Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pointless politeness

OK, this is sort of a follow up to my pet peeve report of April 19. This is a story about being too polite.

Today I crossed the street again. It was a two-way street. On the left was one small car. On the right was a long stream of cars. Who stopped? The one car on the left.

Did any of the cars on the right stop?


Having no hope of crossing immediately, I waved the guy on the left through, but he insisted on waiting patiently. When the right was clear, he was still there, waving me across. He didn't need to do that. It didn't make my day any easier, nor his. It was pointless politeness.

Memorial Day Madness

Living in a tourist town has its plusses, but holidays are not among them. I'm working today, and getting to work was no fun at all. Traffic jams are everywhere, making me even later than I usually am.

I don't know what would posess so many people to want to be in the same place at once. All on the same streets, all wanting to go to the same waterfront attractions, only to find the parking lots full, the beaches clogged, and not enough seating at the restaurants to handle all of these hot, cranky, hungry people.

If the point is to have fun, it ain't happening anywhere I can see. Better to stay home and come back when things calm down.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

What's with CHOMP?

Two items have come to my attention that have called into question the reputation of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP), the only hospital on the Monterey Peninsula.

The first was a news item earlier this week about the helicopter ambulance service called CALSTAR. Evidently Calstar was working with local police and fire departments to practice landings around the Monterey Peninsula, doing several drills in the coming days.

This piqued my interest because I was listening to the police scanner recently and heard that a CALSTAR helicopter needed to land on the football field at Monterey Peninsula College to handle a trauma patient involved in an accident on Highway 1. I found this odd because CHOMP is barely a mile up the highway from the accident scene. In fact the football field was probably no closer. Why did they need the helicopter?

The news story about the CALSTAR training gave the answer. CHOMP is no longer accepting trauma patients. They now have to be flown to the San Jose area. However, the article concluded that CHOMP would continue to handle trauma cases "in an emergency." (I guess that means not all trauma cases are emergencies. Down the rabbit hole we go!)

The second item that caused me concern involved a co-worker who's wife is expecting twins. He didn't make it to work today because she may have gone into labor six weeks early. If that was the case, they would have to go all the way to San Francisco to deliver. San Francisco??? That's almost three hours away for crine out loud. Why put them through that at a time like this?

So what gives? CHOMP has been expanding like mad the last several years. In their advertising they repeatedly boast about their state of the art facilities. So exactly what are they doing with all that extra space and high tech stuff that they can't handle basic emergencies like premature births and accident victims anymore?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Popular trends that I hope will go away soon

Reality TV.
Now there's an oxymoron for you.

Shouting news commentators.
Talking louder does not make their points any more valid.

Breast implants.
Who wants to look at a naked girl with carnival balloons on her chest?

Electronically enhanced vocals of female pop stars.
Can't their voices stand on their own?

Corporate control of local radio stations.
Bring back the local DJ!

New, but definitely not improved.

Low carbs.
Diet fads come and go, but diet gurus will be with us forever.

Self-appointed food police.
Moderation, not elimination, is the key.

One-party control of both houses of Congress and the White House.
Neither party is worthy of being in total control. Checks and balances, people!

Liberal bashing.
Liberals are not the enemy.

Conservative bashing.
Real conservatives are nice people. (Neoconservative bashing is OK, 'cuz they haven't actually accomplished anything.)

Imitation Rob Lowe hairstyles.
The harried businessman look was never in.

Overreaction to a bare breast on TV.
Only a mental boob would be threatened by a woman's boob. 

"John 3:16" signs at football games.
Nice verse, been done to death. How about some of the other fine Bible verses?

The "liberal media" myth.
Who was it that jumped on the Clinton/Monica affair with glee?

The main cause of high gas prices. This is junior high economics, supply and demand.

My Favorite Customer

Many years ago when I was working in the hardware department at Brinton's in Carmel, I was approached by a customer. He was a rather frantic looking fellow, a yuppie type, who was asking about doormats. He said his decorator told him to get one made of some material I had never heard of.

I showed him our selection, which was fairly large and diverse, and made a few suggestions. Throughout our discussion he kept asking me if his decorator would approve of this one or that. After about the fourth time I said "The important thing is to get something you can be happy with."

He looked up at me and said "Really?" 

I nodded.

He then looked at the mat in front of him, decided it was acceptable, and took it to the cashier.

Sunday, May 16, 2004 came to town recently. On-line grocery shopping is now a reality on the Monterey Peninsula. We've been looking forward to this for some time, and it finally opened up early this month.

We tried it out last week when we were pretty busy and kinda tired and didn't want to go to the store.

So we signed up and we were on our way, happily adding stuff to our virtual grocery cart. Then reality sank in. It was taking quite awhile. Then the browser crashed. To Safeway's credit, they held the contents of our cart when we signed on again. So I added more stuff.

Then I got to the dairy case. All I wanted was two gallons of 1% milk. Or 2% would be fine. We always get the two gallons for a discount deal. But they didn't have it on line. If we wanted gallons all we could get was whole milk, and no two-fer deals. In 1% and 2% all they listed were half gallons. 

Game over.

I had to go to the store after all. When I got there I realized that many of the things I shopped for on line were cheaper in person, even though they deliver from the very store I was in. They say prices are supposed to be the same, but they clearly weren't. For example, Safeway Select pure maple syrup was a full 50 cents more on line. 

When I returned home I sent an e-mail to complaining about my difficulties.

They never replied.

Great idea. Lousy service. That's!

Maybe I'll try again in a few months and hopefully they'll have the bugs out.

Addendum: I finally got a response from Safeway on the 20th. They explained that prices in the store where the actual groceries come from may vary from what is shown on-line, and that the local price will be charged. So how am I supposed to know what the final cost will be?

A footnote to this story:

One of the things I bought was apple cider. They had a two for one deal on Safeway brand apple cider. Same with apple juice. We usually get the juice, but this time they were out, so I picked up the cider.

What's the difference between apple juice and apple cider? According to my dictionary, nothing!  

The cider tastes the same. So I wondered what on earth justified the different label. The answer was in the nutrition facts. The cider has no vitamins. None. Zilch. The juice has 120% of one's daily dose of vitamin C, so its a much better buy. They're both the same price, so why do they even bother with this cider nonsense?

A footnote to the footnote:

Speaking of apple cider, have you tried Dicken Cider?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


A pair of warbirds came to town yesterday. One was the only B-24 Liberator still in flyable condition. The other was a B-17 Flying Fortress, one of only a handful still functioning.

These WWII bombers are amazing machines. I wasn't able to see them up close before they departed, though I was able to crawl through them on a previous visit. However, since I live just a mile from the Monterey airport, I was able to enjoy seeing them in flight.

These planes are not large by today's standards, being roughly the size of a Boeing 737 airliner, yet they are visually imposing. They are grand machines that helped end the worst war the world has ever seen.

It is an honor to watch these birds still flying. It is equally impressive to hear them. There is nothing like sound of four radial piston engines working together to take a bomber into the air. It's not quite a growl, it's not quite a rumble, but it's a little of both. It can be heard for some distance, but it is not particularly loud. It is rather reassuring, soothing, even.

If you ever have a chance to see one, do not hesitate to go. If you can't get to the display, and you see one overhead, be sure to stop, look, listen, and think about what they and their crews did for us 60 years ago.

Friday, May 7, 2004

How many more ways can we screw this up?

The Iraq war has been a series of miscalculations and bungled opportunities.
-Callous dismissal of world opinion before the war. 
-Erroneous "intelligence" on the weapons of mass destruction. 
-The belief that Iraqi oil would pay for reconstruction, at little or no cost to the American taxpayer.
-Inadequate forces to control looting after the fall of Saddam.
-Inadequate civil control which gave terrorists a foothold in Iraq, where none existed before.

-Shutting down a newspaper, in violation of our own principles of a free press, that sparked an uprising.
-Ignoring the festering Fallujah until it exploded.

And now....

 This week the $#!^ has really hit the fan. What were those prison guards thinking? They not only abused Iraqi prisoners, they photographed their own crimes that showed then gloating over their idiocy.

How many more ways can we screw this up?

Bush took a huge gamble by invading Iraq in the first place. Failure would end up making things far worse than before, yet a year later we still have no certainty of success. Success requires competent execution, not just good intentions.

Yet incompetence abounds. The guards in charge of the prison were not trained for such work. There were too few of them for the size of the prison population, and there was no external oversight. Such incompetence wasn't the result of the few bad apples actually in the prison. It goes right up the chain of command to Dummy Rummy and to President Shrub himself. They made bad decisions that allowed this to occur. Resources were spread thin, and the result was that improperly trained soldiers were put in charge of prisoners.

Now the right-wing-nut apologists are out in force, some saying that nothing the American guards did was as bad as what Saddam did every day. That may be true, but that's not the point. The point is that Americans don't do that sort of thing. Ever. It is wrong. We are not supposed to be merely less bad than Saddam. We are supposed to be the good guys, a shining example of freedom, democracy, and apple pie. But today our reputation, which was already suffering, is further tarnished, thanks to Bush and his gang of gung-ho bumblers.

It is time for them to go. We can start with Dummy Rummy today. Unfortunately, Bush will have to wait until November.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Insincere Sinclair


I read the news today, oh boy.  It reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group censored the April 30th  Nightline on ABC affiliated TV stations it owns. On that night Ted Koppel read the names of all the Americans who had been killed to date in Iraq. Sinclair didn’t like that on the grounds that Koppel, in the opinion of Sinclair management, was pushing an anti-war agenda.


So much for freedom of the press.


In a statement on the front page of their website, Sinclair justified its action by saying:
Mr. Koppel and "Nightline" are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq.


“We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001.”


I have no desire to question Ted Koppel. His motivations are not my concern. Rather I am disturbed that Sinclair thinks it knows what its customers should or shouldn’t watch.


Sinclair argues that Nighline was only presenting part of the story and therefore was misleading people. This argument only holds up if you assume that Nightline was a one-time program, not a nightly news report that covers Iraq routinely, and that no other information on Iraq is available. Ironically, Sinclair engaged in the same sort of behavior they accuse Nightline of: withhlding information. Clearly, Sinclair thinks the Nightline audience is easily manipulated, or just too stupid to make up their own minds.


Koppel was simply presenting a raw truth, without further comment, to make the public aware of the human cost of the Iraq war. It is then up to the public, not Sinclair, to decide if the war is worth the cost. Evidently Sinclair doesn’t trust the public’s judgment. Best to keep the public ignorant because actual facts might change ignorant people’s minds, as truth often does.


Sinclair also asks why Koppel didn’t read the names of Americans killed in terrorist attacks, “since and including” September 11, 2001. There are two  reasons. First, that has already been done. On the first anniversary of 9/11 the names of the victims were read at a public ceremony which was carried live on national television. Second, and let’s be clear on this, Koppel’s, report was about Iraq. Iraq was not involved in any terrorist attacks on Americans. (Saddam was helping to fund Palestinian terrorists in Israel, which certainly justified his removal, but that's a topic for another day.)


In an even more disingenuous argument, Sinclair said:

“Based on published reports, we are aware of the spouse of one soldier who died in Iraq who opposes the reading of her husband's name to oppose our military action. We suspect she is not alone in this viewpoint.”


One soldier’s widow does not constitute a consensus, though they would have us so believe. They read a couple of second-hand reports indicating that one widow didn’t like Nightline’s idea. Sinclair then extrapolated that into several widows, and then out of some false gesture of sensitivity, decided Nightline was too much for the public to handle.


Just how much lower can their opinion of the public go?


Sinclair was engaging in censorship, pure and simple. The only motivation for censorship is to squelch ideas that are contrary to opinions held by those who have power. So they pull the plug, but in the process they show their own weakness. By censoring Nightline they are admitting that their own views are not strong enough to stand up to a few challenges.