Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm now cybersocial

I joined Facebook. After years of thinking such things were too frivolous for me, one random thought about an old friend got me wondering who I might find if I joined.

After less than 24 hours I had reconnected with half a dozen people I hadn't heard from in years. After 48 hours that number had more than doubled. I've had a nice e-mail exchange with my high school prom date.

A few months earlier I somewhat reluctantly joined LinkedIn, the businesslike version of Facebook, and found it potentially useful, but pretty dull. Facebook is just plain FUN!

Stuff like this was unheard of in the 20th Century. I'm glad I finally made it to the 21st.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Uncivilized Comments

Does anyone in cyberspace want to have a civilized discussion anymore? There was an article in the Herald of April 17th about some Monterey and Salinas area McDonald's employees suing their employer for allegedly demanding they work off the clock if they wanted to keep their jobs. Other alleged offenses were changing employee time records and requiring employees to use their vehicles on company business without mileage compensation.

The article mentioned that many McDonald's employees are immigrants who don't know the law all that well and are thus easily intimidated by their employers. That is not at all far-fetched. Heck, I've seen situations where all-American white skinned people with college degrees feel intimidated enough to work off the clock because "company policy does not permit overtime" even though there's more work to do. It does happen.

Several of the reader comments on the Herald's "Topix" forum were nothing short of racist, and others stated that the employees must be stupid. One person wrote:
"Just another ambulance chaser at work. And, the victims....well, they were fortunate to have any job at all. After this lawsuit, any employer would be afraid to hire time.....potential problems."
Yesterday I posted something more thoughtful:
"Businesses hereabouts often do intimidate employees to work off the clock, usually by a manager indicating that overtime is not allowed under company policy but still insisting that work be completed before anyone is allowed to leave. It's more common than you might think.

"According to the article, "The suit says workers were forced to work "off the clock" and had work hours shaved from their time records. It contends that workers were given inadequate time for rest and meals and were not reimbursed for using their cars to deliver supplies between restaurants."

"All of those things are illegal, but apparently that doesn't seem to concern many of you. Instead you assume the workers are illegal just because they're immigrants. I worked with legal immigrants in a local hotel for 12 years, and they were the hardest working and the most conscientious people I've ever worked with. The McDonald's employees have a every right to their day in court."
I checked that forum today and found my comment labeled with two Judge It icons, one for clueless and the other for disagree. Apparently civilized discussion isn't valued anymore.

I've been trying to establish a civilized forum for discussion of local topics. According to my web statistics, there have been numerous visitors, but almost nobody has signed up to participate. I'm beginning to think that civilized debate has gone the way of the dodo, in every sense of the word. Sigh.

Help me build a civilized discussion forum for the Monterey Peninsula at

Mr. Toy Recommends

Here's a video about my favorite news publication. I grew up with the Christian Science Monitor, and I recommend it to everyone because of its unbiased, solution-oriented approach to reporting. It doesn't just tell you what's going on, it helps you understand why. It's entirely free on the web, and you can subscribe to their portable weekly magazine.

<a href="">LinkedTube</a>

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Magic disappearing act

I've never understood why radio stations change their formats with no advance notice. One popular station, KIDD, better known as Magic 63, did just that last week, unleashing a flurry of fury from upset listeners.

Magic 63 presented an easy-listening format for a good 20 years, playing classic recordings of people like Nat King Cole, Petula Clark, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra, along with some newer artists like Diana Krall and Peter Cincotti.

When it started long ago, Magic 63 was playing the music that was popular with the 50-somethings to the 60-somethings of the day. Now that these people are in their 70s and 80s, the station has gone back to serving the 50s to 60s bracket as "Oldies 630." That is not too radical a change in my estimation, and even allows for a little overlap in the offerings.

Still, quite a few people wrote angry letters to The Herald saying they'd never listen to the new "rock & roll" format, which now features such blatantly contemporary artists as The Beatles, The Supremes, America, Bread, and Neil Diamond. Let's be clear, this is mostly not rock & roll, it's 1960's and 1970's pop and soft rock. In fact, Neal Diamond was played on Magic 63 as well as Oldies 630.

However, none of this should imply that I am pleased with the format change myself. I like '60s and 70's pop, but I also liked the easy listening stuff, too. I often listened to Magic 63 before getting out of bed because it reminded me of what my parents listened to in the morning when I was a kid. The oldies format is better for later in the day, but so is the higher fidelity of FM radio. Listening to my favorite hits of the '60s and '70s on the tinny AM band is not my cup of tea.

But the big question in my mind is why do radio station owners think it is a good business practice to make significant format changes unannounced? On day one they immediately disappoint everyone who tunes in expecting something familiar, while their intended audience doesn't have a clue that the new format even exists yet. What other business thinks it is a good idea to alienate all of their best customers, and do so without lining up new ones? It would be like walking into Safeway expecting to buy groceries, only to discover that suddenly the store is now a carpet dealer!

It truly boggles the mind. And so does this. Two of those people who wrote letters to the Herald vowed never to listen to Oldies 63. They also vowed to never patronize Oldies 63 advertisers. How will they know who is an advertiser?

Maybe there needs to be a station that plays the Looney Tunes theme.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fear of Lamb

Evidently sex sells fear even better than it sells beer. Convicted child molester James Lamb was officially released from prison a year ago, but it wasn't until last week, after two aborted attempts, that the government was able to find a home for him that satisfied the requirements of the law.

No sooner than the news broke as to his whereabouts, the neighbors came out with their knives and pitchforks demanding he be moved elsewhere. They say they can't let their children out of the house now.

Let's get real. James Lamb did some horrible things, but he's unlikely to be a danger to anyone now. First of all, he's been castrated. He's also been through ten years of treatment, he's shackled to a GPS device that monitors his whereabouts 24/7, his home is under guard, he's subject to random searches of his home, and his face has been plastered on every newscast and newspaper in the county so everyone knows who he is.

I'd feel safer living next door to James Lamb than I would living anywhere in Salinas these days. Salinas has had a drive-by gang murder almost every week this year, and no neighborhood seems to be unaffected. Salinas residents are understandably anxious, but they haven't reached the emotional feelings of panic that were unleashed when James Lamb moved in to a rural area.

Drug dealers, gang members, armed robbers, and sometimes even murderers who have served their sentences (with scant behavioral treatment) are routinely released from prison. They move back into neighborhoods where hardly anybody blinks an eye. But when someone with the label "sex offender" is released all sorts of panic ensues. It is completely irrational.

Some people say Lamb shouldn't have been released in a rural area where police patrols are infrequent and response times are slow. They may have a point, but consider that voters approved a law which makes it virtually impossible for sex offenders to live anywhere else. Be careful what you vote for, you just might get it.