Saturday, August 30, 2008

Smiling Bob - The Feeling of Inadequacy

Steven Warshak the president of Berkley Premium Nutriceuticals which make the supposed Male enhancement drug Enzyte was sentenced by Federal Judge Arthur Spiegel of the 6th District U.S. Circuit Court to spend the next 25 years in Federal prison for being guilty of 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

He was found to have bilked consumers out of over $100 million with a scheme that caused consumers to be billed on their credit cards for products they did not order. His advertisements which are still running on TV were found to be deceptive. The company also refused to refund money to irrate consumers that had asked for their money.

The company was made to forfeit $500 million in assets.

Other company officials that did not cooperate with Federal prosecutors were also sentenced to serve time in prison. These included vice presidents, the company's on staff attorney and accountant, Warshak's sister and brother and also Warshak's 75 year old mother who was active in the company and a board member.

When asked to comment Smiling Bob had only this to say, "I feel emasculated."

This Week's Menu - Same As Last Week's Menu

There's still nothing fresh on the menu.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Things My Grandchildren Will Never See - Telephones from My Early Years

My first experience with the telephone occurred when I was around 3 years old. My family lived in an apartment. The black rotary dial phone was in the dining area on a table.

One day I picked the phone up and listened to the dial tone just to see what would happen. After about 15 seconds it stopped and made a different noise. Then a lady came on the phone and said, "Get off the phone little boy!" I jumped up and slammed down the receiver. I stayed away from the phone until I was much older.

We moved to a house when I was five. Most families at this time had telephones that were hooked up to what was called a Party Line. This shared service was cheaper than a private line. The downside of the arrangement was that you could not use your phone when your neighbor from up the street was talking on his or her phone. Occasionally you would lift the receiver and hear a conversation. Then you had to gently place the receiver down as to not appear to be eavesdropping.

The family next door had a father that refused to have a phone in the house. Subsequently their teenaged daughter would frequently stop by and ask to use our phone.

Did I mention rotary dials? All phones had a wheel on them with with 10 holes cut out in which you placed your finger. You first had to dial the correct letter for your area prefix then the number of your area and then the four digit phone number by twisting the wheel clockwise to the finger stop and then wait for the dial to spring back to it's standard position.

What happened was that each space on the dial corresponded with electrical pulses that were sent to a switchboard that recognized by the amount of pulses where to route your call.

Number 1 was the shortest distance with the fewest pulses. The next was ABC - number 2 was next followed by DEF number 3 and so on. The handset had an ear piece and a mouthpiece. When you were done with the call you hung the handset or receiver up by placing it back in the cradle that had a spring operated button on each side. Depressing the buttons turned the phone to the off position.

When telephones became common place in the home the areas of each community were given alphabetic prefixes. Common place prefixes would be the first two letters of a name. For example BEechwood, COlumbia, PArkway, HEmlock, HIghland were all common prefixes.
For a local call you would dial BE4-5789. Long distance calls required operator assistance. For that you just dialed "0".

The problem with dial phones was dexterity. If you were in a hurry and didn't move the dial all the way to the finger stop you would enter the wrong phone number.

The mystery is why rotary telephones used only 24 of the 26 alphabet characters. There was no Q or Z on the dial. 1 was left without characters because it was used for internal telephone company signals and 0 was used to contact the operator. The history of Ma Bell tells us the company had to decide on which letters were least used and Bell engineers decided on Q and Z.

This was pretty much overlooked until texting became a telephone function and anyone using the standard 12 key telephone would have to use 7 for Q and 9 for Z.

Of course there were people of that day that didn't want to bother with dialing a phone or even calling out. So you could have a phone without a dial. It was less expensive. If you had to call out you merely clicked the receiver buttons several times and the operator would answer. These phones were popular in rural areas with not much service. You were assigned a specific bell ring or series of rings to let you know the call was for you. All phones of this era had an actual bell inside that would alert you to an incoming phone call.

In the 1960's Bell engineer experimented with the phone using a key pad instead of a dial. The key pad phone used differing pitched tones or frequencies instead of a series of electrical pulses. The key pad included a # or octohorpe which is commonly referred to as the pound key and a * or asterisk commly referred to as the star key. The mystery of this phone is that the keypad is reversed from most calculators.

Touch tone phones did not become standard until the early 1980's. Prior to this most people rented their phone from the phone company. The rent was minimal and was included on your phone bill. Sometime in the 1970's companies began to sell phones to the public. Eventually most of us own our phone. Virtually all phones connected to wires are touch tone phones.

At first most of the public was informed why the key pad included the # and *. We were told it would be useful in the future and please just sit down and be quiet.

There was a comic strip called Dick Tracy about a detective. He had all sorts of gadgets including a car phone and a wrist two-way radio.

These were usually noted by the artist, Chester Gould, with a small sign that said two way wrist radio and an arrow pointing to Tracy's wrist, because we were way to stupid to remember from strip to strip that the character used these communication devices.

Although the artist and author may have been somewhat condesending, he did have vision. Although wrist radios never caught on, Cell phones are all the rage and some have built in walkie talkies. I suppose you could duct tape them to your wrist if you were so inclined.

I knew people in the 1970's that had car phones. They were more on the order of long range walkie talkies than phones. Owning and using a car phone in that era required an FCC license. You could not say anything vulgar or an operator would come on the phone line and remind you that your license could be in jeapordy. I could relate to that.

These were a precursor to the cell phone of today.

We had to get a cell phone in the early 1990's. It was supposed to be reimbursed by the company my wife worked for, however due to her illness she had to quit work and we were stuck with this big ol' phone and the bills for a year. The phone was actually built for a car. But we didn't want it installed. It was the size of a box of tissues and weighed about 2 pounds. It had a receiver/headset connected by the usual coiled phone cord to the base. The key pad was on the back side of the receiver. This was definitely nothing you could carry in your purse or pocket. Once again it was rented and not owned. Each minute on the phone cost over a dollar. It did not get much use.

This brings us to the modern cell phone that is tiny and relatively cheap to use. No need to explain. I do not think anyone misses the rotary phone.

Although it is surprising, but there are many rotary phones still in use.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Zorro Was A Democrat

I heard a discussion today in which Neo-Cons were critized. I had no idea what was a Neo Con.

It turns out to be the new derogatory buzz word that means neo-conservatives. Being conservative these days is apparently a vice. I did not know that.

As the discussion progressed Barak Obama's spin on social security tax came up. First he said he would raise social security taxes.

When that flag was not saluted the senator announced he was merely joshing and said no, he would not raise social security tax if elected, but he promised two chickens in every pot.

In 1958 a new TV show debuted. Zorro. There was no one cooler than Zorro. He rode his black steed named Toranado. He wore all black clothing and a black mask. Those shiny black boots were killer. Plus he was an incredible swordsman and a wonderful whip...uh...what ever you call a guy that has prowess with a whip. A whippersnapper? Wearing all black clothing worked out great as no one had color TV in 1958.

The Commandante
Zorro's nemisis was the Commandante, the provincial governor of old California. The wealthy Dons had to pay taxes to the Commandante and so did the peasants.

Truth be told, Zorro was a wealthy Don. Being a Don was good. He along with his daddy both had to pay tax. How is this unlike today? Zorro didn't actually pay the tax. His alter ego, Don Diego was the tax filer.

The Commandante took in the tax, but didn't actually spend the money on infrastructure, civic improvement, peasant welfare and job training. This did not set well with Zorro's concept of tax and spend or with his program for redistribution of the wealth.

Zorro was an early proponate of economic justice. So he set up his four step program.

1. Rob tax collectors at every opportunity.

2. Attack the Commandante by making unwarranted public claims against him, his family, his staff and supporters.

3. Redistribute the wealth by dividing the stolen tax monies equally among every peasant, even though none of them did a pesos worth of work for it.

4. Carve Z's into every available flat surface.

As a child of six I thought this was pretty cool. As a man of 56 that has worked hard all his life paid my share of taxes and would prefer to just take care of my own family.

I'd like to punch that Zorro bastard squarely in the nose.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hot Dog Dreams

The Hippies had it all wrong.

Dr. Timothy Leary was way off the mark.

Today's Clubbers are foolish. You do not need mind bending drugs like LSD or Extacy to reach a state of altered consciousness.

All you need are Hot Dogs. I'll tell you what, 2 Weinies on a bun with mustard and relish taken 3 hours before bedtime will result in dreams stranger than anything Franz Kafka could write.

For instance, in last night's dream I was at work talking with a customer about his retirement plan and explaining the reason for losses in his account due to market volatility and the next thing I know I'm in a large suite sitting on a sofa with my wife.

We discover we are at the residence of former WLW talk show host Gary Burbank. His new wife is seated next to me and his 10 month old son is playing on the carpet at my feet. The child has an unusually large head that is covered with a crop of blond hair that appears to have been cut by placing a bowl over the boy's massive noggin and trimming around the edges. Burbank doesn't say too much and his wife says even less. The baby rolls over and indicates he needs a new diaper.

His mom assists in the change. I discuss a former WLW personality and mentioning that I used to be an acquaintance of Andy MacWilliams and Dusty Rhodes.

The next thing I know I am walking through a filthy parking garage in downtown Cincinnati and I am looking for my car. The garage is huge and covered in grease and dirt from all the automobile exhaust. I keep walking and walking. I don't find my car, but I do find my old car. I can see outside and it is dusk of a cold fall day.

My guitar and amplifier
I'm relieved that my guitar and amplifier are safe in the back seat. I find myself back at work on the phone once again explaining that market volatility is normal and asking the fellow if he has seen the price of gas lately.

All the while I am hoping to go to the restroom soon since I'm feeling queasy and bloated. At that point I find that I am still in bed and tell myself to wake up. Then I scurry on down the hall to the bathroom.

Yes sir, Hot Dogs are great but like all mind altering substances they do have their consequences.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Things That My Grandchildren Will Never See

Since I am fast become vintage, for I am a 19 and 52 model, there are some things that I have beheld with my baby blues (which forthe record are a lovely shade of green) that my Grandchildren will never encounter. Some are good memories and some are just memories of times gone by.

I present my list:

1. Going to downtown Cincinnati and seeing raggedy looking men or women selling newspapers by screaming "Extra" or "
Times Star".

2. The organ grinder that stood across from Fountain Square, playing his barrel organ and hoping for some spare change.

3. Two mail deliveries per day.

4. Two editions of a newspaper per day.

5. Unregulated X-ray machines in childrens shoe stores that showed parents how close the child's toes were from the front of the shoes.

6. Iron lungs

7. Old ladies thadressed in print dresses, wore white gloves and funny hats with netting and orthopedic high heeled shoes.

8. Mass in Latin and mandatory Latin class in school.

9. Movie theaters that were works of art with huge screens.

10. Saddle shoes

11. Learning to make a lanyard during the summer at camp

12. Being able to play outside from 8:30 am to 7 pm anywhere in your neighborhood without fear.

13. Cars with fins

14. Cars with rear mounted engines.

15. Respect for politicians and public officials

16. Peddlers that came around your neighborhood selling fruit and vegetables.

17. The Fuller Brush man.

18. Home milk delivery

19. Home potato chip delivery (Mr. Chips)

20. Riding your bicycle everywhere.

21. Sonic booms

22. Duck and cover

23. The Iron Curtain

24. Locally produced television shows that invited you to be part of the audience

25. Mom and Pop grocery stores

26. Service stations that had attendants that pumped your gas, checked your oil and fluids and washed your windshield. All this was done for 23.9 cents a gallon or less.

27. Ministers that visited your school and gave a Bible lesson to your class.

28. Morning prayer at school.

29. The Pledge of Allegiance

30. The dreadful paddle in the principal's office.

31. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter being celebrated at school with parties and singing of hymns.

32. Yellow vinyl rain coats with locking clasps and a matching hood with a small brim.

33. Shoes made from actual leather.

34. PF Flyers

35. Radio Flyers

36. Schwin bicycles if you were rich and Huffy bicycles if you were not.

37. Banana bicycle seats with high handle bars.

38. Chatty Cathy and Patty Playpal

39. Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy

40. Little girls toy ovens that had an electric element.

41. Toy cars made out of lead

42. Toy guns that looked authentic

43. Patches for jeans

45. Soft drinks/Pop that was made with real cane sugar

46. BB Guns

47. Boy Scout knives that you would carry everywhere, even to school.

48. Returnable pop and beer bottles that were sanitized by the pop manufacturer and resued.

49. Dad's that smoked pipes

50. Dad's fedora hat