Things I Know

  • Let’s all cheer!  It’s opening day of the baseball season.  The weather is crummy in New York, so I don’t know if they’ll get the whole Yankee game in, but they’ll try.  It did snow at Shea Stadium on opening day in 1996.  I left during the second inning.  I like baseball, but I’m not stupid.
  • If you heard that Hailey Swindal, who sang the National Anthem at today’s Yankee game is George Steinbrenner’s granddaughter, you probably expected her to be an inadequate singer.  That’s what I expected, and I was wrong.
  • In case you need reminding, the last two words of the Star Spangled Banner are “Play Ball!”
  • March 31, is World Back Up Day.  It’s supposed to encourage you to back up important files from your computer.  If your computer hard drive fails, it feels really good to know you have a complete back up of all your data including family pictures, music, financial data, work-from-home files, you name it.  I know firsthand because I had a computer hard drive fail during warranty so I didn’t replace it myself.  When the tech asked me what I wanted to do about it, I said, “Whatever you want.  I have a complete back up from yesterday.”  Talk about smug!
  • March 31st is also Robert Bunsen’s birthday.  If the German chemist was still alive, he’d be 200 years old today.  Who is Robert Bunsen you ask?  Well, he invented the Bunsen cell which is a kind of battery.  He also discovered the elements cesium and rubidium and he lost an eye in a laboratory explosion.  But if you think the name sounds familiar, it’s most likely because he invented the Bunsen burner, probably still found in every high school and college chemistry lab.  And he didn’t patent it either.
  • Seven people won the $319 Million Mega Millions Lottery in an office pool.  Usually, there are eight people in the pool, but the eighth guy said he wasn’t feeling lucky that day and declined to participate.  Turns out he was right.  He wasn’t lucky that day.
  • If you’re buying portable audio video equipment, here’s a suggestion:  what kind of battery the thing uses ought to help you decide which one to buy.  I have a four-year-old portable DVD player.  I just bought a new, proprietary battery for it.  The battery cost $90 and was very hard to find.  The whole device cost roughly $200 new, including the battery.  A high-capacity battery for my laptop computer is in the same price range.  If you can find something with a non-exclusive battery (and good luck doing that), it ought to be cheaper to replace.  If not, you may want to look up the cost of replacement batteries for the device you’re considering and buy the device with the least expensive replacement batteries.
  • I just figured out something I should have discovered right after we got our first dishwasher.  If you eat bran flakes for breakfast (or at any time of day for that matter), you should rinse out the bowl and put it in the dishwasher or you should put it in the dishwasher right away and put it through its cycle right away too.  What you should not do is let that residue dry until it’s like concrete and then try to wash the bowl.
  • One of the great things about being an adult is that Gym isn’t a required subject for me anymore.
  • My daughter is leaving China to come home at 10:00 tonight our time, or 10:00 tomorrow morning in Shanghai.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • Did you win the $319 million Mega Millions Lottery last night?  I won three bucks, not $319 million, but I’m not going to let it ruin my day.  Not recently, but I have bought lottery tickets at the store in Albany, NY, that sold the one winner.  It’s close enough to the Governor’s mansion that it’s possible Governor Cuomo bought tickets there.  Maybe he won.  He could use the money to help balance the New York State budget.
  •  I think we all know by now that DVD’s are copyrighted, so can’t we please start making some that either don’t have the annoying notice at the beginning, or allow you to skip it?
  • Musician Sammy Hagar announced last week that he had been kidnapped by aliens.  This lead me to wonder why aliens never seem to kidnap the world’s leading intellectuals.  Or is it that the leading intellectuals who are kidnapped by aliens are smart enough not to tell anyone about it afterwards?
  • Why does my cable TV box go into power saving mode at 1:30 in the morning unless I press one of the buttons on the remote between 1:15 and 1:30?  Can I shut that feature off?  I’m often up at 1:30 AM and it’s annoying.
  • Is going to the gym good for you?  The reason I ask is that most of the people who go to the gym near where I live, including me, are overweight.

Things I Know

  • I haven’t heard from my kids since my daughter arrived in China on Wednesday to visit her brother.  I’ve heard that there is trouble with email traffic between hear and China, so that’s probably the reason.  I’ve also heard that the Chinese government is deliberately slowing down such traffic, especially gmail traffic.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know my son is using a gmail account.
  • Mega Millions is $312 million (or so) tonight.  I know the odds are something like 175 million to one against, but I play anyway.  Why?  I pay taxes on some things that amuse me, but the lottery is the only tax I pay that amuses me all by itself.  Knowing better than most people how small my chance of winning is, I like to tease my wife about how cheap I’d be if I won, and that running joke with my wife amuses me too.  A Mega Millions ticket is also cheaper than a lot of other things that amuse me.  If I buy a ticket in the upper deck, and go to a baseball game by myself it’ll wind up costing me $60 for the ticket, parking and food as opposed to a buck for the lottery ticket.  My trip to Las Vegas last October cost a lot more than that; so did tickets to the shows, and restaurants we patronized while we were there.
  • And speaking of major league baseball, opening day is less than a week away
  • My wife, Saint Karen (she has to be a saint to put up with me), came home today and told me she had signed up for the office lottery pool.  This makes sense, because in the extremely unlikely event that they do win, why would she want to be the only one left in the office
  • I told Saint Karen that all she has to do to join my personal lottery pool is remain married to me.  So far, so good.
  • I absolutely hate people who make grand plans to give away huge sums of money before they win the huge lottery.  Because I know how little chance I have of winning, I have a much simpler plan.  If I win, I’m going to keep it.
  • Anyone who bemoaned the passing of fifties music from commercial radio should take note that sixties music is also disappearing slowly from the airwaves.  It was inevitable.  The reason is that advertising professionals believe older people are less influenced by commercials.  Radio is funded by commercials, so the people who buy the commercials want to reach a younger audience they can easily convince to buy their products.
  • If you like music, you should collect what you like.  That way, it won’t bother you a lot when the music you likes isn’t played on the radio anymore.

Things I Know

  •  Tina Adovasio’s, bruised body was found last week in a wooded area near the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, New York.  This week, police arrested her estranged husband for the murder.  According to the NY Post, she told her divorce lawyer that if something happened to her it was her husband who did it.  This isn’t the first time a woman has turned up dead after telling people her husband might kill her.  If you think your husband might kill you, leave!  Maybe even leave, and hide.  If you leave, and you’re wrong, no harm done; if you leave, and you’re right, no harm done either.
  • One thing we learned from the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident in Japan is someone needs to make the biggest possible diesel generator that can be transported by helicopter and some of them need to be available to power cooling systems at nuclear plants in the event another one (or four or six) suffer(s) catastrophic failure.
  • My daughter is spending about three hours in Tokyo’s Narita airport on her way to Shanghai, China.  The plane from New York to Japan flew a great circle route that took it over Siberia.  The plane’s route was, however, careful to avoid North Korean airspace.  Smart!
  • Unless it’s specially designed for that purpose, a photocopier generally doesn’t copy photographs very well.
  • You can use duct tape for a lot of things, but you shouldn’t use it to seal ductwork.  There’s a special metal tape for that and it works much better.  Duct tape will dry out and become useless if you use it to tape ducts.

St. Patrick’s Day

I don’t make any effort to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.  If I have something to wear, I do, but I don’t make a special effort.  I have other credentials:  My father painted the first legal green line up Fifth Avenue in New York City for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  My father joined the New York City police force in 1931, so the legal green line hasn’t been there forever, although I knew another guy who used to get loaded with his buddies and they painted the green line on a voluntary basis before the city took over the task.

Sometimes I wonder if St. Patrick ever visited Long Island because there are no poisonous snakes here either.

I’ve driven to Albany on St. Patrick’s Day in a blinding snow storm that also had thunder and lightning associated with it.  There may have been another one, but I don’t remember a St. Patrick’s Day with weather as beautiful as today is in New York.  It’s sunny with a high near 60 degrees.

Have you heard the radio commercials for Guinness Breweries in which they brag that the founder signed a nine-thousand year lease on the brewery hundreds of years ago?  I wouldn’t brag about that.  It was a terrible business decision.  If the founder of Guinness Brewery expected the company to be there for nine-thousand years, he should have bought the place.

If I were a drinking man, I’d probably drop by Guido’s Irish Pub on Wantagh Avenue in Wantagh, NY today for a wee drop.  I’ve never been there.  I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but the name, which I’ve mentioned before, fascinates me.  I bet they get customers who see it driving by, stop, go in and ask, “What the hell is with the name of this place?”  Someday, I may even stop in there and ask that question, but if I do, I’ll also ask how many times they’ve heard the question before.

My son has a St. Patrick’s Day story that will last him his entire life.  In 2011, he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by lifting a pint in O’Malley’s Bar in Shanghai, China.  I asked him if they have a St. Patrick’s Day parade there, but I haven’t heard back yet.  One place there is a parade that you might not think of is Savannah Georgia.  In fact, the parade in Savannah is a very big deal from what I’ve heard.

Doug McIntyre said on his overnight radio show this week that St. Patrick’s Day is the only ethnic holiday he knows of that reinforces ethnic stereotypes.

If you’re into Irish coffee, or even if you aren’t, you might enjoy my recipe.  I suggest you try your Irish coffee black, with no coffee.

Things I Know

  • No blarney, honest:  You can look it up on or someplace else on the Internet if you don’t believe me.  There’s a CD called “The Best Bagpipe Moments Ever.”  I know you won’t believe this part, but there are 35 songs on it!  I only bring it up because St. Patrick’s Day is Thursday.
  • In the old days on the old sod, fighting Irishmen (is there any other kind?) used a type of bagpipe called the Great Irish War Pipe to scare opponents on the battle field.  It worked then; it would still work today!
  • Since Lent started last Wednesday, I guess Easter-Bunny hunting season is officially under way.  You can get your Easter-Bunny hunting license at any chocolatier.
  • Here’s how to make the NCAA basketball tournament finish faster, maybe even in March:  Make the Big East Tournament one of the brackets.
  • Until there were railroads, people used to have to live near rivers because they were the only reliable means of transportation.  However, if you move to Wayne New Jersey these days and are surprised when the area floods, you haven’t been paying attention and it’s your own damned fault.  Or maybe it’s your dammed fault.  I don’t know which.
  • Beware of spell checkers.  A landscaper with customers in our neighborhood passed out good looking, professionally printed cards looking for costumers.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want someone to dress his crew and him in fancy clothes.  Perhaps he’s really looking for customers and relied too much on a computerized spell checker.
  • Our son will be in China on his birthday, so before he left, his mother gave him his birthday present.  Our daughter is going to China in less than two weeks to visit her brother and before she leaves, her mother is giving her a birthday present too, even though she’ll be back home three months before her birthday.
  • And speaking of birthdays, March 15th is my oldest friend Jeff’s birthday.  How old are Jeff and I?  I am not going to tell you, but I will say that neither of us can remember when we met and became friends.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  •  I wonder if I can get my wife, Saint Karen, to find the hour I plan to lose tonight?
  •  Did you hear about this study?  Then shouldn’t I be a lot healthier than I am?  The guy who came up with that study must have been in a lot of trouble with his wife or girlfriend when he thought of it.
  • If gasoline keeps going up as fast as it is these days, how soon will it be before someone comes out with a car that runs on computer printer ink?
  • Where does the tooth fairy get all the money she leaves under kids’ pillows in exchange for their baby teeth?  I’ve never heard of her having another job, have you?  And she’s not on the new Forbes Magazine list of the richest people in the world.
  • Supposedly, we have illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens (depending on your political viewpoint) because they do jobs Americans don’t want to do.  So, how come they don’t serve on jury duty?
  • You can’t get prune juice by squeezing prunes, can you?
  • If people want low sodium food, I have no problem with providing it, but isn’t salt the idea behind pretzels, potato chips, French fries and salt bagels?  Making those available with reduced salt is fine with me, but why have they stopped making the kind with a lot of salt?
  • This blog is produced using Word Press software.  Does anyone know if there’s a way to eliminate drafts (other than weather stripping, I mean)?  If there is, I can’t figure it out and I have two draft blog items I’d rather delete than publish.
  • National Ravioli Day is March 20th.  So, perhaps someone can explain to me why a restaurant in Naples FL is celebrating on March 21st.
  • Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but mean different things.  Ripe is a homonym.  If something smells ripe, its spoiled and not fit to eat, but if a fruit is ripe, that’s the best time to eat it.  How do you tell what the meaning is?  Context.  It’s been a long time since I took grammar.  Is there a name for words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean different things?  I think the people in charge of English should eliminate all but one of those words and let context tell you which of the multiple meanings the one word left carries.  I think two, too, and to are the most common examples, but I was reminded of this by compliment and complement.  I knew the two meanings and the two spellings, but I have to look them up to be sure which spelling goes with which meaning.   What’s the point?  Why don’t we get rid of one and pick the other?

The Last Parking Ticket Update

The defective parking ticket wasn’t defective enough for me to beat the rap, so I paid the fine last week.  I asked if I could get the 40% discount from the parking amnesty program I whined about in January.  Nope.  I had to pay full price.  I invested the $25 fine over the past nine months though, so at one percent interest, I earned an additional 18 cents!


Right now, I’m looking for a rented DVD and a pair of ear buds.  If I didn’t have to replace many things I’ve lost over the years, I’d probably be much better off financially, unless of course I lost the money I paid to replace things instead.

There are at least two kinds of people in the world:  people who lose things; and people who find them.  I’m the first kind, and my wife, Saint Karen (she has to be a saint to put up with me), is the second.  In some ways, that makes us complementary.  I lose it, and often, she finds it.  In other ways, it makes us completely incompatible.  I lose something.  She becomes exasperated and says, “Where did you have it last?”

Then I say, “If I knew the answer to that question, it wouldn’t be lost, would it?”

This exchange is usually followed by an interlude of silence.  Often, my wife then finds whatever I lost.  Here’s an example of how this costs me money.  I couldn’t find my set of three chisels, so I borrowed a set of three chisels from my sister and lost one of her chisels too.  Then, I found my chisels (all three of them), but not the one of hers I lost.  So, now I have five chisels and had to buy another set for my sister because if I gave her one of mine and two of hers she wouldn’t have a set and if I gave her my set I wouldn’t have a set.  I hope I get the new set to her before I lose those chisels too.

Some things are easier to lose than others.  I researched utility knives and retractable steel tape measures.  I need four utility knives and three tape measures to know where at least one of each is at all times.  I’ve occasionally known where all four utility knives were at the same time (not now though), but I’ve never been able to find the third of my three tape measures, so maybe I really only need two.

When I really want to keep something and ensure that I dont lose it, such as my spare set of glasses, or the keys to my other car, I usually put it in my truck.  I’ve owned about a dozen cars or trucks in my life and I’ve never yet lost one of those.  I also took the loyalty cards I get from supermarkets and other stores, put them on a key chain together and keep that key chain in my truck too.  None of the stores that have issued loyalty cards to me are close enough to walk to.  So, if the cards are in the truck, I’ll have them with me when I need them.

Sometimes I kid Saint Karen and say she hides my things and then finds them so I’ll think she’s indispensable.  That’s useless.  I already think that.   When I hear about a business that has lost literally tons of money, I think they should hire her to look for the money because she’s exceptionally good at finding the stuff I lose.

Things I Know

  •  My oldest friend sent me an email about International Disturbed People’s Day.  Somehow, I feel I should receive not an e-mail, but an invitation, an engraved invitation.  The e-mail was funny, but I looked and couldn’t find any agreement on the exact date on which the event is celebrated.  I find that disturbing.
  • Department of things I hope nobody buys:  The Kate Middleton doll being sold by the Franklin Mint for $195.00.
  • The Mets are apparently unfamiliar with Abbott & Costello.  They have a shortstop in their training camp named Hu.  Everyone who is familiar with Abbott & Costello knows Hu should be on first and I Don’t Give A Darn should be the shortstop.
  • If you apply for a visa to visit China from the United States, the application asks for your marital status.  One of the choices they give you is “spinster.”
  • The government of China, from time to time, blocks access from within the country to certain Internet sites.  Facebook is one of them.  Expatriates call this action the great firewall of China.
  • My son reports that there are tons of restaurants in Shanghai that serve American takeout food, but none of them are staffed entirely with American waiters.
  • World traveler that my son is, he also reports that the McDonald’s Restaurant in which he dined in Shanghai doesn’t put salt on the French fries.
  • The five-second rule is bogus.  You know.  That’s when you drop some food on the ground and eat it anyway because it wasn’t on the ground very long.   Who says it’s bogus?  Dr. Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College.  As quoted in the NY Times on February 28th, he said, “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.”
  • When Duke Snider died, not only did Newsday publish a picture of the Duke in a right-handed batting stance (in an era of switch hitters, Duke was a devout lefty hitter), but the Daily News published an editorial cartoon of Duke in heaven in which he had a glove on his right hand while he was catching a ball.  In baseball shorthand, when he was playing, Duke would have been described as “bats left, throws right.”  In Duke”s heyday, neither paper would have made either mistake, but the Dodgers have now been in LA longer than they were in Brooklyn, and Duke lived so long that nobody at either paper knew the answer without thinking about it.
  • I have a Canon Pixma MP980 printer.  It’s a wonderful device, except that the ink is more expensive than even gasoline, and it uses a lot of ink quickly.  Since it cleans its heads every time you print anything, it will use all of your colored ink even if you only print in black and white.  Canon makes a combo pack of four of the six ink cartridges you need for this printer.  You also need a gray ink cartridge the same size and a larger black cartridge.  I always wondered why they didn’t include the gray cartridge with the other four the same size and now I know.  There are Canon printers that use the four cartridges in the combo pack, but don’t need the gray one.
  • My wife’s latest theory is that light-weight, plastic garbage cans cause wind storms.

The Mistake And The Fix

Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, had a really great subscription deal and advertised it on TV.  If you signed up for a one-year subscription and paid in advance, you got the paper for $3.99 a week and you got a $100 gift card.  This made the net cost of daily home delivery roughly the same as the cost of buying the Sunday paper at the newsstand.  I watched this commercial many times before I decided to call on February 26th.  Never one to do anything at the first minute, my timing was impeccable, because the offer expired two days later.  During my call, I thought I ordered the paper.  I gave them my address, my credit card number and everything.  At the end, I asked when the subscription would start.  The lady on the phone said she didn’t know, but would have someone call me.

I thought they might begin it on the first day of a week, as the Daily News had when I ordered a home delivery subscription from them.  Therefore, I thought the subscription was most likely to start on February 27th or March 6th.  As I found out later, Newsday starts your subscription the very next day.  Nobody called me back and I didn’t get a paper.  So, on March 6th, I called and asked why my subscription hadn’t started.  After researching it, the nice lady I spoke to said I had only inquired about a subscription, not ordered one.  She offered me the subscription without the gift card, which would have made the net cost to me 93% higher.

On the 6th and again on the 7th, I argued that if Newsday or its agents made a mistake, the paper should stand by the original offer.  On the 8th, the nice lady in circulation called me back and said that Newsday would honor the offer.

Everybody makes mistakes.  I certainly do.  The test is what you do when you learn you’ve made a mistake.  I’m sure I did order the paper on the 26th; Newsday isn’t as sure as I am.  But today, the nice lady in circulation, called me back and said Newsday would honor my order, start my subscription tomorrow and send me the gift card in a couple of weeks.

So, kudos to Newsday for rectifying a mistake and kudos to the nice lady in circulation, whose name, by the way, is Diane.

Rental Rantal

At first I didn’t understand the car rental business.  Now, I think what they do is deliberate.  You can make a reservation for a rental car, but they don’t ask you to pay for it.  When you make a reservation, the company tells you that you’ll get x kind of car, “or similar.”  They have a strange definition of similar.  They have strange definitions of intermediate, standard, premium, etc. too.  A few years ago, I rented an intermediate SUV and got one that the automotive press called a compact SUV.  I was recently looking at intermediate sedans for an upcoming trip.  One company offered me a Toyota Corolla as an intermediate.  My Corolla certainly isn’t intermediate.  Is yours? Three years ago, I wanted a sedan.  They didn’t have what I wanted and the “or similar” turned out to be a Dodge Magnum.  I wanted a sedan, because I had luggage and didn’t want it out in plain sight.  I didn’t consider the Magnum similar at all.  It’s a station wagon with no way to conceal your luggage.  I held out for a sedan and while I didn’t get the one I thought I’d get, I did get one.  On my first trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, I reserved a Jeep Grand Cherokee and they offered me a smaller Jeep Liberty at the same price.  I balked and they gave me a Chrysler Pacifica which they said had all-wheel drive, but didn’t.  In Colorado and New Mexico, I arranged for a Grand Cherokee and wound up with a Subaru Forester, which does have all-wheel drive, but doesn’t carry as much.

I’ve also noticed that some car rental companies advertise cars that are no longer made.  What’s an “Or Similar” if the rental agency says they rent Pontiacs?  A DeSoto, or a Studebaker?

All of these charming quirks in the car rental process are apparently designed so they can up-sell you.  They don’t have any incentive to have the car you didn’t pay for.  They have described the cars they do have in terms that make each category sound better than the cars are, and worse than the average consumer or the automotive press would understand.  You have shopped for the car on line, and you have set expectations for the car, and the price.  You are tired and cranky after a long flight.  You want to get out of the airport and either down to business, or off on vacation.  They offer you less than you expected.  You don’t want to go to all the other rental counters to stand on line, and shop for something better.  So you pay more to get something you do find more acceptable.  Heads they win, tails you lose.

One thing that might help is if some auto maker produces a car so expensive that no car rental company would consider having even one of them in stock and calls that car the “Or Similar.”  If that happens, the rental agencies will have to stop this substitution nonsense, or at least spend some time and effort making up a new term.  Instead of calling the cars they really do rent the “Or Similar”, maybe they could call it the “Misleading Business Practice” instead.