainment. How great it must be for nature's misfits to now have a creative outlet. Why hide your pregnant, obese, no-talent ass in shame when you can flaunt your disabilities in front of millions of television viewers?
I think the producers figured out that the best way to make large numbers of people tune in is to make them feel better about themselves. And there's no better way to make people feel better about themselves than to show us how fucked up other people are. That's why The Jerry Springer Show was so popular. It's why people watch Cheaters. It's a concept that goes back to carnival side shows.
"Wow, I'm a mess, but at least I don't have a little arm coming out of the top of my head."
"My wife is ugly, but at least she doesn't have to borrow my moustache comb."
It's in that vein. And even if you are a dumbass that cheats on your wife, you can watch a show about some other dumbass getting caught and think, "Hey, just like me."
So, it's a win-win.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You'd better check your list at least twice.

"iPad is here!" proclaims Best Buy, in their latest e-mail solicitation received this afternoon. Wow, 500 bucks for an iPad? Sounds interesting enough to at least open the ad and see what all the fuss is about.
As it turns out, "here" means something different to the folks at Best Buy than it does to the rest of us. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself or the kiddies in time for the blessed holiday on Saturday, you'll likely be disappointed. The gang at Best Buy is pulling the old bait and switch on you. The $499 iPad's are on backorder, as I saw when I clicked on the ad.
There are, however, plenty of 64 gigabyte and 3G iPad's available for $829 and $729 respectively. Relative bargains when you consider presenting an empty package under your pagan Christmas tree on Saturday. Even the $599 32 gigabyte iPad is backordered.
My guess is that the marketing people at Best Buy figure that you'll be so worked up over getting a "cheap" iPad that your disappointment at seeing that it's backordered will lead you to quickly jump on the more expensive $729 model so that you won't have to wait until mid-January for your toy to arrive.
They make a point of saying "starting at $499," which is as good as saying "starting at $4." If there aren't any $499 products available, what difference does it make what you say your starting price is? However, the ad also says "Available online..." so maybe a red challenge flag is in order? Or, backorder.
The whole thing is either borderline illegal or genius marketing. Tis the season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the season.

Longwood Gardens has its Christmas display up. I'm not that big a fan of Christmas, but flowers and trees are nice.
Tonight's TV news was filled with stories of people out shopping (at 10:15pm no less) picking out that perfect gift for the people on their list. That we have been roped into buying things for more than our immediate family and close friends is a social phenomenon aside from the Christmas mess. Co-workers, casual acquaintances and newspaper delivery people are among the people who find themselves included in our holiday spending.
At my office, people will be seen leaving on Christmas Eve with bags full of crap they've gotten from their co-workers. Women, mostly. Men couldn't be bothered, and I figure if more women thought like men the entire shopping season would be reduced to a gift for their spouse or lover and nothing more. That's probably why advertising is geared toward women.
You hear a lot of complaints from people around election time, because of the constant stream of campaign ads. It annoys people to have to sit through two months of political candidates sniping at each other but it's socially acceptable for retailers to yell at us relentlessly. I guess we have our priorities aligned correctly.
Those bags will be filled with candles, trinkets and junk that people wouldn't ordinarily buy for themselves. Those are the "great gift ideas" that the TV ads tell us we can find if we go to their store.
Gift cards are great. Not everyone wants to give them though. They say they are "lazy" and require no thought. I say, keep it simple. I'd rather have a $25 VISA gift card than some useless piece of crap you picked out because you "thought you would like it." What am I going to do with a giant Hershey's Kiss? Don't think too much. I can use the card to buy a useless piece of crap on my own.
I have my priorities lined up, too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What price art?

I see a lot of people selling stuff on the Internet. Of course, Ebay is loaded with them. It's the point of the thing, don't you know, so you'd figure. There are plenty of people with hobbies that are both enjoyable to them and also earn a profit for them if they can find people to buy their things.
At this time of year, you see a lot of home-made wreaths and ersatz Xmas trees. I'd guess they spend the other 11 months making the stuff. People sell homemade furniture, quilts, jewelry and candles.
I have no mechanical or woodworking capabilities, so my best hope is some form of art. Since I can't draw a straight line without an edge to lay my pencil on, I'm left to either this stuff or my photography. I can't imagine anyone willing to shell out fifteen bucks for 300 pages of this junk, but I could imagine someone who might want to look at a nice photo of Philadelphia hanging on their wall. I think that's how it would work.
Like a lot of things, desire and will are the controlling factors. Lacking one or the other, it just isn't going to happen. I have the desire to do it, but I don't have the will to charge people money to look at something that's just a snapshot with a nifty lens.
I've looked into digital infrared photography, where one takes an ordinary scene and takes a snapshot that absorbs only invisible infrared light. The effect is more like an abstract painting than a photograph, and the interesting thing that happens is that our eyes tell our brain that trees are white and water is black.
The caveat - there's always a caveat when technology is involved - is that in order for a camera to see infrared light, the image sensor has to be replaced, which costs $400. In addition to that, it renders an otherwise normal camera otherwise useless, so one would have to have a spare camera, unless you wanted to explain to people how Billy's birthday party photos looked so strange.
So, let's add money to desire and will, since they are a nice trio. When you factor in the $300 for a new camera, the $400 to convert the old one and the $185 for the lens I need to convert the camera and $85 for software, I'm into this artistic endeavor for about $1,000. The mind is willing, but the wallet is weak.
Perhaps if I laid out a thousand dollars for stuff I'd feel less willful of charging people for my photographs?
There's some motivation for ya.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nikki Sixx

I have been neglectful.
I could have been writing about how I found the coverage of Elizabeth Edwards' death a bit excessive. Aside from being the wife of a failed presidential candidate, what did she do with her life? Oh right -- she's the scorned wife of the failed presidential candidate who had cancer, and now finds that her death has a certain ironic-pity quality to it that the media eats for lunch.
I could have been writing about yet another hike in DRPA bridge tolls, but that's beating the proverbial dead horse, and is of limited interest to the hundreds of people who access this page from Korea and Japan.
I could have been writing about the Phillies' coup of signing scorned lefthander Cliff Lee to reprise his role of 2009. Fans are lauding the guy because he took less money to come to Philadelphia than stay in Texas or move to New York. As if people don't realize why you would take less money to live and play in Philadelphia instead of those two Hell holes.
I could have been writing about how my office space is being remodeled and I went to the Internet to find a Phillies mouse pad, flush with the glee of Lee. I found one on for $19.99. Decent enough, I thought, what with logo rights and such. Later, I found the exact same one on Amazon for $13.99 from an independent seller. That's right. My question: How could an independent seller sell the same mouse pad for six bucks less than the people who own the property? Answer: Because Major League baseball are a bunch of greedy crooks who buy the same mouse pad from a manufacturer for ... oh, maybe 3 dollars ... and mark it up another six bucks higher than a guy selling them as a merchant.
I could have written about the Blu-ray player I won in a raffle at work. It's nice, I guess, but I can't help but feel as though the quality of my life would not have changed if I had not won it, and that's a sad thing to say about a prize. There is a perceived difference in the quality of Blu-ray discs and regular DVDs. The sound is better, too, but I kept asking myself if I would have bought one of these things of my own volition. I didn't think I would. For the convenience of the picture quality, I am asked to contribute an extra $2 to my Netflix subscription every month if I want them to send me Blu-ray discs instead of DVDs. I do not. Moreover, the Blu-ray discs are more expensive than DVDs (if I decided to buy a movie) and there is a lot of extra junk that goes with it (like alleged Internet access) that serve to complicate the movie-viewing experience. Perhaps I've reached the tipping point in my tolerance of technology and its associated costs. Sometimes it seems that new technology is meant more for marketing than function. That sounds American to me.
But those things are all kind of boring, so I decided to skip it for a while. Together, they seem to have more substance than on their own - like most people - or that Jets strength and conditioning coach that tripped a player on the sidelines. What is he even doing on the sidelines to begin with, and why wasn't he fired on the spot? But I digress.
All too boring, so I named the post after today's Yahoo's top "Trending Now" web search topic. Maybe I'll pick up a few accidental readers? Now that would be exciting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That's a lot of shoveling, you betcha.

The roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed under the weight of about two feet of snow, cancelling the scheduled game between the Vikings and Giants. This video looks like it was produced by Pixar, but it's actual surveillance camera footage:

That's an awesome sight, and it's fortunate that it didn't happen during a game. Can you imagine the panic that would ensue? Maybe Pixar can put some people in the stands and show us what would have happened. The snow wouldn't hurt them, but several would have been killed by the mob trying to get out.
What's even more amazing is that it has happened quite a few times, leading me to wonder why they'd build a dome that they couldn't heat to keep the snow from building up? The roof looks like some kid flipped a wading pool over a refrigerator box and decided to call it a stadium. I bet you couldn't get the local building inspector to approve an inflatable roof for your house, but they can keep 60,000 people in a stadium covered with one.
They cancelled the game, of course. They claim they couldn't play with the roof like that. I suppose. Although, proponents of the game often call the players "warriors." What better test for a warrior than to play under life-threatening conditions? I guess they're just football players. Real warriors would have said, "Fuck the roof. Tee it up, ref." Players today are pussies.
Meanwhile, in Chicago the Bears and Patriots are playing in near-blizzard conditions, and nobody thought of moving or cancelling that game. It sure makes for interesting football.
The first thing I think about in situations like that is, "what if I had a ticket to the game?" I couldn't imagine being stupid enough to stand outside for 4 hours in those conditions watching something I could see at home on my television. But 60,000 or so did just that, and it makes me question the basic intelligence of the general public.
We have our standards, however. We'll camp out for a bargain on Black Friday and stand in inclement weather for our favorite sports teams. Which is odd because, if someone said they would give you 80 dollars to stand out in a blizzard for 4 hours, you might do it, but you'd be thinking about it two hours in. Fans pay that for a football ticket and stand there without regret.
Football requires that sort of determination. Other sports cancel events when weather conditions make it the least bit uncomfortable to play. I suppose that makes football more of a manly game? Either that or they're too stupid to come in out of the rain.
It's a shame to get all those people together and deny them one of their games. NASCAR events are postponed frequently, and I picture the phone calls to their jobs asking for another day off on Monday. The Vikings game was moved to Detroit, and I wonder how they're going to sell tickets? Suppose some crazy Vikings fan wanted to drive the 691 miles from Minneapolis to Detroit? I guess he'd get there and find his seat was taken.
And I'm sure you'll read at least one story about some Vikings fans who will make the trip. I don't understand that crowd either. I suppose their work schedules are flexible enough that they can decide less than 24 hours early, to take a day off work. Maybe the Monday NASCAR and football crowds should tell us which people in society aren't that important. If they can take a casual day off work on a Monday, what vital work are they doing?
And yet they go. They sacrifice sleep and their personal comfort to watch strangers play a game. Most of them wouldn't cancel a dentist's appointment to see their kid in the school play. We have strange priorities. Occasionally, someone floats the idea to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a legal holiday. That Sunday is seen as some sort of near-religious event that mandates people attend a party and gamble. So naturally, the day after that should be a legal day of rest.
Unless, of course, they postponed the game.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What's My Temperature?

I was watching "How it's Made" last night, and the topic was thermometers. It's a complicated process of welding glass tubes. The crux of the issue is in calibrating the thermometers.
They pull the air out of the tubing with a vacuum, and fluid is left inside. The thermometers travel down a conveyor of chilled alcohol. A heat gun drives the liquid up tubing. They then plunge the thermometers into a bath of ice-water to calibrate the freezing point. A notch is made in the glass where the liquid is.
They are next set into a bath of liquid set at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Another scratch is made in the glass at that point, and the two marks are aligned on a grid and set to a calibration scale.
My question: How did they make the first thermometer? If they had to place it in a bath of water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit to calibrate it, how did they know what 200 degrees Fahrenheit was without a thermometer?
This whole temperature thing sounds like a big scam.
How cold is it, really?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The further adventures of me at the supermarket.

Ascend with us now, to the neighborhood supermarket, where our hero (me, in a relative sense) ventures into the great void of his neighborhood supermarket in search of sustenance and a little blog material. It usually works for both.
Tonight's episode is entitled: "Express -- or Not."
With a scant few items in his hand-held cart, our hero wanders into the so-called "Express Lane" at the supermarket, proceeds to lay his (less than 15) items on the conveyor, only to be delayed by another shopper. His arch rival, Coupon Bitch has an issue with some chicken stock she purchased almost a week ago.
A discussion with the cashier (who we will call Express Queen) hears her contention of how the chicken stock she purchased last week should have come with a cents-off coupon, but she was instead charged the regular price. The cashier sent her to the nearby Courtesy Desk, where Express Queen's super-friends (now known as the Coupon League) have come to the aid of Coupon Bitch, and awarded her the 80 cents of which she was deprived at her earlier chicken stock purchase. All is right in the Bizarro World.
Meanwhile, me and the guy behind me (super-hero name Orange Face) are waiting. I exclaim, "I guess it's really not an 'express lane,'" to which Express Queen says, "It's fifteen items, regardless."
I reply, "But it says 'express,' and she's over there arguing over 80 cents."
Express Queen was not amused by my analysis of the situation and turned against me. When I noticed that Orange Face had only a 2 liter bottle of Sprite in front of him, I placed it in my section of the conveyor and proclaimed, "It's on me. My good deed for the day." Some superheroes place a standard of "good deed for the day" as one of their duties.
Orange Face thanked me, and Express Queen noted that the Sprite bottle had a coupon tagged onto it.
"Should I use this coupon, or would that take too much time?" she sarcastically asked.
"Hey, I bought the guy some soda," I said, and Express Queen handed it to Orange Face, and temporarily, all was right in my world.
Until Express Queen noticed that I had purchased a bottle of hand soap along with my Chobani and a container of chicken. "I can't put this in with food," she explained, as she reached for one of those flimsy plastic bags that seemed eminently qualified to protect soap in a plastic container from yogurt in a plastic container. Apparently, Express Queen's super power is the ability to keep soap products away from food with thin plastic.
She placed the flimsy plastic bag into my canvas bag of food items, seemingly out of danger. Unless, that is, if the flimsy plastic bag succumbs to the pressure of the atmosphere and suddenly acquires a hole, burst straight into the side, adjacent to the food. Oh no. Could Express Queen's arch-enemy Heat Finger place a digit on the bag and cause the soap to potentially spill out onto the food, provided that the soap container would also mysteriously have a hole in it.
I attempted to explain to Express Queen the fallacy of her logic. "So, this thin layer of plastic is going to protect my food from soap that is in a plastic bottle?"
Express Queen reiterated that it is "store policy" to place cleaning products in a separate plastic bag from food products (regardless of the thickness of their containers) and that the store's policy was irreproachable and without debate.
I took my change and moved along.
You have won this battle, Express Queen, but fear not. I will return.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not bad for a guy with 160 career home runs.

"You got to stay young, keep yourself young. And she helps me to that."
- Pete Rose, talking about his girlfriend
This hot little number is Kiana Kim. Who is Kiana Kim, you might ask? She is a former flight attendant from South Korea who moved to America with her parents when she was 5. She currently operates a hair salon in Los Angeles and appeared in Playboy magazine in April.
Kiana Kim is also Pete Rose's girlfriend. That's right, Pete Rose. The All-Time Hit King. (Also the All-Time Out King) The 17-time all star and convicted tax evader.
The Pete Rose who was born before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Pete Rose who has 2 daughters older than his girlfriend.
The Pete Rose who ... ah, you get it.
Anyway, the point is the strange attraction of this 20-something hottie to a troll. At his best, Pete was short and stocky. Now, he makes short and stocky look like Larry Bird.
It's what Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H used to call "one of those dome scratchers." Some would say it's a money deal, but I don't think Pete is swimming in cash these days. You can't go the Hero Worship angle, because Kiana isn't old enough to remember Astro Turf.
And she isn't your ordinary 20-something either. She could have latched onto any wealthy guy with twin chins, but she chose Charlie Hustle.
I'm not a hater - just wondering. I think that whatever two people do in the privacy of their oxygen tent is their own business. I can't tell somebody how much money to spend on Viagra, and I can't expect women to understand how to change adult diapers - but there they are, together forever.
Or until her calendar takes off and she drops him like a Garry Maddox fly ball in the '78 LCS.
I'm giving you the steal sign, Pete.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Forget I said anything and go about your business.

When Forbes magazine first began [sic] compiling its lists of the 400 richest Americans back in 1982, just 13 of those people were billionaires. In 2010, every person on the list was worth at least a billion dollars, and the highest-ranked person, Bill Gates, was worth $54 billion. Forbes' 2010 list of the world's billionaires includes a whopping 1,011 entries. Of those, 75 people are tied for last place with a net worth of $1 billion.

First of all, the original article contained the phrase "first began," hence the sic ("Intentionally so written") which is not only redundant but inexcusable from someone who calls himself a professional writer. But I digress.

The point of putting that blurb at the top was to point out how quickly a million dollars has been devalued. It ain't what it used to be, which I can say because I'm not a professional writer.

Up until a short time ago, having saved a million dollars was not only something of an accomplishment, but a measure of your ability to survive without a job after you're 60 years old. After all, we're living longer than our parents, so you'd have to figure on at least 25 years of no income and rely on savings or some pension you may have stumbled into. By the way, mathematically speaking, a million dollars over 25 years is a measly $40,000 per year. Try factoring in inflation and see what $40,000 is going to be worth in 2035. The accounting term for it is: Ain't Much.

What the article did not mention was that in 1982 there were 32.4 million Americans living below the poverty level. In 2010 there were 43.6 million officially poor people in America. The old expression "the rich get richer" is indeed true. More of them and more of us. The gap widens. Combine that with almost 10% unemployment rate and the numbers are staggering.

I'm sure that if the billionaire list has increased, then the millionaire one must have as well. Sure, a million dollars isn't what it was, but there are still more millionaires, and obviously, the bottom end of the scale hasn't kept up with the top end. Otherwise, there would be fewer poor people too. I think the list of improved income stops at around $30,000. People in that income range suffer the most because their salaries don't increase as much as top management's.

There have always been growing numbers of poor people, and I wonder what happens when the gap widens between the poor and middle class to the point that those two groups don't have the same things to gripe about? Just as people earning $30,000 don't understand the struggles of millionaires, people making poverty-level wages will be separated from their slightly more successful friends. We're creating a stratification of people rather than bringing them together. I suppose some people would call me a Socialist for promoting such a radical idea, so go ahead.

It creates problems because people at the lower level want to live like the people in the level above them. It's natural. It's why we have such rampant debt. We all want iPhone's, a Lexus and a bigger house than we can afford. We get them by borrowing or purchasing them on credit, and we get deeper into the hole we'll never dig ourselves out of.

Where it really starts to manifest itself are issues like health care and retirement. Although, I suppose the two may work in concert sometimes. If you have no health care you won't live long enough to have to worry about retirement. But a sick citizenry is not a happy or productive one, either. One presumes that the worse our health care problems are, the more people that will be on some form of government-subsidized compensation program, and that puts an additional strain on the tax system.

And when jobless poor people reach retirement age, the pittance they have managed to stash away in Social Security will be their only sustenance, and it won't be nearly enough, since people who had a million dollars saved are already living on $40,000 a year - remember?

So, the more poor people we have, the worse off they'll be when they reach retirement age. They weren't able to find work when they were 40, so how will they find something when they're 65? They'll be living on $1,900 a month Social Security payments, and that won't go far in the future world of 2035. It isn't a pretty picture, if you sit and think about it - which I have.

I guess we're not supposed to think about it, because a depressed citizenry is bad too. We're supposed to live for now. Throw our trash all over the place, spend like we're going to the electric chair and eat, eat, eat. It's all stuff that I've heard called Bread and Circuses, which kind of means that if you entertain people enough, they'll forget how dire their circumstances are. That's why they put a string quartet on the deck of the Titanic.

So, don't think about it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who are these people?

I'm still trying to figure out the deal with the Kardashian's. They're all over the Internet and TV, and yet I don't know what they have ever done to entertain us other than being on television. What a sorry state of affairs where all you have to do is get on TV to stay on TV.

I'm hearing a lot of stuff about WikiLeaks. It's a web site, I presume, but I've never been on it and I don't know what they offer, other than news stories. It's the Kardashian of web sites. From what I can figure out, they tell us things that the government doesn't want us to know. If we're taking a vote, I vote YES.

Dane Cook's half-brother and sister-in-law were ordered to repay $12 million they had embezzled from him while his half-brother was his business manager. What I find amazing is that Dane Cook has made so much money doing his crap comedy act that somebody could steal $12 million from him. To me, comics like Cook represent the current lousy state of entertainment in America. A recent article on Yahoo about the "10 Obsessions of 2010" revealed quite a list:

Mostly, it's a list of junk, bad television and crap celebrities. The public's fascination with that sort of stuff hasn't changed in 100 years and isn't likely to change in the next hundred. The thing is, we're supposed to be smarter and more cultured than our parents and their parents before them, but we aren't. We walk around like we have some kind of grip on things, but we're just as stupid (if not more so) than the people we replaced. We have a lot of sophisticated junk, cable TV and fancy telephones, but we're still the same dopey schmucks our horse-riding, rotary-dial ancestors were.

What makes us think we're so smart and why are we fascinated by this crap?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beautiful downtown Newark, New Jersey.

I have just returned from a short business trip to Newark, New Jersey. If you know anything about Newark, you'll know how happy I am to have returned. This is the view out my hotel window, which explains why I got such a good rate on the room.
Part of the trip included a visit to New York City and a performance of Cosi fan tutti at Lincoln Center. I didn't take my camera to New York, since you've probably seen countless photos of the city, and why would I bore you with that? You're much less likely to have seen photos of downtown Newark at night, so here are a few that I worked up for your entertainment.
Downtown Newark at night. After a brief rain, the streets took on an eerie glow that was second only to the eerie glow of the people on the streets. I'm not sure where I was, but I know you'll recognize the name on that big building in the background. I think they sell insurance.

I think sometimes people have low standards. This is a stairway up to a tattoo parlor. I know that because they wisely placed the words "TATTOOS" and "PIERCING" (meaning multiple tattoos but only one piercing?) on the stairway to let people know that it is a stairway to a tattoo parlor and not the stairway to a haunted house or a boarding house.
It's funny how particular we are with using hand sanitizers and issuing warnings about washing our hands every fifteen minutes, yet we will go to a place like this to allow a stranger to pierce our skin with a needle filled with ink. We're a strange bunch.

Serendipity is a great tool in photography. This is a mistake, since I inadvertently moved the camera before the exposure was complete. I could have told you I did it on purpose, but I'm an honest guy.

This is the outside of the Seton Hall School of Law, or some such thing, near the hotel I stayed in. Interesting how creeps like lawyers come out of such a nice building.

I was fascinated by this railroad bridge that runs into the Newark Penn Station. Once again, serendipity produced this sepia tone, so I didn't have to do anything except crop it a little and post it. Too honest? Maybe.

I had never been to an opera before. Luckily for me, the Lincoln Center seats have translation screens, so we can read the English version of Italian operas. Cosi fan Tutti is called a comic opera, and it's almost 4 hours long. I don't think Mozart understood one of the principal aspects of comedy - keep it short. After a huge meal at Cafe Fiorello, a 4-hour opera went down like a musical sleeping pill. To the extent that a guy in our row was heard to snore at least 4 times during the first act and 7 times during the second act. If you're that tired, just go home.

And for the record (if there is one) Guglielmo and Ferrando should have dumped those two crazy bitches and fought over Despina.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Occam's Checking Account.

Occam's Razor is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (translating to the law of parsimony, law of economy or law of succinctness). The principle is popularly summarized as "the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one".
I do almost all my banking on the Internet. Aside from a stray institution that "needs" a paper billing statement returned to them, I write almost no checks.
Like everything else, there is good and bad to that. Most of the bad lies in the future, with the potential for Internet fraud. The good lies in the present.
One thing that is particularly frustrating - until you stop and think about it - is the transfer of money from one account to another.
When I pay a bill from my checking account, it takes between 2 and 5 days for the payment to reach the payee. That makes it necessary to do some actual financial planning, or else the bills will be late. It frustrated me until I figured out a viable alternative.
I now pay most of my bills on the company or credit card web site. The first of every month I sit down and go through all the sites of the various people I owe money to. If I put in a payment for the 4th, it will be paid on the 4th, even if the 4th is tomorrow. I wondered how that could work so much more easily than going through my bank, until I figured out the simple answer.
The people who want the money want to take it quicker than the people giving it up. I'd guess that banks make a grand amount of money during that "float period," between the time I submit the payment and it gets sent from my account. If the payees can get the money in less than 24 hours, why can't the banks pay bills in the same amount of time? Unless, of course, the bank gets paid to make us wait.
It was so simple, after all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why are they called Smartphones when intelligence isn't a requirement for using one?

A haiku over on Howard's page started me thinking. I'm not sure what makes me think, but generally reading something of his starts me on an internal dialogue that I sometimes take external. A brief exchange in his comments section lit the fuse. The haiku goes:
thank you for the things
none of us will ever need
that draw us in like sheep
(reprinted without permission)
The object, of course, hinges on the annual Christmas shopping frenzy that retailers call Black Friday. I've written about it enough to qualify me as a nuisance, and one more essay isn't going to help anybody.
During our comment/dialogue, (which you can read by clicking here) Howard posed the question: I wonder how stunted our entire society would be if we suddenly had to do without cell phones or our online infrastructure for a few days, or a few hours?
That brought to mind the great sacrifice (the word "sacrifice" was used in the press release) of several celebrities who are going without Twitter and Facebook for a whole day! I'm sure our troops in the Mideast and men and women serving prison sentences could learn from the sacrifice being made by those brave celebrities.
I often feel trapped by devices, and willingly have been led into the world of cell phones and netbooks. In fact, I'm writing this on my netbook. The common refrain from people on the other end of the cell phone usually goes, "Where were you? You didn't answer your phone." Since I do not have a land line, my cell phone is my only phone, and people expect it to be attached to my hip 24/7, when in fact, it's on silent mode 16/6. The initial convenience brought about by the cell phone has turned to a nuisance as people expect me to be constantly available. I wasn't constantly available before I had a cell phone, so there is no reason to expect I will be constantly available now.
The Internet has grown from technology to necessity, which is both good and bad. Conveniences like banking, e-mail and shopping are fraught with the potential for identity theft and e-mail scams. The mind boggles at the number of ways Internet schemers have come up with to try to separate us from our money. What they don't realize is that we are doing a good enough job on our own without any external aid.
All of those conveniences, which include cable television, are costing people an extra $250 a month that we feel is a fair value for the nuisance of technology. It's the girlfriend whose smoking hot body and free sex don't balance with the gigantic pain in the ass that she is. We put up with 6 hours of pain for 1 hour of pleasure.
I can't help but wonder how all of this stuff has made us happier. Maybe that's because it really hasn't? It's the world's largest peer pressure group. Do without a cell phone, Internet service and/or cable and you'll get that quizzical look like when you make a high-pitched whistling sound in front of a dog. The head cocks and they wonder "why not?"
But we're in. We're in to the point that Wi-Fi service is available at fast food places, cell phones are so pervasive that they have made laws and almost nothing worthwhile is on regular network television. You are lost in the world without those things. Monday Night Football is on cable now, your friends want to text message you and somebody just sent you an e-mail. No technology? No life.
OK, maybe that's a little harsh. But if you're reading this, it means you're into the Internet/computer deal, and I'd bet that you have a cell phone as well. Add in that the government made cable the standard a year ago and viola, dependence and bills. I think it's at least part of the reason regular wage earners are chest-deep in debt. There are a lot more bills than we used to have, and our incomes haven't kept up with the rate of innovation. And you know, we have to have this stuff.
Think about it the next time your cell phone reception blacks out, your Internet connection is slow or your cable goes out. Whatever will you do?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Just when you think society has sunk as low as it can, somebody figures out a way to dig the hole a little deeper. E! has developed a television program called "Bridalplasty" (that's right) where new brides compete for (among other things) a wish list of plastic surgery. I suppose there is no shortage of people who feel lousy about themselves to the point that they would go on television to tell friends, family and strangers about it, and television is always there for them. The "winner" gets to change the way she looks right before her big day. I suppose, at that point she's stuck with the groom and his flaws while he gets the "hot wife" he's pining for.
I have no idea (nor do I want to know) what the "challenges" are. I can imagine. Perhaps a "biggest nose" competition where the girls try out various odors and the first one to recognize the smell wins. Or "smallest boobs," where the winner is the girl who can squeeze into that Kids' Size top. The smallest score wins, just like golf. And I'd assume that an IQ test would yield similar results.
So who is the real winner here? It sure as hell isn't good taste. I suppose a variation on the old joke works here: I wouldn't marry any woman who would go on television to compete for plastic surgery. Check you local listings.
I have an idea for a new show. A television program where viewers get to do make-over's on stupid television shows. We get to eliminate hosts, stupid concepts and stupid participants in an effort to win our ultimate TV viewing experience. I compete every week. It's called a channel-changer.
I win.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sorry to interrupt your holiday shopping...

HARPER WOODS, Mich. – Police say two men have been critically injured in shootings inside a suburban Detroit shopping mall. The mall has been closed as police search for whoever fired the shots. Harper Woods deputy police chief Jim Burke tells The Associated Press the shootings happened around 6 p.m. when a group of teenagers fired on a rival group at Eastland Mall east of Detroit.

Burke says the men were taken to St. John's Hospital in Detroit, and both were expected to survive. He says an 18-year-old was shot in the chest, and an employee at a clothing store was shot in leg. He says there had apparently been a long-running dispute between the two rival groups.

I don't have a detailed list, but I can tell you that there have been a lot of shootings at shopping malls over the years. There was the the Tacoma Mall and Hudson Valley Mall shootings in 2005, the Oak View Mall shooting in 2006, the Westroads Mall murder/suicide and the Trolley Square Mall shootings in 2007, the Lane Bryant shooting in 2008 and the Sello Mall shooting in 2009 to name seven.

The point is that there have been at least eight shootings at shopping malls in the past 5 years, and I have yet to see the same sort of security in place that we have had in airports and some schools since 2001.

We are nutty about airports because of what happened on September 11, 2001; but some of it was inherited from prior days. I suppose the reason we scrutinize more heavily at airports is because we're 50,000 feet above the ground. It's hard to run away from something that happens in a moving aircraft. I was on an Amtrak train lately, and before I boarded I had emptied my pockets and readied myself for the full-body search or at least an X-Ray device. Nothing. Just get on a train full of people with a huge suitcase.

Even though there are probably 50 times more people in a typical busy shopping mall than an airplane, we like the odds of being one in a big crowd, so we just let anybody in. And, what's the worst a train bomb could do? Two or three cars de-railed and some injuries. That's not worth inconveniencing the public.

How long will it be before we have to pass through Mall Security to get to our favorite clothing store? I wonder why we have yet to be asked to do that. Perhaps it's because we value the shopping experience more than the traveling experience? Maybe retailers fear that shoppers will not visit their stores if they have to go through a security device?

I guess we'd rather die than be inconvenienced.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When the going gets tough ...

A complete lack of enthusiasm for contributing anything meaningful to my life has led me here.
Do you think cross-dressers and transvestites wear a tampon once a month? They seem to want all the fun things about being a woman (like looking pretty and teasing stupid men) but none of the bad things. That realization has caused me to lose respect for them.
We had a parade in the city yesterday. I'm surprised that we still have parades, and I'm especially intrigued about their purpose and why people seem to enjoy them so much. It's a series of non-sequitors interspersed with music. A float with two celebrities followed by a marching band followed by a float with flowers and cartoon characters followed by kids dancing ... And people stand in the cold to watch.
I think we have them because we have always had them. If the idea of a parade was broached today as a new concept, it would be rejected because they produce no profits. It's all about advertising and filling TV time on a holiday when people aren't watching television. If they could figure out a way to close off the streets and charge people to watch, it would happen.

When they tell us that the air quality is "unacceptable," what are we supposed to do? Is there someone in charge of making the air acceptable so that we can breathe? I don't think they're notifying anyone.

There are a couple of stories in the news about sports commentators getting choked up on the air. Once concerned a report on the late Chris Henry and the other involved Matt Millen on Thursday's NFL game broadcast. The point is that two people almost coming to tears on television are news stories. Why? People laugh on television every day, and there isn't enough space in the newspaper to report them all. Why are two people almost crying news stories?
That's sad.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For the love of something

We love our holidays. We're into a big one now, and even bigger ones to follow. This one, we are told, is all about giving thanks for something and realizing how fortunate we are to live when we do - or to live at all. Nice and schmaltzy, as the holidays were intended.
But, we don't just like a holiday. We like a holiday with something substantial attached to it. I'm not talking about remembering war veterans, giving thanks or celebrating America. I'm talking about big sales at a store, eating and drinking.
The eating thing is attached to this one, to the point that we wish people a "Happy Turkey Day" instead of using the more traditional Thanksgiving name. When I go back to work on Monday I'll be asked what I had for dinner on Thursday. When I say I had chicken, I'll get that quizzical look and the "What, no turkey?" question, which implies that I violated some sacred holiday tradition. In fact, the tradition is the holiday, and we have chosen to decorate it with food. A family-oriented feast that involves eating until we almost burst and sleeping the evening away in a food-induced coma.
It's not the only holiday that has a different and preferred association than the original. Consider:
New Year's Day - a bogus holiday that is only associated with New Year's Eve to the point that it glorifies drinking and celebrating the start of a new calendar. Why do we have the first day of the year off work?
Valentine's Day - glorified by jewelery retailers as a day to prove your love with an expensive gift. Otherwise, you just don't care about her.
Easter - bunnies and candy are the preferred retail meaning of the holiday which is supposed to signify the crucifixion of a religious icon.
Memorial Day - unofficial start of summer and a day to fill your backyard pool, travel to the shore and barbecue some chicken and burgers. Curiously, the actual first day of summer goes by almost unnoticed.
July 4 - not as much to do with the signing of our Independence declaration as it does with fireworks and more barbecuing.
Labor Day - unofficial end of summer and a big day for end-of-summer sales. Mostly it's spent in traffic on a highway rather than recognizing the contribution of labor. Curiously, the actual day that summer ends (September 22) goes by almost unnoticed.
Columbus Day - isn't observed for the fictitious "discovering" of America as much as it is recognized as a great day to buy sheets, towels and pillowcases.
Christmas - The mother of all holidays. Jews are virtually ignored as the last two months of the year are turned into an onslaught of Christmas holiday marketing that is designed to separate us from as much of our money as possible. If you don't spend a ton of money on gifts, you don't really love people very much.
The retailers have figured out a way to tie each holiday into some sort of marketing campaign, and people are more than happy to oblige. To the point that they will sleep in their cars on Thanksgiving evening in order to be one of the first in line on Black Friday so they can score a $200 laptop computer.
I have an accounting degree from Widener University, so I know why it's called Black Friday. It should be called Green Friday for the money it brings in, or Dumbass Friday for the people who try to work off the excess food by shopping all day Friday. There are more gimmicks than customers and stores open earlier each year, with one trying to best the other by opening an hour earlier (or 6 hours earlier) than their competitors. You are called a "smart shopper" if you stop in and take advantage of the tremendous deals. They tell us that we can save money by spending. That's a marketing ploy for people with poor math skills.
I am thankful that I have learned to ignore it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Consume at your own risk.

I usually ignore those "Caution: DO NOT EAT" packets that come in products that are impossible to eat. That's easy. I'm not going to eat something that comes out of a packet of air fresheners, but to ignore one that comes packed in actual food is a bit more difficult.
This Caution: DO NOT EAT packet came in a package of Harry & David Dark Chocolate Butter Pecan Moose Munch, which by the way, contained way more Munch than Moose, and precious few pecans. We need more Moose and pecans, please.
Anyway, there it was as I opened the package and dispensed it in a bowl.
But avoid it I did. The stores, however, are more difficult to ignore. Salespeople stand outside the store and entice those of us with few resistance skills with samples of their munchable snack foods. I think it's one of those places where you think you're eating something wholesome, when in fact, it is candy. I don't think we would want to know the calorie and fat content of this stuff, and to serve that purpose, I ignored the caloric data on the package. I think I saw 190 calories per serving and 12 servings per bag. In my sugary snack-induced coma, my mathematical skills were compromised.
The store has hardwood floors (which translate to "natural, good for you foods") and friendly, well-informed staff people who are happy to indulge our "can I try that" shopping with actually giving us something to try. Smart retailers know that giving consumers a taste of something for free is a great way to entice us to buy it. Dumb consumers buy stuff.
Try the chocolate/peanut butter balls.
So, I got through half a bag of dark chocolate Moose thingys without consuming the drying agent. What is interesting about the thing (if there is anything interesting) is that its trade name is Pillow Pak with the accompanying message: CONTAINS A HARMLESS ABSORBENT FOR HUMIDITY AND ODOR. That inspires two questions:
  1. If it is called a Pillow Pak, should the admonishment also include "Please do not use as a bed pillow" or "Do Not Sleep On?"
  2. If the contents are "harmless," why does it say "Do not eat?" If the contents are indeed harmless, then I should be able to eat them. What else does harmless mean?
There must be some harm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If they sell it, we will come.

They say Rome wasn't built in a day. They could also say that Philadelphia's Spectrum wasn't torn down in a day - or month - or a year.
In the longest-scheduled demolition in modern architecture, it is rumored that The Spectrum will finally succumb to the wrecking ball Tuesday at noon. By then, I suspect that everything inside the building (including the parts of the building itself) will have been sold - or at least they would try to sell it.
It was closed on October 31, 2009. Since then, several schemes have been hatched by the owners to systematically both sell everything that wasn't nailed down and rid the public of some more of their money. I'm not sure if their shameless sales say more about corporate greed or the public's willingness to spend their money on crap. Maybe both. A match made in heaven.
They have been marketing Spectrum seats for at least a year. You can buy a pair for your - living room? I suppose die-hard's are putting them in their man caves. I hope, at least the Spectrum sent the seats out to have the fabric dry cleaned before they were sold. Considering the number of asses (both literal and figurative) that have sat in those seats, I'd guess they smell like old fabric and stale beer.
Then, they started selling what they told us was water from the Spectrum ice in plastic drink coasters. I suppose the idea was to put the coaster in the freezer to help keep your drink cold while it was sitting on the coaster. I also suppose that it was yet another way to squeeze another buck out of a willing public.
On November 6, they had yet another public yard sale, offering an "all you can carry" sale for $25. Anything you could cart out in one trip could be had for 25 bucks.
At this point, I'd be interested in seeing what the inside of the place looks like. The clever (and profitable, no doubt) marketing gimmick minimized the amount of demolition, which no doubt decreased the price of trashing the place. So, not only do they make a buck off the crap in the building, but they save in the end. That's why they're businessmen and we just read and complain about it.
The latest money grab involves buying a souvenir brick from the demolition for $39.95 plus shipping. That's right. What do you suppose it costs to mail a brick? It has to be close to the selling price. Mail a brick to somebody and let me know what it cost.
We're told that the wrecking ball will start swinging at noon on Tuesday. Not to be outdone, they plan on a little party while the ball swings. Dollar hot dogs and soda in a last attempt to squeeze the sponge as dry as possible. Ironically, the site will be turned into a huge sports bar, and I can only hope it gets built in less time than it took to tear down the old place.
But first, they'll need to suck the remaining air out of the building and sell it in containers for $29.95. Spectrum air. Blow up your kids' balloons with the same air that the bottle flew through that hit Steven Tyler on stage during an Aerosmith show in 1978.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Three photos and some junk.

Nothing spectacular. Just another autumn Saturday in Philadelphia. That's a look down the big spiral staircase at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, looking down toward the pendulum. Next is nearby Logan Circle, with City Hall in the background, to the right. The last one is inside the lobby at the Franklin Institute, looking at the statue of Ben and the shiny floor.
The Four Loko experiment was kind of a fizzle. It doesn't taste very good, and it left me feeling more buzzed than drunk. I was supposed to experience a big letdown, as the sugar and caffeine wore off, but it just faded out. They can go ahead and take the stuff off the shelves, if it will make them happy. There isn't anything that would make me want to go out and buy a case of the stuff so I'd have a stash. Just as well. There is a big Eagles game on tonight, and I didn't want to sleep through it.
I'm not sure I'm human.
At the Institute, there was an electricity display where we were to put our hands on metal sensors, and the static electricity from our bodies was supposed to make a variety of things happen. Me - nothing.
So, a bunch of kids were hospitalized for drinking Four Loko, and now the FDA wants to take it off the shelves because it's supposed to be dangerous. I think you could be hospitalized for eating too many Big Mac's too, so what's the difference between that and drinking too much alcohol? Maybe the lesson here is that people think that more of something is better? As they say, it ain't necessarily so. It sounds like another story blown out of proportion by a few incidents. Another classic over-reaction.
If we didn't over-react, we probably wouldn't accomplish much.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend refrigerator.

Saying that we aren't allowed to do something is the best way to get us to do something.
Prior to a couple of weeks ago, I would have passed by the Four Loko display at my local liquor store without a sideways glance. Tonight, however, I glanced directly at it and brought home a couple of cans of the stuff to sample over the weekend.
Thanks, FDA, for drawing attention to a potentially death-inducing drink. You're doing your job.
I waited until the weekend because I figured, if the stuff is going to cause me a near-death experience (as the FDA would have us believe) then I'd have at least 24 hours to recover before I had to go back to work on Monday. That should leave enough time to get the breathing tube out of my throat, transfuse my blood and discharge me from the hospital. I need a couple of hours to pack my lunch and do some laundry.
So, there it is, on the top shelf of the fridge. Lemon lime and Orange blend. Between the Almond Breeze and the Cod Liver Oil. Hey, if I'm going to die, I want to make a nice looking corpse.
The beer in the middle is Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, a 12% alcohol brown ale that has everything Four Loko has except the fruity flavor and caffeine. That means I can pass out peacefully instead of doing crazy stuff like calling people at 2:00am and running around my condo naked. Well, sometimes I run around naked anyway, but I draw the line at calling people after 10:00pm. Just saying.
I'll file a full report on Sunday, after I am discharged. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dancing with the Politics.

I stopped watching Dancing with the Stars a few years ago, when they ran out of stars. I'm still fascinated by the concept, however, and I follow the show in absentia by reading the news stories that circulate after each results show.
I notice that Sarah Palin's devil spawn, Bristol is still on the show in spite of being given low scores by the show's judges, to the point of having to defend herself for being there. Rational thinking people say she is a bad dancer, yet she continues on the show, presumably because of the votes she gets from the viewers. She gets tons of them, no doubt from the Tea Baggers that support her mother.
Somebody should check to see whom the show's producers supported for president in 2008 and where their money goes. It says here that they are probably big supporters of the Republican party and have figured out a way to use their television show to put their favorite candidate front and center. I smell a conspiracy.
Sarah's new book, America by Heart comes out on the 23rd. Her dopey reality TV show debuted last Sunday - and now the kid is carrying the family torch on that Dancing show. It's a perfect storm of events and it's no coincidence. I'd bet a week's pay she wins. Even if she doesn't, it's a big win for ABC, who had no stars of note on the show, so having a Palin in the mix only serves to pump up their ratings and inspire people like me to mention it. That's the state of modern entertainment. Mix it with politics, get people riled up and create a buzz.
It's a shame that television has such a powerful influence over our lives. As though it wasn't enough that a TV show stretched the boundaries of entertainment to include a politician's daughter and call her a "star." We have to be subjected to the public's insatiable desire to prove a point - to the point that they would use the TV show to make a political statement, which is exactly what is going on here.
The sad part is, it's being fully funded by the American Broadcasting System, and you're all along for the ride. Well, America is along for the ride. I'm just reading and writing about it.
OK, maybe I'm along for the ride too.
But what scares me about this little exercise is that the Palin's are being foist upon America, and whether we like it or not, they are in the public eye, led by Sarah's hot mom persona, which she plays to the hilt. It's all about image and form over substance. Television is the perfect media for such things, and it is all too happy to cooperate.
There are thousands of hours to program over hundreds of channels. The days are gone when there were three major networks and a handful of local stations. Now, we have almost 800 different channels on our cable systems, and each one of them has a full day's programming to put together. They give us junk like celebrity dancing contests and failed politicians touring their home state in a recreational vehicle. It's a sad state of affairs.
I just hope we wake up at some point, but I fear that the show will continue.