RANTS.

I'm Max Robinson and I approved this message.


Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can, the serenity to except the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Source: unknown to me.

The rants below are about the things I can't change. Posting them here adds to my serenity. As time goes by I will post the newest ones at the top. Should anyone happen to care and return to see what's new you can start at the top and stop reading when things begin to sound familiar.


Is It Love or Lust? April 20, 2014.

In the 1950s there was a song recorded by Nat King Cole titled Darling, je vous aime beaucoup. Pardon my French. About a decade later the Beatles recorded Michel My Bell. The plot of both of these songs is identical. The singer, a man, is declaring his undying love for a woman who doesn't speak or understand English. The singer remembers little of his high school French. How can he love her? He doesn't know a thing about her except that he is sexually attracted to her.

And then there is that blasted Girl From Ipanema. It appears that the Girl and the singer speak the same language but that doesn't seem to make any difference. "How can I tell her I love her?" he opines. He doesn't have the sense to see what she really is like. Self important, self centered, egotistical, and narcissistic, Even if the two of them should somehow become acquainted it wouldn't do him any good. The only person she has ever loved and will ever love is herself.

If anyone is reading this chances are you are thinking of the old saw, "Song lyrics don't make culture, they reflect it." In part I agree but in part I disagree. Song lyrics don't create culture but as they reflect it they pass it on to the next generation. And the next and the next on and on. So the children grow up thinking that sexual attraction is love and more than half the marriages end in divorce. Why?

You can't build a successful marriage on sex alone. A successful long term relationship between two people is basically a close friendship with sex as a bonus. To be friends with someone you have to have things in common. Two people who don't speak the same language don't know if they have anything in common. Maybe they do and after one learns the other's language they might have a long and successful marriage. But the odds are against it.

We often hear stories about "love at first sight". But we only hear about the successes. Someone who was involved in a "love at first sight" relationship that ended badly is not going to go around telling everyone he or she knows about it. If you only count the hits every hitter will be batting 1,000.

I am beginning to think that these online dating sites are a good thing. They emphasize compatibility beyond the physical. I personally know a couple who met that way and their marriage appears to be stable. May God help the guy with little French if he should succeed in convincing the French speaking woman to marry him. And if that Brazilian guy should convince the "Girl" to marry him? I wouldn't trade places with him for all the money in the world.


A Promotional Announcement I Imagined hearing on the Local University Radio Station. January 20, 2014.

We here at the BIG IMPORTANT UNIVERSITY are aware that parents, students, and the news media, talk frequently about the cost of higher education. The fact is that those with a college degree will earn a million dollars more over their lifetimes than those without one. Therefore we will take that million from you right now. In return we promise a bachelor's degree in the field of your choice with a minimum GPA of 3.5, and you don't have to come to class, study, or take tests. It doesn't matter if you don't have a spare million lying around. All you have to do is take out a loan. After all, you have the rest of your life to pay it back. Higher education makes a difference. Especially to us.


THE SKY IS FALLING! August 25, 2013.

In our house hold the Fox TV network has become known as Foxy Loxy. That has led me to some metaphorical thoughts.

Everyone knows the story of Foxy Loxy and Chicken Little. Or do they? I have noticed that things that the older generation takes for granted are unknown to the younger generation. It seems that they are too preoccupied with their smart phones for the children's stories that we grew up with.

For those who don't know the story here is a synopsis. A piece of roofing falls off the chicken house and hits Chicken Little on the head. The roofing happens to be blue. Foxy Loxy convinces her that it is a piece of the sky and that the sky is falling. For most of the rest of the story she runs around proclaiming that "The sky is falling." At the end, a part which has been censored out of later copies, Foxy Loxy lures her into a "safe place" and eats her. Foxy Loxy didn't believe that the sky was falling but he convinced Chicken Little of that to accomplish his nefarious ends.

I'm sure some of you are way ahead of me. Fox news is Foxy Loxy, and the American people are Chicken Little. The falling sky is _________. Fill in the blank with any idea that the Democratic party thinks of. And the nefarious ends? To establish a dictatorship of the richest one percent through large corporations. Hold on tight. The next few years are going to be a rough ride.


Does Radio Need Another Talk Show? August 25, 2013.

I have been thinking about why NPR has changed to air so much talk. I don't know if an NPR executive could be tricked into admitting it but I have an hypothesis. Almost all of the talk shows on the air range from right wing to Attila the Hun. If pinned down my imaginary NPR executive would say, " Talk radio is strongly out of balance to the right. Our purpose is to try to bring some balance to radio." Gotcha! You just admitted that NPR is biased to the left. I doubt that any NPR exec would be so foolish as to make this admission but I'm sure this is the reasoning in the privacy of the boardroom.


The Dumming Down of N P R. November 10, 2012.

When our local N P R station came on the air in 1980 it was an oasis on a desert of mediocrity. There was real music. Not just classical but jazz, folk, and show music. And of course the news. The management did not neglect local news either. There was a daily half hour local news program.

But slowly a trend began on the network news programs. They would do music reviews and occasionally this would feature what passes for music among younger people. Because it was N P R the news directors felt compelled to make it seem important. Some guy would come on and pontificate about an album he had just listened to and then he would play a little of it. It was pure noise. There were electric guitars so distorted it was difficult to be sure what note was being played, pounding drums and somewhere in the far background of all this was someone screaming at the top of his lungs but still impossible to understand because of the noise which was recorded at a much higher level than the "singing?". The pontificator would often mention clever lyrics but who could understand the words? They would do this maybe once or twice a month and the next letters segment would invariably feature many angry letters denouncing such noise on N P R.

As years passed the frequency of these reviews of noise increased and the number of protest letters that were read on the air decreased eventually reaching zero. Now it is rare to hear a music review of real music.

Then there is the case of our local station. Starting somewhere around 2000 they started to cut down on the music and replaced it with network news. Local news also took a hit being reduced from half an hour to fifteen minutes. All of this was done gradually I suppose with the hope that listeners wouldn't notice.

The reason behind this gradualism became apparent when the network pressured the local management into a format change. Now the daytime music is gone, replaced by talk shows. As if the vast wasteland of radio needs more talk shows. There is still music at night but a comment made by the station manager during the most recent fund drive indicates that the night time music is soon to be replaced by more talk radio.

These shows do little to inform and enlighten. A very small number of callers actually ask a question. For most of them it is an ego trip in which they get to express their opinions for a national audience. As often as not the opinions expressed are based on wrong facts and or even conspiracy theories and they go unchallenged by the host.

The morning show reached an all time low on February 15, 2012. The subject was something called beat boxing. There is a comment on this far down the page but I will repeat it here. The name sounds like the latest fad in extreme sports. When the host asked the guest to demonstrate he pursed his lips and began to blow (I assume) producing a sound like a large animal farting. The next sound was the click of my radio being turned off.

An even lower point was reached on a Thursday on the afternoon show. The only worthwhile part of these talk shows is science Friday. Sometimes retired people lose track of days and so I tuned in on a Thursday afternoon expecting to hear science Friday. Instead they introduced a singular paparazzi.

I was unable to track down the spelling of the singular form of paparazzi. A phonetic spelling would be popper ot sen.

Did they ask this guy hard questions about Jacquelyn Kennedy, Princes Diana, or Bill and Hillary Clinton? No! In fact they treated him with kid gloves. I sat there in wonderment thinking the whole time "this can't be happening". They only took two calls the entire hour and they were both from old friends of the guest. They didn't read a single email or tweet. Oh yes, this guy had written a book which they shamelessly plugged frequently. I wonder how much he "donated" to N P R to get on the air to promote his book.

In one of their "preaching to the quire" promos one of the N P R news on air persons says that they don't think of listeners as a demographic. Maybe the on air people don't but it is clear that the managers do. So I bid farewell to N P R as it fades into and becomes indistinguishable from the vast media wasteland. No R I P for you N P R, I hope you burn in hell.


The Disappearing Desktop Computer. November 9, 2012.

Not long ago the subject on N P R's morning talk show was the disappearing desk top computer. This was one of those rare occasions when the subject was interesting. They were ringing their collective hands over the fact that sales of desk tops are falling while computer users are moving in droves to hand held devices.

Dry your tears N P R because the desk top is not dead. The ones who are moving from desk tops to hand helds are those who use their computers as no more than toys. Those of us who do real work on our computers will hold on to our 20 inch monitors, terabyte hard drives, and dual core processors. I defy anyone to do a spreadsheet or complex three dimensional CAD (computer aided design) drawing on a hand held device.


Terrorist Training Film. November 9, 2012.

This is a commercial which is set in a structure that resembles an outdoor handball court. For those who may be unfamiliar with such a thing it has 3 cement block walls with the fourth side open. The top is open to the sky. The structure in the commercial has a big screen set into the front wall with two round objects on either side which turn out to be speakers. An H H D (hand held device) user taps the screen of his device and places it in a doc. The big screen lights up with a motion picture and the speakers extend a few inches out from the wall accompanied by the sound of a small motor. The user apparently is not happy with this because after a few seconds he removes the H H D from the doc and turns to face the side wall. He taps the screen a few more times and an explosion blows a hole in the wall.

Message to want to be terrorists, "You can use a cell phone to set off a bomb from a safe distance". Of course the experienced ones already know this but as I indicated in the header this is a training film.


The Death of Accurate Time Over Radio and TV. October 10, 2012.

Remember when you used to hear the announcer say "Time at the tone, eight o'clock"? Sometimes the tone was triggered by the announcer or engineer pushing a button. Often the announcer and engineer were one in the same. Radio and TV stations used clocks that were synchronized by Western Union over dedicated phone lines. Even the manually operated tone was within a second of the exact time. Network programs on both radio and TV started exactly on the hour or half hour so you could set your clock and know it was correct.

The problem is digital radio and TV. Digital media has what the engineers call latency. That's nothing more than time delay. Engineers have to use obscure words to keep ordinary people from understanding them. Digital TV has an approximate 10 second delay. It varies from station to station and even among sets from different manufacturers. Sirius radio has a delay of roughly 25 seconds more than TV.

Think your fine if you are listening to analog radio? Not so! If the station you are listening too is transmitting a digital signal there is delay even to the analog signal. The reason is that when a digital receiver looses lock on the digital signal it switches to the analog signal. For this reason the two signals must be transmitted in sync. At the station the analog signal is run through a delay equal to the amount of delay in the digital processing to sync the two. So even if you are listening on an analog radio if the station has a digital signal the delay is present. When I asked the manager of our local public radio station if they had any plans to run studio time 7 seconds ahead of real time, the amount of delay in their digital processing, he just rolled his eyes.


More on Addressing Envelopes. September 29, 2012.

Guest Rant.

I don't want to give the impression that I am throwing my rants page open to all who need to vent. This one is especially close to what I believe about the modern educational system and is on the same subject as an earlier rant of my own. If you want to rant get your own webpage. Registering a domain name is quite inexpensive and most registration sites will throw in a small page for free.

Guest Rant from Peter.

Hi,

My wife and I are utter failures teaching my stepdaughter the simple things in life. Last year she was headed to UCLA as a freshman (freshwoman? Doesn't sound right). Me being a product of the school system of the '60's I learned many things. I served in the US Army from '69-'71 and 1yr. in Viet Nam, and has been 40% disables (PTSD, agent orange heart issues, etc.) so I took advantage of the VA's benefits for my daughter's tuition. Finally I'm getting something in return from my service. Anyway, I digress.

In order to qualify for the VA grant for her tuition, I had to obtain a letter from the IRS to prove that she had no income the previous year to show the VA. Since she was already settled in her dorm in UCLA, I had to ask her to go to the local IRS office to get the letter and mail it to me, since IRS can only give her the letter, she had to do it. No problem, she got the letter.

Then the shock and awe of being a parent came home to roost. She called the next day and she asked me (as God as my witness): "Dad, how do I mail a letter?". After I picked myself up from the floor, I explained to her the complicated process of buying a #10 envelope, putting her return address on the top left and my address in the middle, then buying a stamp and mail it. I assumed I was pretty clear, then she asked: "What's a stamp and where can I buy one? I don't have too much money so I hope it doesn't cost too much". After explaining that she can buy one at a post office, and yes, she asked what's a post office? I don't think I need to continue this example of a 18 year old girl being clueless in LA. If Johnny Carson was still around, his writers couldn't come up with anything better than this.

And yes, she has an iPhone, listens to MP3 music on her computer thinking that it's almost like live. We're doomed!

Regards,

Peter.


The death of hi-fi. September 12, 2012.

High Fidelity Sound, 1948 to 2008. R I P.

The birth date of Hi-fi shouldn't be in dispute. 1948 is the year that the Columbia record company introduced the 33-1/3 RPM long playing (LP) record. For the first time entire symphonies could be recorded on a single disc. Consumers began to demand more than the boomy open back consoles that had been previously sold, and they got it. Turntable, pickup cartridge, amplifier, and speaker, designs advanced rapidly through the 50s and 60s. I will not join the debate here about which way transistorized amplifiers moved the state of the art, nor will I comment on the CD. But for the most part hi-fi sound remained hi-fi until the end of the 20th century.

The computer must take a large part of the rap in the murder of hi-fi sound. As I sit at my desk top computer the speakers on either side of my monitor bare the prestigious name Altec Lansing. I can clearly see the outline of the speaker unit behind the grill and it is slightly smaller than that found in an AA5 but a bit larger than that found in a pocket transistor radio. I cringe at the thought of listening to music on these tiny speakers but the younger generation doesn't seem to care. It's as though they have never heard sound from a system with a good 15 inch woofer or even better a live orchestra or band.

Then there is the MP3 format. It sounds alright on computer speakers but that's like saying that Spam, the so-called food, not the email, tastes good if your taste buds have been anesthetized. The kids are even listening to their music on smart phones for God's sake. Although I am strongly tempted I will refrain from any comments on the music the kids are listening to these days.

Although the mass market for hi-fi components has gone away there are still a few dedicated listeners who demand the best in signal sources, amplifiers and speakers. Hi-fi is like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "I'm not quite dead yet". The death date I have assigned above is completely arbitrary and anyone can probably give a hundred reasons why it should be a different year or why it's too soon to declare hi-fi dead. My point is that it is dying a slow and agonizing death and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

What passes for hi-fi with the younger generation are boom boxes and car stereos. Boom boxes are boom boxes. Is there anymore to be said? And then there are those car sound systems that you can hear booming from 2 or more blocks away. When the bass is 30, maybe 40 dB higher than the rest of the instruments in the band is that hi-fi? I don't see how it can be defined as such. So pick your own year. Hi-fi will be sincerely dead when the last of us who grew up with LP records, reel to reel tapes Klipsch horn speakers and ultra linear amplifiers are all in our graves. My only hope is that hi-fi will be allowed to join us in heaven.


Decision on Healthcare. June 28, 2012.

Well, I'll be damned!

I thought for sure that the republican majority on the supreme court would overturn the Affordable healthcare act. It didn't and no one really knows why although theories abound. Democrats are delighted and Republicans are mad as hell. Surprise, surprise.

The republicans, in particular the tea party group, have vowed to repeal it. That is something they know they can't possibly do but they have to keep their rabid constituents happy. Obviously they won't be able to do it now with a Democratic majority in the senate and a Democrat in the white house. Even if Romney wins in the fall I don't think they will still be able to do it. The chances of the senate turning over to give the Republicans a filibuster proof majority are slim and none. The Democrats in the senate will filibuster the repeal bill and that will be the end of it. Really? So what happens if Romney does win? He will revert as much as possible to the unregulated les a fare economy of the Bush years which will push the country back into another housing boom followed closely by another bust. About that time the financial crisis in Europe will arrive on these shores and Romney will get all the blame. Presidents always get more blame than they deserve when the economy goes wrong and more credit than they deserve when it goes right.

If Obama wins he will also get the blame for the European crisis but he will be a lame duck by then so it won't matter very much. If Romney wins he is in for a big surprise. He won't be able to find that easy button. He talks like he is running for the office of king but he will be amazed how little a president can do without a filibuster proof majority in the senate.


Every Silver Lining has a Dark Cloud. May 4, 2012.

The unemployment figures for April came out today. The rate is down to 8.1 percent but economists and the media are spinning it to be bad news. Even if it had miraculously fallen to 4 percent I'm sure they would be saying, "that's not enough of a decrease, it should be 2 percent." Economists are mostly rich and that makes them more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. Naturally they don't want to admit that maybe, just maybe the Democrat in the white house is doing something right.

I heard one of the Republicans running in the primaries say that he would have the price of gasoline down to $2.50 per gallon within a month after taking office. The thing is that there is no EASY button in the oval office. Everybody running for the office has to know that but they keep making fantastic promises that they know they can't possibly keep.

The president has very little influence on the economy and the price of gas and other things. Like it or not it is a fact that the economy is international and prices are completely out of our hands.


Fear Mongering and Pink Slime. March 18, 2012.

The fear mongers who are constantly telling us what we shouldn't eat have come up with a new one. It is something that is added to ground beef and they have given it a name that has a high yuk factor which is why so many people are exorcised about it.

What is it.

Some parts of the cow that are a mix of fatty and lean tissue are recovered and treated with ammonia to kill any nasty bugs that may be living in it. Then the fat is melted and taken off leaving behind only lean beef. It has a very fine texture because the particles are very small which is why it has been given that unappetizing name.

So what's the big deal?

Opponents of its use claim it is unhealthy because it has been treated with ammonia. Yes, it seems that everybody is afraid of those awful chemicals. Here is a list of chemicals we regularly take into our bodies. Salt, sugar, protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, and water. If chemicals are going to kill us we are already as good as dead.

Ammonia has such a strong smell that if even a tiny amount remained in the meat anyone could smell it. If there are one or two molecules left the act of cooking will drive them away.

After you refute that argument they say "well, there are pathogens" (nasty bugs to you and me) "left behind". Well have people been getting sick in the parking lots of fast food restaurants? If it were happening the fast food companies would like to cover it up but there is no way they could. The purpose of the ammonia is to kill those nasty bugs.

Next they say "But it just isn't good for you." The truth is that ground beef with the pink stuff added is leaner than ground beef without it. Considering the epidemic of obesity in this country we could use some leaner beef. So beef with it is actually better for us than that without it.

As a last line of defense they will point to the yucky name "pink slime". But who gave it that name? The fear mongers themselves.

This is a totally manufactured situation. And it is going to be harmful to School districts across the country. Fearful people are going to lobby their school boards to use ground beef without the pink stuff and this is going to cost more and make the kids fatter. School systems can ill afford to pay more for food in these days of reduced budgets.

This one will pass as they all do but the fear mongers in their never ending attempt to scare the shit out of us will come up with another one. Keep your skepticism at the ready. You are going to need it.

Who are the Fear Mongers?

They seem to fall into two main categories. The first group consists of those who are out to promote number one. And the others have a personal agenda, usually hidden.

The self promoters have usually written a book which may have been published by a main line publisher or self published. The main line publishers send their authors on a tour of the morning talk shows on radio and TV. The others promote their book in any way they can. For the most part they don't really believe what they have written. To them it's just a way to make money and the really successful ones make lots of it.

The agenda people are all over the place in what they believe. They do believe in what they say but it is based on their own set of facts, most of them wrong. Some examples of these agendas include but not limited to, Vegan, animal rights, and natural foods.

Every one is entitled to their own opinion but no one is entitled to their own set of facts.


What Next? February 15, 2012.

Hip hop in its never ending assault on the human ear has come up with something new apparently called "Beat Boxing". The name sounds like the latest fad in extreme sports and the process sounds like a large animal farting. Lord help us!


The Straight, the Strange, and the Stupid. January 2, 2011.

Consider this to be an addendum to the same heading below dated December 4, 2009. This one definitely goes under strange in a subcategory of weird. A man and woman who are presumably on their honeymoon are seen at poolside. She says "I'm gonna take a quick dip.". He replies "OK". She stands on the edge of the pool showing all her feminine charms in a two piece bathing suit. The shot switches to him, who is looking at the screen of his cell phone instead at her. We hear the splash of her jumping into the pool. The shot switches back showing a person in full football uniform climbing out of the pool. A close up reveals her inside the get-up. She says "Are you picturing me as Adrian Peterson again?" His reply is "Don't be silly Adrian Peterson."

We are presented with the situation of a man on his honeymoon picturing his beautiful wife as a man. Her use of the word "again" indicates this is not the first time. Does he picture her that way in the bedroom? I leave that one to your imagination.


Addressing Envelopes. December 9, 2010.

I learned in the second grade how to address an envelope. The teacher explained that the return address goes in the upper left. "The return address is your address. You put the address of the person you are sending the letter to with the name starting in the middle up and down and left and right. Then the address lines start under the first letter of the person's name." She passed out pieces of paper cut to be the size and shape of an envelope and told us to address it as if it were a letter to a friend. She reinforced this several times and by the time we moved on to the third grade we all knew how to address an envelope.

All of the executives and managers of this company must have cut school or were pretty dense. They didn't get the lessens.

This is a bill payment almost ready for mailing. If I write my return address anywhere on the front of the envelope it will come back to me. It must be on the back. How could such a fundamental and universal bit of knowledge be lost. The schools must be in worse shape than even the darkest news reports are telling us.


Don't Call it Football. June 16, 2010.

The world championship of soccer is being played somewhere and the got rocks who run TV are trying to convince American sports fans they should like this boring sport. "But it's the most popular sport in the world" they opine. This isn't the world, this is the United States of America. We already have all the sports we need.

Have you ever wondered why soccer fans in other countries get stupid drunk, start fights, brawls and riots? It's because the game ended one to nothing and nothing is what happened during the game.

This has been going on since the mid 1960s. When the NASL I think it was called tried to start at the top with a continent spanning league and a Sunday afternoon TV contract. Back then I decided to give this new and strange game a chance to see what it was like. The camera shots showed a player running and propelling the ball along without using his hands. That's a good trick. Hands are not allowed the announcers explained. He would pass the ball to someone else and in turn to someone else. Sometimes an opposing player would come into the picture and steel the ball. OK I wondered. When do they set up an organized play. When to they score. The whole thing looked to me like a disorganized physical education class. No wonder they can't score. Come on guys. Let's set up a play and make a run on goal.

They had two announcers in the booth, one English and one American. Most of the time they delivered their comments in a monotone to suit the boring game they were covering. Occasionally the English announcer would get all excited as if something was happening. The picture I was seeing didn't look any different than when he was speaking in a monotone. He would come down after a while and nothing had happened. No scoring. When the hell are they going to score? The game ended one to nothing. I did give it several more chances in case the teams were having a bad day but all the games I watched were like that. Once in a while I see a soccer game on ESPN and watch a little of it. It looks just as dull as the ones in 1966.

We have four and a half sports in America, Football, NASCAR, Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey, and that's enough. If it weren't for the fights Hockey would be as dull as soccer. We probably wouldn't have it if it weren't the national sport of our neighbor to the north.

So give it up TV executives. You can't make more money by trying to ram a sport that we don't want down our throats.

Addendum. June 27, 2014.

Well, they are at it again. The U. S. team's record is 1, 1, and 1, yet somehow they are still in the playoffs. Not one of the talking heads has explained this illogical procedure, I suppose because they don't understand it either. Give me the good old NFL where a win is a win and a loss is a loss.


The Straight, the Strange, and the Stupid. December 4, 2009.

Remember when commercials identified the product being sold, stated what it was for, maybe even told you how to use it, and gave you a string of reasons why you should buy this product instead of one of its competitors?

About half of the commercials on TV these days are completely beyond my comprehension. Another one fourth are irrelevant to or counter to any incentive to buy the product. The remaining one fourth are old style conventional advertising.

An example of the first kind shows some people bowling while a song plays which I presume is called Let Me Be Myself. That's all there is to it.

Another one of the same type shows a football game being played in a driving snowstorm. In the locker room we see one of the players undressing and his skin can only be described as alligator skin. I'm a Florida Gator but I don't think it has anything to do with the Gators or Gatorade. It seems from the symbol to be for a Nike product. Does the product cause this condition, cure it, or prevent it? I assume someone somewhere knows but they aren't telling.

Quite a few low budget commercials have music playing and colorful text that flies by too fast for my less than perfect eyes to read. These products are obviously aimed at perfect people.

For another example of this kind I have to go back several years. The commercial was very memorable. The scene shows a coffin being removed from a hearse and carried by 6 pallbearers across a graveyard. It becomes clear that one of the pallbearers is in distress. After a few seconds he collapses and the coffin falls to the ground. This is supposed to convince me that I should buy a product? I never figured out what the product was so I couldn't boycott it.

One that gives a decided disincentive to buy the product is a recent Snickers commercial. A man removes the rapper from a snickers bar and takes a bite. He is immediately run over by a basketball player. Wow. I sure wouldn't want to eat a Snickers bar in public lest I get attacked and probably seriously injured by a professional athlete. It may be that the purveyors of Snickers have figured out this disincentive because I haven't seen this one in a while.

Another commercial for the same product goes like this. A man states "I'm hungry". A friend offers him a Snickers bar which he unwraps and takes a bite of. Before he even has time to swallow the bite he states "Hmmm, wow, my hunger is just gone." So what's going on here? Does a Snickers bar contain an apatite suppressant that is absorbed through the mucus membranes? They attempt to divert attention from this conspiracy theory by speculating that his hunger went to Germany. They missed a good joke here. Why didn't they say his hunger went to Hungary? No more Snickers bars for me.

Then there is the one in which a man and a woman are seated at a table in what I assume to be an outdoor/indoor bar. It is not clear if she is his wife or girlfriend. She asks him "If Buster", shown to be a dog, "and I were hanging off the edge of a cliff and you could only save one of us which one would you save?" He replies, "You." She goes on, "If mother and I were hanging off the cliff?" He replies, "Sorry mom." She continues, "If it were me and your beer?" He hesitates, "Hmmm. -- -- How high is the cliff?" She gets up and walks away. If she is his girlfriend I think he will never see her again. If she is his wife it will be a very long time before he gets any. Sue says this commercial portrays men as stupid. He doesn't seem to know that if he looses one bottle of beer all he has to do is order another one or go to a store and buy another six-pack.

Then there is another one which I have only heard on Sirius radio. An announcer asks "What would you do for a Klondike bar?" A man says he would give up watching sports on TV, then gives a long list of chores he would do around the house. There's nothing wrong with doing some chores but give up sports on TV? Never!. Here's another guy who doesn't seem to know that things you eat and drink are not unique but millions are manufactured every year. What would I do for a Klondike bar? Go to the store and buy one. Actually I prefer frozen Snickers. Oops? Forgot about that appetite suppressant.


Dragons and Viruses. November 12, 2009.

I have just uninstalled AVG. They just gave me an update to version 9 and it was really slowing down my computer. A measure of this is the time to start MS Word. Without AVG it starts in 9 seconds. Just before I uninstalled AVG M S W would take over 2 minutes to start. It has slowly been getting worse over the last few months. Just last month version 9 came out and that's when the last straw was loaded onto the camel. About every half hour something in AVG would run and take focus away from what ever program was running. Jaws would stop reading and I would lose control of the program. That was so annoying that I decided to uninstall it. It hasn't detected a virus in several years and the best protection is to be careful what messages you open. I have reinstalled the free version. Time will tell if it is hogging computer resources the way its paid sibling does.

Several years ago I, and a bunch of other people, got rid of Norton because it became too intrusive. It was preventing some of my older programs from opening, blocking websites I knew to be safe and completely shutting down my home network. That was good cause to dump Norton.

Avg was blocking the help section of Yahoo groups and my own website. And as I stated above was slowing down my computer.

Quote. The man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself. End quote. Friedrich Nietzsche.

Norton fought so long against viruses that it became a virus. AVG is going in the same direction.


Heroes, Hype, and Airheads. July 22, 2009.

On July 20, 1969 the Apollo eleven lunar module landed on the moon and Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the lunar surface.

A few weeks ago the weather channel started hyping the appearance of someone named Al in a "Wake-up with Al" routine. They never did give Al a last name. Perhaps he doesn't have one or the WC execs think he is so well known that they didn't need to use his last name. I can't remember ever hearing of a meteorologist named Al.

Unlikely as it may seem these two time lines intersected in the early morning hours of July 20, 2009. This Al was interviewing Buzz Aldrin as part of the national recognition of the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing. As the interview progressed it became clear that Al was ill informed and ill prepared. Not only that, he consistently tried to interrupt Mr. Aldrin before he had finished even one sentence of his answer and finally started talking over him. This was rude and showed total disrespect for a great man. Both Al and the Weather Channel owe Mr. Aldrin an apology.

I have no idea who this man Al is but he seems to be a total airhead. I have no respect at all for him and my level of respect for, and confidence in, the Weather channel has been considerably diminished. From now on when ever I hear Al's voice my TV set will be switched to another channel or off. I think the Weather Channel should send him back to where ever he came from.


Healthcare. July 18, 2009.

The healthcare debate currently underway in Washington DC seems to be generating more heat than light. Those who are opposed to doing anything are painting it as a doomsday scenario. If the bill is passed the sky will fall, the moon will crash into the earth, and the dinosaurs will return. I recently saw an email message in which someone was regurgitating this message without a shred of evidence known personally to the sender.

On the other hand those who are for it are saying that after the bill is passed the cost of healthcare will fall to a small fraction of what it is now, the millennium will arrive and we will all live happily and healthily ever after.

As with most things of this kind the truth lies somewhere in between. Finding this truth is so difficult for the average person as to be next to impossible. All we can do is read all we can, with an open mind, listen to public radio, and try to understand instead of just excepting what a senator on one side or the other has to say.

Our healthcare system in the United States is going to change whether we like it or not. If the present trends continue unchanged healthcare costs will be 90% of GDP in 20 to 30 years. Of course this situation is unsustainable and some corrective force will set in before that point is reached. This will change the healthcare system and it is a certainty that it won't be for the better. Doctors won't like it, drug companies won't like it, hospital administrators won't like it, even big insurance companies won't like it, and patients most assuredly will hate it.

We can do nothing and let the system correct itself in a chaotic manor or we can make relatively small changes over time and keep the train on the tracks. The best way to change any system is by evolution not revolution.

So, can our glorious politicians make such changes? I doubt it. Those who keep track of such things have known for 50 years that the social security system was headed for bankruptcy when the baby boomers retire. Our legislators have made miniscule changes in the system that have postponed the inevitable by a few years but they lack the intestinal fortitude to make the really hard decisions.

Social Security and Medicare are headed for a train wreck and you can add to that a healthcare train which will be a part of the same impact. Our politicians will continue to fiddle as the speeding trains get closer to disaster while no one thinks to apply the breaks. Then after the crash they will wring their hands and cry saying "why didn't someone tell us this was going to happen."

JOKE.

Three doctors were discussing their favorite kinds of patients. Doctor 1 said he liked working on librarians. "Everything inside them is in alphabetical order." Doctor 2 said he liked working on electrical engineers. "Everything in them is accompanied by a detailed schematic diagram with test points marked. It's easy to figure out what's wrong and easy to fix it." Doctor 3 said he preferred working on politicians. There's no heart, no spine, no guts, and the head and the ass are interchangeable.


Hard to use programs. July 1, 2009.

I have a wonderful picture editing program known as Adobe photo deluxe business edition 1.1. It has a start menu on the left. Each selection in this menu brings up a set of tabs along the top of the screen and each tab brings up an operation and a short set of instructions about it. There is no animation that someone thought was funny or cute, no flyouts, (what ever the hell a flyout is), no hard to find little green dots your supposed to click to tell the program to do what you just told it to do, nothing like that.

Don't waste your time trying to find this wonderful program, it is many years out of print. Adobe has replaced it with a higher numbered version that is as hard to use as all the other picture programs on the market. Even if you could find it it won't run properly on a Windows XP system. There is a patch from Adobe that is supposed to make it work but every time I execute a command it wants to change my default email program from Outlook Express to Outlook. I guess it wants to send an email to Adobe to tell them what I am doing with their software. BTW, I did get it legally. As far as I am concerned Outlook Express aint broke so I aint gonna fix it. Meanwhile I am able to run Photo Deluxe on my 98 box.

Programmers seem to go out of their way to make things as complicated as possible. I do know how to program and the proof is a page where you can download some programs I have written. I think the mind set among professional programmers is that if they make the program too easy to use their bosses will think they aren't doing their jobs. Also their thought processes are very complex. They often don't even see the easy way to do something. As far as they know the complicated way is the only way because they thought of it.

Then there is the matter of "the next version". It has to be enough different so users will have to learn some of it over again. It's called planned obsolescence. For example, Vista. "To hell with the user. We are out to make as much money as we possibly can."

I don't have this information first hand so I wont mention the program name. I am told there is a particular bug in a well known screen reading program. It has existed for several years and several versions. The company knows about it and has known for about as many years. Why should they fix it. They don't have to use the program, they just sell it.

I did warn you this is a rant. Another thing that bugs me about programs is that once you learn to use one of those complex programs you are stuck with it because to change would mean to learn from square one. You might be inclined to change when a new version comes out but few people will actually do that. The problem is the user interface. Each company has patents on its user interface and compatibility is a curse word in the world of software.

Can you imagine if Fords had the break on the right, the gas peddle in the middle and the clutch on the left, Chevys had the gas peddle on the right the clutch in the middle and the break on the left, and Chryslers had the clutch on the right the break in the middle and the gas peddle on the left. Chaos, utter chaos. And lets not even go into the relative positions of low, second, high, and reverse.

Someday all the patents will run out and a standard user interface can be agreed upon among computer and software makers the same as it has among car makers. Then software companies will be forced to try to outdo each other on the basis of speed, absents of bugs, and ease of use. I know I won't live to see the day as I will turn 70 in about 6 months. Maybe you younger people will live to se a computer that is actually easy to use.


Complicated appliances. July 1, 2009.

Radios used to have two knobs, ON/OFF/Volume, and tuning. Early TV sets used to have 4 knobs, ON/OFF/Volume, Contrast, channel switch, and fine tuning. There was that door that opened up to an array of shafts without knobs that only the service man was supposed to touch.

What about the new TV sets? They don't even have knobs anymore. If your grandson flushes the remote down the toilet you will be lucky if you can turn the TV on and off. To adjust something like the brightness or color you have to go through an array of menus that would make Bill Gates green with envy.

CD players, cell phones, radios, even ham radio transceivers have all caught the complexity bug. Manufacturers seem to be saying, "we are going to keep making everything more and more complicated and if you can't figure out how to work it, that's just tough."

What is needed is some competition on the simplicity side. Falling sails might bring them to their senses real fast.


me and I. August 29, 2008.

Many people are confused about when to use me and when to use I. It's not rocket science. Let's use an example to illustrate.

My brother took mother and I to the mall.

Is that correct? The way to figure that out is to take out the other person. That gives us.

My brother took I to the mall.

Oops? How about.

My brother took me to the mall.

There, that's better isn't it.

Now, put back your mother and you have the correct sentence.

My brother took mother and me to the mall.

Another example is.

Mother and me stayed at the mall all day.

Take out the other person.

Me stayed at the mall all day.

That's not it.

I stayed at the mall all day.

Now put back mother and we have.

Mother and I stayed at the mall all day.

Use of me and I without anyone else involved is so engrained in us I have never heard anyone over 4 years get it wrong. All you have to do is stop and think for a second and you will never get it wrong again.


Plurals and Singulars. August 19, 2008

Here's the picture. A news reporter for the electronic media is covering a protest demonstration. He says "There is not as many people out here today as the organizers had hoped for."

Didn't he learn to use "are" when the subject is plural? What's worse is that this is now beginning to be heard on NPR. If NPR falls, the war is lost and the English language is doomed.


Screwed up Metaphors. August 19, 2008.

Something else I often hear on the media is "He has a hard road to hoe." The metaphorical object must be capable of doing the thing suggested. You can look up or down a road, you can walk up or down a road, you can drive up or down a road, you can cross a road, you can even hit the road, but you can't hoe it.

The thing you hoe is a row. That's a row as in a garden or field. The metaphor comes from a time when most field work was done by hand. A row that was full of weeds or especially long would be a hard row to hoe. The phrase became a metaphor for any difficult job.

Remember this and don't get caught using your hoe on the blacktop. You can be arrested for destruction of public property.


The Word Police. August 18, 2008.

And now I'm going to reveal a fact about myself. I usually don't mention this because in most situations, particularly over the internet, it is not important. You need to know that I am directly effected by this issue and have a reason to care.

Fact: I am blind.

Once upon a time I was known as handicapped. Then some able bodied people decided, without bothering to consult with me, that I should be known as disabled.

Let us examine how these words are used in other contexts to see what they really mean.

If your car is disabled, you aren't going anywhere.

If your computer is disabled you aren't reading this page right now.

If an icon on your desk top is disabled you can click it till the cows come home and nothing will happen.

Conclusion: A thing that is disabled doesn't do what it is meant to do. A person who is disabled can't do anything.

On the other hand a horse that has a handicap can still get out on the track and run, he is just carrying a little extra wait.

A golfer who has a handicap is still able to get out and swing the club at that tiny white ball. His score gets altered in some way, I don't know much about golf.

Conclusion: Someone with a handicap has something altered to level the playing field, or race track.

Would you rather be disabled or have a handicap. Personally I would rather have a handicap.

The able bodied word police have spoken and now those of us who are handicapped are labeled as being disabled, helpless, and worst of all unemployable.

Message to the word police, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!

Chairmen and Chairpersons.

Back in the 1970s for reasons I never figured out the word police decreed that women should no longer be known as women. Before that we had chairmen and chairwomen. So the language was changed and now we have chairmen and chair persons. Was it that they didn't want people to know if the individual sitting in the chair was a man or a woman? Well if it was on TV, there was a photograph in the newspaper, or you were their in person, you could tell just by looking. Some of the more strident women from those days wanted to deny that there were any differences between men and women. Like it or not, those differences are clear and undeniable.

Note to those under 10 years old: You will be learning about those differences soon enough. Kids today are growing up much too quickly. Hold on to your childhood as long as you can. Once you give it up, you can never get it back. If you do grow up too fast you may not regret it right away but eventually you will and the sense of loss will last forever.

If there is no picture you still know that chairperson means there is a woman in the chair. What has been gained? What has been lost?

I'm no linguist but I have been told that other languages have a wealth of pronouns, both gender specific and neutral. In English we only have he and she. For gender neutrality we have it. So if we are trying to be politically correct, (you knew I was going to get there eventually,) we end up writing sentences such as this. "The boy/girl had no choice but admit to his/her mother/father that he/she had deliberately lost his/her report card." As for me, NO WAY!

He/She/It.

The human race will be mankind and a generalized person will be he. If there are woman viewers of this page who disagree with that, spare me your tear-stained emails. You will only wind up on my spam filter black list. Send them to your mama instead. It's part of her job description to hold you in her arms and dry your tears.

This whole PC thing is one big pile of she/it. Didn't I say these were rants?


Quality Control. August 18, 2008.

Quality control, formerly known as inspection, has all but been removed from manufacturing. If a production worker's output were to be rejected it might traumatize the poor little guy and he might sue. We can't have that so we will just do away with any sort of product inspection.

Prilosec.

An example of that I am currently dealing with on a daily basis is the packaging of Prilosec. The little pills are packaged in a foil blister pack. Each pill is on its own little piece of metalized plastic and a line of perforations allows them to be broken apart. Once the individual rectangle of foil and plastic is in hand the paper backing may be peeled away starting at one corner exposing the pill.

In the current package I am taking pills from the perforations are completely missing. To get the individual rectangles apart, scissors must be used. Too much glue was used on the paper backing and the only way to get the pill out of its pocket is to carefully cut through the blister. Carefully, to avoid cutting the pill. These packages should have never left the door of the factory.

I wonder… If the quality control of the packaging is this bad what about the pills inside. Are some of them twice the dosage while others are half? With something like a heart burn remedy it likely isn't that critical, but what about medications where the dosage is critical such as blood thinners or blood pressure drugs. I'll bet somebody is a-fixin-to get sued.

Software.

I can already hear the "amen's from the back pews. In many different software programs from many different makers I have found bugs. They were easily repeatable and should have been found if someone had only sat down and run the program through all of its possibilities.

In many programs there are several different paths to accomplish a given goal. If the manufacturer's instructions are followed to the letter these bugs usually don't show up, with a notable exception I will describe below. But if you go off on your own and do it a different way the bugs will find you.

I never waste my time with instruction manuals. For the most part they are useless anyway. You get a program with a 2 inch thick manual and you are supposed to read through it and remember everything you read. They are poorly written with paragraphs that refer to something 100 pages away from the present page so you have to keep paging back and forth and soon you forget what it was you were trying to figure out. It seems they never heard of step by-step instructions, step 1 … step 2 … step 3… etc. Further more if you are trying to look something up in the index you can only find it if you call it exactly what the programmers called it. For example if you want to learn how to type in a formula you won't find it using those words. The same goes for the help menu. Both are next to useless and trial and error is about the only way to figure out how to use a program.

Evidently those beta testers follow the instructions and never get off the main highway. That leaves the rest of us to find the bugs and for the most part figure out on our own how to work around them.

Once when I reported a bug to a help line and suggested that it should be fixed I was told "We don't do special things.". In this case I was following instructions to the letter. Apparently they just didn't fix bugs. That company is no longer in existence. I wonder why.

Artificial Stupidity.

Open Microsoft word but don't press any keys. Now close it. You will be asked if you want to save changes to the file. What changes? What file? Instead of artificial intelligence this is an example of artificial stupidity.


Don't bother looking here for the date of the last update. It's on the newest rant at the top of this page.


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