What good is a web site if you can't vent your spleen for all to enjoy. So this page is strictly opinion! No facts, all slant. I can blither if I want. You might agree, you might disagree. That's up to you. Presented here are some things to ponder on the subject of the wonderful world of the world. Email is the best way to put forth your agreements and/or arguments.
I doubt if a majority of the population of the United States is debt free. How about the mortgage, phone bills, electric bills, credit card bills, loans, cars, and all those other monthly payments we all have. If you have ever been more than ten hours late with a payment, you've probably gotten a "courtesy call" to ask where you payment is.
Utilities, lending institutions, and anyone who extends credit to regular citizens these days are getting paranoid that they are not going to get their money from you. It doesn't matter if you were out of town, haven't deposited your paycheck, had some unexpected expenses this month, or anything else. They want their money on time.
I don't blame them. However, attitudes and tactics have changed slowly and dramatically over the last few years. The legal system in this country says that we are innocent until proven guilty. The banks and other lenders in this country have now decided that the legal system is a bunch of suckers, and they are completely wrong.
For example: For cash flow, convenience (laziness) and similar reasons, I used to pay my phone bills regularly every other month. It never seemed to be a problem. I never got collection calls or notices that my service was scheduled to be disconnected for lack of payment. Some human being at the phone company figured out that they were going to get their money from me without having to call, write, or threaten me. This worked out fine for many years. Within the past couple of years however, their tactics have changed. Now, if my bill is more than 10 days past due, I get a phone call or disconnection notice. It's not like we're talking about hundreds of dollars here, but evidently I am causing the phone company to go bankrupt. It is also possible that they have found out that I am intending never to pay them again (FALSE).
Banks now have a threat clause built into their credit card agreements. If you have had the same card for years, they slip an innocuous notice in one of your bills notifying you of the change to your cardholder agreement. Basically what this clause says is that if you are late with your payment more than 2 (or some other number) times within a 6 month (or other) period, they can raise your finance charge interest rate to something over 25%. This is bordering on usury (look it up), but it's legal. Why? Because they lobbied and fought legal battles claiming that they are losing bazillions of dollars a year to deadbeats. Hey -- you'll get your money, but you don't have to rip my nostrils out to get it. Just treat me fairly. In the old days, a late fee was sufficient. Now they can up your rates so high that you can't afford the monthly payment any more, or they stretch your repayment period out to over 15 years! Thanks a lot!
In any case - watch what you are paying, when you are paying it, or you are likely to end up in debtor's prison. If you don't like the terms you are getting from your current lender, don't be afraid to switch.
We've all heard second and third-party horror stories about cookies and the personal, private information they let out to the world. Well, if you research the subject, you will find that some of what people say about cookies is mostly true part of the time. Let me explain...
A cookie is a (small) piece of information placed on your computer by somebody's website. In theory, this was designed so that places that you visit can keep track of your identity, so that when you return, it would remember who you are. Ostensibly, this is so that your browsing experience can be customized to your preferences. So, for example, if you visit www.amazon.com, they will know you the next time you visit, remember your purchasing preferences, and suggest titles that you might like. So far, so good. They can also assign you a customer ID number, so that their database can keep track of your credit card information. This allows you to purchase your items with a simple click, instead of having to enter the information each time you make a purchase. Still OK. The data is encrypted, stored in a secure server, and never transmitted over the internet, so you are still safe.
Along come advertisers. BOOM! They now have a way to track which "banner ads" you respond to by updating your cookies. Only the entity that put the cookie on your computer can read it, but if advertising conglomerates (like doubleclick.net) put a cookie on your computer, they can read it and update it. This gives them a history of every site you visit that has their ads on it. So now, they are building a database of what sites you visit, maybe even in what order and on what date and time. Then, they sell this information to advertisers, or use it to sell their services to advertisers. All this is going on without your knowledge.
Get yourself a program like Zone Alarm, or Cookie Pal, or several others. These programs offer you security in different ways, but each has a version designed to selectively allow certain cookies while blocking others. I believe that this is a good idea. The sites I visit is nobody's business but mine.
Has anyone gotten jokes sent to them by email? Raise your hand if you have. Whoa!!!! I can't see anything but hands out there. I get an average of 40 email messages per day. Some days it can be as many as 65, but there isn't a day where I don't get at least 8. If I had a nickel for every message I got that has "Fw: Fw: Fw:" in the subject (meaning it's been forwarded at least 3 times), I could retire and update these web pages all day. One of the things I find the most entertaining about this is scrolling through the first 20 screens that have all the message headers from everyone that anyone forwarded this to since it began. All these headers and email addresses at the beginning can add up to several KB more of message content, filling up the disk drive with useless information, and making the message take minutes longer to receive and read.
Who are these people that have nothing better to do than forward jokes all day? In the old (pre-email) days, these same people must have been the ones that faxed pages of jokes to 50 of their friends every day. Finally, people got fed up with having their expensive fax paper wasted, and having their fax machines tied up for hours out of every day. They would politely call the person sending these faxes and ask them nicely to please stop. Well, I've tried to do the same for email. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Don't you find that it takes time to sift through your email to find work-related important stuff? Why not try this: Copy and paste the following into an email message, and include it in a reply to someone who has barraged you with jokes --
If this doesn't work, instead of just hitting "Reply" on your message, next time try "Reply ALL". This will send your plea for cessation of e-jokes to everybody that the jokes were forwarded to. That ought to get some laughs!
Have you been to a catered affair lately? One with a DJ, a sound system, or a band? I'm sure you've noticed cars passing you on the street, and you can hear the entire automobile thumping and vibrating to a beat that only the driver doesn't think is too loud. America is rapidly driving itself DEAF! DO YOU HEAR ME?
I have had the unfortunate task of being the sound engineer at several large industry shows, corporate affairs, and large parties where I have been told that a DJ will be playing music for a part of the evening. "All we need for the DJ is a pair of inputs on the board," is the usual phrase that strikes fear into my heart. I know that inevitably it will turn into a battle of the eardrums between me (softer) and the DJ (LOUDER). I have been mixing sound for over 25 years, and I would like to keep doing it for at least a little while longer. I would like to retain at least some of my hearing. Why do DJ's insist on trying to take it away from me.
Why does the music have to be so loud that you have to YELL to have a conversation with the person next to you? Don't people understand that this will have a long term profound effect on their hearing? Most music industry and sound reinforcement professionals realize (sometimes too late) the adverse effect that loud music has on your hearing. Before the days of (shudder) disco, music was rarely played everywhere at excessive levels. Then, people discovered a visceral reaction to the higher levels of sound, especially the THUD of the bass. Now, it seems like you can't go anywhere without somebody wanting to force their idea of the proper sound level on you.
I've worked with many famous and not so famous musicians who are painfully aware of the hearing loss they have sustained. Why can't we take note of the terrible example they have set. I have added a set of professional hearing protectors to my sound kit. If I even think that the sound levels will be too high, I put them in before the first instrument is plugged in and turned on. I have even taken to carrying them with me if I am attending a party where I know there will be a DJ. I also have a sound level meter in my kit. I have been known to monitor sound levels in the house whether I'm mixing or not. If sound levels become excessive and I'm not mixing, I will ask the visiting engineer to please turn it down.
I have come across some venue owners and promoters who are also sound level conscious. I really appreciate it when someone in charge comes up to me and asks me to keep peak sound level below 100dB. I make sure to let them know that I share their concerns, I show them my meter, and I assure them that I will gladly comply. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are the band engineers that show up insisting on 115dB at mix position. That's the equivalent of having your head stuck in front of a jet engine at takeoff! YEOW!
It's not worth permanent hearing loss. Turn down the volume. If you can't turn it down or get someone else to turn it down, use hearing protection. We only have five senses. Why lose one of them if you don't have to.
So what's this "thing" with vehicle size? Is it really that important to have the biggest sport utility vehicle on the road. It seems to me that it wasn't that long ago when Chevy reduced the size of the Blazer. I guess in the days of gas lines (remember those?) fuel economy was more important than it is now. Well, guess what? Fuel prices are headed back up (for now). But that's not really the issue. It's the competition that really bothers me. Look at the size of the SUV's that are coming out now. Isn't it Ford that just introduced the biggest ever. They had to compete with the Chevy Suburban.
Here in the Northeast, it's been a very long time since the last 4 or 5 foot snow hit. We have had some relatively mild winters in the past few years. Yet people feel it necessary to buy the biggest, meanest looking vehicles they can afford. It's no longer sufficient to have a plain old car. Even if that plain old car is a Caddy or Mercedes. You have to buy the Caddy SUV or the Mercedes SUV.
People driving the roads in regular automobiles don't have a chance any more. You can't see what's on the road ahead if you're behind one of these things, and God forbid if you are in a car at night with an SUV behind you. It's like having constant laser eye surgery. If you're going to make a vehicle that high off the road, could you please put the headlights lower than the average car's rear view mirror!
Even other (smaller) SUV's and minivans are jockeying to see around the bigger ones in front of them. And why are they always in the left lane on the expressway?
It used to be that if you saw someone driving a pickup truck, sport utility vehicle, or van, it was a guy! Nothing sexist here, just a plain old fact. But recently, I saw this huge black Ford SUV with 2 sets of fog lights, a grill guard, roof rack, and towing hitch pull up in front of a store in a strip mall. The windows were tinted very dark gray (almost black, which is against the law in New York State). It idled there for about 2 minutes. The engine was shut off, and a huge black door swung open. A women's size 4 set of patent leather boots swung out, and this 5'1" petite redhead had to climb down out of this monster. With a tremendous effort, she swung the door shut with both hands. She walked the 20 feet to the rear door of this thing, reached up over her head and with all her might, opened the door. She had to climb up to get her 2 year old unbuckled from the child safety seat. I was surprised to see that she didn't need the fire department's rescue ladder to get her and the kid down from there. She repeated her gargantuan effort to close this door with the child in her arms. After she managed to swing the door closed, she daintily hit the button on her remote alarm, and the horn gave a little "beep" while the lights flashed demurely. Answer me this: Is this the vehicle that this woman should be driving? I guess women are finding ways to compete with men in every arena.
This just leads me to the horrifying question -- What's next? Will we all opt to drive 18 wheelers, earth movers, and military surplus tanks? What better way to get through that annoying rush hour than blowing people out of your way with armor piercing shells! What's happening already is that people are driving bigger and bigger vehicles on roads that were built for regular everyday cars. Monster trucks and SUV's on our skimpy parkways are a hazard to themselves and others. People are nervous driving in close proximity to something twice their size.
Two things will arise if this competition continues:
If I hear one more person tell me that they are staying home New Year's Eve, stocking up on bottled water and toilet paper, or buying a generator, I'm going to SCREAM! I guess it's the same mentality that sends people flocking to the supermarkets when the first snowflake drops out of the sky. Do people really believe that at midnight, as the century turns over, everything in the world will come screeching to a halt? Get real!
There are enough brigands making enough money selling fear and merchandise to these people. Are they the ones fuelling this bunch of kow krapp, or are they just taking full advantage of it?
The fact is that there is very little Y2k stuff to worry about in this country. The biggest thing to be afraid of at midnight on December 31st is that people will panic. There will be plenty of water -- unless everybody turns on the tap at midnight to see if it really is working. Electricity will not go out at midnight -- unless everybody turns on every electrical device in their house to make sure they are working. ATM machines will function correctly -- unless everybody runs to an ATM machine and withdraws their money at midnight. There is virtually nothing in this country that runs on computer that will not continue to run correctly right past midnight -- unless somebody plays a practical joke, that is. I'm sure it would be very easy for somebody on one of the "Millenium Cruises" to flip a master circuit breaker on the boat somewhere around midnight. That could easily cause people to go off the deep end (so to speak).
The whole "Y2K" problem comes down to this: years ago, when memory was more expensive than cars and computers were bigger than your bedroom, programmers chose to store dates in an abbreviated format. If you were maintaining millions of records for millions of transactions, saving 2 characters on each record could save tons of money by leaving of the first 2 digits of the year and assuming they were "19". These programs were (are) in use for many years, and functioned just fine. It's only because of the approach of the year 2000 that these programs had to be updated to include all 4 digits of year.
Just take a look at that last statement. All we are talking about is a representation of a year. Many computers and countless programs couldn't give a donkey dung what year it is. It doesn't matter to them whether it's 1921 or 3084. They just don't deal with a date calculation at all. So these specialized computers that run things like gas pumps, water pumping stations, and electric power plants will continue to go stupidly on their way without caring what year it is. The only place that the year comes into play is when you have to get billed for how much of this stuff you use. Does your computer paint program need to know what year it is? Does "Tomb Raider" care if the year is 1900? I don't think so.
If people understood the problem a little better, there would be a lot less concern, a lot less advantage taken, and a lot more peace of mind. In short - don't lose sleep over this one.
Note: I told you so! (1/8/00)
Who said that anybody should be able to use a computer? I'm 99.99% sure that it was some marketing guy! I'm not saying that computers can't do what the manufacturers claim. I'm just saying that not everybody off the street can pick one up and make it do these things. It takes more than a casual interest to use a computer. I'm even talking about Macs. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't a computer made today that the average (computer illiterate) can use without having some sort of problem.
Think about it -- half the population still has "12:00" blinking on their VCRs. I constantly run into people that say things like, "Oh, you're in computers? Can you tell me how I can record one program while I'm watching another one?" Sound familiar. Don't bother raising your hand. I can see you nodding your heads.
Instruction manuals for VCRs might just as well be written in Sanskrit. Most people don't even bother reading them. If they do bother to read them, they don't understand them. Do you think that this segment of the population will be comfortable with a computer on their desktop? I know several retired people that absolutely "needed" to get a computer. It now sits on a desk gathering dust. They turn it on once or twice a month, just to get a kick out of playing Solitaire. Isn't a deck of cards cheaper?
It's no wonder that people get frustrated with computers. The boxes that they paid good money for don't quite deliver the promised goods. It's not the fault of the manufacturers. I give credit where it is due. Computers today are light years ahead of where they were in 1975 when I built my first Altair 8800. There is just no comparison. People have computers on their desks that are 100 times faster than room-sized mainframes were in 1975. The funny thing is that you don't see too many people with mainframes on their desktops. Why? Because nobody ever told anyone that the average person is capable of running a mainframe. People would never assume that they could ever deal with these room-sized computers themselves. I feel as comfortable with mainframes as I do with PCs. The average person should feel as uncomfortable buying a PC as they would a mainframe. But nobody every told them that.
Marketing people are the ones that are telling the average person about all the things they can do if they have a computer. Everybody knows about the internet, and wants to get connected. Not too many people know why. You'll always get the same vague answers about email, information, chat rooms, and buying and selling things. Have we all lost touch with reality? Yes, there are some things that are very convenient and easy to do on the internet. But even the simple things are not so simple. There are millions of hours spent every year on the phone with tech support people from computer companies and software companies and internet service providers. All for the same reason -- "Why doesn't it do what I wanted (expected) it to do?"
Well, maybe your expectations are unrealistic. Of course, they are fueled by marketing people. These same marketing people would sell a 1999 Rolls to a 12 year old day trader with the $150,000 needed to buy it. The promise would be a familiar one -- "This car will get great gas mileage. It's the most comfortable car on the planet. It has great resale value. Look at the styling!" -- without any regard for the fact that the kid can't drive, doesn't know how to use the car, can't see over the steering wheel, and isn't quite sure what gas and oil do.
Think about it! That's all I ask.
Due to the nature of my business, I spend a lot of time in the car. The overwhelming majority of that time is spent driving on roads where there are other cars. This can be a constant source of annoyance for all. Let me give you another of my pet peeves. Fog lights.
When did they start coming as standard equipment on cars? The auto manufacturers have obviously decided that this is a necessary feature. Don't get me wrong, they are good to have when it's foggy out. My problem is with people that run around with their fog lights on all the time. Didn't anyone notice that these lights are very bright. They are low to the ground to minimize scattering of light back up into the fog (when it's foggy out). When it's not foggy, the lights can be so bright (and so poorly aimed) as to sear the average retina.
Do most people not know that these lights are on? Can't they find the switch to turn them off? Didn't the dealer tell them what they were for? I actually asked someone I saw pulling into a parking lot with their fog lights on. They didn't even know that they had fog lights!
Or is it an issue of "my car has more lights than yours"? In today's competitive world of "mine is better" and "we'll see who can flame out who's eyes", maybe we should make an effort not to go out of our way to be obnoxious about it. Maybe if people realized that they were being blinded by fog lights on a clear night, they would be more considerate of other people's eyeballs. Maybe not!
Could you argue that extra lights on a car are for safety? Yes you could, but that's sort of like arguing that cars should be painted in fluorescent colors for safety. It's a bit extreme. If you're not going to notice a car with its lights on, what makes you think that adding more lights will make it more noticeable? And what about the safety of the people being blinded by the extra lights. It's bad enough that people don't have their regular lights aimed properly. How many times have you had to move your head out of the way of the reflection in your mirrors of the blinding lights from somebody's car? That's not too safe either, is it?
If you've got them, feel free to use them when it's foggy out. If it's not foggy, save yourself the aggravation and expense of having to change a burned out bulb soon -- turn them off! And get your headlights aimed, please.
Hello, consumers. Next time you buy something off the shelf at a store, do yourself a favor. Read the label. Greedy companies are in the business of giving you less and less for the same money. They can't raise the price, or you would notice. So what they do is shrink the product. Why? Because most people won't notice that they are getting a slightly smaller size.
I'll give you an example: I used to buy the Clearly Canadian brand of carbonated flavored water stuff. I liked the way it tasted, I liked the bottle, and it fit perfectly in the cup holder in my car. One day I went into the deli and picked up my bottle of Clearly Canadian, brought it out to the car, and put it in the cup holder. As I drove away, it tilted and fell over. I thought that there was something wrong with the cup holder. I looked at the bottle; it looked the same. It just so happened that I had a bottle of the same stuff that I had purchased a couple of days earlier. I took this bottle and compared it to the one I had just purchased -- sure enough, it was BIGGER! The manufacturer had shrunk the product from a 12 oz. bottle to an 11 oz. bottle. No notice, no warning label, no sign at the counter. Same product, same price, smaller serving. Well, maybe that's not cheating anyone, but I wanted the 12 oz. size back. Good luck. I stopped buying Clearly Canadian.
The exact same thing has happened with candy bars, loaves of bread, boxes of cereal, and other things we take for granted. The products keep shrinking, and everybody is happy that the prices haven't gone up. Well, the company that makes this stuff is making out like a bandit. Just take the example of the Clearly Canadian water. They shrunk each bottle by one ounce. If you ignore the savings in the amount of glass it takes to make a smaller bottle, just look at what they are saving in product. If they sell 10,000 bottles of this stuff a day, they are saving 10,000 ounces of product. With this, they can actually produce an extra 909 bottles of the product to sell for the same price. Or, if you insisted on having the same amount you used to get, you would have to buy 11 bottles of the product to get as much "stuff" as you used to get from 10 bottles.
Never mind checking that your roll of toilet paper is getting narrower. I guess the manufacturer thinks that nobody uses the edges of the rolls anyway!
Just for laughs, keep the wrappers or labels from some common household products for about a year. Then compare sizes to the new products. Try not to get too shocked.
It may not seem like a lot to you, but it's happening with hundreds of products every day. It's costing you hundreds of dollars more to get the same stuff you used to get. But you don't know it because the change is so subtle. Who remembers that a bar of soap used to last 5 weeks and now it only lasts 4? Why can't the manufacturers get real and just charge us more when they need to make more money.
If things keep going this way, eventually your 59 cent candy bar will be 2 ounces instead of 8, your $1.25 bottle of carbonated flavored spring water will be 3 ounces, and a 45 cent roll of toilet paper will be good for one wipe. Good luck! Write to the manufacturers!
I honestly have no objection to being second in command at a show. I've been in that position often enough to have learned that sometimes you have to be the "house" guy and that's all. That's not to say that I wouldn't have preferred a more active role in the concert. Some sound engineers I know would opt for the other way around. They could almost enjoy being able to sit back and watch the show instead of participating in the audio engineering. If I don't have my hands on the board, I feel like I'm not doing my job to its fullest. But I still insist that I don't get insulted that I'm not mixing. I occasionally feel like I could have done a better job mixing, but that's subjective.
What really frosts my cookies though, is the band's engineer that comes in and immediately starts complaining about something. It may be that the equipment is not what they asked for, it's not up to their "professional" standards, it's not the latest and greatest, or sometimes even that it's not their favorite old standby piece of gear. There are only a very few limited choices as to what can be done at this point:
The "professional" thing to do would be to attempt to get the pieces of missing equipment that are really needed, and do the best you can with everything else.
Of course, the determining factor for which approach to take can easily be the attitude of the people at the venue. When I'm the "house" guy, I always try to give the visiting engineer what they want and/or need. When not possible, I do my best to help them make it work with what we have on hand. I don't usually have a "bad attitude" or a chip on my shoulder -- I'm there to help. However, there have been several times when the musician's engineer has stood with his arms crossed, tapping his foot, (maybe holding his breath until he turns blue) waiting for the desired equipment to magically appear. Naturally, a refusal to go any further until said equipment arrives goes along with this attitude.
Give me a break! If you can't work with a BSS compressor instead of a Drawmer, or you must have a dbx 160 for the show to go on -- who are you kidding? Can you only function within the limited scope of the equipment you are most familiar with? In a 500 seat theater, is it really necessary to have 6 EAW 850's to cover the room? Does the band insist that their music must be heard in the street, down the block, 1/4 mile away? That "performance" (which is rarely if ever seen by the public) by the artist or their engineer, usually comes from a giant ego, not necessity. Don't we all want to give the audience a memorable show? Isn't that what counts? Can't we all just get along?
I've seen it a hundred times -- If one party approaches a problem situation with an earnest desire to help, can't the other party just calm down and try to make things work? It's not too much to ask. Play nice with the other kids!
This also can (sometimes) be traced back to the "presumption of guilt" by either or both parties. I can think of one artist who purposely put a demand for "2 pounds of peanut M&M's - GREEN ONLY" in their contract rider. Why? Just to see if the concert promoter actually read the contract. The artist assumed that if they were questioned about the green candies, everything else would be fine. To them, it meant that someone is paying attention. Another artist asked for 2 bushels of delicious apples and 5 gallons of Perrier at room temperature. Upon leaving after the concert, all of the apples and Perrier were still intact and unopened. Why? This one is still a mystery.
Come on! If you really need something, ask for it. Promoters, if someone asks for something -- assume it's needed. I can't believe the instances of people crossing things out and refusing to supply items asked for in a contract. I also can't believe some of the things artists ask for. If everyone asked for only what they need, and got it every time, maybe this nonsense would stop.
Consider your requests, and request considerately.
When did this turn out to be a terrible thing to ask people to do? Why do some people believe that it's their God-given right to park directly in front of the store that they are patronizing. What makes these people so privileged that rules do not apply to them. I have seen people double and triple park in front of a pizza place at a local strip mall. Hey - there are parking spaces about 10 yards away - do you think you could use one? Why should everyone else park in a legitimate spot and walk to the store while you double or triple park?
I once had the nerve to ask a some of people on a few different occasions why they are parked there. The excuses were amazing! Get a load of this:
Do any of these excuses make sense to you? Well, they just infuriate me! Obviously, some people feel that they are:
Of all of the above, the only one I can relate to is the last. I'm very tired of everyone else getting away with it, but I still wouldn't even think about doing what they do. If people would get off their fat asses (don't look at me that way, I have a fat ass too) and walk a little, maybe the exercise would do them good. Maybe their example would rub off on others. Maybe they would stop pissing other people off. Maybe everyone would be nicer to everyone else (fat chance) and the world would be a much better place.
Maybe I should just keep dreaming.
Copyright © 1999-2006 Mind Over Machines Inc.
This page was last updated 10/19/2006.