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Thursday, June 27th, 2019
4:55 am
take the train!
First, a musical journey: Duke Ellington's Take the A Train

While taking the Tri-Rail train from FLL to Boca Raton, I pondered how many different trains/subways/trollies/light-rails I have taken.
While it's not as impressive as anything Rapid T Rabbit might have achieved, I'd say it's an impressive list


I think Grayline used to compete with Greyhound for inter-city busses.
Friday, October 5th, 2018
2:22 am
soon 100th anniversary of a serious NYC subway wreck
NYC trivia: Nov 1 will be the 100 year anniversary of a subway wreck
The Malbone Street Wreck, also known as the Brighton Beach Line Accident, was a rapid transit railroad accident that occurred November 1, 1918, on the Brighton Beach Line beneath the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Malbone Street (now known as Empire Boulevard), in the community of Flatbush, Brooklyn. At least 93 people died, making it one of the deadliest train crashes in the history of the United States, as well as the deadliest in the history of the New York City Subway.
I wonder if any railfans will relate that to the recent train accidents:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Philadelphia_train_derailment
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Hoboken_train_crash
and the need for PTC https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_train_control

Similarly, I had never known of the General Slocum ferry disaster https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_General_Slocum
until a friend told me the story while attending the "Towers of Light" ceremony

The General Slocum disaster:
An estimated 1,021 of the 1,342 people on board died.
The General Slocum disaster was the New York area's worst disaster in terms of loss of life until the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Saturday, September 15th, 2018
10:47 pm
new and improved ferret thoughts
When I was a kid, "new and improved" products were everywhere.
The term was so overused that it became meaningless.
MAD magazine was merciless at making fun of "Madison Avenue":
the advertising agencies behind such things.

For how long has "New York" been "New"?
[yes, I know, even old New York used to be New Amsterdam ...].
Even folks from New Jersey just call it "Joisey".

I say it's time to STOP CALLING THEM NEW!
New York will be just "York".
York in England will be "Old York", something they'll adore for tourism.
NJ will be just "Jersey".

But what about New England?
Yea! What about New England?
Well, I'm no loyalist, so let's call it for what it is: FAKE ENGLAND!
Just a bunch of briddish wanna-bees!

And that's the trutttttttthhhhhhh!
Thursday, August 16th, 2018
6:56 pm
The Coca-Cola company uses pliers to squeeze us, again
For many years, there was a Mexican Standoff among Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury/Schwepps to see who would break the $1.99 price for a 2 gallon soda at the supermarket. (CVS, delis and convenience stores passed that mark long ago, particularly if refrigerated).

I just noticed that Coke broke the $2.00 price barrier for a 2 litre bottle at ShopRite. Ouch!

Pliers refers to an NPR segment of a fellow who collects trade show and internal promotional music.
Coca-Cola had a song-and-dance show "Packaging and Pricing", boasting how their packaging and pricing
work together like a pair of pliers to SQUEEESE THE COMPETITION!

I'd love to see inside one of those Coca-cola "robot" dispensors with the touch-screen for allegedly over 100 variations of Coca-Cola products. How many tanks of syrup are in there? That machine is the closest thing we have to a food replicator!
Thursday, July 5th, 2018
8:40 pm
standard rant: retail "seasons" are out of control

It's July 4th. Summertime. The east coast is suffering a heat wave.

But NOOOOOOO, stores have declared summer obsolete!
(with slight allusion to the Twilight Zone episode https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Obsolete_Man )

ShopRite (supermarket) is already selling pallettes of notepads.
I just got a flyer for a children's store's "Back To School Sale".

WTF ?!  Why can't kids ENJOY SUMMER ANYMORE?

My birthday is in August.
Part of the pleasure was how it was DURING SUMMER RECESS
so I was spared the embarassment of any announcements or in-class commotion.

Try to buy a bathing suit or any summer clothing.
Try. I dare you. Stores go from winter direct to fall because that's their time for REVENUE.
Why don't the stores just admit the summer is a dead season and close for a month or 2 :-/

Saturday, May 5th, 2018
6:59 pm
day of the drunken Mexican ferrets?
Cinco de Mayo is also UK National Ferret Day.

WQXR played Star Wars music yesterday because
May the 4th be with you :-)
Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
10:40 am
required viewing
I always wondered about all those car dealers along Route 1
selling cars to anyone with a pulse.
This is how the fraud works:


Auto Lending: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Auto lenders can steer vulnerable people into crushing debt.
Keegan-Michael Key and Bob Balaban help John Oliver show exactly how.
Saturday, April 7th, 2018
8:15 pm
what's on my mind today
RTR would've loved this for his "Clever Contradictions" show segment:
silly store signs and gags:

I am still pondering the difference between dinner and supper.
Dinner has the advantage of being associated with fine dining at the diner.
Or more modestly on your dinette set.
I think supper is terribly under-represented!
Snoopy said it best:
So what's wrong with making mealtime a joyous occasion?

from the play "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown"

https://wikidiff.com/ is just for illustrating the difference between things
such as https://wikidiff.com/supper/dinner

https://wikidiff.com/flammable/inflammable lists flammable and INflammable as synonyms.
Huh? That violates the "in" prefix as meaning "not".

Similarly, press and depress as synonyms as verbs



I'm fascinated by the way fads gain amazing momentum and die so fast.
I remember the resurgence of YoYos and Click-clacks when I was in 6th grade.
YoYs were kinda reinvented as stretchy water balls.
Toy shops depended on Xmas and the "must have" toys:
Cabbage Patch Dolls, Beanie Babies, Tickle-Me-Elmo.
But many missed the mark: Cup Stacking, Pogs.
Industry analysts apaprently believe there's an infinite need for frozen yogurt stores.
Somehow TCBY missed out and closed stores
at a time when 16 Handles, Cups, Menchie, Red Mango, Pink Berry,
and others are literally eating their lunch.
Other fads:
Bubble tea: The fad that forgot to fade
A Brief, Delicious History Of The Great Cupcake Takeover
On July 7, 2014, the trendy cupcake bubble burst.
That's when one of the most ubiquitous cupcake chains, Crumbs Bake Shop,
closed all of its remaining 48 stores, signaling the beginning of the post-trendy-cupcake era.
Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
5:56 pm
the bane of my existence
'ya know what gets my goat? Minor yet recurring annoyances such as

  • leaky batteries. I scrub the corrosion out of something every week. Happily, alkaline batteries do not corrode the contacts and nearby metal as horribly as zinc-acid.

  • items missing one of the rubber feet.

  • items missing the remote control

  • "value engineered" devices with no buttons, or perhaps a POWER button, so it's useless unless the missing remote is found

  • the way "universal remotes" aren't. They lack most of the important functions for new devices, such as menu.

  • the way OLD plastic bottles spring leaks. I keep all my cleaners in a bucket because they leak over time. Right now I'm scrubbing out a bucket where something leaked and slimed all the nearby containers

  • the way NEW plastic bottles crack and break, often IN THE STORE! It's laudable to use minimal materials for packaging, but I've suffered beanut butter with a cracked lid, drinks with cracked caps, etc. Many plastic totes and storage things are chipped and severely cracked IN THE STORE! That's my indicator of "do not buy, the plastic is too brittle".

  • the way most manufacturers IGNORE the attempted standardization of the "barrel connector" for power supplies. The outer diameter was supposed to be voltage specific, the inner pin diameter to indicate current required. I salvage many items so the power supply (and remote control) are often missing. Some devices have the courtesy of listing the required voltage and current, but too many do not bother. I still have devices waiting for me to find a power supply with the required connector.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
4:35 am
brain dump
Why can't NYC get art stuff like this?
Illuminate SF - festival of light!

Whatever happened to Colombo yogurt?
They were the last holdout for 8 oz containers when Dannon and others all went to 6 oz.
I liked their flavors and consistency better than Dannon.

"Pivoting" is the new term for "my company is failing, let's try something completely different!"

I saw a car with the US flag on the bumper but it was upside-down. I adore that, it's subtle.
I'm not sure folks remember that an upside down flag is a DISTRESS SIGNAL!

I found a business card for a Nordstrom employee:
"prothesis certified fit specialist
hosiery, lingerie"
No wonder Nordstrom does so well, they have provide REAL PERSONALIZED SERVICE!
Saturday, August 26th, 2017
11:38 pm
word of the month: skeuomorphism
When I was a kid, the old school desks had a hole for the ink-bottle.
see the photo https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Ecole-banc1900.jpg
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inkwell

It's no longer an anachronism!
Tables and desks now have a similar hole for computer cables!

a related concept:
A friend introduced me to the word "skeumorphic":
Skeuomorphism is a term most often used in graphical user interface design to describe interface objects that mimic their real-world counterparts in how they appear and/or how the user can interact with them. A well-known example is the recycle bin icon used for discarding files. Skeuomorphism makes interface objects familiar to users by using concepts they recognize.
I see that word a lot lately, with Apple's new interface and such!

Monday, August 7th, 2017
6:40 am
ferret finds and silly thoughts
Once upon a time, there were TV commercials for a Jergens shampoo "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific"

I thought I had misread the label but it's a real product "Body Spray for Dogs".
We now essentially have "Gee, Your Butt Smells Terrific"
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
10:05 pm
too stupid to use anywhere else
I tell myself stupid jokes, such as

  • William Penn was not erased from history, unlike Willam Pencil.

  • Pencil-vania is full of erasures.

  • the gasolene powered pencil failed because it is now unleaded

update: I just scored some vintage pencils, new in box, from the thrift shop.
"waxed with whale oil for gliding smoothness"
Oh, that's just an ad on the back of the box for their OTHER pencils :-(
Monday, July 31st, 2017
5:47 am
2 standard rants
A friend coined the phrase "Standard Rant" for
a stance or opinion that is well known by all his friends.

1) checkerboarding
That is my term for the way competing stores put their stores
in an un-necessary location just to prevent their competor from that territory.
Often the stores alternate along the major highways and streets.
I don't see the need for so many stores, but someone's underwriting the cost.

Around NY/NJ, CVS and Walgreens are agressively placing new stores
not only near each other, often across the street from each other!
Some of the stores barely last a year.

Once upon a time, stores would COMPETE for your business.
For example, I needed a pill splitter.
CVS and Walgreen's sold the same device at the same price
despite the custom imprint.

Similarly, Staples and Office Depot popped up regardless of need.
Home Depot vs Lowe's too.

7-11 / Quickcheck / WaWa seem to think that NJ has infinite need for quick food.
There is a new 7-11 being constructed near me.
It's only a few blocks away from one that's been there for years
and under a mile from another on Route 1, albeit in the other direction.

2) Manhattan is now just a playground for the rich.

I used to work in Manhattan and enjoyed all the wonderful and strange unique shops.
They're all gone. The rent is too damned high.
And now people are being forced out of their homes in new and horrible ways:
    New York property speculators have figured out how to evict everyone

The tactics deployed to evict tenants -- elderly retirees, families, disabled people, veterans
-- are shocking and ghastly, including trumped-up claims of mental illness
used to secure involuntary commitals to mental institutions;
threats to take away families children if they report the lack of heat and water
(on the grounds that only an unfit parent would keep a child in a home without heat and water),
hiring homeless people to live in the corridors of family buildings and defecate on tenants doormats, and on and on.

Once upon a time, there was a concept of "checks and balances".
It's been replaced by "winner take all" selfish greed, institutionalized by corporations
and our govt (the best money can buy!)
Wednesday, July 12th, 2017
4:47 pm
the ferret economic indicator
My simple economic indicator is how many empty stores I see

  • around my neighborhood

  • in the mall

  • where I visit

I'm distressed at the sudden number of empty storefronts in my neighborhood.
A dollar shop is gone. It was successful for over a decade.
Admittedly, few dollar shops can hold to that price point but despite rising prices,
they filled the niche when closeout stores went out of business.

I attended college in Manhattan in the late 70s to early 80s.
Despite all the economic turmoil, 8th street was ALWAYS full of fun stores.
Now most are empty and will stay empty.
Most Manhattan blocks now have empty stores.
Even 5th ave has empty stores because it's just too expensive.
Even the Disney flagship store and FAO are gone.

My nightmare has come true: there is no more middle class in the USA.
Here's further evidence:


Bloomberg: Middle-class Americans were "fleeced" by neoliberalism
Noah Smith (previously) writes in Bloomberg (!) about the "fleecing" of the Gen-X and Boomer middle class -- a class that is growing continuously smaller and poorer, thanks to "financial deregulation, tax cuts and a lax attitude toward consumer protection and antitrust."

But along with real productivity, the neoliberal age saw plenty of grift and middle-class wealth extraction. In the book, \xe2\x80\x9cPhishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception,\xe2\x80\x9d Nobel prize-winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller said that all free-market economies are accompanied by some amount of consumer error, simply because sellers are always exploring every possible method of parting people from their money.
Saturday, January 7th, 2017
3:45 am
how to make a ferret cry
I'm going bonkers looking for items that are simply no longer available
- Jolt cola
- car door edge guards

Ikea drives me mad by discontinuing unique items that are simply not available anywhere else. Or worse, changing it in subtle ways. Their blue GLIS tackle box had adjustable dividers. At $4, it a great alternative to Plano boxes at 1/2 to 1/3 the price. But NOOOOOOOOOO, the new clear ones have NO adjustable partitions.
And to complicate things
- there are other storage containers named "Glis"
- in store only, not available by web or phone
Disappointment is part of the "Ikea Experience"

It's hard to buy plain stationery items like a bottle of ink.

- all the local stationers are gone due to StaplesDepotMaxx.
Even in Manhattan.
Canal Street's "Tunnel Discount Stationers" was the place to go for anything. Max Tunnel was the store cat. Every day I use something I bought there, so I'm reminded of a nice store that's long gone

- all the art/drafting stores are gone
Pearl Paint: 1933 - 2014
Art Brown
Sam Flax

Koenig Art Emporium is not gone but none are near me

3 classic delis around Carnegie Hall are gone
- Wolf's deli
- Stage Deli
- Carnegic Deli

Deli Master's in Queens in gone too. This is the official place to cry about it:
Sunday, January 1st, 2017
12:39 am
Year of Tux the Penguin?
I wonder when Tux the Penguin will be Time magazine's product of the year. Or has that already happened?

A friend commented "this is the year of the Linux Desktop!"

I'm unsure I can count the number of Linux devices I have at home
- Ubuntu on my Dell laptop
- Fedora on my desktop system only because I found that install DVD first
- Raspberry Pi 2 and 3
- Beaglebone black
- Intel Edison and Galileo
- Pocket Chip

My Sony TV seems to have Linux inside based on the upgrade I had to feed it via a USB memory stick.

Unigroup (NYC) and NJ Linux User Group are very active, full of clever folks doing great things and sharing their knowledge.

That's the optimism that keeps me going.
Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
12:40 am
carbrows and eyes
What's all this with new cars having led "eyebrows" like something out of Monsters Inc. Didn't "Mike's New Car" teach car design engineers that "more anthropomorphic" is NOT necessarily better?

Driving at night is more distracting than ever with all these angry car-eyes in my rear view mirror. So few cars are happy or even contented.

The tail lights of a Cooper Mini looked just like owl eyes: huge red rings around black centers with 2 red (( )) the outer edges. Haunting!
Friday, May 20th, 2016
9:47 pm
Fawlty Fuzzy Memory
A piece of a recent conversation:

see if you can chase down footage of the Feral 1999 (I think) cabin skits.
MelSkunk's cabin did a skit where your character was the villain, to much amewsement

Just thought you'd be amused by being a skit villain.
The recurring punchline was "but Mejeep the evil ferret couldn't remember how
(action) would help his plan, as ferrets have an attention span of exactly five seconds.

Which gave them an excuse to write a skit that was somewhere
between a "fractured fairy tale" and a crack-fic =^.^=. Hilarity ensued.

Hugs and awwwwwwwwwwws, happy I created a silly ferret memory!
The evil ferret skit was full of anime references.

I vaguely remembers my 3 cabin's skits.
One was with my red ferret puppet, plotting something under the secret sofa.
The next year Whiffert was with me, we did a spoof of Cirque do Soleil:
Cirque Souffle, with silly circus acts.
The 3rd year, Bushycat lead with "Das Cabin", some German-trope.
We usually won "most BIZARRE" act"

I found a paper with all the circus acts from the cabin skit "Ciruqe Du Souffle"
(a spoof of Cirque Soleil, using puppets)

[opening music: overture from Barnum the broadway musical]

Yugo the Dancing Bear
[music: carnival fanfare]

The Flying Ferretinis
[music: the Man on the Flying Trapeeze]
(ferret puppets were popular from The Funday Pawpet Show
and puppet shows at furry conventions)

Katz & Dogz
[music: $10,000 pyramid]
(Katz was a popular virtual-pet computer game)

Skunk The Magnificent
[music: 2001/Fanfare for the Common Man]

The Grand Finale
[music: The Elephant Walk]
Friday, February 12th, 2016
11:51 pm
any teddy bear / plush collectors out there?
Are there any teddy bear / plush collector groups or blogs still active?
I am trying to sell some new unused Gund and Boyd bears
but I have fallen out of the scene so I don't know where to reach the right folks.
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