Monday, February 27, 2012

Halftime in America...or 2-Minute Warning?

You'd be forgiven if you weren't too inspired by the Chrysler sponsored Super Bowl piece delivered by unlikely pitchman, Clint Eastwood.

The halftime message featured the gravelly-voiced film icon declaring that Detroit is back up off its back and "Motor City is fighting again" because "we all pulled together" and America too must now "come together" and "rally around what's right" because "our second half is about to begin."

Apart from getting union flag wavers and jingoistic types all full of goose bumps, the bit did little for the rest of us.  Yes, you could argue that Detroit is on a bit of a "comeback" after being knocked down, but let's not forget who knocked them down in the first place. The US automotive industry limped to halftime, aided by the taxpayer and there would not have been a halftime without the bailout. What's more is that Chrysler was bailed out once before in 1979 only to return to the familiar government teat, so you could say that this go-round is more like the 2-minute warning, rather than halftime. It's late in the game and inefficient management, overly generous union contracts, inferior products, and unsustainable retiree benefits have made the chances of a comeback next to impossible.

So Clint, what saved Chrysler will also save America? Well, before anyone starts waving their flag, remember that Italy's Fiat owns nearly 60% of Chrysler, many of its lines are manufactured in Canada and Mexico, and its engines are only roaring because of a huge pile of cash that the American taxpayer could ill afford to provide.

If the second half in America is truly about to begin, we'd be wise not to forget Ben Franklin's definition of insanity, "...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Elevator Idiocy

While the elevator has been around for nearly 200 years, observations made on our recent vacation would indicate that humanity has far from mastered this device.

I spent a great deal of time waiting for and riding in elevators on a recent family getaway in the sunny south. And while I normally focus on the horrors brought about by nose-pickers, hand-coughers, and other norovirus dispensers in the resort buffet line, the daffy behavior of the masses using the elevators brought me much more joy this time.

While I doubt there is an official Elevator Etiquette Do's and Don'ts list, there are certainly some things that are irksome and worth pointing out:

1) When arriving at the elevator to find a person or persons already waiting for it, there is no need to push the up or down button if it's already been pushed.  I'm not sure why the majority of people do this. Re-pressing the button will not speed up the elevator. When confronted with this phenomenon, it took every fiber of my being to not exclaim, "I'm so glad you re-pushed the button...I was afraid that my attempt was invalid!!!"

2) Despite the large illuminated arrows and pleasant voice indicating if the elevator is "going up" or "going down", an alarming percentage of riders still hop aboard and ask.  Unless alcohol is a factor, there's no excuse for this.

3) Worse than (2) above are the riders who know that they are planning to go up or down, but jump on regardless of which direction the elevator is going "just for the ride".  Unless you are trying to elude a knife-wielding homicidal maniac, there is no sane reason for this.  If everyone partook in this practice, the elevator would always be full.

4) Hammering on the button for your desired floor does not make the elevator go faster nor does it make the door close quicker.

"Going Down?"
5) While I understand the utility of the button that keeps the elevator door open for a prolonged period of time, I have no clue what the button to close the elevator door does. Certainly pressing it does not make the doors close any faster than if you had not pressed it at all and repeatedly jabbing it does nothing either.

6) You may think that pressing buttons with your knuckles rather than your fingertips is an ingenious way to prevent contracting the norovirus, but coughing into your hand before doing so does not go unnoticed by other riders.

7) Hopping on for a 1-floor ride is never cool unless you're infirm, injured, elderly, or carrying a tray of drinks to my room.

8) If you're going from floor 1 to 27, don't linger by the doors, fool.  And if you're the control freak who must hang around by the button panel, please be courteous enough to push the desired floor for others.

9) Kids are cute, but letting Junior push all the buttons is not. If buttons are his "thing", let him screw with your Blackberry rather than inconveniencing everyone on or about to get on the elevator.

10) Last, but not least...for God's sake, let people off before ramming yourself on.  It's not going to leave without you.

Perhaps the sole reason NASA has not sought funding for a space elevator program is simply because they know mankind would ruin the experience. Curses!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wild & Fair

Wild & Fair
I missed a love that was as wild and reckless
as Autumn's wind stripping the trees bare.
And only a skeleton remains.

I sought a love that was as wild and lost
as the blinding snow storm in Winter leading astray.
And cloaks the familiar surroundings.

I needed a love that was as wild and sure
as the churning river bursting its banks in the Spring.
And carves new paths that are meaningful and beautiful.

I found a love that is as wild and fair
as Summer's fires setting the forests ablaze.
And burns long into the night.
                                                                 ~P. Beckett

"Be My Valentine"

Monday, February 06, 2012

A "Kodak Moment"...of Inertia

Around the same time that Apple Inc. reported that it was sitting on close to $100-billion in cash, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

I'm sure this story will become a "textbook" case in the years ahead on how no company can survive without adapting to the changing times. Who would have ever thought that we could get by without such nifty devices as typewriters, cassette tape players, and turntables? In the 70's these devices were as ubiquitous as laptop computers are today. And in Kodak's case, who doesn't have a drawer full of albums full of prints of family gatherings and vacations?

It seems unfathomable that the products of one of the most recognizable brand names on the planet are no longer needed. Photos haven't gone away as there are likely more of them taken in any hour on any given day today than were taking in an entire month a generation ago. But who needs albums of prints when you can store 15 000 photos on a piece of godlike technology attached to your hip that we all walk around with nowadays?

Did Kodak see it coming? They must've, but an old dinosaur will move slowly in the muck, mired in its own inertia. Kodak's failure to introduce anything meaningful once the digital age dawned became its undoing. At its heart, Kodak was a chemical company and behaved as such. It wasn't nimble enough to take advantage of the changing photography mindset of consumers who had grown accustomed to hearing the click of a mouse rather than the click of a shutter. Imagine for a second if Kodak had introduced a system similar to iTunes (kPhotos?) that would've allowed users to manipulate and share images. Too late now, but the company that invented the digital camera in 1975 could have easily had the jump on the rest of the world.

I wonder what lessons companies like Nokia, Sony, Research in Motion, and Blockbuster will take from the Kodak saga. They are well on their way to becoming tomorrow's beached whales and only time will tell if they have the will and fortitude to adapt or have already had their "Kodak Moment"?