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Showing posts from April, 2016

Retro-Grouch at the Laundromat

I thought it was a bad idea whose time had come...and passed. But there it was, staring at me, once again.

Quarters aren't accepted by an ultra-modern laundromat, like this one. Now you must waste money to buy a plastic card even before putting a balance on the card that lets you do laundry. Yea, like that is really advantageous for the traveler who is only going to be there once.

Of course there were complex instructions for paying for the card itself, then putting a balance on the card, then inserting it into the washing machine (once chance in four of getting it right), and then pulling it out at the right speed so it actually begins working. I have seen a poor attendant have to help every other customer with these damn things!

I actually groaned out-loud when I walked into thisbusiness and saw the bad news. I was traveling with a European friend for a week. Recognizing all the telltale signs of an incipient rant, they started looking for a fire extinguisher to spray me down.

This …

Some Equipment Guys Finally Get It Right

It has always been strange how competent individuals can be agglomerated into organizations that end up beingdysfunctional. The example nonpareil is the military. A close second is an American presidential election.Yes, this observation can be discouraging. But it also delights you to stumble onto an exception -- when you find a surprisingly effective organization.

When I was at my favorite outdoors store, Sportsman's Warehouse, I found something that used to be easy to find, but then the world of commerce took the product away, probably because it cannibalized more expensive products. Here is the wonderful little pouch, made for carrying 1 liter water bottles:

Of course you can put other things into it. It is so convenient to wear a fanny pack (or just a D-ring belt) with several pouches of this type strung on it. Normally pouches are too small and have zippers, the bane of any outdoorsman's existence.

When I saw these "bottle carriers" at Sportsman's Warehouse, I …

A Shopping Orgy at the Best Outdoors Store

It is so strange going through small towns in the ranching country of the West. Especially shopping. You can not avoid the feeling that the purpose of life for these businesses is to be closed. No wonder there is a Dollar Store in the tiniest and most impoverished town.

Show Low, AZ, is one of the few shopping meccas for me, on my annual loop. As always, I visited a couple car dealerships. I come away shaking my head about how ignorant car salesmen are about the product itself. They only know about the process of selling: demographics, applied psychology, and filling out the paperwork. The average customer could not care less about the $60,000 pickup truck they just got suckered into. They only care about the monthly payment and whether it is huge and showy, and raises their self-esteem. Imagine that: a culture where people get a boost to their self-esteem by being a fool!

But this post has good news: I had a wonderful time at my favorite store for outdoor products. I didn't even kn…

Why Not Be Good at Being a Consumer?

In January of this yearI posted several times about a curious question: why didn't more people work harder at being good conversationalists, considering the benefits of improvement and its feasibility? It is in the reach of just about everybody. For the most part, it just involves overcoming a small set of bad habits.

The same question comes up in a different setting: why don't more people work harder at being good consumers, considering the benefits of doing so, and its feasibility? Is it a lack of knowledge? Or just the sheep-like behavior of the herd who sees too many commercials?

What caused me to think about this was the experience of screwing up on the purchase of an external keyboard for a computer which works fine but has a defective keyboard. How could I not notice that the 'enter' key and right hand shift keys were half size? This is the very reason why I avoided 10 inch netbooks when they were the rage a few years ago. Same for 10" tablet keyboards.

And ho…

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Running water, in New Mexico? It just goes to show you that anything in this old world is possible. But it was worrisome: there was too much force to it. Should I or shouldn't I?

It certainly helps not to be a young buckaroo anymore. What did I need to prove? Besides, a driver has no experience with moving water. And experience could be expensive.

So I didn't even try it. The deciding factor was imagining the locals talking about some dang city-slicker who was stupid enough to be swept down the river.

Would my mountain bike do better than the van? It would be interesting to probe the risk/reward situation with stream crossings. It is too bad there isn't a rational and non-catastrophic way to get good at stream crossings. 

I started this post as a short anecdote of a fun experience. But now it occurs to me that a stream crossing is a marvelous metaphor for many situations in life in which risk is difficult to manage: investments, legal problems, physical accidents of different …

Progress in Popular Culture

In one sense, everything was normal at the gasoline pump the other day. It is no longer unusual for a loudspeaker to blare out advertisements at you, usually for a car wash or junk food. You can't blame the ad-world for making progress in this direction. After all, television viewers mute out the commercials, and internet eye-ballers use Ad-Block.

But there was something new today. My ears were regaled with a country-western version of rap music. This was a new cultural low for me. A radio listener probably doesn't consider this news at  all.

I've lived too long. Maybe I should be dead by now. Lately I have been contrasting the popular culture of my childhood with that of today. Will an old person always prefer the past because they are "conservative" and narrow-minded? Actually, it is young people who are narrow-minded -- they only know one side of the question.