Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ads And Trackers On Web Sites

The issue of ads and trackers on web sites is becoming one I really hate having to deal with. I'm well aware that most sites exist to turn a profit, and even non-profit ones need to pay the bills. I'm fine with small ads that are placed in a corner or at the bottom of a page.

But good grief, people. More and more sites, including one of my long time favorites, Pajiba, are increasingly loaded with so much garbage as to be almost unusable. Pajiba, for instance, has just recently added what can only be termed "click bait" ads that are powered by something called Zergnet.

If you're fortunate enough to not yet be familiar with this sort of thing, great. Let me fill you in on a few details.

These ads have embedded links in them. Click on a photo and be taken to another site. Among the current ones on Pajiba are gems like this:

"What The Game Of Thrones Cast Should Really Look Like"

"Movie Bloopers That Were Way Too Good To Cut"

"Actor Replacements That Totally Ruined The Movie"

Oh, and just to make things even more fun, every first letter in each word is in bold. Like this:

"This Is Driving Me Nuts"

On the main page of the site, there are usually six to eight of these on the right hand side of the page.

Open a new page to read an article and you get those plus another eight to twelve at the bottom of the page.

You know, I really hate to be picking on Pajiba. I've been reading it on a regular basis ever since it first came on line. Its coverage of pop culture and current events is really good. But right now, it's the worst offender I'm personally familiar with when it comes to these horrible advertisements.

And don't get me started on the trackers that attempt to track every single move you make on line. I use a great, free service called "Ghostery" that blocks these little suckers and also will show you the names of them if you want to see them.

For the record, Ghostery blocked forty-one trackers when I was on Pajiba just before starting this post. Also, for the record, when I viewed this blog, just one was listed.

Very few things in life are truly free. Most of what is "free" on line will cost you big time in the end in terms of lost privacy. The software used to analyze what we do when we're on line is very advanced. Visit enough sites enough times and someone, somewhere, can and will be able to paint a very detailed picture of who you are.

I know. I'm here, telling you to be careful what sites you visit. But in the end, we all make our own decisions. Personally, there are several sites I no longer visit because of the issues I've discussed today. I hate to think that Pajiba might be the next to go, but it's going to be a close call, either way.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Today I Had One Hour That Felt Exactly Like The 1970s

I got my hair cut today. If you've read previous posts, you may already know that I go to a very traditional barber shop. This place looks almost exactly the same as it did thirty years ago. The barber chairs are the same. The magazine rack and stereo system haven't changed or been moved. There are comfortable chairs and a sofa to sit on that have been there for as long as I remember.

When I walked in, the barber had just started working on someone. He smiled and told me I was next. I sat down and just started to relax almost immediately. For the whole hour I was there, everything felt like I had gone back in time.

The barber's son, who looks to be about 15 or 16, never looked at a cell phone. Instead, he carried on a conversation with his uncle. I just sat in one of the chairs and relaxed. There are some nice paintings of famous places on the wall, and I just kept admiring them. While I was getting my hair cut, someone else walked in, inquired as to the price of a hair cut, and then sat down to wait his turn.

He read a magazine while he waited.

It was amazing. So very nice to have just to have one whole hour with no television blaring. No cell phones being used. People carrying on conversations or waiting quietly and patiently for their turn.

It was hot outside, with the temperature closing in on ninety. The air conditioner was working just right. It was blessedly cool inside. It brought back memories of a time when businesses actually used the presence of air conditioning in their establishments as a selling point.

As I said, it was amazing. It was the kind of thing that deepens my commitment to living a retro lifestyle. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kevin The Caterer?

I'm sorry for the long time between this post and the previous one. I had this post ready to go on Friday, but that afternoon I came down with a mild case of food poisoning that made me just want to sleep. I had purchased and used what turned out to be a bad batch of pasta sauce. I've contacted the company who made it by e-mail to let them know what happened.

Friday night, in the middle of the night, I woke up from a dream in which I was catering a wedding reception. As you may or may not know, going into business for myself as a caterer is something I want to do that I am well trained for.

There are some very good catering companies in this area, and some that aren't so good. I've worked events where the food was very good, and I've worked events where the food was terrible.

I know I can turn out very good food in large amounts. I've done it enough times to be certain of that. The key, I believe, to doing this and being successful involves two main ideas.

Idea number one is that I must offer something unique. Something that people will want more of once they've had it the first time.  I have a concept in mind that I'm working on.

Idea number two is that I will need to hire people who are well trained. This shouldn't be an issue, because the program I graduated from always has people who can be counted on. I know that if I ask the head of the program for recommendations, he will give me the information on some very good guys and gals to get in touch with.

I know that there are people in my life who will support me in this, and that there are people who will second guess me. That's nothing new.

Wish me good luck.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thirty-Three Years - Where Did The Time Go?

It was thirty-three years ago that my high school class had its graduation ceremonies. Every year, the debate went on as to where the ceremonies would be held. Outdoors, or indoors?

My class voted for indoors, which was good because June 22nd, 1984 was a very hot day for us.

I remember so much from that day, from the morning all through to when I went to bed. I remember having no idea how I would get to school for rehearsal and being relieved when my friend Anita offered me a ride there and back. I remember my father, may he rest in peace, being upset at how long the ceremonies took. I remember three of my tickets disappearing from my dresser drawer. That was explained when I saw my mother (from whom I was estranged at the time), my grandfather, and my Aunt Jane in the audience.

It remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only time my brother ever went into my bedroom without asking for permission first.

I remember my friend Sherri coming to see me graduate, even though that meant having to stand the whole time at the back of the gymnasium. That meant a lot to me.

I remember asking my guidance counselor, Mr. Defeo, to go into the teacher's lounge and get me a Coke from the machine in the lounge.

Some of my classmates are people I'm still in touch with. Some of them I haven't seen since that night thirty-three years ago. Some are no longer with us, including a friend who was killed by a drunk driver six months after we graduated.

Some of us, like myself, have had several different jobs and kinds of careers. Some, like my friend Jim, knew exactly what they wanted to do and are still at it. Jim always wanted to serve on an aircraft carrier,  He's been doing just that all these years.

That summer night so many years ago, I had no idea of the things that would happen to me. Everything was fresh and new and filled with possibilities.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Time And The Heat Is On

Okay, so it's still spring for a few more days. But here in the Binghamton, New York area, we've had several days in a row of temperatures getting anywhere from eighty to ninety two degrees in the afternoon. Today was a nice break, as we only reached the mid-seventies. It rained on and off, as well. That cooled things nicely and freshened the air a bit.

Tomorrow and Sunday look to be quite warm, and I'm not looking forward to that.

For, dear reader, I have never been able to handle hot weather very well. Even as a child growing up, I had problems. Most other kids would want to be outside enjoying summer, but I would stay indoors as much as I could.

When I say I don't handle it well, I mean that. I've twice had to go to an emergency room to be treated for heat exhaustion. In hot weather, I don't have much of an appetite, and what I do eat has to be very light fare. Think salads and sandwiches, and you're on the right track. I've had a grand total of two hot meals all this week. Both of those were eaten in restaurants that have good air conditioning.

It's worse yet when I don't have air conditioning, which I currently don't. Security regulations in this building prohibit their use, on the grounds that it poses a safety risk. I did look into getting a portable unit, which is allowed. I just can't afford it right now.

I do have a small desk fan, which helps some. And I have a window that lets in a nice breeze when there's one to be had.

But I know what I might be in for this summer, having lived in this building before.  I am looking at a few apartments that are in my price range. So, let's all cross our fingers, please.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Can One LP Change A Life?

I was born in 1966. I received a transistor radio as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Yvonne in 1972. So, I was able to hear the top hits from 1973 going forward. But anything pre-1973 was pretty much unknown to me at that time.

Oh, sure, there would be the occasional oldie here and there, as part of a movie soundtrack, or something might get air play years after its release. But for the most part, those records just weren't a part of my life.

I did get to hear several hours of the 1978 version of the radio documentary "The History Of Rock And Roll" when it aired one weekend across the United States and Canada, but by the time I tuned in, the show was up to where it covered the late 1960s. So, anything from say,  before 1967 or so, was still not known to me.

And then, one day after work, I walked across the street to the Endicott Plaza. The plaza is long gone, these days. None of the buildings still stand, save for the K-Mart that closed in 2011 due to severe flooding.

But in 1986, everything was still there. K-Mart, Grand Union, Endicott-Johnson Shoes, and several other businesses called the plaza home.

I went into K-Mart that one afternoon and headed right for the music department. Now, these days, it's very easy to get music, cheaply and quickly. I can buy an MP3 file from a site like Amazon and have it downloaded in less than a minute.

That's nice. But the way we used to do things had its own unique feel to it. There was no way to preview a song. You bought a single or an album and hoped for the best if it was something you were unfamiliar with.

I bought one album that day, a double length cassette.  I walked home and had dinner. It was nice outside, so I decided to listen to the cassette while sitting in a comfortable chair on the front porch of the rooming house I was living in at the time.

I can not remember the exact title of that cassette, but I do remember it was one of the series released using the name of WCBS-FM. These, of course, licensed the name, and were compiled and released by Collectables Records. That label is still in business, and still puts out good product.  It's one of the few labels still offering oldies on 45 R.P.M. singles.

That cassette changed my life, literally.  There were no tracks by Elvis Presley on it, due to licensing issues, I would presume.  But there were tracks by almost every other major singer, band or vocal group of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

No British artists, of course, but then again, the Brits didn't play much of a role in rock and roll until 1962-1963 or thereabouts.

Every record was a revelation. The pounding piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. The sweet harmony created by Dion and The Belmonts. The New Orleans "sound", as created by artists such as Fats Domino and Ernie K-Doe.

From that day forward, oldies music was, is and shall always be the soundtrack to my life.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Last Day With Michelle

I will state, for the record, that this post is going to cover some very personal material. Read on, if you wish to do so.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the very last day I spent with my wife; she died the next day on June 4th, 2005. When we first met, she was honest about her health issues. She had five, perhaps six years left to live, at the best. I married her, telling her that whatever time we might have would be enough.

In the almost six years we had together, her health went downhill steadily.

Her weight went from 180 pounds to almost 400. She had a heart attack. She lost part of the hearing in her left ear due to an ear infection. She became diabetic. She injured an ankle and had to have it surgically repaired. She injured it a second time, and it was twelve years ago today that she had a second surgery on that ankle.

She died while I was still at home. I got a phone call from the hospital at 9:30 in the morning telling me I should come to the hospital as soon as possible. Michelle died at 9:45, after a team of doctors and nurses spent forty-five minutes trying to save her life.

In the days and weeks after she died, two sets of thought took hold among those who knew her. Some of us truly believed she had no idea that she might die. Her parents and her oldest friend were in that group. Other people, including myself, were and still are convinced she knew she was going to die.

I can't say enough good things about the staff at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York. They were all so helpful to me and the others who were there. 

The very last words we exchanged were over the phone Friday night, twelve years ago today. I ended the call with these words:

"I love you.".