The Other Side of I-80

imageA few weeks ago I wrote about being rescued in Omaha by my brother who was kind enough to drive 2 ½ hours to fetch me from a hastily arranged backup airport. The ride from Omaha, NE to Ames, IA, actually I think the airport is in Council Bluffs, IA, was mainly across Interstate 80. I-80 in Iowa is kind of flat and fairly straight. Although it rolls along some gentle hills, you can see pretty far into the distance.

Once, when my brother was driving me to Omaha for an early morning flight, I asked if we were observing the sunrise as I saw an impressive glow in the distance. He quipped “no, here in Iowa the sun rises in the east” and explained that while we still had quite a lot of drive time remaining, I was seeing the lights of Omaha.

Last week, our daughter Faith and I picked up I-80 near Scranton,

I-80 West

Getting ready for the long leg.

PA about 1,200 miles east of Omaha, heading west toward Pittsburgh. As much as we like going to Pittsburgh, and as much as we like the flexibility, affordability and the luxury of packing anything you want when you drive to your destination, we hate I-80. I have made that trip dozens of times, and my wife has made it a few times. We all hate I-80. It is one tough road to drive.

Raod Ahead

This is one of the longest stretches of I-80 that is visible as you drive.

I-80 is a favorite truck route, so it’s usually busy with traffic even if you manage to miss rush hour near Scranton. Yes, Scranton has a rush hour just like the big cities. We generally time our travel to avoid the rush at the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge over the Hudson. That means either leaving what I call early (before 6:00 am) or what Faith calls early (about 8:30 am). We usually sneak into the west side of the city, staying at the Fairfield Inn on Neville Island, so we don’t worry so much about Pittsburgh’s rush hour.

Chemical plant

Neville Island tourist attraction

The first time I took Faith to Pittsburgh, it was a last minute decision when she discovered that she had a week of vacation time to either use or lose. I checked for a hotel near where we were heading and found this Fairfield Inn. Faith’s reaction was: “ooh, an island!” Then I informed her that Neville Island is an industrial island sitting in the Ohio River. Not quite Hawaii.

Unlike I-80 in the Midwest, the Pennsylvania portion is characterized by hills and curves. Actually, let’s make that hills, curves and hills that curve. You can’t really ever see too much of the road ahead, it’s more like 280 1-mile squiggly segments. It even makes it hard to take pictures because you don’t see that great shot coming for miles. Also, it’s entirely possible that before you get to snap the shutter, you’ve turned or started down again. Finally, your field of view might get interrupted by a truck.

I-80 is a rolling truck stop.

There are a lot of trucks on I-80 in Iowa too, but there’s a difference in Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania has those hills – and those curves. I’m not sure truckers are any different in the east or the west, but those hills and curves bring out the DRIVE in truck driver. You can have a line of 6 trucks heading up a long hill at 55 mph when suddenly, one of them realizes that he can go 56, and he will start to pass the other five. So, you spend a lot of time following a truck while slowly passing a bunch of trucks. The only thing that can make that worse is rain.

Did I say the only thing?

I forgot the other thing that can and usually does make I-80 worse. Construction. I’ve been driving I-80 through Pennsylvania since 1975 and it. Has. Always. Been. Under. Construction. It’s just one of those roads that never seem to be finished. They are always repaving a lane, rebuilding a bridge, clearing a landslide or fixing a few hundred feet of guard rail that was removed during the winter by someone rolling too fast for conditions.

The almost comical thing about all the roads in Pennsylvania is the signage. Some politician’s family must be in the sign business in that state, because there are tons of road signs. Our favorites are the “Bridge Ices Before Road” and “Bridge May Be Icy” signs. In CT, we might see one of these every now and then. In PA, you will see one before EVERY bridge, but it’s hard to tell when they choose one expression over the other. Personally, I like “Bridge May Be Icy” and I like it better than the expression they use in CT “Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface.” Warning signs shouldn’t take too long to read and they shouldn’t require any thought. I know what “Icy” means without thinking about it.

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Most of the pictures are mine. You can click on them to see a larger version and read a little description. The picture of the chemical plant is one that Faith took while driving around Neville Island.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Degrees and Degrees and…Degrees

imageThis post is part of SoCS challenge.

I don’t usually respond to prompts and I haven’t ever participated in a weekly challenge of any sort. I saw this on Sandy’s Jar, a blog that I follow but I was just about to skip this, but I like the idea of stream of consciousness writing. I’m not entirely sure that I understand it or know how to do it, but I like the idea. The prompt ‘degree/degrees’ was appropriate today. I had prepared a blog post, that was loosely coupled to the two degrees I have, chemistry and business, but on second thought and after input from my wife, I decided not to post it. It was one of those posts that are like those angry emails that you write but never send. You feel better after writing them, but upon reflection, you realize that you don’t want to go live with that idea.

I noticed that someone else participating in this challenge wrote about two degrees, but the other kind of degrees, the Celsius degrees used to measure temperature. I did a lot of that when I was working toward my degree in chemistry. Some things had to be at certain temperatures in order to proceed. Sometimes, we just had to know what the temperature was throughout our experiment. One analytical procedure that we used would measure, very precisely, the heat given off while burning a specific amount of stuff in an oxygenated container. Degrees, even fractions of degrees were very important.

The degree I was working toward was also very important. Having that degree conferred upon me meant that I was “entitled to enjoy all the rights, honors and privileges pertaining thereto.” When stuff is “pertaining thereto” you got something going for you. Those of us receiving degrees that day had worked hard and we had earned those ‘rights, honors and privileges.”

The degree itself was a bit of an honor but I never enjoyed any of those rights or privileges. I never worked as a chemist. I was prepared to continue my education in chemistry and enter the workforce someday as a chemist but my advisor talked me out of that. He didn’t think that was such a good idea. Kind of like the way my wife didn’t think that other post was a good idea. One of the important things in life is being able to realize when someone is giving you good advice.

I’ve written about degrees before. Not the temperature kind and not the conferred upon me kind, but degrees of separation. I wrote about the way they say people can be connected to other people in six hops. I also wrote about the ways retailers are injecting degrees of separation into your shopping experience by outsourcing delivery and installation to one or more contractors.

Faith's Senior Wall

Faith’s Senior Show

Degrees are all around us and my favorite hobby, woodworking, often involves degrees. For instance, in making the 15 frames for my daughter’s senior photography show, I had to cut 120 45° angles. That might sound hard, but the tools and jigs used to make picture frames make those angles pretty easy to cut. I’m pretty sure that the degree that I worked the hardest to understand/earn is the one that I’ve used the least. The degrees that are part of my everyday life are the ones I really don’t think about.

Posted in Prompt, SoCS | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

My Teams Sweep

imageNote: I don’t often focus on sports here but this was just so cool. I tried to include a few explanations for foreign readers and non-sports fans.

Last Thursday evening, while packing for a road trip to Pittsburgh, I was causally watching the Pitt (College Football) game. Pitt (University of Pittsburgh/graduate school alma mater) was playing Virginia Tech. The game was important for a couple of reasons. One, Pitt started this season 3-0 but managed to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” and lose the next 3 games. Two, there’s a bit of a rivalry between Pitt and VATech.

Our daughter Faith and I were going to Pittsburgh to attend an NFL Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans. We had also purchased tickets to an NHL Hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins (Pens) and the New York Islanders on Saturday night. About an hour south of Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, my undergraduate alma mater West Virginia University (WVU) was hosting Baylor, a then undefeated team from Texas. As Pitt started to win, I had this silly notion and an odd feeling that all four teams were going to win.

I had no right to that feeling. Pitt’s odds hadn’t looked good before the game. WVU had no odds at all, they were going to lose. The Pens are a good team, but the Islanders were coming into town undefeated. And the Steelers?

The Steelers have been off their game for three long years. The team is rebuilding but trying not to let anyone know. It’s like when a hotel erects a highly decorated temporary wall around what used to be the lobby – “move along, nothing to see here.”

The second act in this 4-part play was the game between WVU and Baylor. Surely that would crush my premonition like an egg; Baylor had outscored their first 6 opponents by a total of 196 points.wvu-score


You know what’s coming. Yeah, WVU beat Baylor.

Unfortunately, WVU fans celebrated that amazing victory with a ridiculously stupid version of their signature response which is to burn something. That’s a story for a future post; this story is all about good news.

Faith and I were waiting in line for the hockey game when I checked ESPN ScoreCenter and saw that WVU had won. I said two things to Faith: “there are going to be fires in Morgantown tonight” and “I’m up for a sweep.” I explained my vision to her and added that “since the least likely team to win had won, the rest would be easy-peasy.”

The Islanders scored first, but the Pens came back to take the lead late in the 2nd period and then they sealed the deal in the 3rd period to win 3-1. Three up. Three down. 4-out-of-4 was within reach but the Steelers had to win.

On Monday, we walked around Pittsburgh’s Strip District, an old warehouse district turned eclectic public market. There are stores there that date back to before I was born, and there are stores and restaurants I never dreamed I’d see in Pittsburgh, let alone in what used to be a pretty tough part of town.

My father brought my brother and me with him to the Strip District numerous times when we were kids. My favorite memory is of when he bought 5# bags of pistachios at Stimoolis, a Greek food market that’s been on the Strip since 1912. Next to Stimoolis is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company a.k.a. Penn Mac. We had to check out Penn Mac because my wife regularly orders Chipped Ham and Pierogies from them.

Chipped Ham is a Pittsburgh thing. Processed ham, sliced so thin that you kind of pile it on your sandwich instead of laying slice over slice. It was made famous by Isaly’s, but every neighborhood butcher knew how to slice that stuff.

We saw something else in the Strip District. Texans fans. Houston is a team the travels well, but I wasn’t expecting to see big bunches of fans walking around my hometown. I overheard some in a store, and realized that there was an entire tour’s worth of them staying in the same hotel as Faith and me.

What if we lost?

What if I had to get in an elevator, all decked out in Steelers gear with a bunch of celebrating Texans?

That couldn’t happen, right? I mean the (betting) line was even. Both teams were 3-3 and the Steelers had won 15 straight Monday Night Football games at home, dating back to 1991.

Walking over to Heinz Field, surrounded by people wearing black and gold was special; it was like I had come home. Actually, it was like I had never left. The game started badly for The Steelers. They couldn’t move the ball on offense and the defense looked like, as a guy in the row behind us yelled: “Swiss cheese!” As we approached halftime, Houston was up 13-0 and I was thinking about that elevator ride.

The Steelers scored a field goal. 13-3 wasn’t a great score but it would carry us into the 2nd half with hope. Then, in the span of 73 seconds, the Steelers were winning 24-13. You can click here for details, but we scored three touchdowns before the 1st half ended.

The 2nd half was normal NFL football. The officials robbed Antonio Brown of a touchdown, Houston scored, we scored, Houston threatened in the last 1:46 but they never made it past 24. The Steelers won 30-23 – team sweep complete.

Pictures – The upper picture is the Neville Island Bridge which carries I-79 over the Ohio River. We stayed on Neville Island the first night in Pittsburgh.

Posted in Family, History, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

The Shape Women Want and the Cuban Missile Crisis

imageI will be the first to admit that I have a habit of saying dumb things. For example:

I did tell my wife, when she was in the early days of being pregnant with our daughter: “you don’t really even look pregnant, you just look a little bit fat.

I did say to my wife: “let me pull the car up and away from the bushes so you don’t get wet getting in” and then proceeded to pull 7’ into the middle of the driveway.

I did tell my daughter: “I think you can squeeze through there.”

And of course, as recently made famous in Faith’s blog, I observed that she is not short.

I’m guilty. I have received curious looks, complaints and periods of silence, not to mention a rather hefty bill for maternity clothes to which my wife added: “now I look pregnant.” I have shared these stories of good-intentions-gone-off-the-rails with friends and coworkers (looking for sympathy). One coworker tagged me with the question “why do you speak?

However, the incident that lurks behind the first half of the title was not my fault. Still, I have been convicted in a “shoot the messenger” moment. I can’t remember the source, but I either watched or read an explanation as to why many things in life are shaped like my favorite travel mug. The author/speaker said: “among other things, it’s the shape women aspire to.” I did NOT say that. I did repeat it to my wife and she informed me that it was a dumb thing to say. Of course, I said it to my coworker, in reference to the conversation that I had with my wife. Again, I was looking for sympathy. Again “why do you speak?

On another occasion, a woman in my office looked at my travel mug as I was rinsing it out and mentioned that she liked the shape. I said “do you know why that is?” I tried to distance myself from the person who first made the statement and I tried to make sure that she understood that I wasn’t referring to her or her shape.

Afterwards, I thought – why DO I speak?

As for the second half of the title, I was imagereminded by a blog friend that October 16th was the 52nd anniversary of the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also the 52nd anniversary of an early “why-do-I-speak?” moment.

Being born in 1954 meant experiencing Duck and Cover drills, visiting Air Raid shelters and preparing for a nuclear war as if we really could survive under our school desk. During these drills we were supposed to:

  • Remain calm
  • Follow instructions
  • Shut up

Teachers didn’t use the expression “shut up” but some did use the expression “shut up Dan.”

I wasn’t a quiet kind of kid. I followed instructions, but I always found it hard to stay focused. My mind would wander. My report cards often included the comment “Dan daydreams” (as if that was a bad thing). I am so glad that I was born before ADD diagnoses and Ritalin became popular, because I would have been one drugged-up little kid.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had a drill where we all gathered in the gym/auditorium. The idea was to stand quietly for a short period, and then listen to the 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Kocher. Mrs. Kocher was in charge. She had been in charge forever; she had actually taught my father when he was in 2nd grade.

There was very little to do during these drills, but some of us had “jobs!” I was assigned to roll down the black-out curtains. Well, I was more like a black-out curtain understudy. A 6th grader was in charge of the task, I was supposed to be learning – succession planning I suppose. In any case, while rolling down the curtain, I asked a teacher how rolling down the black-out curtains during the middle of the day was going to help. I got the look that I now recognize as an early form of “why do you speak?” followed by:

This is a drill. You’re doing this so that in the event of a real attack, you will know how to roll down the curtains.”

That almost made sense. I should have stopped and thought about that, but that wasn’t isn’t my nature. I blurted out:

But they are firing missiles at us. Missiles aren’t looking for buildings on the ground, there’s no one in there to see us; they just go up and come down.

Go. Sit. In the corner.”

And, of course, I had to take a note home and explain the incident to my parents. Luckily, my dad handled that one. Dad wasn’t all that good with that kind of discipline because he had been like me in school. Still, he wanted his kids to do better. He would yell at us but he didn’t yell this time, he explained. When I told him my side of the story, he looked at me and said:

Did it ever occur to you that the reason they give you these jobs is so you have something to do? They have you clean the erasers because you fidget in class at the end of the day. This is the same kind of thing. If you don’t want to have to crank the curtains down, go into the room and be quiet.”


Pictures – Dunkin Donuts stopped making my original travel mug. I lost several and I was down to one slightly damaged one when they reintroduced the mug that represents the shape women aspire to. I bought 4. The lower picture is the park that sits where my elementary school used to be. No longer a target of the cold war or a training ground for curtain handlers.

Posted in Family, History, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

The Results are In…Who Cares?

imageEarlier this year, I was listening to an NPR interview where the person being interviewed was explaining the difficulties associated with conducting political polls these days. Of course, my first thought was “then just stop trying” because I hate getting those ridiculous cold calls, not to mention robo-calls. The problems being discussed ranged from the possibility that children could be answering to the now ubiquitous issue of people keeping their phone number when they move.

My mother’s phone number hasn’t changed in 50 years, but she doesn’t even live in the same state as where that number was issued. She still might get a robo-call asking her to press 1 if you like (this guy) for State Senate.

After a few more minutes and some additional consideration, my more carefully formed second thought was “then just stop trying” because I hate getting those ridiculous cold calls, not to mention robo-calls.

I understand why a candidate would care about poll results, but I’d be skeptical of a candidate who would change his/her story based on results – oh, right, that’s all of them.

OK, I understand that. What I don’t understand is why would I care? Do people really change their opinion of a candidate because other (anonymous) people have? In my opinion, that would be dumb. It would be dumb on the surface because, for something as important as the stuff we vote for, we should make up our own minds. It would be dumber beneath the surface because we probably don’t understand the poll whose results we are reading. In the interview mentioned above, NPR Host Mara Liasson said:

Polling has other challenges. And to be a savvy consumer of polls, like any other product, it’s important to read the fine print. Every poll includes information about how the poll was taken. How many people were surveyed? Was it a random sample? Did the questions seem fair? And, says Pew Research Center pollster Scott Keeter, was the poll conducted by human beings or a computer?

I would submit that any person who cares enough imageabout the political process to understand all of that stuff has probably made up their own mind as to whom to vote for. The poll-consumer’s paradox. Must be:

I care so much about this process that I want to know how everybody thinks, but I’m not going to be influenced by others.”

This paradox is (or should be) present in other situations. One of those areas, an area where I might care but often don’t, is product reviews. That’s because I think product reviews are written by 3 kinds of people:

1) People who don’t really understand what they bought – There lots of negative reviews for a band saw that I recently purchased. It turned out to be a very well-made machine. Some of the complaints were about the lack of information in the assembly manual. If you know what a band saw does, and how a band saw works, the instructions are fine. If you don’t understand that instruction manual, then I would suggest that you shouldn’t own a band saw.

2) People who hate the product – I’m not saying they don’t have valid reasons. I just think that unhappy customers are way more likely to write rant a review than happy customers.

3) People who can’t prioritize – One person said” “the saw itself is a drab shade of blue” What, are you putting it in your living room? Another person complained that: “The saw required two people to unpack” Did you not see that it weighs 250 lbs? By the way, when you’re pushing a thick slab of wood through that saw, you’re going to appreciate every one of those 250 pounds so maybe you fall into this category and #1 above…just sayin.

I prefer reviews that were conducted by qualified people. With respect to power tools, I like the reviews by WoodSmith Magazine because they are impartial (the magazine has no ads) and they are wood workers. If I thought there was a political analyst who was knowledgeable and impartial, I might look at their review of the candidates, but I don’t think any reporter/analyst falls into those categories.

So, for the next couple of weeks, I’ll listen to CDs instead of the radio and I’ll look at tool catalogs instead of the newspaper. Well, I’ll still read the comics.

Pictures – When I searched my Flickr stream for ‘poll’ the only result was the top picture. Apparently, I conducted a poll and my wife preferred that picture over a different one of buildings reflected in the river. I guess I am influenced by some poll results.

Posted in Current Events, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

New Camera

imageOne of the harder lessons to learn, at least for me, is that there is a big difference between second attempts and second chances. The difference between these two things is contained within two adages that most of us were taught as children:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

It seems pretty simple, but sometimes it’s difficult to decide which one of those bits of advice is the one to follow. In fact, sometimes they seem like the two sides of the same coin.

This post isn’t going to be about relationships, but relationships, all sorts of relationships, romantic, friendly, employment, student-teacher, religious, you name it, are likely to end at the juncture of one of those adages. I suppose that I should have said “likely to pass through or end at…” but, in my experience, “end” is the appropriate verb.

Clearly, I digress. The title says this is about my new camera. It is, but my new camera was found at the intersection of these adages.

The camera is a Sony CyberShot WX350. I purchased it from B&H. My previous camera was also a Sony CyberShot that I also purchased from B&H. I bought the original Sony because I wanted a point and shoot camera that I could slip into my pocket. Sometimes I want to be able to take nice photos but I don’t want to be bothered with a camera hanging around my neck. I have a camera that hangs around my neck, and when I want greater control over the settings, like when I accompany my daughter on a photo-shoot, I take that camera. Unfortunately, a few weeks before I traveled to England last year, a trip on which I really wanted that slip-in-your-pocket camera, my Sony developed a smudge.

The first time I noticed the smudge, I cleaned the lens. OK, I imageemailed my daughter for instructions on how to properly clean the lens. No Brillo Pad, no Scrubbing Bubbles and no hooking up a blowgun to my compressor. I carefully followed her instructions, took a few test shots and voilà, no smudge. The next day, the smudge returned. A quick wipe with an eyeglass cleaning cloth and the smudge was gone but again, a few pictures later, smudge. This was no ordinary glob of goo.

After a bit of investigation, unfortunately after my trip to England, I determined that the “smudge” was the result of a problem with the sensor. The smudge appeared on the same area of every photo, but only when the area of that photo was a particular shade of blue.

I am a bit colorblind, so when I refer to a “particular shade of blue” you should know that I might actually be describing something you see as blue, light blue, green, purple or gray.

I decided to have the camera repaired. I hadn’t bought an extended warranty, and the original warranty had (of course) recently expired. Given the issue with my vision and the unscientific nature of my testing, I thought the best thing to do would be to print some photos. In the group below, I think you can see some photos have the smudge; some have a slight smudge and some, no smudge. I took this to the repair center. I explained the problem carefully. They seemed to agree with my assessment. We agreed that “it probably requires more than cleaning.”

When I got the camera back, it was clean. It had been cleaned, inside and out and test photos indicated no smudge. A few weeks later, the sky was the right shade of whatever and the smudge returned. I called the repair facility but the conditions under which they would consider their first attempt to be incorrect and refundable seemed way too hard to meet. I wanted it to be a clear case of “you didn’t listen to me” but they wanted it to be a scientific fact. Obviously, we had reached a “fool me once…” moment.

So, why did I buy another Sony CyberShot?

Well, logically I would argue that the sensor problem was probably a freak thing, an anomaly; the kind of thing that happens to 1 out (n) cameras where (n) is very large. Or, maybe it was something I did. Maybe I placed the camera on a hot rock or a damp seat cushion or too close to the microwave or maybe that spider was radioactive. None of the reviews said anything about a widespread smudge problem, so under the circumstances, I think Sony deserves a second chance. Just in case logic doesn’t prevail, I bought a 3-year extended warranty.

Below are some of the first photos from the new camera. I’m having to adjust to the fact that it doesn’t have a “Manual” setting, but I’m learning how to work around that. If at first you don’t succeed…

Note: If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I dropped the sidebar description of the photos. They were only accurate for a week, and many people are viewing older stories – thank you – so I decided to end the confusion. Now I am either using captioned photos, or obvious photos, or I’ll write the description here at the end. If you’re reading this in email only, you never saw the descriptions and you’re missing the nice large images but I appreciate your reading just the same. The stump at the top, is something I’m content not to succeed with. I tried to get rid of it. I won’t be trying again for a long time.

Posted in Customer Service, Photography, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Too Much Nothing

Earlier this week, I was searching for a clip of the song that Sam sang in Casablanca. No, not that song, not the “play it” song, but the other one. The upbeat one with the verse:

“Who’s got nothin?
“We got nothin”
“How much nothin?”
“Too much nothin”
“Say, nothin’s not an awful lot but knock on wood”

You can watch it here, it’s less than 2 minutes. I was searching for the song because I’ve been thinking about two different kinds of nothing.

Do you ever get to the point where someone is telling you to do something, or not to do something so many times that you feel compelled to disobey? You know, when they drone over and over until the message turns into nothing and then becomes annoying and then avoiding it becomes your mission.

For example, I have no intention of taking up smoking, but I swear if anti-smoking commercials get more blatant, gross and honest-to-the-point-of-being-absurd, I might just buy myself a pack of Lucky’s and go for it. I get it, smoking is bad. Smoking kills. But, watching ads featuring people disassembling various prosthetic body parts really isn’t reaching me. Besides, I don’t smoke! I hit mute or change channels when I see those ads.

Here’s the funny thing. Back when cigarette advertising powered the airwaves and newsstands, back when Rod Serling stood there with a Chesterfield burning in his hand, using the lit end to punctuate his description of each Twilight Zone episode. Back then, it didn’t seem like there were too many cigarette commercials.

So, either the cigarette companies had better marketing departments than the Surgeon General has today, or smoking really does make you look cool. It would be enough to remind me that those cigarettes killed Rod Serling. I’d find that more effective than the soapbox approach.

There’s a section of a nearby town called Rainbow. As imagefar as I know, there’s really only one main road through this section and it’s not conducive to speeding. It’s kind of narrow; it has a few curves and a hill or two. Still, I guess people speed because the folks in Rainbow are all over the place with “slow down” messages. They put one of those radar units out there that posts the speed limit and shows you your speed. Honestly, I speed up a little as I approach that thing. Once, while riding my bike down the hill toward it, I shifted into the hardest-to-peddle gear I have just to try to get above the limit.

The other type of nothing is in my inbox. I get too much nothing in the form of advertising. I’m not talking about spam. I’m talking about legitimate advertising from companies that I’ve actually bought or considered buying stuff from. Two of my least favorite companies lately are Amazon and American Airlines.

Over a year ago, someone gave me an Amazon gift certificate. I used it to buy replacement knives for my Delta 12” Planner.

If you’re not a woodworker, you should know two things about a planner. Thing 1: Planners are used to reduce the thickness of a board. If you have a 6” wide board that is 1” thick and you want it to be 5/8” thick, you run it though a couple of times. 1” becomes 15/16ths and 15/16ths becomes 7/8ths and so on. Thing 2: Planners are expensive.

After buying a set of knives, Amazon followed up with a questionnaire.

Did you like those knives?

Was your transaction the best customer experience ever?

Would you recommend Amazon to others?

Would you write a review of these knives?

I get that. I get all of that. Here’s what I don’t get: Amazon started sending me emails, advertising replacement planner knives for Ryobi, Makita and Dewalt planners. How many planners do they think I own? Even worse, one of the ads was for knives for a Ryobi 13” planner. That’s like…

I started to say: “that’s like sending a woman who bought a pair of size 7 black shoes an ad for size 8 black shoes by a different designer.” But, I realized that my daughter might actually buy that second pair of shoes and they might fit. Cuz, clearly I don’t understand women’s fashion or sizes or how many shoes women need.

American Airlines has done Amazon one better when it comes to stupid. Back in August, I was checking flights from Hartford to Des Moines for my daughter. She was going to visit her cousin in Iowa over Labor Day weekend. I am still getting severalimage emails a week from American Airlines, telling me about “great deals” on fares to Iowa.

A friend once told me: “Dan, you can’t fix stupid” but I’d like to help Amazon and American Airlines understand why people don’t want the things they looked at on their website and why they don’t want more of things they already purchased. Since they don’t seem too bright, I drew a picture.

In case you’re interested, the title of the song I was searching for is “Knock on Wood.” Ironically, there also is a song called “Too Much of Nothing.” It was written by Bob Dylan. If you want to hear Peter, Paul & Mary’s cover of that song, give a listen.

Posted in Humor, Marketing, Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments