We’ve been away

It’s been almost three weeks since I posted here, but my wife, daughter, and I have been traveling, to visit my daughter’s brother, and our son.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, when I tried to post a picture of our trip that’s one inch wide here, it shows up so large that you can only see a small part of it.  When I get time to learn a little more about formatting this blog, I will try to post the picture again.  It’s a picture of our family.  You see, we’re quite proud these days.

Seventy-five percent of us have recently returned from California where we attended the law school graduation of the other 25 percent.  Now that he has earned a JD degree, I suppose we can call him doctor, as we could give that title of honor to anyone who has achieved a doctorate in any academic subject.  But, we can’t call him lawyer yet.  He’s still working on that.  He has to pass the bar exam at the end of July, and we’re sure he will.  But the California Bar likes to spread out the suspense, so while the exam is completed in July, he doesn’t learn the results until near the end of November.

A different 25 percent of the family will be off on another adventure this Saturday.  I’ve never traveled for a living, but I have been in 28 states.  I’m not counting air space.  I’ve set foot in 28 states and I’ve never just stepped across a state line, although I have walked across two of them.  When you think of the way we travel, walking across a state line is pretty unusual.  I’ve never just driven a mile or so into a state to say I’ve been there either.  I suppose I could have done that for Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Colorado on previous sojourns.  I’m doing Colorado on Saturday.  I’m flying there and on Sunday I’m driving to New Mexico.  So, by Sunday, I will have been on the ground in 30 of our 50 states.

I expect the trip to go smoothly, but whether it does or not I’ll be back and I’ll fill you in.  That’s a promise!

The Incredible Shrinking Container

The ice cream industry hasn’t fooled me with the 1.5 quart container, and I hate it.  I think I’m distantly related to Don Quixote on both sides of the family though, so I wrote to the president of the manufacturer responsible for most of the ice cream I consume.  And much to my surprise, he answered me.  At least, his form letter answered me.  Which ice cream company I wrote to doesn’t matter.  The industry as a whole seems to be switching to smaller containers.

I said I understand price increases.  I don’t like them, but I understand them.  I am, after all, old enough that the price of everything is ridiculous and has been for a while.  However, I don’t like the smaller ice cream packages because they are environmentally unfriendly, and make extra work for me.  The containers are still the same diameter, but even though they aren’t as tall, they are still too tall to stack in my freezer, so if I want to keep the same amount of ice cream on hand, I have to buy more containers.  The containers waste resources.  Six quarts of ice cream now take an extra lid and an extra container bottom.  If I don’t have room for more containers, I have to go to the store more often or buy a larger freezer.

My existing freezer is already an Energy Star appliance, so a new and larger one will use more electricity.  Going to the store more often will use more gasoline.  I could walk to the store, but the ice cream would be melted by the time I walked home.  So, putting ice cream in smaller containers does constitute a price increase, and the president of the company acknowledged that.

Frankly the acknowledgement surprised me.  I thought he would say it was some kind of improvement to serve consumers better.  He also said the marketing people know people are reluctant to spend a lot of money for ice cream so they can buy a container (albeit smaller) at the same price.  I’m sad to admit the president of the ice cream manufacturer is probably correct.  This gives me a bad feeling that you probably can now fool all of the people all of the time.

You see, the smaller containers of ice cream contain hidden costs for the consumer, and they increase the carbon footprint of both the maker, and the eater of ice cream.  I do want a lot of ice cream (summer is coming, after all).  I haven’t got room for it, and I won’t buy a bigger freezer.  I haven’t got room for one of those either.  So, the ice cream manufacturer increases its carbon footprint by using more packaging material.   I will drive to the store more often.  Therefore, smaller containers of ice cream cost me, and all other consumers more than they make for the manufacturer.

I believe I already said I hate the 1.5-quart container of ice cream, so that concludes this blog item.

The Phone

I’m not a luddite, but I have a cell phone so I can call  you, not so you can call me.  Very few people have my cell phone number, so the phone doesn’t ring very often at all.  Sometimes I turn it off.  Sometimes I leave it home.  I don’t wander around stores or restaurants or doctors’ waiting rooms or train depots yacking a blue streak, a really loud blue streak.  You don’t need to know where I am and I don’t need to know where you are either.  Last week I was in a doctor’s waiting room with one of those annoying yackers.  After he was done, he asked if he was talking too loud.  I said yes.  He said sorry, but if he was really sorry, he wouldn’t do it, would he?  And he wouldn’t have made another phone call either.

My family has a five-hundred minute family plan, and we’ve never gone over, or even come close.  Not even when my daughter was a teenager.  Despite not using the cell phone nearly as much as the average person, I just bought a new one.  In fact, I bought three new ones.  I got my wife and daughter new cell phones too.

None of us are luddites, but our previous cell phones made, and received phone calls.  That’s all they did; make and receive phone calls.  Well, they held a bunch of phone numbers too, but not a really big bunch, and they would dial the one you wanted with the push of one button.  Pretty primitive stuff.  For a friend of mine who’s fond of homonyms, I’m tempted to say they were primative too, but many primates have fingers too big to use a cell phone successfully.  When someone called, those phones didn’t sound ringtones.  They rang.  A couple of middle-school kids in my neighborhood think my old cell phone is an antique.

The new ones do alot more than the old ones.  They hold much bigger bunches.  They take pictures.  They access the Internet.  You can watch TV on them.  They cook dinner.  They mow the lawn.  I think the most expensive one may be a minor deity.  They were a good deal too.  Three free phones only cost me $111!  And one thing I noticed about them is the instructions for each of the new phones are bigger and heavier than the phone itself.

But, if I had to do it over again, I don’t know if I would.  It took two hours to activate three phones.  The people at the wireless provider were helpful, and polite.  The computer system they’re forced to work with was neither.  I couldn’t activate the phones on the Internet or through the automated phone attendant.  I was disconnected twice.  It took four phone calls and speaking to five people including tech support to get the job done.  I lost count of how many times I agreed to terms and conditions.  I hope that part wasn’t cumulative.  I don’t know if I want a 10-year contract with my cell phone provider.