Sunday, September 21, 2014
GETTING TO SAN YSIDRO’S “READY LANES”
Come into TJ from the toll road the same way as always, although now you don’t have to turn off to the right to “Periferico y o Librimiento Sur” a mile or so from Playas, drive ½ mile and then do a U-turn to head up the hill along the border. Now, you simply stay on the highway and there’s a normal, civilized turn off that takes you directly onto the road heading up the hill and to the border, as this photo shows (the sign says San Diego, Rio Zona):
Sunday, March 23, 2014
I just learned about FOMO awhile back, not to be confused with MOFO, which is a whole other thing that we won’t go into. The Fear Of Missing Out is apparently a Big Thing, and for those of you who are out of it like me, it refers to the need to be constantly connected with the world, primarily by Smart phones. It explains, among other things, why a recent survey of Millenials (those born between about 1982 and 2000) showed that on average, they become uncomfortable after 2 to 3 minutes of not checking their phones for new messages. Two to three minutes!
It also explains behavior such as high school students constantly wanting to check their cells in class. And people sitting at a restaurant table, all on their phones instead of interacting with one another. And then the classic “zombie walk” that we see all the time: People walking down the street, just staring at their phones instead of where they’re going. Or the “zombie stare”, where people are standing or sitting somewhere, just staring at their phones incessantly, waiting for something to appear. At staff meetings, there are teachers who just sit there texting on their phones or surfing the Net or whatever the whole time – very rude behavior, in my opinion. And I doubt it’s just teachers who do that.
Why? What could possibly be so important that people have to constantly – CONSTANTLY – see what’s going on with their friends, what’s “trending”, what the latest tweets are? Why can’t they wait until the evening, or at least until the end of class, the end of their dinner date, until they sit down on the bus, etc?
One supposes that the “why” is that they’re afraid of missing out – on something or other. But God knows why. Why are we so afraid of missing out on stuff that, just a few years ago, either didn’t exist or people didn’t really care much about? Maybe that’s the part (the Grumpy Old Man part) I don’t understand; maybe people have always cared deeply about all the miniscule trivia that makes up much of people’s tweets and texts and whatnot these days, but until recently they never had the means to access it.
“Hey – what’re you doing?” “Nothing, just nothing.” “Cool; me too. TTYL.” I’ve always suspected that something like half of all texts are something like that, with no more than 10 or 20% actually dealing with something that matters. But maybe those mindless interconnections between people serve some greater social good. I dunno; like I said, I’m out of it.
But further, why do more and more of us feel the need to be constantly bombarded by digital stimuli? I mean, people walking around with ear buds in, oblivious to those talking to them, staring at their phones, playing Angry Birds – almost constantly plugged into some electronic device or another instead of, I don’t know – observing the world around them? Listening to their own thoughts? Reflecting? You know, the kind of things that make people better people and the world a better place? So besides perplexing me (this constantly being plugged in to a world of artificial and/or trivial stimuli), it also worries me.
Then there’s the really dangerous part of this troubling trend, exemplified by people texting while driving. We’ve all heard about the car and train accidents caused this way. And the other day there was a horribly sad story about a 16-year old local boy who was killed when the minivan he was driving crossed into the lane of an oncoming truck. He must’ve been killed instantly; the van was totally demolished. It was terrible. The police are still investigating, but speculate that he was distracted by something. Wanna bet it was his phone? Maybe I'm wrong, but wanna bet he was texting? Maybe not, but just the day before, this same kid had been in an accident, rear-ending the car in front of him. Wanna bet what caused that?
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My wife told me the other day that it might be time for me to get a Smart phone. Yes, I’m one of the 3% of the developed world that doesn’t have one. She said there are now simpler models to use, with bigger keys, and cheaper monthly plans. I thought about it for a moment, and then said: I don’t think so, why would I want one? My lovely wife replied that I’m just being stubborn and resisting change. But really, as she and I talked more about it, what would I do with a Smart phone?
There’s nobody I need to call or text 2 or 3 or 100 times a day (it’s true: I have no life). I spend an average of maybe 3 minutes a day on the phone; many days, I never use a phone at all. I do have a cell phone, but rarely use it. Most of the time, it stays in my truck, in case there’s a reason I need to call someone while on the road. Doesn’t get much use…
I absolutely love the Internet, and use it a few hours each day – for checking the surf, for investment purposes, planning hunting trips, working on school stuff, shopping online, social media, e-mail, and much of the other stuff that everyone else does online. But I don’t need to be able to do that anytime, anyplace. Seriously. I’m perfectly fine with an online session or two on my PC or laptop in the morning, another one or two in the afternoon, another one or two in the evening. I’m not a Luddite, CRS; it’s just that I have no need or even use for the immediacy that Smart phones offer.
Back in the olden days (the early-90s), important people had pagers that let them know when someone was trying to get a hold of them. Doctors, realtors, bail bondsmen, drug dealers, people like that. They NEEDED to be connected 24/7. That morphed into cell phones, where people could actually call one another 24/7, any place. Again – great idea for some people, but merely a toy for most others.
I remember about a dozen years ago, by which time many people had cell phones. My wife and I were driving to a wedding with one of her sisters in the car. Behind us on the Interstate were a couple of other family members in another car. Every few minutes, my sister-in-law (who’s ALWAYS on her phone) would get a call from her sister in the other car. “Hey – where are you now? Oh, yeah? Well we’re just a mile or so behind you!” Over and over again. Why? Boredom, new toy, small minds – you choose.
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So I hope that this trend, this fad of being constantly and instantly connected, gets old with time and that at some point, perhaps many years down the road people go: What the frick? What were we thinking about with all that mindless, non-stop talking and texting and tweeting?
But then again, for decades I’ve been hoping that guys would figure out that caps are supposed to be worn with the brim in front, that there’s no good reason for a white guy to shave his head (except for Mr. Clean), that guys who wear their pants with the waist down around their knees just look (sorry, there’s no other way to say it) retarded, and that both guys and gals with tattoos all over their bodies are morons. So far none of those has happened yet, and with only another couple of decades left of expected life on this Earth, I may not live long enough to see any of them.
JSS, March 2014
Monday, September 2, 2013
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day was officially created in 1894 and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Working conditions a dozen decades ago were intolerable by today’s standards, and there wasn’t a lot that workers themselves could do in the vastly unequal equation between businesses and labor. But huge strides for America’s workers in the succeeding years make me wonder how relevant Labor Day is in these times. Mostly, its value just seems to lie in marking the unofficial end of summer and giving us yet one more three-day weekend.
I’m not sad to see summer go. San Diego has joined the rest of the country in a series of hot, humid days that remind me of why I’m happy to live in a place where such an occurrence is a rarity rather than the norm. And the investments world has lived up to the old saw of “sell in May, buy back on Labor Day”, with the Dow down some 500 points since Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer. Meanwhile, silver’s a bit higher since May, but gold and the mining shares – despite lots of interim movement – are right back where they started. Yeah, why didn’t I just sell everything 3 months ago and forget about them over the summer?
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In honor of the holiday, fast food workers are demanding $15/hour, about double what most make now. Classic economic analysis tells us that doubling their wages should result in some combination of higher fast-food prices and fewer burger flippers – not such a good outcome. Numerous studies question that conventional analysis, however, implying that raising the minimum wage would benefit low-income workers without really hurting the rest of us. Whether that’s true or not, I still don’t have a lot of sympathy for those working entry-level jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.
Look – most of us started out working at those kinds of crappy jobs. The point wasn’t to support a family. It was to make a few bucks while learning some workplace skills; a first, necessary step up the ladder, rather than an end in itself. And to give you a wake-up call; figure out a better way to make a living! If you’re well into your 20s or older, and you’re stuck at Mickey D’s or KFC, chances are you didn’t have much of a game plan when you were in school. I see it all the time: kids with tons of potential, but not putting in the effort. Or going on to college, but majoring in something that “speaks to them”, rather than something that society values – as evidenced by decent-paying jobs. So they’re stuck with only a U.S. high-school diploma which, if you didn’t know this, is seen by the rest of the world as not worth the paper it’s printed on, or a college degree that’s worth not a helluva lot more.
Surely there are many people stuck in minimum-wage jobs for reasons beyond their control, but I think they are more the exception rather than the rule. For the rest – for the majority – I don’t know why we should guarantee them a “living wage”, basically rewarding them for making poor choices. This is part of the cult of entitlement that so many Americans, especially younger ones, have embraced. It basically says: “Enjoy life! Do whatever you want, and don’t worry. You’re an American, so somebody will take care of you no matter what.”
What if, on the other hand, the message to young people was: “If you want a good life, you need to – YOU MUST – really apply yourself. Otherwise, your life is going to be really tough.” It kind of reminds me of the claim that most of us only use something like 10% of our brains (very high achievers, people with ESP, etc. apparently use more of theirs). In the classroom, most students don’t work to their full potential. They put in, on average, perhaps half the effort they’re capable of because – well, because of the “you’re an American, your life will be good regardless” idea. As an experienced classroom teacher, even in a very high-performing school, I see this all the time; kids turning in crap, kids not studying when they know they should, not doing assignments that they could easily do, and so on.
Now I don’t think that was the case 40 or 50 years ago, and I don’t think that’s the case in most of the rest of the world. I think that earlier, and elsewhere, kids worked and work harder because they knew they’d be screwed otherwise. It’s cause and effect. We’ve had 20, 30, 40 years of good times in the U.S. – even during the Great Recession of 2008-2011, how many people didn’t have a place to sleep, food to eat, and unlimited texting on their iPhones? As a result, trying to tell kids about the necessity of actually doing their best, rather than just whatever they feel like doing, simply doesn’t register with them. Meanwhile, in most of the world – it does. Not surprisingly, that’s where many of the high-paying jobs have gone, leaving fast-food and WalMart jobs as the only option for so many Americans.
So good luck on the $15/hour thing. I rarely buy that horrid, unhealthy food anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose. But I won’t feel sorry for them if they don’t get it either.