Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back Before The Sixties


Some interesting observations today from Judith Warner about the current fascination with late 1950s/early 1960s America, on television (Mad Men) and in the movies (Revolutionary Road):

"Unlike the baby boomers before us, we “baby busters” of the ’60s never rebelled against the trappings of domesticity represented by our images of the 1950s. Many of us, deep down, yearn for it, having experienced divorce or other sorts of family dislocation in the 1970s. We keep alive a secret dream of “a model of routine and order and organization and competence,” a life “where women kept house, raised kids and kept their eyebrows looking really good,” as the writer Lonnae O’Neal Parker once described it in The Washington Post Magazine."

"The fact is: as an unrebellious, cautious, anxious generation, many of us are living lives not all that different from those of the parents of the early 1960s, yet without the seeming ease, privileges and benefits. Husbands have been stripped of the power perks of their gender, wives of the anticipation that they’ll be taken care of for life."

As with all of Judith Warner's columns, the Comments about them are always worth reading too:

"My life as a 50s and 60s housewife was quite pleasant, although we managed on far, far less than the two-income homes of today. Married women today have a mountain of debt to worry about, now that their husbands are unemployed.It couldn't last--the grandiose culture that so many women expected to enjoy. Self-indulgence has led so many ordinary couples to financial ruin, despite the wife's second income. Expectations of self-fulfillment have been far too high."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - On Now!


Have you been watching the new season of "Battlestar Galactica" this month?

"Scifi.com, the online site representing the Sci Fi Channel, serves up a holiday gift with its original online series “Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy.”

"In this 10-part serial, Lt. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) finds himself trapped on a shuttle adrift in deep space with five others, including two No. 8 Cylons (played by Grace Park)." (Boston Herald)

I haven't been watching it either, since I don't usually watch TV on my computer.

But I think I'll have a look!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fly The Friendly Skies


A former TWA Flight Attendant reflects on the decline of airline service over the past two decades:

"I know the days are gone when [flight] attendants could be written up if we did not put the linen napkins with the T.W.A. logo embossed on them in the lower righthand corner of the first-class diners’ trays. As are the days when there were three dinner options on flights from Boston to Los Angeles — in coach. When, once, stuck on a tarmac in Newark for four hours, a planeload of passengers got McDonald’s hamburgers and fries courtesy of the airline.

"I have experienced the decline of service along with the rest of the flying public. But I believe I have felt it more acutely because I remember the days when to fly was to soar. The airlines, and their employees, took pride in how their passengers were treated. A friend who flew for Pan Am and I have a friendly rivalry over which airline was better. Friendly, yes. But we each believe we worked for the best.

"We tell stories about cooking lamb chops and dressing them in foil pantaloons; we debate the beauty of my Ralph Lauren uniform versus her Oleg Cassini. I like to tell her how we would have the children on board serve the after-dinner mints — delicious pale-green circles with T.W.A. stamped on them, arranged on a silver tray. We remember the service we provided — dare I say cheerfully? Happily? Proudly? And when my friend and I part ways, although we hold on to our allegiances, we know that all of our passengers were served well."

I am an infrequent flyer today, but old enough to remember those glory days of air travel -- particularly international travel -- which I did a lot of for business.

We just returned from a great vacation, marred only by the serial hassles of airlines and airports. The personal memories evoked in this article are warm, but so very distant. And, I'm afraid, never to return.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hooters

File this under "Be Careful What You Wish For:"

I was once part of a team reviewing a software application that vets internet inquiries from potential customers. As part of the project, a list of "vulgar" words and phrases was developed to screen out pranks and inquiries not worthy of followup.

One of the words on the list was "hooters," which meant that any inquiry containing that word would not be passed through for marketing and sales followup.

Someone on the team pointed out that Hooters has 310 restaurants, generated over $120 million in revenue in the prior year, and according to this recent article is open to new technology:

"ATLANTA -- Hooters of America Inc. will install Radiant Systems' 6e line of back-office and point-of-sale technology at all 110 company-run branches of the 310-unit casual-dining chain, Radiant said.

"The technology vendor also said Atlanta-based Hooters had named Radiant as a preferred supplier to franchisees."

"By providing comprehensive table-service functionality from the POS to the back office, Radiant technology will help Hooters efficiently manage restaurants and improve profitability," Chris Duncan, Hooters vice president of administration, said in a written statement.

"He said the 6e system's centralized data-reporting capabilities and Internet functionality -- or "Web-architected platform," as Radiant described it -- would "allow our employees and managers to see enterprisewide metrics in near real-time, which will enable us to manage growth and change based on more accurate operational information."

"Hooters" was promptly removed from the "vulgar" list.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Karen Carpenter Australia 1971

We Are China Ten Years Ago

Tom Friedman has a way of getting at what's wrong with us:

"I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

"It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone.

"A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train — with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

"Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?)

"As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before.

"Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport.

"It closed in 1998."

It's time for the United States to re-boot.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Leg Lamp


Screen Grab | The Leg Lamp
By Pilar Viladas (New York Times)

For sale: replicas of the kitsch leg lamp made famous by the film “A Christmas Story.”

I’ve long been a fan of the movie “A Christmas Story,” the tale of 1940s Midwestern childhood that opened in 1983 to lukewarm reviews, but which later became a cult classic.

Until recently, however, I was unaware that the film’s infamous leg lamp — a saucy light fixture shaped like a woman’s leg, complete with fishnet stocking and a fringed satin shade that suggests a World War II pinup girl’s undergarment — was anything more than an amusing/horrifying prop.

In fact, the Web site redriderleglamps.com sells replicas of the kitsch classic in several sizes, from a 50-inch floor model to a 20-inch desktop size. And for a (considerable) surcharge, die-hard fans can have the lamp shipped in a facsimile of the wooden crate marked “Fragile” that caused such a stir when it arrived at the home of the film’s 9-year-old protagonist, Ralphie, and which occasioned one of the film’s funniest lines.

Darren McGavin, who plays Ralphie’s perenially grouchy father, looks at the crate and says, “Fra-gee-lay … must be Italian!”

Brian Jones, the man who began making the leg lamps in 2003, also bought — for $150,00 on eBay in 2005 — the wood-frame house in Cleveland where “A Christmas Story” was made and opened it to the public; according to a recent story on cnn.com, 30,000 people a year now visit. There’s also a museum and gift shop across the street, where you can ogle the leg lamps in person.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recession-Proof


Add Restylane and Botox to Wal-Mart and McDonalds on the short list of things that seem to be thriving in this awful economy.

“It’s like comfort food,” says Maralyn Burr of Omaha, Neb., who in June lost her job as a district sales manager for Borders bookstores. With $140,000 in debt from her 22-year-old daughter’s musical education, Burr told the WSJ she’s slashed spending and all but stopped eating out. But she hasn’t given up her Restylane and Botox injections."

As indicated in an earlier post on the Freeway, Botox appears to have become mainstream.

Governing The Other 56,255,297


My Manager approved my request for a vacation day on January 20. I’m not going to Washington that day, but I am looking forward to President Obama’s Inauguration speech.

I was impressed with his election-night speech in Chicago, after it was clear that he’d won the election.

I think Maureen Dowd really captured that moment in her column the next day in the New York Times:

“His somber speech in the dark Chicago night was stark and simple and showed that he sees what he’s up against. There was a heaviness in his demeanor, as if he already had taken on the isolation and “splendid misery,” as Jefferson called it, of the office he’d won only moments before. Americans all over the place were jumping for joy, including the block I had been on in front of the White House, where they were singing: “Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”

“He rejected the Democratic kumbaya moment of having your broad coalition on stage with you, as he talked about how everyone would have to pull together and “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

“Promising to also be president for those who opposed him, Obama quoted Lincoln, his political idol and the man who ended slavery: “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

As I wrote in my post just after the election, 56,255,297 Americans voted for McCain/Palin, and many more didn’t vote at all.

It appears at this point that President-elect Obama understands this reality; I hope so, because we really need a President who can govern in the best interest of all Americans.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Look Before You Leap!


There are real animals on the savanna outside our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and there may even be antelopes, although it certainly is not a freeway.

And there is a framed drawing of three monkeys on our wall, illustrating Fante Proverb No. 7 from Ghana, which I've been thinking about all week:

"The monkey leaps only as far as it can reach"

And this article from the New York Times popped up when I searched for more information about the proverb.

Walt Disney World really is a magical place!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vacation!

We're outta here for a week!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fly Your Freak Flag At Half-Staff Today

Wombs For Rent

Here's an update to a Freeway post about women lining up to sell their eggs:



In a recent Wall Street Journal, Thomas Frank responds to New York Times reporter Alex Kuczynski’s personal account of hiring a surrogate mother.

Actually, “responds to” is probably not the right phrase -- it’s more like “rips apart.”

Thomas Frank writes:

"Surrogate motherhood has been the subject of much philosophical and political dispute over the years.

"To summarize briefly, it is a class-and-gender minefield. When money is exchanged for pregnancy, some believe, surrogacy comes close to organ-selling, or even baby-selling.

"It threatens to commodify not only babies, but women as well, putting their biological functions up for sale like so many Jimmy Choos.

"If surrogacy ever becomes a widely practiced market transaction, it will probably make pregnancy into just another dirty task for the working class, with wages driven down and wealthy couples hiring the work out because it's such a hassle to be pregnant."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe Nominees

FILM

BEST FEATURE - DRAMA
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“Frost/Nixon”
“The Reader”
“Revolutionary Road”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

BEST FEATURE - COMEDY
“Burn After Reading”
“Happy-Go-Lucky”
“In Bruges”
“Mamma Mia!”
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

ACTOR - DRAMA
Leonardo DiCaprio - “Revolutionary Road”
Frank Langella - “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn - “Milk”
Brad Pitt - “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke - “The Wrestler”

ACTRESS - DRAMA
Anne Hathaway - “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie - “Changeling”
Meryl Streep - “Doubt”
Kristin Scott Thomas - “I’ve Loved You So Long”
Kate Winslet - “Revolutionary Road”

ACTOR - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Javier Bardem - “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Colin Farrell - “In Bruges”
James Franco - “Pineapple Express”
Brendan Gleeson - “In Bruges”
Dustin Hoffman - “Last Chance Harvey”

ACTRESS - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Rebecca Hall - “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Sally Hawkins - “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Frances McDormand - “Burn After Reading”
Meryl Streep - “Mamma Mia!”
Emma Thompson - “Last Chance Harvey”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tom Cruise, “Tropic Thunder”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Ralph Fiennes, “The Duchess”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Sam Mendes, “Revolutionary Road”

SCREENPLAY - MOTION PICTURE
Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”
David Hare, “The Reader”
Peter Morgan, “Frost/Nixon”
Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Baader Meinhof Complex” (Germany)
“Everlasting Moments” (Sweden)
“Gomorrah” (Italy)
“I’ve Loved You So Long” (France)
“Waltz with Bashir” (Israel)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“Bolt”
“Kung Fu Panda”
“Wall-E”

ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat– “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Clint Eastwood — “Changeling”
James Newton Howard — “Defiance”
A.R. Rahman — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Hans Zimmer — “Frost/Nixon”

ORIGINAL SONG
“Down to Earth” — “Wall-E” (Music by Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman; Lyrics by Peter Gabriel)
“Gran Torino” — “Gran Torino (Music by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens;
Lyrics by Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens)
“I Thought I Lost You — “Bolt” (Music & Lyrics by Miley Cyrus, Jeffrey Steele)
“Once in a Lifetime” — “Cadillac Records” (Music & Lyrics by BeyoncĂ© Knowles, Amanda Ghost, Scott McFarnon, Ian Dench, James Dring, Jody Street)
“The Wrestler” — “The Wrestler” (Music & Lyrics by Bruce Springsteen)

TELEVISION

TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
“30 Rock”
“Californication”
“Entourage”
“The Office”
“Weeds”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES -COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Christina Applegate - “Samantha Who?”
America Ferrera - “Ugly Betty”
Tina Fey - “30 Rock”
Debra Messing - “The Starter Wife”
Mary-Louise Parker - “Weeds”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES -COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alec Baldwin - “30 Rock”
Steve Carell - “The Office”
Kevin Connelly - “Entourage”
David Duchovny - “Californication”
Tony Shalhoub - “Monk”

TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
“Dexter” (Showtime)
“House” (Fox)
“In Treatment” (HBO)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“True Blood” (HBO)

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Sally Field — “Brothers and Sisters”
Mariska Hargitay — “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”
January Jones — “Mad Men”
Anna Paquin — “True Blood”
Kyra Sedgwick — “The Closer

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Gabriel Byrne — “In Treatment”
Michael Hall — “Dexter”
Jon Hamm — “Mad Men”
Hugh Laurie — “House”
Jonathan Rhys Meyers — “The Tudors”

MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
“A Raisin in the Sun”
“Bernard and Doris”
“Cranford”
“John Adams”
“Recount”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Judi Dench — “Cranford”
Catherine Keener — “An American Crime”
Laura Linney — “John Adams”
Shirley Maclaine — “Coco Chanel”
Susan Sarandon — “Bernard and Doris”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Ralph Fiennes — “Bernard and Doris”
Paul Giamatti — “John Adams”
Kevin Spacey — “Recount”
Kiefer Sutherland — “24: Redemption”
Tom Wilkinson –”Recount”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Eileen Atkins — “Cranford”
Laura Dern — “Recount”
Melissa George — “In Treatment”
Rachel Griffiths — “Brothers and Sisters”
Dianne Wiest — “In Treatment”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Neil Patrick Harris — “How I Met Your Mother”
Denis Leary — “Recount”
Jeremy Piven — “Entourage”
Blair Underwood — “In Treatment”
Tom Wilkinson — “John Adams”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Californication

The final episode of Season 2 of Californication airs this week on Showtime, and even though I thought it might be about to jump the shark a few weeks ago, I’ve hung in there.

The writing is so good, the characters so flawed, and the tone of the show so inappropriate that it's hard not to keep watching. In fact, it’s refreshing not to be uplifted once in a while.

And there are wonderful surprises, like the appearance of Justine Bateman as Becca's teacher and the mother of Becca's boyfriend (and about to be Hank's latest lover):



That's certainly a lot for anyone to process in one episode, but par for the course on Californication.

It’s good that episodes are only thirty minutes long; any longer would be way too rich for anyone's system.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You Know The Economy Is In Trouble When...

...women line up to sell their eggs.

"The going rate for a surrogate is about $25,000. Egg donors generally receive $3,000to $8,000. But a few agencies advertise that they'll pay much more for specific characteristics. One ad running in campus newspapers promises $25,000 for a donor who is "100% Jewish with ... High SAT Scores... Attractive, at Healthy Body Weight and Free of Genetic Diseases."

"Whenever the employment rate is down, we get more calls," says Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, an agency in Chicago where inquiries from would-be egg donors are up 30% in recent weeks -- to about 60 calls a day. "We're even getting men offering up their wives. It's pretty scary."

"Now that we have more donors, it's become a buyer's market," Ms. von Halle says. "Some people are looking for a 6-foot Swedish volleyball player with 39 ACTs, and they'll take their time."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kindle


I consume a lot of printed content, especially books.

I’m always reading more than one book (frequently several) at the same time, because reading is my relaxation strategy and what I choose to read depends on what frame of mind I’m in at the time.

My Kindle has become a paradigm shifter, like my iPod. These devices enable me to read and listen wherever and whenever I want.

My BlackBerry is an important communication device, but my Kindle and my iPod are important to my soul, and that’s a whole other magnitude of importance.

If you were hoping to get a Kindle for Christmas,it looks like you're probably out of luck, and it appears that you have Oprah Winfrey to thank for it.

But if you’ve decided to get one, wait until it is back in stock at amazon.com instead of buying another kind of electronic reader. The dedicated wireless link to amazon.com and the instant gratification of being able to download a free chapter or two from a book you’ve just heard about on NPR can’t be duplicated by any of the Kindle’s competitiors.

Yes it is expensive – but so was your iPod when you first bought it, and think about the difference that has made in your life.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Warning: Book Clubs Can Be Dangerous

Drawing by Gary Hovland

Apparently, membership in a Book Club should come with a warning label:

"For Doreen Orion, a psychiatrist in Boulder, Colo., the spoiler in her book group was a drama queen who turned every meeting into her own personal therapy session.

Dr. Orion was used to such people in her practice, but in her personal life — well, no thanks.

“There were always things going on in her life with relationships, and she’d want to talk about it,” she said. “There’d be some weird thing in a book and she’d relate it to her life no matter what. Everything came back to her. It was really exhausting after a while.”

"And more clubs means more acrimony. Sometimes there is a rambler in the group, whose opinion far outlasts the natural interest of others, or a pedant, who never met a literary reference she did not yearn to sling. The most common cause of dissatisfaction and departures?

“It’s because there’s an ayatollah,” said Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. “This person expects to choose all the books and to take over all the discussions. And when I come on board, the ayatollah is threatened and doesn’t say anything.” Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cranberries - "Dreams"

One of those songs you just can't get out of your head:

I'm Sure You Already Know This, But...

Some useful tips from David Pogue in his New York Times "Circuits" column:

* Nobody, but nobody, is going to give you half of $80 million to help them liberate the funds of a deceased millionaire…from Nigeria or anywhere else.

* You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it's the Command key and plus or minus.

* You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.

* On most cellphones, press the Send key to open up a list of recent calls. Instead of manually dialing, you can return a call by highlighting one of these calls and pressing Send again.

* You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.

* When you're filling in the boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.

* You can adjust the size and position of any window on your computer. Drag the top strip to move it; drag the lower-right corner (Mac) or any edge (Windows) to resize it.

* When you're searching for something on the Web using, say, Google, put quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around "electric curtains," Google won't waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word "electric" and another set containing the word "curtains."

* You can use Google to do math for you. Just type the equation, like 23*7+15/3=, and hit Enter.

* Oh, yeah: on the computer, * means "times" and / means "divided by."

* Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type "teaspoons in 1.3 gallons," for example, or "euros in 17 dollars." Click Search to see the answer.

* You can switch from one open program to the next by pressing Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command-Tab (Mac).

* Just putting something into the Trash or the Recycle Bin doesn't actually delete it. You then have to *empty* the Trash or Recycle Bin. (Once a year, I hear about somebody whose hard drive is full, despite having practically no files. It's because over the years, they've put 79 gigabytes' worth of stuff in the Recycle Bin and never emptied it.

* You don't have to type "http://www.blogger.com/" into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: "nytimes.com" or "dilbert.com," for example. (In the Safari browser, you can even leave off the ".com" part.)

* Come up with an automated backup system for your computer. There's no misery quite like the sick feeling of having lost chunks of your life because you didn't have a safety copy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Want That!


Even though Lionel is way out of touch with what kids want for Christmas these days, it seems to have gotten its groove back for a lot of big kids.

Four cars for $699 is an awful lot of money but if I was into model railroading and had some extra coin to burn, this New York City subway set is something I would absolutely have to have!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers

FORT WORTH, TX—Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying, scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial carrier.

American Airlines has promised never to raise its fees for not printing a boarding pass.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday. According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30 surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays instead.

"Tough times unfortunately mean tough measures," American Airlines president Gerard Arpey said. "It's never an easy decision to ask our loyal customers, as well as thousands of people chosen at random out of a telephone book, to pay a little extra, but that's just the reality of today's economic climate. We hope all Americans will understand this when receiving one of our new bills in the mail."

Arpey said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security number.

Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply, including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.

"We are confident that these new measures will not discourage customers from flying with American Airlines," vice president Margaret Wilkinson said. "However, we'd like to remind our customers that there is a 'discouraged-from-flying-with-American-Airlines' charge if they do in fact choose not to fly with us."

American Airlines, which posted a $1.45 billion loss in the second quarter of 2008 alone, claimed that the new fees—including the Taking A Shower Fee, the Knowing What An Airplane Looks Like Fee, and the Eating E.L. Fudge Cookies While Watching A Rerun Of House Fee—will help the company rebound. According to internal projections, the airline will recoup $500 million in the next three months alone, with nearly 80 percent of that revenue coming from citizens asleep at home.

"Watching television last night cost me $250," said Baltimore resident Michael Peterson, one of many Americans now forced to pay high airline costs for folding their laundry and going to the ophthalmologist. "It's ridiculous, but what can you do? I guess that's just the price of not flying these days."

"American Airlines charged me for cleaning out my attic," said 74-year-old Samantha Pratt, a New Jersey resident who has not left the state since 2005. "Sure, I didn't have to wait in any long lines, or go through invasive security searches, and I got to clean out my attic, which is something I've been wanting to do for weeks, but come on now."

In response to American's move, other airlines have begun offering more competitive rates. United this week unveiled a new $99 "spend the weekend quietly reading indoors" offer, while Southwest is introducing a $125 round-trip fare for those walking to their corner store for some groceries.

JetBlue, a commercial carrier known for its thrifty rates, has come out ahead of the pack, however, and is being lauded for its decision not to charge non-passengers not to fly.

Despite reduced offers such as these, many remain concerned over the new fees. Some have even expressed doubt about whether they'll be able to afford to see family members they currently live with during Christmas.

"It's just not worth it anymore," said Caroline Huza, an Ohio native and mother of two. "Plus, every time I stay at home, I always get trapped next to some kid who won't stop crying."

(From The Onion)

The Right Answer

A colleague emailed me this morning:

"I read this article in the paper this morning about a survey of how many high school students cheat and lie.

It’s depressing enough, but then the principal of Andover High (MA) was quoted (and he’s very supportive of today’s students) as saying, 'We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer.'

WTF? That says it all, doesn’t it?

What is learning for if not 'the right answer'?

I hope my doctor and airline pilot have the right answer and I don’t care if they don’t know all kinds of 'strategies for learning.' Good god."

I've ranted before on the Freeway about the dreadful state of American public education, and how far behind other countries we have fallen, in terms of being able to compete in the global marketplace.

I don't think many school-age daughters of immigrant parents are wearing tee shirts with anti-math messages. Many of them seem to have a grasp of the skills it takes to succeed these days. But the shirt continues to be a big seller.

I'm constantly astonished at the general lack of curiosity and the inability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time in our culture. So reading this story about how it's okay to lie and cheat to get ahead is really disheartening.

The "right answer" is to fix our broken education system.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dreamboat Annie

The amazing Wilson sisters - Ann and Nancy:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Plaxico Burress Perp Walk

A Boston police detective I spoke with said that an expensive handgun has become a fashion accessory among some professional athletes, right after the diamond earring, gold chain, and Rolex watch.

And no -- if you're thinking that the Patriots might ever consider signing Plaxico Burress after he gets out of jail, because they signed Randy Moss, let me just say that Plaxico Burress is no Randy Moss, and never will be.

For The Die-Hard Red Sox Fan