26

Disruptive Technology

Last week or so I have bumped into the term Disruptive Technology a couple of times. This kind of thing has always fascinated me because it is so often the other side of the success coin. Think of all of the things that can stand in your way just trying to come up with a new way of doing something. Now imagine this new way either obsoletes an entire industry or needs to create one. Rady-Oh! I’ll give you one example. Many of you know I had a brief radio career in my twenties. In ScottsBluff, Nebraska, at one of the radio stations I worked with the second-generation of the family that started things back when there wasn’t radio, at the start of the Great Depression. The owner used to work on the air at the radio station he started all morning, then in the afternoons he would alternately go into town to meet with businesses to sell advertising—or—he would actually go door to door through the neighborhoods and out into the countryside, actually selling radios, so people could hear this new radio station. How hard must that have been? Get up in the morning and go in and present a morning radio show as if you had listeners when it might well be that it was as if you […]

05

The Elasticity of Time

I’ve always been impressed with the elasticity of Time. You’ve probably seen a few examples of it yourself—how a moment doing this passes longer than an hour doing that. How you stumble upon a movie that you haven’t thought of in quite a while and suddenly realize you can’t quite place it in time. That last one happened to me just this last week, as I was scrolling through the TV listings and happened upon Tom Hanks in Castaway. It turns out that film came out in the year 2000, which means it can drive now and it’ll be old enough buy a drink next year. How can that be? Really? We measure time in a way we have found to be convenient and not really by any specific events. In other cultures, in other eras, they tried systems where every day had 24hrs, and the hours themselves grew or shrunk depending upon the season. That must have been a handful, huh? Then again, maybe one day another culture will wonder about our having so many time zones and then still using concepts like Daylight Savings. I don’t know. But what we call a day doesn’t begin at sunrise or end at sunset. And we have ordered our weeks and months and years accordingly, too. It doesn’t really matter anymore when the planting […]

28

April in the Rear View Mirror

I gotta say it: I’m not going to miss April. My father died in April. My mother died in April. A Facebook friend’s dog died, and a cousin’s dog died, too. And last week my favorite aunt, my father’s sister, also left us. We also finally completed refinancing our mortgage. And we cashed in our landline telephone and a bunch of TV channels we didn’t really watch so we are saving a tiny pile of money next month over what we spent in, say, March or February. But it all adds up. It’s been a lot of stress. I got to see my own sister again, which was terrific. But I also had to say goodbye to her again, which was awful, again. We had an out of state wedding to travel to which was really nice, but it was a long trip there and a long trip back and we couldn’t spend as much time as we’d have probably liked because of that. Somehow, I didn’t quite get our income taxes tuned-up, so I had to file an extension. Now I noodle a little bit every other day or so on them and hope to get them done in the next few days. When I was a kid, I somehow had this idea, maybe from fairy tales or something, […]

21

Why A Honda Fit, Mark?

So, Why A Honda Fit? I don’t get asked often, but from time to time people wonder how I came to choose a Honda Fit. “Gas prices are low… why don’t you get something bigger (or faster, or nicer, or what it turns out to be generally thirstier)? Well, I bought my Honda with the cash I had on hand. I haven’t made a car payment since 1997 and I didn’t feel like starting with this car. I just didn’t see the need. At around $22,000 the Fit was a comfortable, well, fit for my needs at the time as a commuter car for just myself with an occasional runabout for groceries or lunch some light shopping or something like that. More than a year on I have less than 7,000 miles on the little guy so fuel economy alone wasn’t going to be enough of a factor. If I’d bought a big V-12 engined luxury barge that got 9mpg the expenses would still be not all that different. But I am something of a tree-hugger. I was raised on that crying Indian, old Iron Eyes Cody, who was sad because people were littering. To me, it’s always been a good idea to do the most you can with the least you need. And besides, if I can spend $20 […]

14

Achoo!

It is Spring in Nebraska. That time of year when “…a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…” well, Claritin, Zyrtec and Nasacort at my house, with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Oh sure. A few of us are thinking of Harley-Davidsons, or Miatas or Mustangs, or road bicycles and so on. But with the kind of regularity a calendar cannot even afford, we find ourselves waking up with yucky eyes and cloggy noses and hacky coughs. Tiny little headaches and a host of other maladies. It’s allergy season in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It may be worse for me this year because this year I have a cat. I am allergic to cats. I have, for some months been taking all kinds of anti-cat-allergy dope and wondering at both the efficacy and the payoff for an animal that wanted nothing to do with me but about a month ago, I became a Cat Daddy. Kitty now walks toward me and appears to enjoy rather than tolerate my ear scratches, chin rubs and rib strokes. She will let me rest my hand upon her now when only a month ago she would have nothing to do with me. We play a curious game, now. I hold my finger out in front of […]

07

Our Little House on the Prairie

Every now and then we get something right, Kathie and me. When we were shopping for a house we were scared. We’d never done anything quite so grown-up before. We spent weeks and weeks getting our credit house in order. Making sure old, dead credit cards were canceled. Making sure everyone got paid a little more than necessary and on- or ahead of time. When the day came we were pushing a FICO score in the middle 700s but weren’t really sure that actually would mean for us. How Much Could We Really Afford? We went down to see the Money Lady that our real estate agent suggested. She was very kind and patient and answered all of our questions, sometimes twice. She took down all of our information and then suggested, with a straight face, that not only did we qualify for a mortgage, but we qualified for about 125% more than what we were really wanting to spend on a house. Kathie and I had gone to several mortgage calculator Web sites and punched in some preliminary numbers and we had a figure in mind that we were comfortable with. When we found out that we qualified for a mortgage we were overjoyed. When we found out we qualified for one quarter more than what we were looking […]

25

Job-Killing Regulations

We hear a lot about those pesky damned job-killing regulations these days. We’re constantly told that mean old gubmint is messing up everything when it comes to business in this country and getting in the way of honest people making an honest dollar. I don’t believe much of it, myself. I think people are looking for shortcuts again, and hoping we will all just look the other way when the inevitable happens. Water Crisis in Detroit Let’s ask the good people of Detroit what they think of the regulations surrounding the water that comes out of the tap, eh? Come in after mowing the lawn and pour yourself a good long glass with a few ice cubes in it and look forward to sitting back and relaxing for a moment or two, considering the job you’ve done and watching the rivulets of condensation join and run down the side of the glass. Refreshing? Could be… But what if the glass was full of brown water? Green water? Yellow water? It makes a difference, doesn’t it? Long after the Detroit water crisis left the headlines and the national TV news, it remains a problem. And it’s a problem a few Britta filters are not going to be able to solve. We used to have rules about this kind of thing. And […]

01

That One Magic… Thing

You have seen the ad, I’m sure, for Prevnar, that makes fun of people who might think a single sit-up or a single piece of kale is going to help them to live forever, right? There are a couple running now, here’s one: But I’ve always been impressed by this kind of thing because there is a magic sit-up. There is a magic piece of salad. There has to be. Think about it for a minute. Of course if you roll out your mat and do a single sit-up and then roll the mat up and never do another you are not going to get any healthier. But if you roll out your mat and do a hundred sit-ups a day, every day, for ten years, it’s going to have to have some kind of an effect on you, right? Well, somewhere between that first sit-up and that 365,000th one, is the one that’s going to make the difference. Twelve today? Thirty? Seventy? Hey, you’ve still got diabetes. You’ve still got all of the signs of heart trouble. You’ve still got a sixty-inch waist or whatever. And then somewhere along the line you pass that one individual sit-up that actually does make the difference. If you had quit that morning, at 357, or 1126, or 26417, you would still be […]

08

I Loves Me Some John Henry

I loves me some John Henry. That’s an unusual thing to read, or to write, about your plumber. I know. But they have been a great comfort, pardon the pun, to me and my family through the years. When Kathie and I first bought Castle Pretentious, five years ago as I write this, we were scared. We had both lived in some kind of rental housing the whole of our adult lives. If anything ever broke, we sent a note to the landlord or called the manager and it got fixed within a day or so. We went on vacation and found our refrigerator had given up when we walked in the door with our luggage. One phone call and we had a new one—with an ice maker that worked, too! The semi-convenient laundry facilities would cash-out from time to time and a quick call would bring a trained professional with a box full of tools and ideas to monkey with it for a while and then it would be fixed. But we had no idea how to do most everything involved in home ownership. How much is a toilet seat, anyway? How much is a really good one? How much is a, pardon me, crappy one? What if we needed a new window, or a new water heater? How […]

28

Class Reunion

Or, How Did We Get So Damned Old? So, I went to my high school reunion a couple of weeks ago. I never saw so many damned old people. Bald heads and bellies and wrinkles and old hair styles as far as the eye could see. I fit right in. One thing I noticed right away was the hotties back in high school are hot grammas, now. I see the gray hair. I see the wrinkles. But when I look at these ladies, I still them as seventeen years old! It was great to reconnect with old friends. Some of them I keep up with almost daily, via Facebook. But some I hadn’t seen for years and years. We picked up like we’d never been apart. I love that. I love them. Someone once told me that you don’t go to reunions for yourself. You go for the others. Someone there will be glad to see you; they’ll come up and tell you something about a time you shared, something you said that meant a lot to them through the years, they’ll want to apologize for something they said or did. I’m always glad I went, when I get home. One thing that struck me was the list of classmates who were gone. I came from a big school, and […]