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Suburban creep

I enjoy traveling. And I like living the suburban life. But when I travel, I don’t want to visit suburbia.

Recently we traveled to New York City, and while visiting the borough of Queens, I was struck by how suburbia is encroaching on the character of places like this. Next to the row housing and tenaments is a brand new CVS store (with parking!). Alongside the subway tracks, street-front delis, and bagel shops are Home Depot and Best Buy.

Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to find places with pure character and original vintage? What’s next – Starbucks in Philly’s Independence Hall?  Walmart at the bottom of Niagara Falls? A mall next to the Alamo? Oh wait, that already exists…

While modern outfits like these are sometimes convenient to have, they drain the appeal of visiting a place that’s supposed to be a getaway – different from home.

After all, I could save a lot of time and money by going to the Target down the road instead of the one on the volcano of Hawaii’s Big Island.

On one side is the housing you’d expect in Queens, NY…

…and on the other side is a CVS store tucked under the elevated tracks of the subway.

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Travel

 

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Mini-random journeys

Happy observations, profound thoughts, minor annoyances, pleasant surprises…

  1. A poppyseed bagel should lose its bakery card if all the seeds fall off when you’re slicing it.
  2. It’s such an unexpected treat when the shopping cart you pull off the line doesn’t thump every two feet or violently pull to one side.
  3. When in doubt, reboot.
  4. How is it that if you still have a Barack Obama bumper sticker on your car you’re “naive,” but if you still have a Rick Perry sticker you’re “loyal”?
  5. Starbucks and dark chocolate are proof that God loves us.
  6. 50% of statistics can made to say anything 90% of the time.

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Random, Thoughts

 

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Reasons to avoid talking on the phone

It’s ironic that the device I use the most is also the one I can’t stand using. At least part of it.

Today I made airline reservations and was forced to call Delta to speak to an actual human. Four times. The first representative couldn’t help me so she transferred me to another department. But we got cut off, so I had to call back and re-explain the issue to someone I knew couldn’t help. The second rep gave me the number to call directly to the online support desk. So I did, but unfortunately she gave me the number to Delta’s internal IT service desk. For employees. Call #3 fail. Finally the fourth call was the charm and a supervisor was able to override whatever systems were creating the havoc to begin with.

This issue is a microcosm of why I hate talking on the phone. But it’s more than that. I will do almost anything to avoid talking on the phone. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. The delay. Incredible that cell phone providers haven’t improved this. After 20 years, callers still stammer through pauses between speakers and then end up talking over each other because neither party hears the other. This timing problem makes having a normal conversation so difficult.
  2. The abyss. Don’t call me and stay on the line unnecessarily without saying anything. Get to the point. Time’s a wastin! And it’s disrespectful to take up someone’s time for nothing.
  3. The clueless helper. How many customer phone reps does it take to change a lightbulb? The reason I avoid calling to speak with someone like the plague is that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, if they can even grasp my issue from their call center in India or South America. It’s just so much easier to fix it yourself online.
  4. The bad timing. Inevitably the phone starts vibrating when you can least get to it. When your arms are full of grocery bags; when you’re running late to drop off the kids; or in general when you can’t be bothered. Yet you can’t NOT answer the phone because you never know what emergency lies on the other end.

There are so many reasons why, but before you think I’m some sort if grumpy curmudgeon, read what The Oatmeal says on the subject. They sum it up better than I can…

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized

 

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No monkeying around: My 10-year-old has a blog

My 10-year-old “baby” boy is blogging. This is the new normal.

I don’t know if should be worried or proud.

But one thing’s for sure…the kid’s got initiative.

See, somewhere he heard that certain species of monkeys are endangered. In his research, he found the World Wildlife Fund website and discovered their adoption program. For $50 you can select an animal species to adopt and WWF sends you a certificate with photos and info about the actual animal you select in the wild. The money goes to conservation, habitat preservation, and supporting the long-term survival of the species.

He has chosen to save the monkeys.

And he’s not stopping at one. He wants to raise $100 to adopt two animals.

And in less than two hours today he had his own blog on WordPress (with a little help from Dad, but not much)! As of this writing, he has already collected $33.11.

So visit his site at bensavesthemonkeys.wordpress.com and consider donating to his cause.* He has pledged to keep his site updated with his fundraising progress, and if you give money, he will send you a copy of the adoption certificate.

*Secure donations can be made with credit cards made through Dad’s PayPal account.

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Family, Random, Thoughts

 

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Who would make your starting 5? Here’s mine.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamerlain’s indelible 100-point game. So in honor of this unmatched feat, I’m taking a look at the best players of all time; or rather, the best in my lifetime. Since I wasn’t around to see the Archibalds, Russells, and Havlicek’s of the world, I’m limiting my study to the last 40-something years.

My criteria are simple – the best players at their position since 1970. I’m picking a starting 5 and a backup at each position. As with any ranking list, it’s totally subjective and there are reasonable alternatives, but that’s OK. Take a look at my picks and then tell me who would make your team in the comments.

Here’s my team…

— POINT GUARD —

Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Los Angeles Lakers 1979-1991, 1996

The point guard: Magic Johnson.

I needed some convincing to put Magic in the starting point guard spot. For some reason the guy just seems a little fakey to me, but after further reflection, the choice was obvious. Nobody had more charisma, leadership and “magic” than Earvin. He could play all five positions. He was the leader on a team of stars, invented the no-look pass, and his numbers simply speak for themselves.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Jason Kidd.

— SHOOTING GUARD —

Michael Jordan
Chicago Bulls 1984-1998, Washington Wizards 2001-2003

The shooting guard: Michael Jordan.

Volumes have been written about this legend, so there’s not much more I can add. I remember watching him on TV and thinking to myself that no one will ever be as great. Then while working for the Spurs, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing MJ in a post-game locker room interview during his comeback/farewell tour with Washington. I’ll never forget it. The greatest player of all time. End of story.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Kobe Bryant.

— POWER FORWARD —

Tim Duncan
San Antonio Spurs 1993-present

The power forward: Tim Duncan.

Maybe a homer call here, but it’s hard to put anyone else in the same class as The Big Fundamental. His skills and quickness have diminished now to the point that it’s almost hard to remember how dominant the guy was in his prime. But keep in mind that it took Tim’s arrival in San Antonio to put another great player, David Robinson, over the top to a championship. With the best footwork of any big man ever, Duncan is also the most unassuming anti-star, and best overall team player — which makes this an easy call.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Charles Barkley.

— SMALL FORWARD —

Larry Bird
Boston Celtics 1979 – 1992

The small forward: Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was literally awesome — and awe-inspiring — to watch. Perhaps the best passer in history, and without a doubt the best clutch shooter in history. At the end of the game, there was no one you wanted to have the ball more than Bird. As a 76ers fan growing up, I dreaded Celtics games because Boston always dominated the matchup. Sporting a weird looking set shot, he had a killer instinct, knowing exactly when to step on the opponent’s throat.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Julius Erving.

— CENTER —

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Bucks 1969-1975, Los Angeles Lakers – 1975 – 1989

The center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The all-time leading scorer with an unfathomable 38,387 points, he won six championships on two teams. Invented the unblockable “sky hook,” making him virtually unguardable in the post. He earned an incredible 19 all-star appearances and was MVP of the league six times.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Shaquille O’Neal.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Random, Sports, Thoughts