Posts Tagged ‘United States’

 

Amazon And Us

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

amazon logoMy dad and I were on the phone yesterday. He told me he just ordered corn flakes via Amazon.

A click in the evening brought the flakes 36 hours later.

“How do they do it,” he asked?

My mom and dad, now living comfortably near my sister and her family in frigid Wisconsin, aren’t very mobile. Grocery shopping is tough.

We’re big Amazon users here too. I’m looking around my office at loads of items delivered to me. I’ve ordered on-line when I could have just gone to Home Depot, under five minutes away.

Is this a good thing? Over the short term it’s great. I get what I want with less hassle and for what’s usually the best price.

Amazon figured out how to get things to me fast using a variety of delivery services. It’s a data driven company. There’s a method to their madness, but no two packages come via the same route.

Over the long run I’m much less convinced all of this is a good thing! Staples announced they’re closing 300 stores in the US. Radio Shack is lopping off over a thousand. Retail’s in trouble. Malls are in trouble. Even Walmart is worried. Amazon is trying to hide in the corner, softly whistling.

At the same time, Amazon’s become adept at extracting favorable tax rates and incentives. A Google search for “tax incentive amazon” shows a half dozen states considering or already offering large sums of money to Amazon.

Everything I buy online I don’t buy in a store. Amazon fills the gap with fewer employees earning less money. I’m not paying today. I’m paying tomorrow. The jobless require assistance. It’s not the workers fault.

George Jetson at WorkIf the Jetsons had properly predicted the future, where George comes to work and immediately puts his feet up on his desk, we’d be fine. I grew up with that fantasy. But labor saving hasn’t meant making life easier for labor. The effect has been quite the opposite.

The convenience offered by buying online is huge. It’s only when you see the whole picture, it becomes suspect.

These are complex choices. I’m not rushing to a decision. It’s confusing.

Dinner At Pink’s

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Helaine and I drove to Hollywood last night. Helaine had some goodies for Stef. It’s a 55 mile drive. An hour and a half last night. LA traffic is as advertised.

Stef met us after work.

She’s been to the Golden Globes, SAG and Grammys. She’ll be on the Red Carpet at the Oscars too. Stef’s part of the team that produces the ‘pre-game’ and ‘post-game’ shows on E!. They’ll be live seven hours at the Oscars.

OK, I’m her father. I’m biased. It sounds like a pretty cool job.

I’m especially glad she’s involved in live TV. It’s a rush when you’re on and there’s no turning back. I tried to explain the feeling before she started. Alas, you can’t properly describe an experience.

We brought Doppler along, which limits where we can go. Who cares? She’s an excellent traveler.

We ended up at Pink’s on La Brea. It’s a hot dog stand, built in 1946, still rocking it’s 1946 style. Pink’s is a reflection of LA’s early adoption of cars versus public transport. You could drive up, get out of your car and get a dog!

I had the “HUELL HOWSER DOG – 2 hot dogs in ONE bun – mustard, chili, cheese & onions.” Huell was a well known TV personality whose segments on LA’s quirky native culture are still played, long after his death.

I also had a Dr. Brown’s Cherry. That brings me back to Flushing, as a kid. The taste hasn’t changed. It was magical.

Pink’s no Glenwood! Will someone please tell Rob I said that.

Our drive home was much faster–a little less than an hour.

We’re very lucky to live so close to Stef. It’s a trip we enjoy taking.

A Hike In Red Rock

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

red-rock-map

Most people think of Las Vegas and stop at casinos. That’s easy to do. They’re built as one-stop shops to separate you and your money. Luckily, there’s a lot more going on here in the desert.

Just west of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year. In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock offers enticements of a different nature including a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.

Red rock 2   geoff.fox gmail.com   GmailMostly, it’s undisturbed desert with great views.

With temperatures in the upper 50s today was perfect for a walk. We chose a trail with little vertical climbing and started out.

We’re actually not sure how long we were on the trail before we lost it. There were still plenty of footprints in the dry river wash we followed and we didn’t go too far astray. We just lost the actual trail!

My Cousin Michael was quick to note, no birds. We did see one tiny gray bird Mother Nature has made nearly indistinguishable from the rocks it lands on. That was it. One bird… and we were looking.

It’s also interesting to see the colors of the plants. Many of the living desert species have colors normally only seen once a plant has died!

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If I Complained About Our Weather Would You Listen?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

sunset-in-irvine

california-drought-mapFrom a human being day-to-day standpoint, it would seem we moved to an idyllic meteorological utopia. The sun shines nearly every day. It’s hardly ever humid, nor hot, nor cold. Since we arrived in late June it’s been totally dry every day but six!

We really need rain. More importantly, the Sierras need snow! We’re already in a drought with no sign it’s abating.

Most of Southern California uses water from the Sierra Mountains. How it gets here is an engineering marvel just over 100 years old. The water takes a 230 mile gravity powered trip to the LA area.

First_Los_Angeles_Aqueduct_Cascades,_SylmarRight now the Northern Sierras have 7% of their expected snowpack. The rest of the mountains range from 15 to 25% of normal. That’s exceptionally dry.

Snowpack is a great water source. It’s released slowly as temperatures rise. Less wasted runoff. It is mainly dependable, but as this year shows, not totally.

Not only does LA and much of SoCal depend on this distant source¹, so does California’s Central Valley. That affects us all, even outside the West.

Virtually all non-tropical crops are grown in the Central Valley, which is the primary source for a number of food products throughout the United States, including tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus. – Wikipedia

There’s also the enhanced fire danger when it’s this dry. Fire season should be over in January, but Red Flag Warnings will likely go up late this weekend as the wind blows from the east–Santa Ana winds.

I relish these beautifully salubrious winter days, but I hope we get some rain soon and the Sierras get blanketed in snow. It’s really needed.

There will be little sympathy from those reading this while shivering.

¹ – We use mountain water too, but Irvine has local sources for the vast majority of our needs. Shhh. Don’t tell.

Eagles Should Have Played: I’m With Rendell

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Note: After writing this I reconsidered my opinion. I am leaving the original up, but you should read the comments which were important in my decision. – Geoff

The Philadelphia Eagles play the Minnesota Vikings tomorrow night. The game was originally scheduled for Sunday night at 8:30 PM. At game time nearby Philadelphia International reported visibility of 3/4 mile in moderate snow and blowing snow. The wind was out of the northwest at 21 mph. It was 25°.

Under anyone’s sense of the word it was cold… brutally cold in Philadelphia. It was unpleasant to be outside. For those improperly prepared it was dangerous!

The game shouldn’t have been postponed!

Speaking on KYW-TV in Philly former Philadelphia Mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said,

This is football; football’s played in bad weather. I think the fans would have gotten there, the subways work and the major arteries are still open, and other fans would have stayed home – but you play football regardless of the weather.

He’s right even though the current Mayor had declared a State of Emergency in the city.

If I was broadcasting in Philadelphia I would have encouraged viewers to stay home. People would have anyway! The game would have still been available on TV staffed by a crew ready for bad winter weather.

I’m an Eagles fan. This delay probably benefits the Eagles. It makes no difference.

It’s unfair to the other NFL teams who’ve had to suffer through pass deflecting winds, frozen fields and limited visibility.

Don’t Ask Don’t Care

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I am incredibly disappointed and angered the repeal of “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” failed in the Senate. The defeat was procedural as ‘only’ 57 senators voted to bring the bill forward. That meant a Republican filibuster was certain. The minority ruled!

It’s 2010. Gay Americans are a mainstream part of our society. Haven’t the senators watched cable recently?

Gay people aren’t a threat. They’re just people! That’s why my personal policy is “Don’t Ask. Don’t Care.”

DADT in general and today’s debacle in particular will be looked upon as an embarrassing moment in our history. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Who The Hell Is Joe Wong?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

My buddy Farrell shot me an email Thursday. Here’s the gist:

I attended the Radio & Television Correspondents Dinner last night at the DC Convention Center. Joe Biden was the main speaker. A couple of funny lines in the beginning of his speech. Also, look for Joe Wong, a comedian, who wrapped up the evening. He has a final line about global warming. I thought of you.

First, I’m impressed Farrell was at the dinner. He is the International Man of Mystery™, but he’s never been a correspondent. At least he hasn’t been in the nearly thirty years I know him¹!

Second, who the hell is Joe Wong? Am I that far behind on comedians? I went to the C-SPAN site to look at the video. That’s when I found out this broadcast wasn’t even on ‘real’ C-SPAN, but C-SPAN 2–The Deuce.

Joe was introduced as having been on Letterman and Ellen Degeneres. That’s OK on a resume, but not great. He walked to the podium. If you were looking for a comedian he is not what you would have been looking for! Yet as soon as he began to speak the audience roared–and this is a very tough crowd!

Joe Wong is Chinese born, Rice educated. His accent is strong. His observations of our, now his, culture are dead on.

This was a great surprise–a wonderful surprise. I am now a Joe Wong fan.

Here’s the video from C-SPAN 2.

¹ – I met Farrell on the phone about 15 minutes before I knocked over and then met Helaine. That was a VERY good day!

Is Buck Hollywood Proof Of My Hipness?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Michael Buckley was in the station this afternoon. Until recently he was a worker bee for Live Nation the concert promoter. No more. Michael Buckley is Buck Hollywood.

Seriously, you don’t know Buck Hollywood? What are you, my age?

Here’s what the New York Times said:

Mr. Buckley, 33, was the part-time host of a weekly show on a Connecticut public access channel in the summer of 2006 when his cousin started posting snippets of the show on YouTube. The comical rants about celebrities attracted online viewers, and before long Mr. Buckley was tailoring his segments, called “What the Buck?” for the Web. Mr. Buckley knew that the show was “only going to go so far on public access.”

“But on YouTube,” he said, “I’ve had 100 million views. It’s crazy.”

All he needed was a $2,000 Canon camera, a $6 piece of fabric for a backdrop and a pair of work lights from Home Depot. Mr. Buckley is an example of the Internet’s democratizing effect on publishing. Sites like YouTube allow anyone with a high-speed connection to find a fan following, simply by posting material and promoting it online.

Of course The New York Times only counts so much. My 22 year old daughter is probably a better authority. She went slightly delirious and totally breathless when Michael sent me a message via Twitter. I have 806 followers. He has (seriously–no BS) 478,829!

There is no secret recipe to what Michael does in front of the camera. He is just a more frenetic, more amplified, more flamboyant version of himself. Think ‘reducing’ a gravy to enhance its flavor. In online video that really works!

Michael Buckley’s product is Michael Buckley, though a more concentrated version than you’ll meet in real life.

We, the denizens of a rapidly shrinking TV universe, marvel at his ability to make a living without worrying about whatever the boss is worrying about.

I think he looks at me as a historical artifact of television. I see him as the future of video. We’re both happily impressed.

Photo by Bill Koczocik

Tom Brokaw’s Gander, Newfoundland 9/11 Lookback

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

On March 11, 2010 NBC announced this documentary would re-air. More details here.

Helaine and I were watching Olympics coverage this afternoon when Tom Brokaw was brought on to introduce a feature piece about Gander, Newfoundland’s part on September 11, 2001. I already knew much of the story. Helaine hadn’t heard any of it.
From Gander Airport’s website:

On September 11, 2001, 39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport when airspace was closed in the United States because of tragic terrorist hijackings. Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers. The airport and its surrounding community afterwards received high praise for their response to the tragedy.

gander airport 9-11-01.jpgAll of a sudden Gander’s 10,000 residents had 7,000 guests¹!

The piece started slowly. At two minutes in it was obvious they’d buried the lede, until I realized this was no two or three minute piece. Brokaw and team had produced and NBC was showing a full length documentary!

It’s a shame to say if NBC had told its audience they were about to see a full length documentary they would have bailed in droves. They probably did anyway in which case they missed a truly wondrous story.

There are few superlatives to describe how kind and generous these Newfoundlanders² were. They opened their schools, homes, and wallets.

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

In the crush of news this 9/11 story was mainly lost. Without this Brokaw package it was destined to become more obscure. I was surprised at how many abandoned links I found while trying to find some interesting quotes for this entry.

Mostly the Twitteratti seem to agree with my assesment:

  • cukawen : Watching the brokaw special on #gander on 9-11-01…all I can say is wow.
  • porcupineridge : Great NBC/Tom Brokaw story on Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11 ground stop. Why can’t I find it online?
  • villageous : Just saw Tom Brokaw’s report on Gander, Newfoundland. Compassion people everywhere showed that day truly is lasting legacy of 9/11.
  • trs614xc : this tom brokaw segment about Gander, Newfoundland’s response to grounded flights on 9/11 is one of the most touching things i’ve ever seen
  • RoccoDeMaro : Tom Brokaw is a legend. But his never-ending, meandering piece on Gander / 9-11 felt like a trip to my wife’s grandmother’s house.

Thanks Rocco. There’s one in every crowd!

I agree with “porcupineridge.” Why can’t I find it online?

¹ – To say Gander is rural is an understatement! I landed there for refueliing on a westbound Overseas National Airways DC-8 transatlantic flight in the mid-70s. We flew in over a deep pine forest without seeing a sign of civilization. I figured we’d see the town on the way out, but again, nothing but pine trees until we were back over the Atlantic.

² – Originally this entry contained a less elegant nickname describing Newfoundlanders. Brian J. Mallard of Memorial University in St. John’s told me, “The majority of us do not like the term.”
My apologies to anyone offended. It was a poor attempt at showing affection.

Tracking Helaine

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I’m on FlightAware tracking Helaine’s flight across the country. She’s just left Colorado and now over Kansas.

This is how Thomas Jefferson followed Lewis and Clark, right?

I am looking forward to seeing her, but not her reaction to the snow she’ll be seeing!