Monday, December 26, 2016

Paperback Writer Part 2, or “The Further Adventures of Marilla Parabola”

Available exclusively at Amazon.com
Yesterday I spoke (bragged) about Mona’s new book, “Just Pick the Least Worst.”  To some this may be obvious – of COURSE I am going to brag about it, not because she’s my wife (and I really do like sleeping in the same bed instead of the closet), but because she is the writer in the family.  Yes, I write, and have written, but she WRITES.

I mean, she’s the real talent.  I’m just a hack.

I did a lot of freelancing in the 90s.  Was published in a variety of places, including a number of gaming-related magazines.  Made a couple of airline mags.  Wrote a regular column and features for a long-dead Boise weekly newspaper.  Had fun and made some money, but not a lot, so I went back to a real job.  At the same time, Mona tried her hand at writing, and sold a few articles, and then a short story that became a serial and then an actual book.  A popular book, that sadly is no longer in print (but copies remain in the resale market on Amazon and others).

So when she set out to write another book, I had all the confidence that she’d get that one published, too. “Just Pick the Least Worst” is a humor book, because that’s what she really wanted to write, and she’d a very, very funny person.  She’d have to be to be married to me (stop it right there – having a sense of humor is not the same as being funny, although both are needed to be married to me).  We’ve read lots of so-called humor novels and frankly, they mostly leave us wanting in that the story might be OK, but it’s not funny.  At all.  Hence, her desire to write something that makes you giggle at times, guffaw in spots, and occasionally spit something out your nose.

Yeah, THAT funny.  And where does she get the material for such funniness?

From life, and that crazy head of hers.  Is buying a house that difficult?  Perhaps.
Is it as crazy (and hilarious) as she describes it?  Whaddaya, nuts?  You bet it is.

She wrote her first book, Home on the Trail, as a fictional historical novel.  It’s a tale of a couple that flees a life of hardship in Michigan and tackles with Oregon Trail with a group, only to stop short of the goal and settle near Fort Boise.  And even though we’re from Michigan and lived in Boise it’s not about US.  It’s fiction, even though the couple had two kids, a boy and a girl, and we had two dogs, a boy and a girl, and…OK, there are a few more “coincidences.”  But it’s fiction.

So is “Just Pick the Least Worst” – a story about a couple on the move and fiction.  Really.  No, YOU ARE NOT IN THIS STORY and MARILLA AND FORELOCK ARE NOT US.  

It’s the story of a young couple who, after making several moves around the country decide to move from their last rental and buy a home which is a real fixer-upper and the trial and tribulations they suffer at the hands of realtors and bankers and family and movers and even the stupid people at the title company but it’s NOT about US.  Sure, we’ve moved 13 times in five cities and owned four homes and two were fixer-uppers and Christmas with our extended families means four huge meals PLUS snacks in less than 24 hours but this is a work of FICTION.  Any names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is dumb luck.

Fiction.  And it’s funnier than hell, because truth is stranger than fiction.


And no doubt there will be further adventures of Marilla Parabola, because we’re lived a very full and funny life, and we’re not finished just yet.

Paperback Writer, Part 1

The week before Christmas I made mention that,
“…we’re waiting on one more thing, but it actually goes out to everyone on our list, and it’s been the biggest Christmas clusterf**k in quite the while.  It deserves its own blogpost and it will have one after the holidays, because if I explained it all now it’ll spoil the surprise.”

So Christmas is over, and the clusterf**k needs to be explained.  And the picture tells the story.  Like Paul McCartney sings, “I want to be a paperback writer.”  And now I am.

You probably know that I’ve already written several eBooks (five in all).  Now I’ve written three paperbacks.  OK, yeah, all I really did was take the eBooks and turn them into paperbacks.  Before I explain why I did that, and all about the clusterf**k, let me tell you what’s now in paper (available exclusively at Amazon.com):


These three books lend themselves well to the paperback format, and, not coincidentally, they’ve been my best sellers.  However, lately the eBook sales have been lagging, so I thought that I’d try the services of CreateSpace, the book-creation devision of Amazon.  That was one reason I did this.

The other reason will be explained in greater detail in the next post, but briefly – the spousal unit has another book!

Uh-oh…better have the link to “Just Pick the Least Worsthere.  OK, did it, honey.

Naturally, I am happy to see this, and my role in all of this was getting it published.  Her previous book, Home on the Trail, was published by Odgen Publicatons (Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Grit, and many more).  This book wasn’t in that vein, and so…rather than seek out another publisher, I suggested it be self-published (as we planned to give her book and one of mine as Christmas presents).  That’s the real reason I decided to try out the CreateSpace program. And so now that everyone has their gift, I can explain what happened.

The good news:  when I set up my three books on CreateSpace, I had absolutely no problems whatsoever.  The learning curve wasn’t that steep considering I had made them as eBooks previously, and even with a couple of false starts, I got the job done quickly and the books look good.

The bad news:  every possible thing that could have gone wrong with Mona’s book did.

We did have some issues of our own in the formatics – some of it our fault, and one big issue due to their compiling program.  Briefly – even though the title page was centered, and in the preview it LOOKED centered, when the proof came back, it was LEFT justified.  Asking their Customer Service about this got me a “we’ll respond in a day or two” reply, so I went on to the user forums to try to find a solution.  After a few hours someone there responded, and we eventually solved the issue.  Briefly, even though CreateSpace allows for .doc and .docx submissions, it’s best if you use a .pdf.  And, not just ANY .pdf, but one that is PRINT generated, not SAVED.  I didn’t even know there was a difference, and once I did, didn’t even have a program that could do that.  Turns out there are several, including a couple of free ones, and may I strongly suggest that if you need one try CutePDF (link here).  Works like a charm, and it’s free.

It’s a good thing I sought an answer this way, because once I DID get a response from CreateSpace (a day later), it was basically worthless.  I think it said, “Something something these things happen try again and use our preview mode yargle bargle.”

While this response had no value (because it required human intervention), the automatic functions of CreateSpace seemed to work flawlessly and quickly.  For example, once you review the cover and insides to your satisfaction, you submit the completed document to CreateSpace – they create a “proof” for you to do the “final” review, and then, within 24 hours, your book is ready!

This worked to perfection with all of my books, and the first two times we requested a proof for Mona’s book.  Of course, once we finally had a proof that was completely ready to go…the 24-hour window failed.

After about 40 hours, I requested a call from Customer Service (you don’t call them, but put in an online request for them to call you) to find out what the problem was.  I am happy to report that they responded within a couple of minutes, but why they responded I couldn’t tell you, because they had absolutely no idea what happened, why it happened, or how to deal with it now.  The Service Rep told me that he’d have to contact someone in “Technical.”  I told him, “Go ahead.”  So he put me on hold, called (supposedly) and then got back to me a couple minutes later with “well, it seems as if no one is there – they don’t pick up, so I left a message.”  End result was that he’d continue to pursue this and would get back to me.

He never did get back to me, but a few hours later we got a “your proof is ready to order” email.  What happened?  We had no idea and never found out.  So, we reveled in our good fortune and ordered the books we needed for Christmas presents, confident that our problems were over.

Hah.

When I ordered my three books, I had no problems.  The way it works – once you approve the proof, you can order books for yourself immediately (it gets posted on the Amazon.com site a day or two later).  You can choose UPS Ground, 2-day, or Next-day service.  Printing takes a few days, but once printed they send you a notice with a tracking number (UPS).  First set of books I ordered I did UPS ground and they came a day earlier than scheduled.  Next time I used UPS 2-day just to see how that worked, and again, it was delivered a day early.

So we get the notice for Mona’s books that said they were printed on Sunday the 11th, and would ship Monday the 12th.  We asked for (and paid for) 2-day shipping, so we could expect them on Wednesday the 14th so we could box everything up for gifts and get them out before the final weekend.

I kept checking the UPS tracking online, and every time I did, there was no info.  I said a label had been created, and it was to be shipped on the 12th, but there was no indication that it had been received by UPS, nor did it show anywhere in the system.  Every day I would check – two, three times – and there was no indication that the package had even arrived at UPS, let alone was on its way to us in time to get here on the 14th.

And once the 14th had come and gone, I called CreateSpace (OK, asked them to call me).  I asked the Service Rep what happened, where are the books, when will we get them, do you know they were due here yesterday and what the hell happened?  She was well versed in the “I don’t know a thing but would like to get rid of you ASPS” school of customer service, and proceeded to lie her ass off.

First, she told me that the books had yet to be printed.  Once they were printed, then we would receive notice and a tracking number.  I said we ALREADY received that notice – weren’t the books printed?  Well, no, she said, there was a delay. 
“So why did I get the notice?” I asked.
“You won’t get one until the books are printed.  I told you, they were delayed.”
“But I DID get a notice. That means they were printed.”
“Well there was a delay, so you should get them in a day or two.”
“But there’s no information on the tracking report.   How would I know if they’ve actually been sent?”
“Well, they haven’t been sent – they have yet to print them, and when they do print them you’ll get a notice with tracking information.”
“I ALREADY HAVE THAT NOTICE!  It said they were to be here yesterday.  If they hadn’t even been created yet, let alone shipped, why would you tell me they were shipped and be here on the 14th when they hadn’t even been printed or shipped?”
“Well, sir, as I stated, there has been a delay…”

And we danced around like that for another five minutes.  She could never explain what happened to the order, why there was no tracking info, whether the books had or had not actually been printed, or what should be done now except “wait a few more days to see if they turn up.” 

I haven’t slammed a received down this hard in years.

Fortunately, Mona called back about an hour later and got a different rep who noticed (a) our books had not arrived in the prescribed time so we were credited for the shipping costs (first rep never said boo about that), (b) she had no idea where that order was but she would make up a new order on the spot and send it out no charge on next-day status so we’d have the books ASAP.

Unfortunately, she never sent us any details about the order (like a tracking number), so we had to hope that she did what she said she was going to do and we’d get the books on Friday or maybe Monday (since UPS doesn’t do weekends).

Sure enough, we got the new shipment on Monday.  We also got the FIRST shipment, too.  No word as to what happened, of course.

So…we are both published paperback writers.  And we have more material for another book. 

More on Mona’s book tomorrow (it’s a delightful romp – the book, that is).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seasonal Slog

It's beginning to look a lot like...well, y'know.
That’s what we call it; not sure what you call it.  Perhaps you don’t have it.  It’s not really a malaise, or SAD, or even ennui, just a feeling that now, about a couple of weeks before Christmas, things seem…slow.  Really S  L  O  W.  Detached, maybe.

Reasons?  Well, it’s cold.  Snowy and/or stormy.  Even if it’s not cold and snowy, the weather is probably the worst it gets wherever you live.  We have cold, rain, storms…and of course, it gets dark sooner and light later, and the days are as short as they’ll ever be.   And the rain/storms don’t make it any brighter.  No wonder folks get SAD.

People are distracted because of the holidays, and final exams, and a whole bunch of stuff.  We were at Fred Meyer today and Costco yesterday and there are folks there going through the motions, buying groceries and presents and the usual holiday trimmings, but everyone (including us) seemed to be in s-l-o-w motion.  Even the help.  OK, more so than usual – no one moves that fast here on the coast.  That’s just the way it is.

Here in our tourist-town tourist-crowds are Twiggy-thin – things won’t pick up again until spring and the basketball tournaments on the weekends next year.  Some merchants (like us) know it’s a losing game and take their vacation time now.  There are a few still hanging in there, taking whoever comes to town (not many).  I used to joke that we could rename Seaside to “Cannon Beach” in the winter because you could go on the beach and fire a cannon and never hit anyone.  It’s true.  And since locals don’t go downtown to the shops there (they frequent the outlets on the highway just east of the tourist areas), it makes for a very quiet, lonely downtown.

So combine the closed stores and restaurants, the dark, the rain, the cold, the inactivity, the slowness, and you have the “seasonal slog.”  For us, anyway.

We used to think that it was all because of Christmas and the fact that we don’t have kids.  Or grandkids (obviously).  Many say that Christmas is a time for kids, and family, and since we’re just us two, maybe that’s the reason for the glum season.  We do have family, but no one here.  We “finish” Christmas right after Thanksgiving in that we make sure we have everything here so we can ship everything across the Mississippi to friends and relatives in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and New York.

Even that’s slow this year – we’re waiting on one more thing, but it actually goes out to everyone on our list, and it’s been the biggest Christmas clusterf**k in quite the while.  It deserves its own blogpost and it will have one after the holidays, because if I explained it all now it’ll spoil the surprise.  By that I mean what everyone received, not the surprise we got when this seemingly simple process took on a screwed-up life of its own.  As of this writing, it’s only half here (don’t ask) and the other half is somewhere between South Carolina, us, and the ether.  In other words, both sender and deliverer have no clue whatsoever.  Great.

So we’ll slog along until the big holiday weekend, and do our traditional things (again, just the two of us).  We actually like it that way, as we had plenty of crowded, noisy celebrations with extended families to last us several lifetimes.  Good meal, good company (each other), and then we’ll look forward to the end of the year and the most important holiday of all – CAPITOL ONE BOWL WEEK!


Until then, Happy Holidays.  All of them.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Does College Football have an Electoral College?


It sure seems like it.  Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and the Big Ten Champio…

What?  You’re not taking the Big Ten Champion?  You’re taking the other team that played in the Championship?  No, not them either?  Then who ARE you taking?

Oh, the team you always wanted, no matter how they played.  And you ranked them AHEAD of one of the other Champions.  Sure.

OK, full disclosure:  I was born and raised in a small college town in Michigan with two words in its name; one is a woman’s name and one is a word for a leafy, shady recess formed by branches.  And it rhymes with “Pam Harbor.”  So I might just have a bit of a bias against Ohio State.

But there are plenty of people who are like me, grumbling that OSU gets to play in the 2016 College Playoffs, and not THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE.  See, never mentioned my Wolverines once.

The case for Ohio State is…uh…what, exactly, other than they were highly ranked almost all year long (right behind perennial #1 Alabama).  Their one lost was to…let me think…oh, yeah, THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE.  Yes, it was a close game and the winning score came late in the game.

Like the Buckeyes victory two weeks ago against Michigan, a game that, had more referees been from some other state than Ohio, Michigan might have won.  And there would have been no need for the double overtime.

Michigan feels your pain, Ohio.  You lost to THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE on a weird play – a blocked field goal ran back for a TD.  Michigan lost on a last-second field goal to Iowa on a cold, rainy field – had they won that game, all of this would be academic.  Had Michigan State made their two-point conversion late in the MSU-OSU game, this all wouldn’t matter.  OSU had other close calls, at Wisconsin and at home with Northwestern.

But still the ranking committee loved your “strength of schedule” (which included Bowling Green and Tulsa), and…I’m not sure what else.  SB Nation might have said it best today:
The larger takeaway asks what role conference championships might hold in the future. The Big Ten was, without question, the strongest conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Penn State was its champion, and the victor against the Big Ten representative, Ohio State.  Let’s rephrase that for added emphasis: The champion of the nation’s best league was trumped by the league’s runner-up, and defeated that same team during the regular season.

Some folks have pointed out that Penn State lost a non-conference match to rival Pitt (by three), and that the selection committee doesn’t care much for teams to have blemishes like that.  In fact, only one team has ever made the playoffs with a non-conference loss. 

Guess who?  Ohio State in 2014.

Look, there’s a reason the playoffs were created, and then expanded.  Money.  Oh, and the idea that the best teams in the country should play, rather than select some team or two teams (when the playoffs included just two teams) by some arbitrary method.

So they expanded the playoffs to four teams, and it still seems as arbitrary as ever.  It was so in 2014 when both Baylor and TCU got the snub.  It was better last year, as the selections seemed obvious, but there were some that were miffed that the 12-1 Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t get an invite.  No, really.  Like this year, OSU was tied for the Big Ten East Division, but didn’t play in the Big Ten Championship because Michigan State won their head-to-head game (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).  It didn’t help when Alabama blew out the Spartans 38-0.

I guess the committee tried to make up for that slight with this year’s pick, making OSU the first non-conference champion to make the playoffs.

And you wonder why we hate the Buckeyes so.


Personally, I hope Clemson whips their ass, and badly.  Right now OSU is actually favored by three, despite being the #3 seed to Clemson’s #2.  You don’t need to ask where my money is, do you?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing? So Why Complain?

Where, or where, could the right get the idea
about 3 million illegal votes?  I wonder...
Honestly, I’ve been trying to move on from politics.  I had a post ready to go about how I finally blocked, unfollowed, and unfriended some people during the Thanksgiving weekend.  Long story short on that is that I already have plenty of trolls in my life – I don’t need almost-total-strangers calling me names and putting forth non-truths that mask as opinions.  But I let that go – if I claimed to have better things to do (as I did in that post that never made it), then I should actually go do them.  So I did.

Sure, Trump supporters are STILL making claims that his victory was a mandate and a landslide, the latest from Allen B. West where he confuses land with people (because Trump won 3084 of 3141 counties, so it’s a landslide – who cares if no one but a handful of people and some jackrabbits inhabit some of those counties).  One acre, one vote – yeah, that’s the way I learned it.  Much of the Thanksgiving dumpathon was about stuff like that. 

I mean, OK, you’re guy won, but he didn’t win the popular vote OH YES HE DID and GEORGE SOROS IS PAYING THE PROTESTERS and MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS and HE IS ALMOST A GOD and SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

For those of you keeping score at home, Clinton’s overall popular vote margin is around 2.5 million votes.  And rising.

And I had no intentions on commenting on the current Presidential recount situation.  I (SADLY) don’t believe that the eventual outcome will change.  It’s certainly Jill Stein’s right to challenge the results, and I am much concerned that we’re just starting to see the “fruits” of efforts led by Republicans to disallow voting to many individuals (most of them, as the GOP well knows, who vote Democratic).  I am hopeful that Stein’s efforts bring some of that to light (for a wonderful recap, please see Greg Palast at Truth-Out here).

But still, I had no intentions on commenting on the Presidential recount – until the President-Elect did.  And now, all my original assumptions are put aside.

I mean, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I often take the position that if someone makes a mistake once, it’s a mistake; but if someone makes the same mistake over and over, the same way, and it benefits the same party – perhaps that’s no mistake at all.  Was the election hacked, or rigged in some way?  I do recall someone saying it was rigged – loud and long.  And in just one of several ironies, it was the President-Elect who said it.

The system is rigged – he just never said by who.

So Stein raised some money, put forth the applications to start the recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan (the three states where Trump won narrowly), and eventually the Clinton camp said they’d join in the efforts – and then the shitstorm erupted – from the victors.

Let me stop right here and say this – how much would it have taken for Trump and his supporters be gracious about this?  That is, to say something like, “Hey, we won the Electoral College – that’s all that matters.  Go ahead with your recount – it’s the American way.  For all the good it will do you.  We’ll still win.” 

Yeah, I know.

First, Trump called Stein’s efforts a scam.  Then his surrogates, led by Kellyanne Conway, suggested that Trump has been "gracious" by not prosecuting Clinton while the recount was underway.  Say what?

Then Trump tweeted,
“The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused…”

Then he tweeted,
"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

 Then he tweeted,
 “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!”

Then he retweeted four tweets challenging a CNN reporter (Jeff Zeleny) to “disprove” that there wasn’t illegal voting that harmed Trump, including
“[Jeff Zeleny] what PROOF do u have that Donald Trump did not suffer from millions of FRAUD votes? Journalist? Do your job!”
 “[Jeff Zeleny] Pathetic- you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter.”
In other words, instead of proving that there WAS illegal voting, he expects someone else to prove that his claims (currently lacking any evidence) are wrong.  That’s bass-ackwards, of course.

Finally, let it be noted that either he or the Republican Party has now sued in all three recount states to stop the recount.

He is hardly gracious in winning.  But my question is this (and I am not the only one asking it):

IF THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH DOING A RECOUNT, WHY THE FUSS?

DO YOU WANT TO EXPOSE ILLEGAL VOTING, or just BITCH ABOUT IT?

And most importantly,

IS THIS ANOTHER CON-JOB TO IMPLEMENT MORE VOTING RESTRICTIONS so that EVEN MORE AMERICANS ARE DENIED THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE?

Sadly, I think I know the answer to only the last one.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Radio Daze, Part 2

Oh, the humanity.
It being the Thanksgiving weekend, it’s traditional that someone posts something from the infamous “Turkey Drop” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.  I’ve seen it a half-dozen times already in my Facebook feed, mostly from non-radio people.  We radio folks know it by heart because we lived it.  Not necessarily a promotional stunt just like the Turkey Drop, but something similar. 

Radio is nothing but weird stories like that, and yeah, most of WKRP was based on actual stuff that did happen – including the Turkey Drop.  The original event was in Georgia somewhere, and had turkeys thrown from trucks…with the same “splat” result. As God is my witness, these stories are (mostly) true.

Today’s story from yours truly surpasses WKRP in sheer weirdness, and frankly, it’s a gag I don’t remember seeing on the show.  Perhaps because it doesn’t translate well to TV.  Perhaps it’s because it’s so ubiquitous.  Certainly at a student station like WQBR the “I left the mic open” scenario was so. 

My favorite “forgettee” was Mark Santa Maria, who would always move and groove to the tunes he was playing, and neglect to turn his mic off.  One Friday afternoon he was especially vocal, and was singing and banging around the studio, and making a horrible racket.  As we watched from the office, no matter how hard gestured, we could not get his attention to the open mic, and he was oblivious to his own noise.  Finally looked up, saw us out in the office making all sorts of pointed movement towards him, and shouted,

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?

What we want is to let you know your microphone is still on.

But that’s not the story I wanted to tell you, though it does involve an open microphone.  In the fall of 1985, I went to work for KRXX in Eugene, OR.  K-rocks was an AM rocker with an eclectic format, and DJs were pretty much on their own, which meant blues in the morning, pop in mid-day, album oriented rock in PM drive, new wave at night, and ratings a bit lower than WKRP had.  Actually, the local high-school student station had better ratings.  It was a weird thing, trust me, but the story begins a few weeks after my hire, and I am at home, in bed awakening and listening to the station as my alarm.  It’s 6:30, and time for the news.

The morning format was news at the top and bottom for about five minutes, then back to music.  Annie would throw it back to John, the morning guy, with a question about what was going to played next, something like, “It’s 51 degrees at the Rock, KRXX, and what do we have coming up, John?”  John would reply with something like, “In this next hour we’ll have some music from Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, and the Doors.”  Pretty standard stuff.

John had been living with our overnight jock Syd for a while before I started working at the station.  They were quite an item for a while, then, had a big falling out.  It got ugly, and to the point where they were no longer on speaking terms (but both continued to work at the station).  This was awkward, perhaps no more so than at 6:00 when Syd’s shift ended and John’s began.  

On this day, John was running a bit late.  As Syd descended the stairs to the front door, he was coming up those same stairs.  Words were exchanged.  Things got hot.  John, realizing that he was late and still needing to get upstairs and put on the next record, attempted to get by Syd.  She grabbed his leather jacket, ripping it (in her version his jacket got “caught on something”).  He pushed by her and moved to the studio (in her version he “pushed me violently down the stairs”).  He grabbed a record, tossed it on the turntable, deftly cued it up, and began his show just as Syd’s record faded out.

And now it’s 6:35.  “It’s 51 degrees at the Rock, KRXX, and what do we have coming up this half hour, John?”

“John?”  Five seconds of dead air, then, “John?”  And then a grunt.  And then, silence.

The news studio is right next to the main studio, with the customary window between so that the DJ and the newscaster can see each other.  However, at KRXX the news audio board was placed on a high table in front of this window.  And Annie was short…very short.  So she couldn’t see John when he was in his chair…which he wasn’t, but she didn’t know that.  So she stood, and saw that he wasn’t in the chair.  And he wasn’t anywhere in the studio.  As she stood on tiptoe (the grunt), she could see outside the open door of the newsroom, and out the window of the building of our facilities on Charnelton in downtown Eugene into a parking lot which we shared with other businesses in the building. 

And she saw John being helped into a police car.  So, being the intrepid newscaster she was, she raced downstairs to see why.

Leaving her door open and the microphone on.

At home, I am hearing mostly silence and muffled sounds.  No Bonnie Raitt.  No Doors.  Nothing.  I drag my butt out of bed and call the station.  No answer.  Meanwhile, there’s still nothing but nothing emanating from 1450AM on my radio.

Meanwhile, down in the parking lot, Annie is getting the lowdown that John is being arrested on Assault and Battery charges (via Syd, of course).  In an amazing coincidence, she spots one of our local interns walking to school, and frantically persuades him to go up to the studio and take John’s spot until she can call someone and get a replacement.  “Just play anything, quick,” she says.  I know this is what she says because her news mic is still on and I can hear her saying this to him as they come up the stairs.  I know it’s the intern because he had a bad leg and is clomping up the stairs like step-CLOMP, step-CLOMP, and Annie is imploring him to hurry because we’ve got (almost) nothing but dead air.

And I know this because I can hear all of this (somewhat faintly)…because her microphone is still on. 

In fact, the last thing I hear is her realization that it’s still on, as she sees the light (literally) and then I hear “Oh, shhh…” and then complete silence.  And then a few moments later a song comes on.

I took a shower and got dressed, and headed for the phone to find out what the hell happened, but before I could, John’s voice was on the radio, apologizing for the time out, thanking the intern, “and now, here are the Doors, on KRXX.” 

Later at work, I got the whole low-down.

Once at the police station, John explained what happened on the stairway, and somehow got the cops to drive him BACK to the radio station, all within 20 minutes.  Later that morning Syd and John went to the police station to deal with the situation.  She eventually dropped charges and from then on would hide in the Production studio until she heard John’s voice on the air, and then she would leave the station.  BTW, that procedure lasted about two weeks before the next blowup (at an all-staff meeting – how fun!).  That just might be another story.

I kept waiting for some fallout from listeners about the silence, the dead air, the weird background noise instead of music.  No one called, no one complained. 


We really did have lousy ratings.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Radio Daze, Part 1

Was it this bad?  No, not initially.
This past week some friends let me join a new group – The WQBR Old Folks Home.  It’s a Facebook group, apropos for this bunch, as it’s a mötley (crüe) collection of former Eastern Michigan University students who used to “…work (or at least hang out) at WQBR Radio…” 

That’s me in spades, as I spent more time there than most.  I was there three times – from 1971 to 1973 (when I dropped out of college entirely), then 78-9 (when I finished my degree…finally), and then again from 1982-4 (when it seemed I just couldn’t get enough of dear old EMU).  Each time I enjoyed my time there, learning (of course) but perhaps more importantly, smoking dope the camaraderie that existed among all the staff.  And of course, all that camaraderie means I have stories to tell.  Here’s the first, and it involves “the couch.”

No, not what happened on it.  We all know that.  Even first semester students got wind of the couch’s “unique characteristics.”  You’d know they knew when you invited them into the office area and asked them to sit, pointing at the couch, and they’d look at you and say, “No thanks, I’m good.”  No, this is about how we got the couch in the first place.  In fact, it’s how we got ALL the initial batch of furniture.

When I came back in 1978, WEMU has just left 129 Quirk for King Hall, leaving the former studios for the newly-christened WQBR (it was WHUR initially).  Some of the offices were taken by broadcasting faculty, leaving the 3 studios for WQBR.  The main studio (with a board as old as Marconi’s mother) remained, the production studio was empty (we wouldn’t get a real production area until 1983 when a new board replaced Marconi’s mom, which moved to production), and the large open “live” studio was to be our office area.

Except we had no furniture at all, except for a very large (awkward) table.  That was it.

Buying furniture was out of the question (we had zero budget).  I asked Admin about getting some desks and chairs from Surplus, and was told that requisitions would take “a while.”  No offer to help (or to speed up the process) was forthcoming, so I called the EMU Physical Plant myself, and found that without a faculty advisor’s signature, there was nothing they could do.  I asked them what type of furniture was available, and they told me that all sorts of things would be on hand, usually.  “In fact, we’re starting to collect a whole bunch of items right now from Downing Hall.”

Oh, really?

There’s an old saying that, as long as you LOOK like you know what you’re doing, no one will question you.  It seemed simple to me – if we followed the standard routine, the Physical Plant would take furniture out of Downing Hall, drag it to the Warehouse, wait for our requisition, then drag it back to Quirk Hall.  Or, we could take a shortcut and eliminate the middle.

So we took a few burly DJs over to Downing (did you laugh there?  I certainly did) and we started picking out furniture.  We found chairs, desks, and the infamous couch out in the halls, properly tagged for surplus…and all for the taking.  Best of all, we were there only about a half-hour, and no one said a word.  Well, that’s not true.  One RA saw what we were doing and said, “Hey, what’s going on?”  I quickly grabbed some papers from my back pocket and replied, “It’s OK, I’ve got paperwork.” He waved us on (couch and all).

By the way, I have NO idea whose inspired creative thinking caused us to grab the couch.  I should tell you that it’s a tradition I continued when I started up KEDM in Monroe, LA (and yes, it was a used couch – tradition!). 

Once we got all of the furniture back to Quirk and set up, it made for a very nice office area.  Certainly the students were pleased, but Admin…well, only once did someone ask me about it, wondering out loud if they really wanted to know how we got it and/or where it came from. 


Probably not.  Especially the couch.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Enablers in a Bubble

It was a week ago that Americans went to the polls, and later that evening discovered that one of the most shocking results in history had occurred – Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.  During the last seven days much has been discussed as to how (and why) this happened, but most of us can agree that:
  • Trump won the southern states as expected
  • Hillary Clinton won the east and west coasts, as expected, and
  • Trump was able to pull out enough wins in so-called “swing states” to gain an Electoral College victory.  Some of these wins were of razor-thin margins where neither candidate received a majority of votes (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania…and Michigan has yet to declare as of this writing).
  • Despite an Electoral College win (currently 289-232 with Michigan’s 16 votes still outstanding), Trump had fewer overall votes than Clinton.  As of today, he trails by about 760,000 votes (according to CBS).  Other reports show her lead to be almost a million.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump won the race.

In an election year where the word “strange” was used perhaps more often than ever before, it seems we still need to use it to describe the aftermath.  For several days thousands have taken to the streets to protest Trump’s victory (and let me state for the record that I am 100% supportive of the PEACEFUL protests, which the majority has been – violence against people or property is not condoned).  But for an equal amount of time the other side has ALSO protested (and been violent against property and people).  And they were the victors.

Gracious winners my ass.

Trump becoming President-elect has emboldened some to ratchet up their racial taunts.  Reports of women in hijabs being endangered, Latino schoolkids threatened by their teacher with deportation of their parents.  And the woman lucky enough to grab a selfie with Hillary Clinton the day after the election (whose selfie went viral)?  Death threats.

Wait, what’s that?  My last bullet point is in error?  Trump actually won the popular vote, too?

Yes, because Trump likes to win and win bigly, it’s apparently not enough to just win the Electoral vote.  The constant barrage of fake news and outright bullshit reposted infinity times by bubble-residing conservatives re-awoke to declare that yes, TRUMP WON THE POPULAR VOTE TOO SO QUIT PROTESTING and just shut up shut up SHUT UP.

Some of this crap (even calling it fake news gives it more credence than it deserves) declared that while she might win the votes “counted” she would not win the votes “cast” (something about not counting all absentee ballots, which is false).   Some posts used terms like “crushed” and “landslide” noting that many votes for Clinton came from NY and California (as if these two states were no longer part of the union).  Some sites just flat out had the numbers wrong (so put away that stupid Electoral College petition).  This last one bragged that they got the results from “Twitter posts.”  How journalistic of them (they reported Trump 62,972,226; Clinton 62,277,750, BTW).

Of course, when all else fails:
  • blame someone else (CNN),
  • move the goalposts (calling the votes cast for all of the candidates for House of Representatives as the true “popular vote”), or
  • claim that three million illegal immigrants voted (and most for Clinton, of course).

Anything to keep that meme resonating in supporters heads, I guess.

And there’s the attempt to discredit the nightly anti-Trump protests, because we’re all supposed to come together and support the President-elect just like Republicans did for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Kumbaya and all that.

Protesters are being bused in from out of state.  They’re being incited by the media.  They’re being paid for by George Soros.  And the very idea of protesting a President-elect just because your side lost is, of course, so un-American (oh, wait – these pix are from 2008).

That Kumbaya-coming together moment you want?  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  For once and for all - Trump won the election, Clinton got more votes.  But you can't use terms like "crushing" or "landslide" or "mandate" when more people voted for the other candidate.  Some folks are upset about the results.  Many more are upset for what it about to happen.


And here’s the sad thing – when it does happen, you won’t believe THAT, either.  The bubble seems to be impenetrable.  Believe what you want at your own peril.

Rolling out the welcome mat for the new President-elect...in 2008

Remember this, too?  Good times.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What Can I Get for, oh…$25 Million?

"Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."

As you may know, Sheldon Adelson finally backed a winner in Donald Trump, putting somewhere near $25 million (or more) into his campaign.  And as you also might know, rich donors usually expect something for their largess.  Don’t take my word for it – the President-elect said so himself earlier this year about his own contributions:
“When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

Face it; $25 million should get you something more than just double bonus miles. 
So one can expect that Adelson will want something in return – the questions are what and how much?  The “what” is easy – his top three issues (in my opinion) would be
  • Israel – keeping US support strong
  • Marijuana – making it illegal (he’s been a strong opponent of medical marijuana regulation in Florida)
  • Online Gambling – ditto.
The “how much” pertains to whether he can get all three of his wishes granted.  The first one is a slam-dunk, as I can’t see the next Administration doing any less for Israel that is being done now.  So that’s one. 

The other two are the focus of my thought-experiment here.  There are plenty of similarities – both marijuana and online gambling are considered “vices” that are usually handled in by the states.  There are also legal issues unique to each that have surprising parallels.

Since Tuesday, there have been countless conversations asking pretty much the same thing:  “what does the election of Donald Trump mean to my industry?”  Online gambling has been one of them, with two recent op-eds in OnlinePokerReport and PokerNewsDaily painting a dire picture.  The marijuana industry has also taken note that despite the recent progress at the ballot box, it too may face radical changes.  See here, here, here and here.  California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted to allow pot for medical purposes.  Currently there are eight states where recreational pot is legal, and 29 states and DC where some form of medical marijuana is allowed.

Trump has been on record that he thinks marijuana should be a state issue.  He’s also a former casino owner, so he obviously thinks gambling is OK, but his views of online gambling are less known.  And as Adelson proves, one can be pro-gambling yet anti-online-gambling.

In both gambling and dope, it’s not so much Trump position, as those who he would have in his cabinet, as advisors, and those currently in the GOP-controlled Congress.  Think Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.  And Sheldon.

Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug, and federally, it’s illegal.  Because it is, banking issues are the norm for marijuana distributors – it’s a “cash only” business, and they cannot take certain tax breaks available to regular businesses.

Yet marijuana has been a cash cow for states where it’s legal, shoring up revenue streams due to the inability to raise taxes on constituents.  Recent research shows that legalizing marijuana has actually decreased crime (kinda like “consumer protection,” eh?).

Does that last paragraph sound familiar to online gaming proponents?  Darn right it does.

Now the good news (for the marijuana industry) is that many in the industry think their position is pretty good to OK (few say “safe”).  With recent wins at the ballot box, nearly 1 in every 5 Americans lives in a state where some form of legalized marijuana.  Online gaming wishes it had those numbers.  So the only question I have is whether Sheldon gets one or two more wishes from the magic lantern.  If he’s greedy, he’ll try to get everything he can. 

Crap…I think we know how that’s gonna end up. 


Our only hope is our continued vigilance, and perhaps the hope that recreational and medical marijuana can continue to exist as states’ rights issues (and can continue to exist).  In that case, online gaming has a chance, too.  Otherwise, we’re in for a really bad beat.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Not Five Days Later…

As shocked as the rest of us
I wanted to avoid discussing Election Night the day after, and was lucky that we had some medical appointments in Portland on Wednesday so that I was away from the computer (and the news) almost all day.  Initially, I was fairly sanguine about the election results.  I can afford to be – I am a middle-class, older male with less than a year left to retirement.  If any of those attributes were different, I might be less sanguine.  If ALL of them were, definitely so.  Once I got home and read some of what others were saying, I made a vow to wait until five days had passed in order to have a clear head and a clean idea what, exactly, happens from here on.

Fuck that.

I read lots of after-election analysis.  Certainly, the Trump fans were happy.  Gleeful.  Ecstatic.  And why not – they have the House, the Senate, POTUS, and many state legislatures and governorships.  Life is good (for them) and we can expect a HARD turn to the right for the next two/four years.

Dems were sad.  Shocked.  Angry.  Apoplectic, even.  About that anger – it’s OK, IF we channel that anger to work hard and to fight for the things we all care about.  Another direction to channel that anger is to get people to realize the importance of voting and in educating themselves about the issues.

And that’s why I decided to end my five day sabbatical four days early.  It was clear to me in talking with people that there were many more “undecideds” this year than in the past.  I figured that, with apathy (and downright disgust) towards both major candidates, more people would have a hard time choosing.  I figured than one reason Clinton failed to gain the Electoral College majority was because of this, in the form of the new accidental Ralph Nader (Libertarian Gary Johnson).  Mathematically, I’m right, but that’s not the answer.

Paul Harris had it first:
Raw numbers to remember: Obama got 65.9 million votes in 2012 while Romney got 60.9 million. As of 11am today (Wednesday), Clinton has 59.3 million, Trump has 59.1 million. Bottom line: Democrats and Obama supporters didn't show up and vote for her, to the tune of 6.6 million missed opportunities.

Here in Oregon we saw about 75% voter participation.  That’s sounds pretty good, but frankly, that’s shit considering we have vote-by-mail.  EVERYONE who is an eligible voter gets a ballot – all they have to do is fill it out and send it by mail (or drop it off at an election ballot drop site).  No lines, no waiting, no muss or fuss.  And yet 25% of those who could vote, did not.

And that’s the other thing – there were many who could not vote because they weren’t registered.  Nationally, it was reported that almost HALF of Americans eligible to vote (more than 90 million) never cast a ballot.  If you want to be angry about something, be angry about that.  And it you didn’t vote, you have no right to be angry about anything.

So apathy about taking action is one thing.  But “apathy” about being informed is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.  This election showed that “Truthiness” no longer matters.  Say whatever you want.  Facts be damned.  Fake news sites on social media like Facebook and Twitter were given the same “consideration” (I laughed when I wrote that) as NBC, Fox News, AP, and Reuters.  Maybe more so, because they pushed the “National Enquirer”-type headlines that seems to eventually resonate into the MSM when reporting on the candidates, always with the “people are saying…” lead-in as if that was the gold standard of reporting.

No wonder people want to know how to block political posts on Facebook.

Oh, one more thing – Trump called for “draining the swamp,” yet, as always, incumbents ruled the day (as always, 90% of incumbents were reelected).  In fact, many of those who pulled the level for Trump helped sent those incumbents back.  Incumbents like Little Marco Rubio.  And Ted Cruz.  And many other Republicans who failed to “heartily endorse” Trump.  Plus Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

That’s gonna be awkward. Top of Form

So how can we wake people up to (a) pay attention and (b) do something about it?

Well, let me make some post-election predictions first:
  • James Comey’s job at the FBI is safe for now.
  • The ACA is DOA.  Its replacement?  Don’t hold your breath.  As many as 20 million people may lose their insurance.  I wonder how many of these 20 million are part of the 90 million who didn’t vote.
  • There will be no more Benghazi hearings, nor hearings on the Clinton Foundation or Orgy Island or whatever else drops in the next little while.  No need – “Mission Accomplished,” if you get my drift.  The GOP has more pressing issues – they already got what they wanted out of this one.
  • Meanwhile, the Clintons will continue their foundation and their good works on the global stage, and not many will notice except the ones they assist.
  • Based on his own speeches, tweets, and postings, Trump has made a LOT of “first day” promises, and plenty more for his first 100 days.  It’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll be able to keep them all (hint: no). 
  • However, the promises he will keep will be the ones that will cause the most damage.  Don’t take my word for it.

And that’s probably how people will have their eyes opened.  Not by words alone, but with action.  Things are going to shift hard right, for sure, but I believe they’re headed south as well.  When things get bad enough, will the people finally pay attention?


As for me, I plan on giving Trump the same level of support the GOP gave Obama for eight straight years.  Good luck!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trump Sucks, but he’s no Hoover

One of these things is not like the other ones...
Last week I did a political post and claimed it as my last one…so consider this one more of a history lesson, although it does involve politics.  Political history…yeah, that’s it.  And you CAN learn from it.

I’ve seen a couple of Presidential political posts this week where, rather than asking for comments about one’s opponent, the posters requested that commenters say why they support their candidate WITHOUT making any comments or comparisons to the other candidate.  Needless to say, for many this was a challenge (in that they could not resist making some or all of their post the usual “your candidate sucks because…” comment).  I was able to provide seven reasons why I was voting for Hillary, and it took a while for someone to finally post a legit comment about why he was supporting Trump.  Basically, he liked the fact that Trump was an outsider “with no previous political experience whatsoever.”

Of course, that’s one reason I could never support Trump.  This is the most important political position in the land, and while many newcomers are elected dog catcher, school board rep, city councilman, assemblyperson, state representative, even Senator – who could even conceive that a beginner could start at the top?  This eventually came up in the discussion – we HAVE elected individuals who have never held political office prior to becoming President.

Sort of.  In the last century, the newbies Eisenhower and Hoover ascended to the highest office in the land, but their paths (and outcomes) are very, very, very different than the one currently under construction by Donald Trump.

Take Eisenhower.  I like Ike, and many others did, too.  Prior to running for President in 1952, he HAD been a President – of Columbia University.  Prior to that, he dabbled a bit in the military.  No bone spurs for him.  Of course, he was five-star general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and later, of NATO.  He was Army Chief of Staff under President Truman…so while he never held ELECTIVE political office, he was more than aware of and experienced with the ways and means of government.

His prior experience made him one of the most-liked two term Presidents of the past century.  I’ve never understood why Republicans don’t mention Ike in god-like tones like they do Ronald Reagan (who was governor of California before becoming President, BTW).  Ike was strong on infrastructure (National Highways), social and racial reform (military and education – see “Little Rock”) and balanced budgets and higher tax rates (the top marginal rate fell during his administration from 92 to…91 percent).

OK, maybe that’s why he’s not discussed in the same breath as Reagan.  Too bad.

As for Herbert Hoover…he had an Oregon upbringing (born in Iowa, he moved here early in life, and his childhood home is in Newberg, about a 2-hour drive from my house).  So I should be somewhat favorable to him.  So should you – while he made a bundle in the mining industry, he was also quite the philanthropist.  During World War I he organized relief efforts for Americans stuck in Europe, then for Europeans. After the war he was head of the US Food Administration, and continued with post-war relief.  He later became Secretary of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge. So, like Eisenhower, he had PLENTY of experience within the government that he eventually became ran as President.

Trump has no military experience, no involvement with government at all, yet many believe him qualified for what many call the hardest job in the world.  History would suggest his lack of preparation invalidates his claim to qualification.

But that’s not the history lesson.  No, the lesson is this: We all know Hoover was in charge when the American economy fell into the Great Depression.  Hoover made attempts to rescue the economy, but these efforts fell flat, and the Depression worsened.  Some economists argue that his interventions made it worse.  No matter – he was soundly defeated for reelection in 1932 in what many recall as a landslide.

An Electoral College landslide, yes.  But Hoover, despite everything, managed to capture 40% of the popular vote.  That’s right – despite a 25% unemployment rate, a complete halt to construction, bank failures, bankruptcies, and the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (which worsened the already miserable foreign trade situation, but really, I just wanted to be able to say “Smoot-Hawley” in this blog) – 40% of American voters pulled the handle for the Republican.  No matter what the reality.


Just like now.  And that’s your history lesson.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

OK, I voted, so STFU

Honest - each doll comes with a
"Warning: Choking Hazard" notice
 
If you’re like me, you think this election has already gone on wayyyyy too long.  I might be old, but my memory is still pretty good, and yeah, this is the worst I’ve ever experienced.  With about a week to go, I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  My Oregon mail-in ballot has arrived, and I’m just about finished with it – and then I am officially ignoring every damn commercial, phone call, and Internet post that has ANYTHING to do with politics until November 9th.

My wife and I have been reading the state’s voter pamphlet, plus all of the stuff we’ve received in the mail.  Since we don’t have a TV we’ve been spared most of the ads (we see a few online, but many politicians and political groups still have yet to fully embrace alternative entertainment venues like Hulu).  All the phone calls have been robo calls, and we automatically hang up on those as a rule, even during non-political times.  We believe that a “well informed citizen” is vital to the political process, so we are trying to avail ourselves to as much unadulterated information on policies, impacts, and the like.

Politics and politicians are always a bit dirty, and the higher the stakes, the more dirt there is.  Political ads (and the politicians themselves) can range from insipid to downright misleading.  We’ve always known to take anything political with a grain (or two) of salt, which is why we spend the time doing our own research on the issues and the candidates.

Sure, we tend to focus mostly on topics that affect us (health care, Social Security, the environment, and the economy).  We know that every candidate has flaws, and doesn’t always represent our views on everything.  Heck, the two of us don’t always agree, so sometimes we split a vote on a candidate or an issue.  But we do discuss it, and make what we consider to be informed choices.  It’s not perfect, but we choose what we feel is the best option, even if it looks like all options are less than optimal (OK, they all suck).

But as far as information is concerned (and I am being generous with that term), it’s not the stuff coming from the candidates that pisses me off the most.  Rather, it’s the crap that gets posted, reposted, shared and tweeted by the so-called “citizens” that are supporters of the candidates.  There is never a discussion of policies.  There is ALWAYS character assassination, outright falsehoods, and posting of crap (much of it made up and having nothing to do with the qualifications of the candidate).  So much so that it has been, in a word, revolting (I wanted to say deplorable so badly…). 

And the focus is almost ENTIRELY on one race.  The Presidency.

I’ve seen very little on any Congressional race.  You know, the same Congress that currently has a NINE PERCENT approval rating.  The same Congress, that, barring some miracle, will come back largely intact, ready to shovel the same shit on our political process for another 2-4 years, no matter who becomes President.

No wonder I can’t wait until November 9th.

Can social media play a role in elections?  Yes.  Is it doing a good job of it, in that the information presented helps voters make informed decisions?  Not a chance.

I rarely post on Facebook anyway, and have made maybe one or two politically-based posts (back in the Bernie Sanders is a viable candidate era).  I am more likely to respond to others’ posts, especially when they contain falsehoods.  On both sides, believe it or not, but yeah, I have to admit, it’s the stuff that comes from my conservative friends, and it’s mostly Clinton-based posts.

In the last month, I think Hillary has been accused of pretty much everything.  I’ve seen repeats of so many “charges” that have been debunked and shown to be nothing more than a pipe-dream from Alex “I-never-met-a-conspiracy-I-didn’t-like” Jones.  I saw the Vince Foster/Antonin Scalia murder scheme memes.  I saw more about emails than AOL.  Of course, this past Friday’s non-news made some folks downright giddy, if not apoplectic.  By Monday, when it turns out to be no more than the Guinness Book of World Records Nothingburger, they’ll move on to yet another outlandish anti-Clinton meme.  It’s been going on for 30+ years, so it’s not going to end anytime soon.

That’s another problem – when their falsehoods get called out, they never defend them (in the actual “here are the facts” sense).  No links, no facts – they just change the subject.  Sometimes they’ll toss in some name calling (libtards, idiots, etc.) just for effect.  Then they’ll post another falsie (with no proof), and I’ll respond with more of those pesky debunking facts.  No direct response, but more name calling and change the subject (or modify it so that it seems like they’re being reasonable and you’re full of it and so wrong, wrong, WRONG).  Lather, rinse, repeat.

It was so bad this weekend that two responses to my comments on political posts said the same thing, “Well, Trump never lies…”  Seriously.  Not “Trump lies less than Hillary,” or “At least Trump’s lies didn’t get anyone killed,” (oh, wait, that was BILL Clinton that this was said about), but “Trump never lies.”  Never.  Not once.  No deceit Don.  A paragon of virtue.  Seriously.  I gave them a chance to back it up or back off, perhaps take one of the lesser responses I listed above. 

Nope.  Called me a libtard, idiot, sheeple, brain-dead, and then they posted some other falsehood.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Thomas Jefferson said a great deal about how an educated society is vital to having a functional democracy.  One quote (or many) that stands out was
"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."


It should be obvious that Jefferson never had a Facebook or Twitter account.

Friday, September 23, 2016

EAT AND GET THE HELL OUT

Hey, I’m back!  The long ice cream/tourist season is over…and the word is…GOOD.  And that’s how I would describe this year - good.  But not great, and not terribly crazy, either.  The last couple of years were hot, hot, hot; both in Seaside and the Portland metro area.  By that I mean the weather – lots of 90° days mean folks flock to the beach (and to the store).  This year was not so hot and frankly, ice cream and tourism are both weather-dependent.  Sure, people come to Seaside no matter what’s going on outdoors, and some folks eat ice cream every darn day, but weather has its effect both on how many come to town, and what they do once they get here.  As a result, we had a very good year, but not quite to the extent of 2014 and 2015.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but we ran out of ice cream faster than anticipated.  That’s a GOOD problem to have.

So for the last week or so we’ve been cleaning up and catching up.  Working during the summer months is pretty much 24/7.  It’s work, work, work, and there’s no time to get the car maintained, get a haircut, etc.  So that’s what we’ve been doing, and, as we’ve been busy running all these errands, we’ve been eating out a bunch.  We never do this in summer either, and as a result of all this eating out, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.

More and more eateries are moving to what I refer to as an “eat and get the hell out” ambiance.  Now, the picture here is of an infamous spot on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and Bob’s Grill mostly plays the theme for fun (like Dick’s Bar makes fun of being a dick…sort of).  What I’m talking about is a deliberate, but inconspicuous attempt to make diners feel uncomfortable while eating, and making their stay short (and profitable, I assume, as the restaurant must be looking for a fast churn).  Though it seems bass-ackwards to me.  Let me explain.

We all know about fast food joints making their plastic chairs uncomfortable to sit in so that you’ll order, eat, and leave (and maybe next time just take it to go, leaving more room for other customers).  But the things I’ve seen of late boggle the mind because they seem so counter-productive (no pun intended).

For example, the infamous salad and soup buffet house Sweet Tomatoes used to play classical music in their restaurants.  This was appropriate and refreshing (and about the only place I’ve EVER heard classical music beyond some hippie joint tuned in to NPR).  Now, the corporate heads have decided that today’s modern/loud/pop music is just the thing lunch customers want to hear.  Loudly.  Sadly, this trend pops up (pun intended) at most chain stores.  No matter what the target market, all the music is geared to 20-somethings or less, and at a volume that makes dinner conversation a lost art because no one can hear it.  I SAID IT’S PLAYED AT A VOLUME THAT MAKES DINNER CONVERSATION A LOST ART BECAU…never mind.

Like I said, this is done DESPITE the target market.  Now I am guessing on some of this, but for the years we’ve been going to lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, the bulk of the crowd is 50+.  Yes, there are some working stiffs (again, older ones), and a few families with small kids, but it’s the era of music from the 70s, 80s, or maybe the 90s; certainly not that of today’s modern swill (don’t start me – I was in radio for 20+ years and know swill when I hear it).  Worse – go to “senior time” at Sweet Tomatoes, when damn near EVERYONE is 60+, and the music doesn’t change, nor does it get any quieter. 

Last night we went to a new brew pub that was supposed to be “upscale” (in an upscale town with a pricey menu).  To our shock, there were no waitstaff – you ordered at the front, and they brought it to you.  There were TVs on with the game, but as for any other ambiance…nada.  There might have been one picture in the lobby, but you couldn’t see the brewery, and the décor was wood benches and tables and walls and windows…and that’s it.  Did I mention the pricey menu?  Yes, the food and beer was good (not great), but I was still hungry when we got home.  And because there was no waitstaff (just “bussers” to clear our empty plates), dessert was never considered (can’t linger too long to watch the game, I guess).  We might have wanted another pint.  Or stick around to visit with the other couple we went with (who we haven’t seen in a couple of years and lives 10 hours from here).  Nope, we felt rushed, so we left.  I’d say, “it’s their loss,” except they already extracted a goodly sum from us.

Now remember, I own an eatery.  Our ice cream parlor is quite small (seats 14) so when we get busy in the summer I am aware and sensitive to the “there’s no place to eat” problem.  We are fortunate to have a patio (no seats, though) where customers like to go out in the summer to “hang” and eat their treats.  Still, there are always times when tables are full and there’s a couple/family/group who have already finished and yet they tarry a bit…and a bit longer…and longer…and it gets to the point where you want to find a nice way to say, “eat and get the hell out.”

But in all of the situations I described above, this isn’t the case.  There are PLENTY of seats to choose from.  Overcrowding is NOT a problem and utilizing an “eat and get the hell out” strategy seems downright dumb.  Yes, they may have problems at other times of the day, and yes, I know that there are some folks who overstay their welcome as a matter of habit.  Ironically, once place I’ve seen such is at Sweet Tomatoes.  On two occasions there have been large family groupings (in the center of one side, at their long tables designed to hold large groups), where they were finishing their meal as we arrived, and when we left…they were still there.  Obviously, they planned on camping here for a while.  So I know it happens.

But are all restaurants going to this “eat and get the hell out” strategy?  When were at Sweet Tomatoes earlier this week, I noticed that they are in the process of remodeling.  The new décor seems colder, less inviting…


…and they’ve taken the long tables out, too.