(End Of) Time Magazine

Recently, United Airlines gave me the opportunity to subscribe to a few magazines with my paltry frequent flyer miles rather than have them expire.  You remember magazines, don’t you?  Folded and stapled sheets of glossy paper with words and pictures on them?

Anyway; one of the magazines I chose was Time.  It has been a cornerstone of American journalism for decades and I remember fondly pouring through it as a kid looking for items for my current events class.  You remember current events, don’t you?  It was time when elementary school kids could talk about the actual news of the day and learn critical thinking skills.

I’ve been getting my Time for a few months and I’m very sad.  It is no longer a news magazine.  In fact, I’m not really sure what it is, and I am a little suspicious that they may not know what they are either!

The most recent issue has the Orlando Massacre on the cover.  It’s a black cover with each of the victim’s names and ages printed in white.  When it arrived yesterday I settled down to read the in-depth article.  There were 12 pages devoted to the story, some making large use of photos.  In the middle there was an opinion piece on the importance of Gay bars as safe havens through the years.  I say it was an opinion piece because there was no beef there, no facts, no history.  It was just some guy’s opinion.

Anyway, I read all 12 pages, and you know what?  I learned NOTHING I didn’t already know.  And most surprising was that I got most of what I already knew from FACEBOOK of all places!

I’m not complaining.  I’m just recognizing that the world has changed. There really is no place for a standard news magazine today.  By the time the damn things are published, they are out of date.  We’ve already gotten it from television news or any number of websites or . . . .well, FACEBOOK.

Which is not to say that there isn’t a need for a real news magazine, one that would take an issue and examine it from several points of view, that would aim at the kind of critical thinking we were trying to develop back in fifth grade.  I believe there is a need for such a thing, but I also believe it would never fly in our world of tang-instant information.  We slobber down the banal because we don’t have time for anything more substantial.  We consume ‘news’ very much like we consume chicken nuggets from the drive thru window, without a thought, without a purpose.

 

Vitamix vs Ninja

I started making smoothies for breakfast about 8 years ago.  Every morning I take a banana, an orange, some frozen blueberries and whatever other fruit is available and blend it into a thick delicious beverage that satisfies my need for fiber, natural sugar and some vitamins and minerals.  I can’t imagine starting the day any other way!

vMy first good blender was a Vitamix, bought at Costco for about $350.  I swore by it – and still do.  It’s a great blender.

But recently I moved and in the process decided to leave my Vitamix with my friend and neighbor.  It was time for something new!

I priced Vitamix at Costco again and discovered the price had risen a bit.  I also discovered there were other super blenders on the market that claimed to do as good a job.  The day I decided to buy, the Ninja pro system went on sale.  Here was the blender, with three individual bullet type cups, a food processor and more, all for about $150.  Couldn’t resist that!  I figured, what the heck:  if it doesn’t do what I want it to do, it can go back to Costco!

Having used the Ninja for about 3 months, I think I can offer a reasonable ncomparison.

Is it better than the Vitamix?  No.

Is it as good as the Vitamix?  In some ways, yes, in others . . not so much.

The biggest negative I’ve experienced with the Ninja is its inability to pulverize fruit seeds and peels.  In my Vitamix days, I’d toss a piece of cantelope in the carafe, seeds and all and it would come out smooth, with undetectable seeds.  Same with a pear. Not so with the Ninja.  If you do that with a Ninja, your smoothie will have a certain grit.  The Ninja also fails on things like grape skin and peels.  They get cut up really small, sure; but they don’t fully disintegrate into the rest of the beverage.

On the positive side, the Ninja is a much better design, with an easier cleanup.  The blades are not permanently affixed to the carafe. They sit within it, anchored rather ingeniously; so they come out for cleaning.  Clean up is so much easier!  Everything – I mean every piece of the Ninja except the motor/base – goes into the dishwasher.  The plastic carafes come out sparkling clear.

Vitamix cautions against putting their carafe into the dishwasher.  And, trust me on this, over time, no matter how well you clean your Vitamix carafe, it’s going to become dingy and cloudy.  I’ve tried every trick I’ve been told by the demo people and that I’ve found online and nothing restores the Vitamix carafe to it’s original look.

Because the Ninja is a modular system with a number of different carafes and attachments, it’s more versatile.  I can do more with it.  The Vitamix, despite all of the goodies that are made in the Costco demo, is really just a smoothie maker/blender.

Thanks to clean-ability and versatility, I give Ninja the edge.  It doesn’t pulverize quite as well as the Vitamix, but it does a pretty good job.  And at about half the price of the Vitamix, it’s the logical choice, too.

Show Pads? Really?

I am watching the LA broadcast of the Dodgers game in San Diego.  I’ve heard the pregame broadcasters refer to the  Padres as the ‘Show Pads’ several times.  What the heck is that?  I started Googling and Googling.  Finally I found it:

A ‘Show Pad’ is a horse blanket.  It is the blanket that sits on the horse’s back, under the saddle.  I take it that is a derogatory.  Kinda like a door mat, just sweatier.

Well here’s a question for the highly monied team to the north:  do you have any idea where the name ‘Dodgers’ comes from?

I thought not.

In the early days the team was located in Brooklyn, of course.  But Brooklyn was a bit of a crossroads for various trolley lines. The team name was a bit of a derogatory itself, because originally, it was:

The Brooklyn TROLLEY DODGERS.

Got that mental picture?  People scrambling around to get out of the way of the Trolleys.

So, Trolley Dodgers, welcome to San Diego, where our mass transit is a Trolley System!  Coincidence?  I think not!

I don’t know who will win this game or this series.  But I do believe the Show Pads will be right in it at the end of the season with the Trolley Dodgers.  I guess we’ll see who wants it more then.

A New Twist on Saturday Morning

I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t own a proper one – I get what I need by running a cable into the back of my media center PC, and mostly, I’m watching re-runs of quality programming via Amazon Plus.

It’s a grey, chilly weekend in San Diego – a rarity to be sure, but one that makes me want to burrow and hibernate. So after leaving the gym at 8 this morning, I stopped by Jack-In-The-Box for a large coffee, then hurried home to a steamy bowl of oatmeal. For the heck of I turned on the ‘tube.’

I don’t know what I was looking for; maybe a morning news show or something. I remember Saturday morning was always the nearly exclusive bailey-wick of cartoons. As I kid, I looked forward to an hour or two of Buggs Bunny and the Road Runner almost every Saturday. But today, when I tuned into CBS I saw something different.

They’ve aparantly revamped their whole Saturday morning schedule with something called The Dream Team. It is a set of six half hour programs, geared toward teenagers (but of much broader appeal), of an educational and inspirational nature. I saw bits of two of them with a whole episode of Recipe Rehab sandwiched in between.

The first bit I saw was Innovation Nation, which presents fascinating accounts of inventors and inventions.  I saw a clip about the fellow who came up with the first digital camera.  At the end of the show is a segment where a couple of the more difficult words used in the program are defined.  I’m pleased to say I learned the real definition of ‘harbinger.’  I’d always given it an ominous spin because it seemed most often to preceed ‘of death.’  A ‘harbinger of death,’ being a precursor or for-teller of the END.  That’s not correct.  A harbinger is anything that essentially changes the game.  It is an event or moment that impacts everything that follows.  So the invention of the digital camera was a harbinger of present day photography.

Next I watched a whole episode of Recipe Rehab.  Now this was really cool!  It’s a cooking show, kinda, that aims to remake popular but unhealthy dishes into tasty, healthy versions.  This episode started with an normal unhealthy American family talking about Mom’s famous chicken and dumplings.  She starts with 3 cans of Campbell s Cream of Mushroom Soup and ends with canned biscuits.  With almost 4,000 Mg of Sodium per serving, I guess there’s little wonder that Dad has high blood pressure!  Two chefs are challenged to make a healthy version of the dish in 45 minutes.  One takes an Asian route, substituting homemade chicken won-tons for dumplings.  The other sticks closer to the original recipe, using a homemade vegetable soup as a base and using quinoa flour and chia seeds for the dumplings.

In the end the two dishes are ranked by the family – who had to make both from the recipes the chefs developed – on ease of prep and taste.  The show’s experts rated them on nutritional value.  The second recipe won but only by a point . . . and that’s not the point!  It was great fun watching the two chefs mull how to put something together that would approach the original recipe.  I learned a number of things I intend to use in my own kitchen.

Finally, I watched a little of Leila Ali’s show on adventurers.  She’s Mohammed Ali’s daughter, you know.  The bit I saw featured a Norwegian female cliff jumper scaling a 4,000 foot rock formation in the desert in Mali to leap off in a flying suit.  It was thrilling and very well photographed.  A beautiful show.

I am so happy to know that the programming people at CBS decided to take a substantial risk on providing quality programming aimed at young people during a time slot usually reserved for pablum.  It’s really good stuff – and though I doubt I’ll tune in live again, all of the shows are archived at CBS.com, so in my infrequent television moments, I’ll pick them up there.

Citizenship

Dr. Dick McKenna* once explained that the function of public education is to transmit the culture.

In America, the public school was the vehicle for teaching our children how to be American. They learned our history – which includes the fables and legends that color it – our values, our means of communication, our method of counting and so on. They also learned important cultural lessons relating to behavior; that you wait your turn, that you don’t disrupt a group, that you are on time, that you are respectful of others.

After 12 years of this kind of indoctrination, the schools graduated adults who were ready to take on the responsibility of earning a living, building families, contributing to the public good and voting.

I’ve been thinking about it this morning . . .

I”m not sure that it is particularly true today. I’m not sure the schools are transmitting the culture anymore – or perhaps the culture they are transmitting is being over-shadowed by a different culture.

I think kids today get most of their cultural indoctrination from media: television, video games, social media, music, the Internet. Compared to the well organized, carefully orchestrated environment of the classroom, this hodge podge of stimuli is chaotic. AND, this mess of media generally has the same agenda: to sell something other than culture! Too often, the lessons our media teaches young people are clothed in sex and glamour, wealth and tacky opulence. It is teaching kids that by looking and behaving a certain way, they can expect to become rich and to be beyond reproach.

We have kids who idolize Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton but who can’t tell you anything about Amelia Earhart. Boys who look up to Snoop Dog and know nothing about Jonas Salk and what he accomplished.

I think we, as a culture, learned a lot from Jerry Springer. We didn’t realize we were learning when we tuned in to see yet another group of trashy people hollering at one another and rolling around on the floor. We laughed . . . but we also came to believe that he who yells loudest, wins – no matter what the truth may be. Observe the tone of American politics in 2014/15 vs. say ’85, ’95 or any time twenty years ago.

I understand that, from a biological standpoint, devolution is a falacy. It is based on the notion that evolution is always a progression toward something better (and therefore, devolution would be a down-grade). The truth is, evolution is just a response to the environment. It will take a species in the direction that best prepares the species to survive in its environment. Given that, what is the environment that encourages the apes that roam our streets today to survive, even thrive?

Give me George Washington and the cherry tree any day.

*McKenna was one of the smartest people I ever knew. He was an Industrial Psychologist who became the soul and conscience of Century 21 in the early days of that company (’70s – ’80s). I learned more about marketing and group dynamics from him than anyone else. Dick McKenna on marketplace intelligence: ’You must massage your numbers until they throb!’

American Medical Mayhem

Operator: Scripps Mercy Hospital

Me: Hello, could I have the billing department, please?

Operator: Yes, I’ll transfer you.

Megan: Hello, this is Megan, how may I help you?

Me: Hi, Megan. I just received a bill . . . let me give you my account number: it’s 012345678

Megan: Yes, Mr. Dingman, I have that in front of me.

Me: I think there’s been an error. This is an Emergency Room bill for $567 . . . All I did was occupy space in the lobby for about 3o minutes. I saw nobody and was not treated.

Megan: But you did go to the Emergency Room, didn’t you?

Me: That’s where the ambulance driver brought me because it was the closest one. He charged $1,578 for the two mile drive!

Megan: But he did bring you to the Scripps Mercy Emergency Room. That’s what the charge is for.

Me: But, Megan . . . I must not be communicating. My friend arrived about 30 minutes after they left me in the lobby. I decided to let him drive me over to Kaiser where my insurance is. I told the admitting nurse and she had me sign out on some kind of form.

Megan: I understand, but still, you went to the Emergency Room and interacted with the admitting nurse?

Me: Yes, but nobody treated me. I did nothing but sit in a chair in the lobby for about 30 minutes. I never passed through the big swinging doors into the treatment area.

Megan: Yes, but you still came to the Emergency Room and that is what the charge is for.

Me: Really? I mean, REALLY?? Megan, come on . . . that’s absurd!

Megan: It’s the way it is, sir.

Me: I know that’s what you’ve been trained to say, but just between us, it is ridiculous, isn’t it?

Megan: No, sir. We charge for services and that is why you were billed.

Me: But, Megan: I received NO services. I occupied space, sat in a chair and left.

Megan: I’m sorry sir, but that’s the way it is. It’s always been that way.

Me: That doesn’t make it right.

Megan: I’m sorry I cannot help you.

Me: Well, then we have two courses of action. First, I’ll give you my Kaiser account information and you can try to extract payment from them – although, if I were Kaiser I certainly wouldn’t pay. If you are unsuccessful, then you’ll have to sue me for it. I’d love to stand before a judge and describe this situation!

Megan: I’ll make a note in your file to that effect. Can you give me your Kaiser number?

Me: it is 8765432.

Megan: Thank you, is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: No, you’ve already helped me about as much I can possibly stand.

Megan: Very well. I am required to remind you that this call has been recorded for quality purposes.

Me: That’s fine. I’ve been recording it too.

Megan: Thank you, my name is Megan and it has been my pleasure to serve you, may I transfer you to our automated quality service survey?

Me: Seriously?

Megan: click.

True. Word for word. Exactly as it transpired.