Ramblings and Revolutions

I think, therefore I'm dangerous.

Price vs. Value

As we gear up for next week’s Great Shopping Extravaganza (a/k/a The Holiday Formerly Known As Thanksgiving), lots of folks are getting excited about the so-called Black Friday sales. The opportunity to buy stuff at low prices is so tempting that some folks have already started camping out in front of major retailers in order to be the first in line when the doors open.

It’s all in pursuit of more stuff. We all want more stuff. Yay for stuff! Let’s camp out at MegaElectronicsStore for a week to get more STUFF! Let’s get the latest and greatest, cheap!

There’s only one catch — with very, very few exceptions, good stuff isn’t cheap. And cheap stuff isn’t good. A corollary to that is the fact that “the good stuff” — the REALLY good stuff — doesn’t go on sale.

Don’t believe me? Go compare the 90-inch flat-screen TV that will be on sale on Black Friday for $12.98 to the 50-inch top name brand that sells for $2,000 all year round. See which one has the better picture.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” How about we focus more on value than price? How about owning LESS stuff, but higher quality? The good stuff, if you will.

You’ll know the good stuff when you find it.  The good stuff just looks, sounds and FEELS right, whether it’s a chef’s knife, a TV, a table saw or even a ballpoint pen.

Important note — the good stuff isn’t automatically more expensive.  It CAN be, but it isn’t always. Even at the level of the $12.98 TV, there are manufacturers that take more pride in their products, that go that little extra step. You’ll see.

Even more important note — Remember, the most important things in life — aren’t things. You can always get a TV. You can’t always spend time with people you love on Thanksgiving. Time is the most precious good stuff of all.

And it’s never on sale.


Random Thought

Seems to me the “Real Housewives,” no matter what city they’re from, are neither real nor housewives.

A Little Knowledge…

It’s remarkable sometimes what people don’t know. Especially when the reason they don’t know it is because they didn’t take the time to find out.

There’s a saying my computer-geek friends use often to describe computer issues:  “Problem is between chair and keyboard.” In other words, it’s user error. It’s usually easily remedied, most often by reading something in a manual or on a screen.

Cars are another great example. It’s amazing how many folks don’t know their own vehicles. They call radio shows, write to newspaper help columns, take their vehicles into the dealer for service when nothing is wrong.

Recently, a frustrated owner wrote to a major newspaper auto columnist asking what to do to make their vehicle stop automatically unlocking the doors whenever the driver shifts to park. With a four-door vehicle, they were rightfully concerned about potential safety and security issues in parking lots.

The columnist drives dozens of cars a year, and honestly can’t be expected to read the owner’s manuals for all of them. She suggested the owner contact the dealership, and she (the columnist) would follow up with the manufacturer in case it was a defect.

Thing is, nothing was wrong with the vehicle. I happen to own the same make and model. The auto-unlock feature is user selectable, and can be turned off easily.  In fact, I turned it off on my own car. I knew how to do so because I read the owner’s manual.

Problem between seat and steering wheel.

I recently traded in an all-wheel-drive car. Fortunately, I never had to deal with changing a tire on the road while I had the car. But if I had, I would have needed to drive for at least a few miles on the “donut” spare, smaller than the regular tire.

On most cars, that’s not a major issue. But on this particular machine, some very expensive parts can be destroyed by driving with one wheel a different size than the others.

There’s an easy way to prevent the damage — just pull one fuse until a normal-size tire is back in place, and the problem is solved. But who even thinks about that when it comes to changing a tire?

The answer, in this case, is anyone who took the time to read the owner’s manual.

A little knowledge is a good thing.


So How Cool Is This?

We just landed a spacecraft on a freakin’ COMET! One that’s 300 MILLION miles from Earth!

Absolutely amazing!

Details HERE:

Show Your Gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for. Really, think about it. All things considered, if you’re reading this, you have many things to be thankful for this year.

No, I’m not being a Pollyanna here. Sure, everyone has some aspect of their life that’s not going as well as they might like. Budget problems. Car problems. Health problems. Relationship problems. Family problems. No one’s life is perfect.

Having said that, all of us still have plenty to be grateful for. Remember what I said above – “if you’re reading this”? Well, if you are, that means someone taught you to read. That brought a wealth of knowledge into your life. Where would you be if you couldn’t read?

Not to mention the fact that if you’re reading this, you have access to some sort of electronic communication device. Whether it’s a computer, a tablet or a smart phone, you are connected to the world. You can communicate with people, let your voice be heard, your views known. You can speak up against poverty, injustice, oppression.

Do you have a roof over your head? Four walls to keep you warm, safe and dry? An awful lot of people in the world don’t.

Do you have enough food to eat? Do your children? If the answer to both those questions is positive, you are truly blessed. Can you safely drink water in the town where you live?  Once again, that’s a luxury many people don’t have.

Do you have family, friends or pets that you care about, and who care about you? Celebrate!

Look, the bottom line is a simple one — we ALL have more to be grateful for than we can even imagine. Don’t take it for granted. Show the world.

Why not wear a wristband, one that says simply “Grateful”?  That or something similar is a great way to tell people that you don’t take the world — or them — for granted.

However you choose to show your gratitude,  remember that there are always people less fortunate than you.  Do your best to help them when you can.

And as the holiday season continues, remember, especially on that day after Thanksgiving, it’s about the people, not the stuff.




Some Days…

… you gotta just get up out of the chair…

… turn off the TV …

… turn up the music…

… and DANCE!

(like THIS)

No Matter What Party You Belong To, Celebrate Election Day

So it’s the day after Election Day.

Some folks are happy their chosen candidates/party  won.

Others are upset their chosen candidates/party lost.

That’s to be expected. But the main thing we need to remember is that we ALL should be celebrating today.

Why? Because we managed to have an election, and the will of the people was heard. Come January, a peaceful transition will take place, and, for the most part, life will go on in pretty much the same way.  In far too many places in the world, political change happens only at the end of  gun barrel, or with rioting in the streets.

Or it doesn’t happen at all, and dictators rule with an iron hand, even today.

Sure, our representative democracy is loud, sloppy, indecorous and frustrating. No matter which side prevails, someone is going to disagree. We’ll never have 100% agreement on anything, particularly in what appear to be extraordinarily polarizing times.

But you know what? We still managed to vote. The results will be respected by majority and minority alike, and the will of the people will be done. And even if we’re on the losing side, we’re still free to discuss, complain, question and whine about the election results.

Care to try that in North Korea? China? Russia? Myanmar?

No, our system isn’t perfect. But it’s likely the best one on the planet.

And if you’re dissatisfied with the election results, remember, we get to do the whole thing all over again in two years.

R.I.P., Tom Magliozzi

Sad news from Massachusetts today with the announcement of the death of Tom Magliozzi,  half — with his younger brother Ray — of the Car Talk duo on NPR.

The brothers Magliozzi, a/k/a Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, have been a fixture of Saturday mornings for nearly three decades. Car Talk was the most popular program on NPR’s airwaves. Listeners like me tuned in faithfully for a weekly dose of laughter, practical jokes, brain-teasing puzzlers,  good-natured ribbing and some occasional actual automotive advice.

You could always tell the brothers were close. They played off each other with the natural comic timing that only people who have loved and respected each other for many years can achieve.  My wife’s favorite part of the show was always the banter and laughter between Tom and Ray, especially the times when one cracked up the other to the point of making an involuntary nasal snort.

The Magliozzis officially retired from the show two years ago, and perhaps today’s announcement, listing Tom’s death as a result of complications of Alzheimer’s disease, explains why.  But compilations of previous shows continue on the air, and remain a source of warmth and laughter. Ray Magliozzi has expressed a desire for those to continue as a tribute to Tom. Let’s hope NPR is listening.

Rest in peace, Tom, and thank you for all you gave us while you were here.


What Price Justice?

Warren M. Anderson, 92, died peacefully in a Florida nursing home Sept. 29. His death went largely unnoticed and unreported for more than a month, until the New York Times published his obituary on Oct. 31.

The name’s probably unfamiliar to most Americans. Anderson lived a quiet life for the past 28 years, intentionally staying out of the limelight, the Times reported.

But in India, it’s a different story.  Many Indians regard Anderson as nothing short of a mass murderer.

What was Anderson’s alleged crime? Being the CEO of a  U.S.-based multinational corporation responsible for the worst industrial disaster in history — the 1984 Bhopal gas leak.

On the night of Dec. 2, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India, released a cloud of toxic methyl isocyanate  (MIC) gas, killing thousands and severely injuring hundreds of thousands more. Estimates of the number of people killed that night range from about 3,800 to more than 20,000. And many more have died following severe lung damage and other organ failure over the ensuing 30 years. Others have lived with MIC-induced illnesses and disabilities.

Anderson flew to India just days after the deadly release and was promptly arrested.  Released on bail, he left the country and flew back to the United States, never to return to India. He retired from Union Carbide less than two years later.

Despite calls for his return, Anderson was never extradited to India, where he would have faced homicide charges. News of his death has brought fresh outrage in Indian news outlets, with Bhopal victims and their families claiming justice wasn’t served, with many suggesting that Anderson “rot in hell.”

Union Carbide paid the Indian government $470 million in 1989 to settle claims from the accident. The cause of the disaster was never determined. Indian activists blame poor maintenance and outdated equipment at the plant. Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical) blames sabotage by disgruntled workers. The truth likely will never be known.

But for those calling for Anderson’s head on a platter, how responsible was he? At the time, Union Carbide operated more than 700 industrial plants worldwide. Should the CEO have known that one plant was in a dangerous condition?  Should he be held responsible, even though he didn’t cause the release of toxic gas? To what standard should we hold corporate officers running legal businesses at the highest levels?

Before you say “of course not,” put the shoe on the American foot. Should Tony Hayward, the chairman of BP at the time of the 2010 oil spill have been jailed? Should the man who said “I’d like my life back” after 11 people lost theirs on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded have to do time in the United States?

I’d argue that it’s a dangerous claim to make. Neither Anderson nor Hayward directly caused the deaths the accident victims. And while anger and a cry for vengeance may feel good in the moment, they tend to lead to unsatisfying conclusions. Jailing Anderson — or Hayward — wouldn’t have brought back the lives lost. It wouldn’t have healed the injured, helped the economy or cleaned up the environmental damage.

In the case of large-scale disasters, perhaps there simply is no justice, for anyone involved.

Words of Wisdom

We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

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