Tagged: societal decay

Bad design is everywhere

I just got a hand-me-down Apple keyboard. It’s wireless. It has a power button which can be momentarily depressed. When you push it, a tiny little light shows up to let you know that the keyboard is on. Apparently, it shuts itself off automatically, or the manual alleges it can be turned off using the button. Pushing the button never does anything other than cause a tiny little light to show up letting you know the keyboard has been turned on again. How do you turn it off? The manual doesn’t say, but it does say that it should be turned off to save battery life. It’s maddening. (The answer I found on a bunch of web pages from 2007.ÂYou have to hold the button in until the tiny little light turns on, then off.)

I have an alarm clock which automatically sets itself to atomic time. This is great, I thought. Now I’ll never have to set the clock manually by hand. Unfortunately, this feature worked once and then has slowly started drifting since then. My atomic clock is now off by four or five minutes from real time. There is no way at all to correct the time — the hour and minute buttons don’t work at all. I unplugged it for a month and took the batteries out. Nothing worked. When it starts getting to be ten minutes off, I’ll have to throw it away. Also, it’s so damn dim, you can’t even read it except in the dark anyway.

And don’t get me started on the new Snapchat.

Not thirty yet

So I’m sitting at the Caribou Coffee, here to do some writing and thinking. There’s an incredibly bad guitar singer here with an amp — which never happens. I’m trying to work, but the old man is cranking out bad renditions of the Beatles and the Monkees. (Come on man, pick one and get good at it!)

I am grateful, then, that I at least have my laptop with me so I can listen to my own music. But there’s some terrible problem, and I can’t get the music working! Windows Media Player says it can’t access all of my files, which is bizarre. So I download WinAmp, copy the music to other locations, try Yahoo Radio, reboot multiple times — anything to drown this guy out, but nothing works. It’s a travesty and I can’t think!

Finally, after half an hour of screwing around and NOT writing, I figure out the driver problem, and I crank up the first song that plays: Sedated, by the Ramones. Ahh, sweet blessed peace. I start jamming along, banging my head and really being happy.

And that’s when I notice them. A group of four ‘tweenies, sitting in front of me, giggling. And one of them has a camera phone and is trying to casually hold it over the shoulder so he can video my inspired Ramones performance. The others are dying laughing and trying to discreetly help him point it the right way.

Not wanting to wind up on YouTube, I stop chair-dancing and just stare at the phone intensely. They quit taping me and act like it never happened.

That’s when I turn on the flashlight on my phone, lean over, and take this picture of the little bastards:

Four punks at Caribou

(Perpetrator in blue hoodie.) They immediately melt in mortified embarrassment. Giggling stops, whispering starts. Nobody can stand to look at me after that.

Suck on it, punks. I’m not thirty yet.

The embarrassment of state-run gambling

It’s not often that I get to say this, but I was right and I have proof.

If you have been reading my site forever, you’ll remember that I wrote about Jack Whittaker, the man who won a $314.9 million Christmas Powerball jackpot, back on December 29, 2002.  In that posting, I argued that the lottery was bad for the people of West Virginia, who are among the poorest in the nation, because it lures them into wasting money on a prize they have no realistic hope of winning.  I still believe that huge jackpots like Whittaker’s are dangerous, because they give hope to those susceptible to playing the lottery, and the lottery almost never pays off.

Unfortunately, what happened to Whittaker shows that the payoff isn’t always something you’d want.  Whittaker himself has suffered greatly from the burden of winning all that money, according to a recent AP news story and other reports.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, July 27, 2007, “his granddaughter died of a drug overdose; he was sued for bouncing checks at Atlantic City, N.J., casinos; he was ordered to undergo rehab after being arrested on drunken driving charges; … and he settled a lawsuit filed by the father of an 18-year-old boy, a friend of his granddaughter’s, who was found dead of an overdose in Whittaker’s house.”  The New York Times reported in 2003 that “[m]ore than $500,000 was stolen from a sport utility vehicle that [Whittaker] parked at a strip club,” although the money was recovered.  But Whittaker didn’t learn his lesson, according to another Times report in 2004, because his truck was robbed again of $100,000.

A lengthy September 2007 AP story, part of which appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, tells the most human part of the tragedy.  “His wife left him and his drug-addicted granddaughter — his protege and heir — died.  He endured constant requests for money.  Almost five years later, Whittaker is left with things money can’t cure: His daughter’s cancer, a long list of indiscretions documented in newspapers and court records, and an inability to trust others.”  He still works, starting the day at 5am, but the story reports on Whittaker’s struggles with “drinking, gambling and philandering,” and by his own account, he has been “involved in 460 legal actions since winning” (some baseless, brought by people who figured he could afford to pay out).  The saddest part has to be that he had hoped his granddaughter would inherit his businesses and fortune, and had structured everything to go to her when she turned 21.  But a year after Whittaker won the lottery, the 15-year-old granddaughter was in Oxycontin rehab, and she died just 17 years old with cocaine and methadone in her system and a syringe and pills in her bra.  According to the article, “Her body was found two weeks later wrapped in a sheet and plastic tarp, hidden in a yard by a boyfriend who panicked when he found her dead.”

Come on, people. Lotteries are bad news.  They hurt those who can afford to waste money the least.  (Interestingly, by all accounts Whittaker was a millionare when he won, owning his own pipeline construction company, so he should have been better suited than most to handle the sudden wealth.)  Most people lose every dollar they bet, or win only token amounts.  No one should play lotteries, and no democratic state should be in the business of profiting off these gambling rackets.  Whittaker’s sad story is just one example why.

…and who NOT to vote for!

Every year, it falls to me to grouse and complain about the abuse of the public trust practiced by certain local candidates who seem to think they own the whole damn road.  I’m not talking about the driving, I’m talking about their signs in the public right-of-way.

This year on May 23rd, I wrote to City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer to complain about violations of the Columbus City Code.  The relevant section of code is 902.02 (a).

902.02 Obstructing sidewalks or streets.
(a) No person, regardless of intent, shall place, deposit, maintain, or use, or cause or permit to be placed, deposited, maintained, or used upon any street, alley, sidewalk, highway, or right-of-way any materials, containers, vending equipment, structures, appliances, furniture, merchandise, bench, stand, sign, or advertising of any kind, or any other similar device or obstruction except as authorized by the transportation administrator, as required by Chapter 903 of the Columbus City Code.

I did get a very nice and considerate voice mail, along with a suggestion to forward my letter to Public Safety Directory Henry Guzman, but neither of these guys has completely solved the problem.

I don’t drive very often, but I did happen to drive down Olentangy to dinner tonight and in a half-mile stretch, I saw signs from five different candidates!  The offenders cluttering the public landscape were:

  • Phill Harmon, unendorsed Republican
  • Mary Jo Hudson, endorsed Democrat
  • Jay Perez, endorsed Democrat
  • Mike Rankin, endorsed Democrat
  • Amy Salerno, endorsed Republican (Ms. Salerno is the winner of this tacky contest, having staked out seven signs on every corner of the intersection of Goodale and Olentangy River Road)

These signs collect all month, blowing all over the street, and then no one takes them down after the election.  Public land belongs to everyone, and is not to be used to one candidate’s personal benefit.  And may I remind my readers of the irony here, three of the above candidates openly violating city law and the public trust are running for judge?

Party and qualifications be damned.  If you put up a sign on public property, you lose my vote.  Let’s have a little dignity and respect for the process.

We don’t have liftoff

Mary and David Savoie had returned to their favorite viewing spot along the Indian River, bringing cousins from Pennsylvania to watch the shuttle launching in the distance.  Joshua Lacy had settled beside them with a cooler, and nearby, Tony Vivian had fired up his radio and grill.

All had staked out a grassy lot beside Route 1 to watch the first space shuttle liftoff in more than two years, but after hearing that the launching had been scrubbed, all left dejected.

“It was going to be so perfect,” said Ms. Savoie, casting one last glance at the Discovery, barely a glimmer across the water, before driving home to Sanford, near Orlando.  “Oh, well, make that past tense now.”

New York Times, 14 July 2005

No, damn it, make that subjunctive!  Regular old past tense is used for things that actually happened in the past!  Grammar idiocy is killing this nation.

What’s wrong with people? II

A word of caution about the Happy Greek. A couple months ago, I got home late on a Sunday night and wanted to buy hummus. Unfortunately, I got to the restaurant about half an hour late, and even though they still had customers in there, the mean woman at the bar yelled at me and told me they were closed. She knew I wanted to buy the hummus! It’s $8.50 a pint! Take my money, please!

Tonight I bought some during dinner for take-away. Not only was I taxed on it, when the waitress brought it out, each pint was only about 2/3 full. Well, at these disgustingly high prices, I just had to send it back. When she came back (it certainly wasn’t her fault) she told me that the owner said it was correct, but he went ahead and added some more anyway.

Excuse me, but at $68 a gallon, you would think I could get the damn containers full, without the attitude and without the tax. I mean, it’s very good, but come on! Anyone else got a horror story?

Uh-Oh Oreos

I attended a really great party last night, with a lot of witty and engaging people.  If you’re reading, you guys were fun!

But definitely, the highlight of the party had to be “Uh-Oh Oreos.” The bag helpfully explains (and I am paraphrasing here), “Oops! We put the chocolate flavor into the creme instead of the cookie!” Longstanding complaints about “creme” notwithstanding, this leaves a few questions.

  • First of all, so they messed up about ten million Oreos, and instead of chucking them into the River Scioto, they decided to make up a cute little bag about them and sell them for money?
  • Secondly, if the chocolate was left out of the cookie, what flavor is the cookie? The cookie looked to be vanilla, but if the bag were honest about it, the cookie should have been, like, tasteless… or clear… or pocked with holes where the missing chocolate flavor molecules should have been. The absence of flavor is not vanilla; vanilla is its own flavor, dammit.
  • Finally, what does this inverse cookie do for race relations?

The Dispatch takes a dive

I just opened my Monday paper and found this weird card tucked inside. Like the entire rest of the paper (thank you very much, carrier), the card was all curled up beyond smoothing. It was blank, but it included a strange, grainy note, printed in a mysterious font. The note reads, “I would like … to welcome you to my world.”

Shaken, and checking for white powder, I continued reading. Looks like my building is blessed with its third carrier in three months. Oh, God, I thought. I’ve become used to finding my paper right outside my door in the hallway… or on a table… or under a bench… or right on High Street. Once it was in High Street. Now, you would think, having been a subscriber to the Dispatch for seven years, and having longstanding family ties besides, that they would take note and put a good carrier on my route. But I guess they’re too busy shrinking the pages. I’m distressed to learn I’ll have to train a new one all over again.

“Please look for your Sunday aids to now come Saturday night.” Yeah, that’s when I was expecting to get aids.

This was discouraging: “Please keep in mind that there will be mornings that I’m running late. To inquire about your paper on those days, please call me 1st. Calls to the Dispatch will count against me, as well ass my manager.” When I read this, I was sneakily pleased to see that maybe all those calls to the Dispatch got the last carrier fired, which is why we have this new one. Then I was peeved: already, my carrier is planning to be late? And then it went on to say, “By doing so, you should even receive your paper more promptly.” Is that a threat? Don’t tell on me or you’ll never get your paper? For this I pay $41.60 a quarter?!

What are things coming to? Time was, the local paper boy or girl was an enterprising youngster with an undiagnosed sleeping disorder. This person lives nine miles away, as the pre-addressed tip envelope indicates. How will we ever build the bond that ensures I get the paper and that might persuade me to grudgingly part with a decent tip? I’ll keep my readers informed. But keep in mind there will be mornings when this column is late.