First World Problems

After nearly getting my fingers squashed by the trunk lid on my car, I decided I need new lift supports. I’m a DIYer, and I’ve BTDT a few times in the past, so I checked my local preferred auto parts store and found they cost $30. Each. I need two. Ouch. I do prefer to Shop Locally, but really, is Advance Auto or Auto Zone or NAPA, or even our Midwest everything discount department chain store Meijer really “local”? I think not. So I went to everybody’s usual fallback option, Amazon, and found I can buy a pair for less than $25 ($30 with shipping). Good deal. I placed an order on Saturday and started tracking it. Come Wednesday they hadn’t even been shipped yet. Still sitting in the warehouse? What the hey?

The first time I ever ordered anything online was quite literally ages ago. I’m guessing sometime around or even before 1990. This was in the days of dial-up modems and 128kbs connection speeds. The World Wide Web was shiny and new, with pictures and everything. A far cry better than the text-based web surfing I started out doing with a Lynx “browser”. I recall one night sitting at the dining room table when I managed to log into a web server at Trinity College in Cambridge, England, to have a look around, and it blew my mind. My first real graphical Web experience was on the social network Prodigy. Amazon didn’t exist then, but Prodigy had a store. I ordered something, a new modem, I think, and was shocked! shocked, I tell you! to find it sitting on my doorstep the very next day! I was spoiled.

I’m reminded of a couple years ago when my wife ordered some promotional materials for her workplace. They were very slow in arriving, a total no show after a long period of time, so she called the company. “They have to come all the way from California!” the breathless rep explained. To Michigan. Curious. It’s like we were back in the 1950s and the telephone rings and everyone gets excited because it’s a long distance call! From halfway across the state! I ordered a Moto G cell phone from Motorola a couple years ago. I got an email that they’d received my order but there would be a slight delay because demand was so great. Then I got an email that my phone was being built. Next day I got an email that it had been shipped. Two days later I had the phone in my hand. It came from China, halfway around the world… but not as distant as California, apparently.

So realizing that my trunk lifts were apparently not getting out of the warehouse in a timely manner, I cancelled the order and place another with another company. We’ll see how they do. I know, I know, I’m impatient, but in this day and age when sales competition is a dog-eat-dog universe, some dogs do get eaten. That was yesterday morning. My struts shipped last night. How hard is it to put something in a box and stick it in the mail anyway? Not very hard.

 

Adventures in H.R. (in four parts)

One

In the early days, Cavendish Junior College was a big, happy family. Everyone was local, friendly, easygoing. Enthusiastic. Your basic Yoopers. At contract negotiation time, the leader of our little maintenance field group would be summoned into the Personnel Director’s office. (Yes, they used to call that department “Personnel” in those unenlightened days. Forgive them, they didn’t know any better. Now, in these more enlightened days, we call it Human Resources, to better distinguish the responsibilities from Energy Resources, Land Resources, Animal Resources, whatever. Apparently “personnel” was a vague word without meaning.)

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Alleged Road Repairs

We have a strange concept of “road repairs” in Ingham County, Michigan. Or maybe everywhere.

Rather than do something good and worthwhile, SOP here is to lay down a coat of tar, then cover it with a layer of pea-stone gravel. That’s it. Done. Walk away. Go get a beer. In the olden days I think the road crews used to bring out “steam rollers” and roll the gravel out and down into the tar. Not anymore. Now they just go away and subcontract the work to us, the citizens, to tamp down and level out the gravel with our tires. What, so I’m working for the county now? And providing my own equipment? For no pay? Just the risk of a cracked windshield and chipped paint? I’m not even getting the benefit of free undercoating from the tar. I should call National Labor Relations Board.

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Free Life Insurance

I just got another offer from my credit union for $1000 of free life insurance. This is to be purchased in my name for me by my credit union. The total cost to me is saying NO! every time a rep from the life insurance company calls to make an appointment to push more insurance on me at their “low, low monthly rates.” I can afford that. It occurs to me if I’d been accepting all these offers when they first started coming to me 45 years ago I’d probably have tens of thousands of dollars worth of free life insurance now, just sitting there, waiting to be paid to my survivor. At no (monetary) cost to me.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

I get burned by this law all the time. You know it, even if you don’t know you know it. “No good deed goes unpunished.” That pretty much sums it up.

I bought an in-dash touch-screen infotainment unit for for my car. Unwise, I know, but I wanted it and I had the money. Mostly because it has the navigation feature. We’ll get to that in a minute.

After having the marvellous new touch-screen infotainment unit installed in my dashboard, I discovered I got no more audible alerts from my car. No seatbelt chime, no door ajar chime, no key-in-the-ignition chime. Not even the click-clack of the turn signals. Turned out all those sounds come out of the factory-installed entertainment unit, i.e.: the radio that we had just removed. I needed an optional wiring harness with its own built-in chimes. Back to the installation shop with more money in hand.

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Summer Blockbuster Syndrome

The summer movie blockbuster season is upon us again, and I have to admit I can’t get excited about it. I was put in mind of the comedian who told about his grandfather coming back from a major league baseball game. Someone asked how the game was. Grandpa grumbled, “the millionaire on the mound pitched the ball to the millionaire at the plate, he hit it to the millionaire in the outfield, who threw it to the millionaire at first base…”

Let’s face it, the “Marvel Universe” doesn’t exist. Ditto the Star Wars Universe, the Alien Universe, the X-Men Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy Universe… It’s just going to be another season of “the CGI villain beats up on the CGI hero, they toss CGI cars and CGI people into the CGI buildings of a CGI city with CGI jets and CGI helicopters screaming overhead…” I mean seriously, why do we care about any of this?

Some things I’d rather see? How about this image of the Panama Canal, a project so huge you’d think these photos could only be done with CGI.

Or maybe this one of the propellers of the Titanic, built in 1909 through 1912.

These are both phenomenal things that were built in the days when a Ford Model T was pretty much state of the art for automobiles. And now of course the Panama Canal has been massively expanded, a project  so huge it’s almost dizzying in photos, and you would swear they were CGI if you saw them in a movie, but they’re real.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am pretty much over CGI. Hopefully these three photos will expand to fill your screen if you click on them. If not, I’ll find a way to fix that. Probably with CGI. But then also there are these photos to give a better idea of the scope of the Canal expansion.

That said, I admit that I recently watched a CGI ape battle a CGI T-Rex and swat CGI helicopters out of the CGI sky. The original Kong was forty feet tall, the Kong now is maybe 100 to 150 feet tall, but that was not enough to be overwhelming, or even enough to make it a good movie. I can’t say I was underwhelmed, because that would oversell my expectations. I guess I was just merely whelmed.

Although finding King Kong: Skull Island uninspiring, and I will almost certainly find myself watching Alien:Covenant and Blade Runner 2049 this summer. But seriously, I don’t know what the future of summer blockbusters will be, but someday I hope it’s not just this. It’s hard to write, and harder to imagine, but maybe it’s going to have to be up to Millennials to redefine, with their entertainment dollars, the whole moviescape for all of us. It might not be pretty, but they’re blooming into adulthood now and maybe it’s time for them to step up and take a leadership role. So far they’re not inspiring confidence, but who knows? The Powers That Be in Hollywood are, in my opinion, drowning in gridlock… to mix a metaphor.

But what do I know?