Monday, November 25, 2019

Black Fridays

The term Black Friday is something I find hard to get my head around.  I know it has to do with black ink denoting profitability in ledgers, but to me Black Friday suggests one of those Wall Street Crash days of yore -- Black Thursday 1929, etc.

Last fall I discovered that there are Black Fridays in Europe -- where they don't even celebrate the American Thanksgiving.  I saw Black Friday signs posted in stores in Italy and in Spain.  I even took advantage of it in Barcelona.   I was in town for a few hours and it began to rain.  Didn't have a waterproof hat, so I ducked into the big El Corte Ingl├ęs department store and bought a nice English Barbour baseball cap at a discount.

Here in the States, it's a day I try to avoid shopping, much like the day after Christmas.  And to tell the truth, that day in Barcelona was Wednesday, the day before the Thanksgiving that they don't celebrate.  But the sales event was on, crowds weren't hectic, and I was able to keep my head dry.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Joys of My Porsche 914

My one and only sports car was a new 1971 Porsche 914 that I drove from June 1971 to November 1974 while I was living in the Albany, New York area.

The good part was that it was a genuine sports car that had more civilized features than a ragtop MG, etc.  The gal who did my computer programming for the State planning agency was a purist who thought that a true sports car driver had to SUFFER.  You know the drill ... rag top, floppy side curtains ... so it was with initial reluctance that she bought a new Datsun 240Z coupe.

The 914 was fun to drive.  I liked the low driving position (but would hate it now).  A very slight steering wheel movement resulted in a noticeable turn.  Not tiring to drive on the several long trips I made in it.  The 4 cylinder version had the same gas tank the 914/6 required, so theoretical range approached 600 miles.

Not so fun at first was the very stiff gear shifter.  Over time either it loosened or my right arm got stronger.

My car got punished.  Someone rear-ended me at slow speed, and the rear trunk lid repair was not thorough -- leaked or wept slightly.  On the Thruway heading east from Buffalo once, the windshield took a rock.  The replacement's sealing was so-so and the surrounding chrome strip was loose in one corner ... had to screw it down.

A couple of years in, I was in the process of starting the car.  Stepped on the clutch and its cable snapped!  That's when I discovered that the angled floorboard behind it was made of plywood (I'm not kidding!).

There was an electrical item with cardboard covered tubes that failed somehow in the middle of Illinois and later gave some trouble.  If the motor died, a fix was giving the unit a whack.

The fuel pump was located in front of the left rear wheel well.  After a winter or two of road salt, its electrical lead corroded through and the car behaved like a vacuum cleaner when its cord gets pulled.   Same thing happened a year or so later.

The weight bias toward the rear could be dangerous in winter.  On a Delaware County country road with borderline snow/slush, the rear end broke away and I couldn't break its rhythm.  Eventually the rear and front traded places.  There was incoming traffic, but fortunately the car slid to the right into a snow bank.  I decided 914s were not winter-compatible.

By the fall of 1974 the sleeve over the exhaust system that provided heat had rusted through in places.  So my defogger only could defog about two inches worth at the bottom of the windshield.

This last was what prompted me to trade it in for a 1974 VW Dasher with front wheel drive for safer snow driving. I had it Zebart rust-proofed and was all set for another Albany winter.  A month or so after that, I was hired to work at the Washington State Budget Office's population unit and I went home to Puget Sound county.

Had the timing been slightly different I might have kept the 914 and put some money into restoring it because western Washington is pretty easy on cars unless one lives right by the ocean with its salt spray that can damage the paint.

Cross-posted at Car Style Critic.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Go to Hawaii and Jump the Shark

The expression "jumped the shark" pops up on the internet somewhat often.   It refers to the old "Happy Days" TV show episode where the Fonzie character is out surfing or waterskiing (I didn't see that ep) and hops over a large, nasty shark.  The point being, that was when Happy Days ran out of creative steam, ratings dwindled and then eventually was cancelled.  So when some person, political movement, fashion, hobby -- whatever -- visibly outlives its original inspiration and resorts to stunts or odd behavior to retain attention, the shark has been jumped and decline is inevitable.

Years before, back in the distant days when I watched TV shows, it had dawned on me that when the setting of the program shifted to Hawaii for an episode or two, that show had run out of ideas and was doomed.  There was more than one case of this, but that was 40 or so years ago and I can't cite examples: sorry.

I'm not sure if the folks running the programs realized what was happening in those terms.  It's possible a producer thought it was be fun to do a Hawaii-based episode as a treat or reward for the cast and the production workers.

Or maybe they did know that the end was nigh.

Regardless, when a program had a Hawaii episode, the Grim Reaper of television was lurking in the wings.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Online Dating Services, Part 1

My wife died nearly two and a half years ago.  Because I enjoy companionship, I eventually decided to try out online dating services.

I hope this doesn't squeeze all the romance out of things, but I am dealing with a numbers game in seeking the appropriate woman.

Back in high school the girls were all single -- available to one degree or another (some were "going steady" and therefore not in the dating market).  College was largely similar, though some young women were already married while others were engaged.  Still others were "pinned" to a frat man (engaged-to-be-engaged was the concept, a serious form of going steady).  And there were some simply going steady.  Nevertheless, that left plenty of gals free for dating and relationship formation.

Note that these same situations applied to women seeking men.

Roll the calendar ahead more than a few decades and the availability situation changes.  By that point, aside from the very elderly, the majority of people are married.  There also are those currently divorced or widowed or never-married.  But the latter groups are probably a minority.  Worse, they are much harder to find in the real world than back in the days of high school and college.

Sitting in a Starbucks, gazing around the room, it's not easy to decide who might be available for a date.  Okay, eliminate those wearing wedding rings -- but some of the rest might be "steady" already or not interested.

Hence, on-line dating services.  The contacts displayed are vetted as being interested in finding a partner.  And there are many of them.

How that system actually works will be presented in the next post.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

On the Road at Lot, Plus an Air Travel Note

Posting here has been sparse of late (yet again).

One reason is that my other two blogs take up most of my blogging time and energy.  Another is that I've been doing a lot of traveling the past few months: A cruise involving China and Japan in March, and a bus trip in Italy in May.  And I'll be taking a road trip to California in a few days.  Then things will calm down for the summer.

Speaking of travel, I booked a Mediterranean cruise for October from Rome and wanted to add a day or two on the French Riviera.  So I hopped on the Internet and checked out some one-way fares from Seattle to Nice.  At least two leading airlines quoted around $3,000 (!!!) to get me there coach class.  Then I tried Iceland Air, going as far as Paris.  A lot cheaper, but then I'd have to get from Paris to Nice by plane or rail, another expense.  Things were not looking good for my Riviera plan.

It suddenly dawned on me to see what might happen if I flew to Rome first and then round-trip to Nice from there.  Bingo!  I could do it for only a few hundred dollars on Alitalia.  Problem solved.

Now I wonder if a travel agent would have come to the same solution?  (I tend to use them if my proposed journey is something pretty new to me.  After that, I tend to do my own bookings totally or directly with a cruise line of bus tour company.)

Friday, May 10, 2019

On-Line Dating and Politics

My wife died a couple years ago.  Since I'm in need of a social life, I signed up with some on-line dating services for seniors.

They are useful in that you are sent a fairly large number of legitimate prospects, which means that you can play the sort of numbers game one does when screening job applicants.  That is, a certain percentage of cases clearly aren't likely to work well.

Evaluation factors can include age, appearance, hobbies, pets, preference for cites vs. nature, degree of interest in sporting activities, ditto regarding cultural activities, race, religion, health status, and several others.

Some dating sites include political leanings.  One selects an item from a range "Very Liberal" to "Very Conservative" with a "No Preference" option.  Or one can bypass this item.

The sites also allow members to write about themselves.

I've found that some women explicitly state that they do not want to meet with Trump supporters or conservatives.  So far I've seen none stating that they would refuse to meet up with a left-winger.  Perhaps that's because here in Puget Sound area politics are skewed Left.  Or maybe ladies on the right are more tolerant.

Granted, wide differences in political beliefs can be a barrier to forming good relationships.  But categorizing Trump supporters as strictly off-limits strikes me as being pretty intolerant for a political side that claims to favor tolerance.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Going to War Due to Time Constraints

World Wars 1 and 2 had many causes, some more salient than others.

One kind of cause had to do with a country opting for war because to delay would make fighting enemies in the future more risky.  This was a factor for Germany in 1914 and for Japan in 1941.

In Germany's case, a major potential enemy was the Russian Empire.  Russia was beaten by Japan in their 1904-05 war, but its military was recovering by 1914 and the country was rapidly industrializing.  German army staff planners feared that the Russians, who outnumbered Germans, would probably be considerably more formidable in just a few years.  This consideration helped push an already aggressive German Empire into war.

Japan's case is more complicated to explain.  In brief, the Japanese Empire had been at war with China for a few years.  The year before that conflict began, Japan renounced warship limitation treaties and began increasing the size of its navy.  America began building battleships again around that time, and orders for ships increased as the war in Europe wore on.

Senior Imperial Japanese Navy officers were well aware that the USA could massively out-build Japan in all weapons categories, so renouncing limitation treaties was probably unwise while emotionally satisfying.  As 1941 wore on, the US imposed resource restrictions on Japan, oil and steel in particular, in an effort to persuade Japan to end its war with China.  Expansion-minded Japanese officers who dominated government policy at that time then had the choices of (1) acceding to American wishes, (2) waiting matters out while their petroleum reserves gradually depleted and America launched far more warships than Japan could, or (3) starting war soon while resources were at hand and America's ships were yet to be commissioned.  The third option was selected in the hope that Japan could quickly attain its conquest aims and that then America and Britain would agree to a peace treaty at that point rather than fight a bloody war to the finish.  But the war proved to be long and Japan was crushed by mid-1945.