Saturday, August 28, 2010

You call this a party?

I'm not sure where these Tea Party people came from, but they seem to have found a voice in conservative TV host Glenn Beck and professional embarrassment Sarah Palin, who both appeared at a recent gathering of followers in Washington, D.C. Here is a quote from Beck, who seems to have forgotten the years 2000 to 2008.

"This is the day we can start the hearts of Americans again, and it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with God," Beck told the crowd estimated at anywhere from tens of thousands to 500,000. Oh boy. There's the God thing again. As though God has among his priorities establishing politics in America. How big an ego does somebody have to have in order for that to make sense to them? God will watch over me because I'm so much better than anybody else. Those are dangerous thoughts.

"For too long, this country has wandered in darkness, and we have wandered in darkness in periods from the beginning," Beck said, at times pacing at the memorial. "We have had moments of brilliance and moments of darkness. But this country has spent far too long worried about scars and thinking about the scars and concentrating on the scars. "Today," he continued, "we are going to concentrate on the good things in America, the things that we have accomplished - and the things that we can do tomorrow. The story of America is the story of humankind."

For too long? How long exactly? How is it that in a scant 2 years since the last election, this group has determined that we have wallowed "for too long?" Would they have organized if one of Bush's relatives were elected president, or (their God forbid) Palin? A recent headline in the Inquirer proclaimed that Palin's "power" had served to get a couple of Republicans elected. How is it that a failed vice presidential nominee has any power at all? Where is Dan Quayle?

What worries me is that the masses are eating this junk alive, and the 2012 presidential election will become yet another media circus. Perhaps this one will be bigger than ever, since we seem to be enthralled with Palin's looks and not so interested in her opinions and people like Beck are interesting because they are on television. That much hasn't change since the invention of the device.

I'm not sure why they call themselves a Tea Party, since the original Tea Party was formed because they protested taxation without representation. These people are being represented. Perhaps it isn't as they wish, but I always thought that's what elections were for. I guess the term Tea Party sounds patriotic, and perception is what drives groups like this. The masses hear "Tea Party" and immediately think that they represent something patriotic, when in fact, they just spout anger politics and make people think that God will make everything right.

Maybe what they should be asking themselves is why Beck posted a list of things not to bring to the rally, including firearms (either real or simulated), ammunition, explosives of any kind (including fireworks), knives, blades or sharp objects, mace and/or pepper spray, sticks or poles. What is it about Tea Party activists and implements of violence that attract each other? Why did they think they would need mace and pepper spray?

Shouldn't their God protect them from the supposed wrongs of the world? Maybe He feels that He has wandered too long too?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Wonders of Modern Technology

As if you were interested, I'm typing this into Microsoft Word while watching a Phillies game on the TV. I can do that because Word 2007 links documents into ones blog, complete with spell check, although I think Pearalo isn't on the list.

I giggled (quietly) to myself as yet another trip to the grocery store tonight was accompanied by the exact description I left of Thursday night's trip. Complete with the "I Love Lucy" product bunch-up at the end and the "thanks for bagging" finale. Art imitates life.

I've been reading a lot about the Kindle, Amazon's electronic reading device. I'm a gadget guy, and if money was no object (which it always is) I'd have every iPhone and i-Thing that comes down the pike. I'd guess there are a lot of gadget-guy types, since the latest iPhone version brought about the same long queues that the original iPhone did, a scant year earlier. We're never satisfied when it comes to technology.

Anyway, the Kindle is intriguing to me. I'm not a book reader (although I'm not anti-book) I'm more of a newspaper and magazine reader. They feed into my TV-inspired short attention span. I have had a daily newspaper delivered to my home since I was a child. Being one of the original latchkey kids, I grew up on The Evening Bulletin as a kid coming home from school - reading the baseball box scores and being updated on the latest Peanuts and B.C. comics. Those were the days.

When I got married (ugh) and moved out of the homestead, I immediately subscribed to The Philadelphia Inquirer. It's a morning paper, as they all are now, and it arrives on my doorstep at no later than 5:00am every day. I'm spoiled. When it doesn't come (because of weather or a new delivery person) I get the shakes like a guy going Cold Turkey off some maintenance drug. It's a sickness, but an excusable one.

The thing that charms me about the Kindle is that I can get my newspaper in paper-less form every morning at the same time. The caveat is that I'd give up my box scores, crossword puzzle and comics. No more Pearls for Swine and Dilbert. They're available online, but at some effort, and not as easily as I'd get them in paper form.

The upside is that I'd save about $200 a year on newspaper delivery versus what the Kindle version would cost. And there's the rub. Marketing people have college degrees in things like Sociology and Human Behavior, and they know that in order to get something (monetary saving) you have to give up something (things you like) and the choices make the money equal to the sacrifice. There is suddenly a lot of thinking to do.

The thinking involves getting my newspaper delivered with all the hard-copy familiarity at a greater cost OR getting the electronic version delivered on the fancy new device and losing some of the things I enjoy from the paper-paper. Decisions.

Why can't we just have what we want?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

With a lack of interesting content, I present another essay on grocery stores.

As regular (or irregular) readers know, I enjoy my trips to the grocery store. It's nearby, and provides a nice walk and time to contemplate life and ... groceries. I'd hate to go so far as to say that the grocery store is my muse, but judging by some of the content, I'd say the end justifies the means.
Anyway, one thing I noticed was that the cashiers do significantly less work than they used to. When I was a kid, they had to actually read the price tag on an item and punch the numbers into a cash register. As shoppers, we had to separate the taxable items from the non-taxable items, and the cashiers had to know which was which. Generally, there was a kid at the end of the line who put the items in a paper bag and another one who would walk out and help you put your groceries in your car.
Now, all the cashiers do is drag the item over a scanner and drop it on that secondary conveyor belt, which transports it to a place that is out of my reach. The reason I have to reach it is because I have to do my own bagging. God forbid the item's scanner doesn't read correctly or there isn't a bar code on the item. That elicits a 9/11-like panic that requires a phone call to a guy behind a lectern who has a book full of prices. Usually, that happens in the so-called Express Lane.
I'm not sure why they call it the Express Lane, since it's really just a couple of aisles of people with no carts who only buy items without bar codes and fruits not on the list. Stuff like Kiwi Raisins or Pearalos, the curious hybrid of a pear and a tangelo. You have to go to the back, near the pomegranate juice and the nuts in clear plastic bags with a contents list that says, "Almonds." That's even more strange than putting a caloric count on bottled water. Calories: zero.
Not only do I now bring my own bags, but I'm also in charge of placing the items inside, all while fumbling for my debit card and running it through the machine. I have to press a lot of buttons, verifying that the price I'm being charged is what I am paying (which means I have to glance at the cash register) and then push a few more buttons before I am "approved." It's a feeling of self-satisfaction that Shop Rite approves of me. It's the same self-satisfaction I get when I hit the spell check and it says, "No Misspellings Found." Yippee! Although, I think it missed pearalos. Alas.
Sometimes the cashier says, "Thanks for bagging," as though I had a choice. It was either that or watch the items bunch-up at the end of the conveyor like a bad episode of "I Love Lucy." Mostly, I just want to get out of there as quickly as possible.
The cashiers are represented by a labor union. The same sort of union that represents dock workers and roofers. Sometimes they'll go on strike, demanding better pay for their ... labor. I often get the feeling that the cashiers should be cutting me in on some of their salary, since I'm responsible for about 75 percent of the work load.
I wonder if they still make the minimum wage?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is bigger always better?

Gee, all I need to get a $500 Apple gift card is $150,000! (or more) How can I possibly resist this incredible offer? It was all I could do to keep from clicking on the "Get Started" button, until I realized ...
In a related story, I read that McMansion's are on the outs, as home buyers no longer consider them ... practical, and they aren't selling. Duh. In a recent poll, only 9% of Americans said they want to live in a home of more than 3,200 square feet. That's a 50' x 64' house. The real tragedy comes when they squeeze a 64' home onto a 100' wide lot. So much for privacy.
I'd guess that what they really don't want are the high property taxes and air conditioning bills. Most of them probably have a big enough E-Trade account to get a $500 Apple gift card, so they can use the extra money for their monthly iPhone bill. It all goes somewhere.
Speaking of big, I pulled into the local McDonald's (not nearly as big as a McMansion) because I had a hankering for some french fries. There is something special about McDonald's french fries. What I failed to realize is that there is no "small" size when you order a combo meal. When I was a kid, a small order of fries came in a paper sack that could fit in your shirt pocket - if your shirt had a pocket.
Now, the small fries are medium, and they come in a cardboard container that you could put your entire fist in, and it holds about 100 fries, which was way more than I wanted. I suppose I could have ordered the $1 value mean fries, but I'm not sure if it even exists. Can you order a small bag of fries, or do you automatically get the medium/box of fries? The other reason I didn't just order the fries was because I didn't want to put up with the 100 questions from the guy behind the speaker.
"Just fries?" he would ask. "Would you like to try a value meal?" "Would you like a drink?" (Big markup on the soft drinks) "So, just the small fries?" "Is that all?"
I don't have the patience anymore. For my trouble, I got a mushy fish sandwich and a "medium" lemonade that, if it were water, I could have had enough to wash my car. What a value.
I think that's why we're so fat. Well, that's why you're so fat - or they're so fat, depending. It's tough to get a small anything, especially at the movie theater. A small popcorn is like a shoebox full of stuff, and a small soda doesn't fit in the cup holder. I guess they think that they're giving us something for our money, but maybe what we would really like is just a little of something that we could enjoy instead of a lot of something that we have to struggle to finish.
As I was writing this, an ad for The Olive Garden came on with some kind of unlimited pasta dinner offer. All the pasta you can eat for $8.99. They showed a guy shoveling-in a full plate of Ziti and looking up at his waiter, asking for another plate. Skinny guy - for now. Then, they said you can add-in breadsticks and a salad. Why on earth would you have to? Isn't unlimited pasta enough food? Why are they trying to kill us?
The next time you go out to eat, check out the portion size and try to remember (if you're old enough) what meals looked like when you were a kid.
Then, try to order a small.
Sorry. A little wordy today. I suppose I could have made this essay a "small."