Coffee heat rising

Why are American products in the can?

Because nothing better is on offer, at least not for what most people can afford?

American consumers tend to look for the best they can afford. When they find there’s nothing any better than what’s on offer, they take what’s on offer. Eventually manufacturers realize that if they keep their production standards low so as to keep (at least some) prices low, people will buy products built to a lower standard: cheaper to produce than the older, better-quality products were, and easier to sell lots more units.

Car manufacturers have been forced, by government regulation, to produce vehicles that have at least some safety features that we didn’t have back in the “good” old days. Fine: cars have shoulder harnesses and effective brakes and at least something more than a layer of plastic between you and the oncoming. It would be hard to argue that automobiles are not better than the ones we had in the 1950s. Lots better.

But now look at appliances:

Stoves that have no real burners: just sheets of glass with hot spots. Fewer details to have to clean: true. But problematic when it comes to popping corn, to any kind of preparation that requires rapid changes of heat, to creams and sauces that require accurate temperature control.

Refrigerators that clank and clonk and grind and roar but work no more effectively than your mother’s did…maybe less so.

Ovens that reside in a kitchen cabinet….very handy. And they’re self-cleaning, also exceptionally handy. But the heat emitted by an oven set to “self-clean”…what does that do to the wooden cabinetry around it? Nothing, maybe…or maybe we don’t wanna know.

Microwaves are extremely…uhm, kewl. We didn’t have those in the good ole’ days. Cooking the breakfast bacon left you with a pan holding a puddle of grease to clean up, and there was no such thing as heating a bowl of soup or a dish of leftover spaghetti in 60 seconds.

Sometimes I think — maybe le mot juste is “know” — that the sense that newer ain’t necessarily better is a function of old age. Yep: I’m getting crankier. I’m getting more and more reluctant to have to learn new devices and new procedures to do tasks that have always been simple and inexpensive to accomplish. This Brave New World of ours ain’t for the faint of heart.

Or for anyone who’s sot in her ways… 😀

Have to drive down to the dentist’s this morning. Don’t wanna.

But not because I don’t want to visit the excellent dentist, but because I just don’t want to drive to 16th Street and Maryland right this minute.

It’s not very far. No. But…the roads will likely be blocked with construction and certainly clogged with lunatic nitwit drivers. People around here seem to lose touch with common sense when they get behind a steering wheel. They jerk around. They run signals. They ride the center lane. They drive 25 mph in a 35 mph zone. They refuse to get out into the intersection when preparing to turn left. They refuse to turn right on red, nevvermind that no traffic is coming. They tailgate. They get into the fast lane and drive so slow they invite their fellow homicidal drivers to tailgate.


What used to be fun — driving around town — has evolved into an unpleasant experience. I used to love to drive — in fact, sometimes used to waste gasoline just puttering around exploring the city. No more! If I could never have to get on the road again — private car or public transit — I’d be happy.

And I suspect that sentiment applies to other modernized tasks, like shopping. Yeah…like shopping for a GD refrigerator.

Wanted: Indiana Jones for Senior Consumers

One of the many joys (yes: that’s /s/) of aging is the attitude of Americans toward the elderly. This ranges from the nasty to the predatory: overall, Americans regard their older compatriots as idiots, negligible fools, and nuisances. One aspect of this is said to be that merchandisers all across the board target the elderly (when they notice us at all) for scams and rip-offs.

It’s true: they can and do pull the wool over your eyes more often and more easily, because older people tend to be more trusting. And if experience serves…that opinion appears to be true. I do not remember vendors, back in the day of my Misspent Youth, trying to cheat me, people trying to feed me ridiculous and obvious lines of bull, salespeople trying to overcharge me as a routine matter…and on and on.

The business with the junk refrigerator is a case in point. Nothing more has been heard from AMEX about that fiasco — one of the several “fun” chores on the slate for today is to call American Express and rattle their cage about that. Meanwhile, I need to buy another refrigerator — one that doesn’t keep me awake all night rattling and roaring…which will set me back another $1400.

It useta be… that when I wanted something, I would do the research on-line and in consumer publications; then go into a store and say I want this and this and this, and I do NOT want that and that and that. The sales person would appear to understand plain English, and s/he would show me this and this and this and NOT show me that and that and that.

Now that I’m Old, though…EXACTLY the opposite happens. Sales people seem to assume that I’m naive, stupid, and just plug-incompetent.

When, O dear merchandiser, when you insist on hustling me to buy something that is not what I asked for, and when I can see that what I asked for is right there on the floor, then I perceive that you’re trying to rip me off. (Yes: upselling me when I know exactly what I want IS a form of rip-off, thankyouverymuch.) And, my friends…that perception happens more and more often with every passing month of age. How can I count the ways that I’m sick & tired of nitwits trying to rip me off when they decide that because I’m old, I must be stupid?

At this point…seriously: I would be willing to pay a fee to someone who would go to the vendors in town to do the shopping I need to have done — I would PAY YOU to order a refrigerator for me. I would PAY YOU to buy me a new microwave. I would PAY YOU to take my car to the dealership, get it serviced, and repel all offers of unnecessary work. I would PAY YOU to get the plumbing fixed. Because even if I paid you for those things, I would save money…and also escape a great deal of aggravation and frustration.

The Scaredest Moment…

I love the Quora site as a source of writing exercises. The site’s modus operandi is to throw out questions and ask people to respond with little essays.

Because they open the questions to everyone who signs up, of course this MO generates a spectacular amount of stupid trolling from real or de facto eight-year-olds. Some people never do grow up. 😀

However, every now and again someone poses a query that functions handsomely as a writing prompt. One such was this:

What Was Your Most Frightening Moment?

There’s something wrong with me, I guess, that causes me not to get scared until after the fact. It’s ever been thus…the first time I understood that was what happened occurred when the driver of a steam roller almost ran me down as he was flattening asphalt in an alley behind our house. I managed to jump onto a fence and haul myself out of the way, feeling the thing brush my clothes. Not scared till a few minutes later, after I realized how close to death I’d come. I was a little kid: 8 or 10 years old.

Adrenaline makes my world slow down. One day I was driving in to my first job from a suburb. At the time, you had to drive several miles across a country road through cotton and onion fields. A dumb kid, I was flying low across this two-lane road, driving a ’67 Ford Fairlane, one of the most dangerous pieces of junk ever conceived by an American carmaker. From the right, some farm worker ambles onto the road — he doesn’t see me coming and now he’s smack in front of me and I’m going 60 miles an hour. Or more.

I slam on the brakes. In those days there was no such thing as anti-lock brakes. Or adequate seat belts. Or air bags. Or any other such debris. And I’m a kid, remember: a dumb one, at that. I don’t know any better than to tromp the brake pedal to the floor.

The car actually JUMPS into the air. No Joke! It leaps into the air and comes down in the oncoming lane, its wheels presumably still spinning at 60 miles an hour. I look up and there’s a car in the oncoming lane, flying straight at me, a horrified look on its all-too-visible driver’s face.

At this point a series of thoughts goes through my mind.

The clown who pulled out in front of me is now in the lane that my car leapt out of. He’s moving right beside me, fast as he can go because of course he figures he’s about to get smashed, too. The choices are three:

Pull my car back into my lane and broadside the guy beside me.
Pull left onto the left-hand shoulder and pray the guy in the oncoming car doesn’t also try to pull off the road.
Head-on the guy in the oncoming lane.

Literally, I’m thinking this stuff through: it’s weird how clearly you can think and how fast you can think, given a large enough dose of adrenaline.

I decide on option (b): Pull off the road to the left. At 60 miles an hour.

Well, probably a little slower than that, because of course I have slammed on the brakes at one point…to little avail. The car is probably moving at about 40 to 50 mph at this point.

Incredibly, the dirt on the shoulder was hard enough that the car’s wheels didn’t sink into it.

Incredibly, the guy in the oncoming lane didn’t think fast enough to pull his car to his right, onto the same shoulder.

Incredibly, my car did not careen into the irrigation ditch beside the road.

Incredibly, my car did not spin out.

There’s only one explanation: God was on my side that morning. And on those other two guys’ side.

No, I was not scared at any time while this antic was occurring. Only after the other two cars sailed off and I caught my breath did a moment of terror arrive. I managed to make it to a gas station at the intersection of the country lane and a freeway, where I had to stop, go inside, and sit for a good half-hour or 45 minutes before I could get back in the car and proceed to work.

Not a bad little squib, eh?

Et vous? What was your most terrifying moment?

MacBook Is Back!! So…

…sooooo I get to work my pea-brained self to death.

Client has a paper in R&R (revise & resubmit) phase for a journal she’s been targeting. She sent that along late last week, at which point I made yup yup yup putting-off noises, because working at the iMac on the desk in my office causes excruciating hip and back pain.

That was 7600+ words that needed to be re-edited. Argh. It wasn’t completely put off, but the truth is I didn’t make much headway because I couldn’t sit in front of the big computer any length of time.

Apple called yesterday saying to come pick up the refurbished computer. It was late in the afternoon by the time I managed to get there (like I have nothing else to do but drive around the city, Dear Apple?). Meanwhile  Gerardo was underfoot and I had to cook 10 days or two weeks’ worth of dog food and I had to go by the pool store and baby, it’s hot out there and by the time I got back I was pretty whipped.

So by this morning the fatlady was running mighty late on the client’s project. Spent most of the day moving that off the virtual desk.

The new keyboard is MUCH easier to type on. It feels a lot more like the old MacBook’s — and presumably is a lot more like it.

I see they’ve done away with the accursed sliding wacksh!t touchbar blandishment. Had I not hated it with a passion, I would be mightily pissed, because of course I paid more for a machine that had this fine new doo-dad. But given some experience with the damn thing…oh, my. It’s soooo much better to be without it. Now instead of a stupid fussy sliding thing that you have to take your hands off the keyboard to fiddle with, it has a row of buttons with icons, which include the all-important sound buttons, brightness buttons, and a variety of other rarely-used gimmicks.

After finishing the client’s project and shipping that off to her, it was over to Plain & Simple Press Press to update the last of the dedicated web pages for the three FREE books I’ve been publishing there. A PDF for the entire first section of If You’d Asked Me is now online. How exactly one uses a PDF as bathroom reading escapes me. And bathroom reading is what it’s intended for.

Got a message from a reader who kindly passed along her experience reading the PDF for The Complete Writer. She said it looks fine on her PC but is not visible on her iPhone or IPad.

Hmmm… So I’ll have to figure out what the deal is with that. Later.

It’s almost 5 p.m. I forgot to pick up something at Leslie’s yesterday and should go over there right now, since they’re closed tomorrow.

But it’s rush hour.

But it’s non-rush hour: NO one is in town.

Guess I’d better get up and get down there, before it’s too late.

And so, away…