the ferret economic indicator

My simple economic indicator: empty stores.
In malls, on your local main street & Broadway.

The Woodbridge Mall in Edison NJ was once a hopping place, full of mall rats.
No empty stores. A good variety of places to shop: a comic shop with an upper level,
a huge Teacher's/Home-Schooling shop, Guylians Sporting Goods.

Guylians's sporting goods was a HUGE store with a climbing wall
and unique stuff, such as a HUGE selection of swim gear (ideal for swim teams).
Dick's Sporting Goods took over and destroyed any differentiation:
closed the climbing wall, reduced selections, etc.
It's just like any other sporting goods store, reminiscent of Herman's Sporting Goods.

I cannot fathom how the Teacher's Store closed with so many people allegedly "home schooling".
I guess they just use the glass-teat: the computer/laptop/tablet
and stuff like "ABC Mouse" as electronic baby-sitters :-(

The most recent time I was at the Woodbridge Mall, it was clearly dying.
Many empty stores. Few people in the mall.
Kinda like the Monty Python "Cheese Shop" sketch
"it's certainly clean!" "Yes, it's uncontaminated by any shoppers or merchandise!"
Woodbridge NEVER had a food court like the nearby Menlo Mall,
having no clue that it's a major attractor.

I chatted with some store owners who were having their final sale.
There's just no "foot traffic". It is not worth the cost of a mall business
when the mall's not generating interest or attracting people to come inside.

I didn't even notice that all Brookstone stores are gone:

What grinds my gears is how all the business analysts BLAME EVERYONE BUT THEMSELVES.
It's always "the MARKET is wrong".
No, YOU WERE WRONG! You sold the wrong stuff at the wrong time at an unsustainably high price!

One way Brookstone justified their inflated prices was a lifetime warranty.
Just bring it back to the store for a new one.
Brookstone invalidated that by no longer selling those items,
then shortening their warranty/guarantee period.
There was no justification for paying a premium for that "Brookstone" label.

My grandpa used to buy stuff from Brookstone because it was truly "hard to get tools".
Their old catalogue used to have 1-2 pages of must tools for making picture frames.
Really nice SOLID BRASS tools such as a pin-vise.
I used to shop there too.

Brookstone was kept on its toes by competitors such as The Sharper Image
and Hammacher Schlemmer. Airline travelers recognize those names
from the "sky mall" catalogue at every seat.

In recent years, all I saw in Brookstone stores were massagers, expensive bedding
and grill/BBQ accessories. Things folks buy maybe once a year or 5.

No more useful tools or impulse purchases like gifts for under $20.
I'm sorry but Brookstone made themselves irrelevant.

And so it goes. On and on, over and over.

The 4th widow on the street

I just learned that another Florida neighbor and family friend has died.
After enjoying so many years of perhaps 1 family or friend's death per year,
2020 is breaking all records :-(
Only 1 succumbed to Coronavirus.

January: my uncle Eugene

March: Jack (family friend), only days after his 101 birthday

Frank: good neighbor and friend across the street, 99 years old
Mike: good neighbor and friend 3 houses over
Harold: good neighbor and friend one block over

It is already a very different and lonely place;
all the worse due to quarantine / self-isolation
depriving mourners of any comfort or due process :-(

The snark was a boojum, you see.

Frank Bonfiglio was the friendliest and nicest neighbor to me and my parents here in Boca Raton.
He died Saturday of Corona complications.
Frank would've been 100 in July.

This virus is thoroughly dehumanizing.
The last I saw Frank was in his garage woodshop, merrily working on projects.
The last his wife saw of him was being put into the ambulance.
No visitors were permitted in the hospital or hospice.
The hospital cremated the body. No viewing or anything.
And with "social distancing", there is no way to hold any funeral/wake/services.
The widow is denied any proper comfort or procedure :-(

Martin Gardner's annotated version of Lewis Carroll's "Hunting of the Snark"
explores the deep horror of the story: the fear of not just dying but of completely vanishing.
No body, no time to have a proper sendoff.
Kinda like a matter/anti-matter explosion
with the hunter and hunted totally annihilating each other.

The full text without commentary is online:

Wiki has some discussion
referring to existential angst

        Coincidental related reading

I am reading Gre7g Luterman's book "Skeleton Crew".
It starts with a ceremony aboard a generation ship.
A crew member has reached his "retirement age" and is given all proper honors:
a quick painless death and his body is cremated by the ship's recycler.

To learn more about generation ships, see:
- wikipedia
    Goddard thought about such things in 1918: 102 years ago!
- Robert A. Heinlein's "Orphans of the Sky"
- "Logan's Run"
- "The Starlost"
- Star Trek episodes "A Taste of Armageddon" and "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"

My point being that death was so institutionalized
that there was little to no sense of loss.
No cemetaries or markers.

        Where's the body

As apex predators, we're accustomed to always finding the body.
Mice eaten by owls don't get that courtesy.
[I remember a PBS documentary about a pair of mated mice.
The mate mourned the loss of the other]

One of the horrors of the World Trade Center attack
was the way all the bodies were pulverized into dust as the towers fell.
There was nothing left to identify.

This pandemic has forced this new "procedure" upon us.
It's no longer just an academic discussion.

a box of checks is how many?

I am still in Boca Raton, Florida.

Just to assure total frenzy during this pandemic, I was about to run out of checks
for my checking account AND my mom's!
The technical difficulty was my changing all the billing addresses to my NJ address.
While MOST mail is forwarded from NJ to Florida, some is NOT.
There's a huge box of mail waiting for me in NJ.

This bit me in the ass with the check order.
They require a verified mailing address.
To their credit, Artistic Checks' security person stayed on the phone with me
for at least 30 minutes for a 3-way call to the bank while the issue was resolved.

The checks arrived yesterday. YAY!

Just one thing: all the boxes were half full. 100 checks.
It is obvious that boxes were once 200 checks.
All their advertising and ordering is "by the box" with no check count.


I also ordered checks from Sam's Club (for my other checking account).
What a difference

checks per pad
pads per box


ferret's doing his best, hope you are too

I am in Florida helping my mom endure this Coronavirus pandemic.
I'm still paying rent for my Elizabeth NJ apartment since I don't want to lose all my stuff.
Who knows when I can return to my "normal" life.

My mom is 95. She's totally unaware of what's happening due to her severe dementia and Alzheimers.
She does not know who I am and cannot recognize anyone.
But her body lives on and on thanks to her amazing full time caregivers.

Dad died a year ago from lung cancer. Had he survived, he would be at high risk.
So I'm here trying to take his place and fill his shoes.

It's demoralizing how I cannot enjoy simple things anymore.
Cannot visit friends or neighbors.
Cannot swim: the swimming pool was just closed.
Cannot just eat lunch out: no more seating, even outside.
It's like being under the worst of Klingon rule :-(

I was musing how I used to enjoy the "sense of wonder" with great illusionists/magicians
such as Doug Henning or Harry Anderson (who loves ferrets and was featured in Modern Ferret magazine).

I guess Penn and Teller are still tops, with their Master Class and TV show "Fool Us"

I need to watch movies that are pure fantasy and optimism.
Gotta watch more silly anime!

We all need to exhibit fortitude and courage, just as NY Mayor LaGuardia said long ago.
May we all meet again in happier times.

ferret ponderings

Watching MeTV, mostly Twilight Zone, makes me wonder ...
if music is the "universal language" and radio waves radiate nearly forever (albeting always getting weaker),
what would others infer about us from our audio transmissions?

AM, FM are rather easy to decode, thus the analog RECORD on Voyager.
It's most likely to be understood by others.
Today's digital encoding and crypto, not as likely.

Early music was full of soothing sounds and mathematical progressions.
Now most music if full of anger and frustation (a simple ferret's summary of rap and punk).
With so much content going only via cable and fiber optic,
very little of the "good stuff" is transmitted by radio anymore.

With so many radio stations playing the same songs over and over,
I wonder if any aliens would consider us a stagnant civilization,
particularly with Trump's spewings?


In another posting, I'll give my "standard rant" how stores no longer believe in summer,
which I find depressing because my birthday is mid-August, which used to be deep into school vacation.
Now all the stores are "back to school" in JULY :-( Kids aren't allowed to enjoy summer anymore?
[Hallmark started selling their "Keepsake Ornaments" on July 13!]

I'm frustrated with the way TI still dominates the school calculator market.
The Target flyer only shows the TI 30XIIS for $8.99
The OfficeDepotMax flyer shows 4 TI calculators and only 1 square for Casio calculators.
I understand "Some competitive examinations allow the candidates for the use of a calculator
but may permit to use the only calculator of non-programmable type"
but what happened to all the competitors?

I have a Casio calculator that I got at the local thrift shop.
2 line display and lotsa features. Really easy to use.
It even does fractions!
I found several calculators that do octal & hex
but few have all all the logical operations (AND OR NOT SHIFT).

I really needed a programmable calculator for college,
but they're hard to buy now that HP doesn't make anything worth buying :-(
What's left? Cellphone app?

take the train!


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:
and the need for PTC

Similarly, I had never known of the General Slocum ferry disaster
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.