Saturday, August 25, 2012

Whatever happened to you are welcome?

Funny times we live in.

One of the most beautiful expressions in the English language is replying "you are welcome", when somebody thanks you. You can embellish if a bit using "quite", "very", "very much", between "are" and "welcome". It shows appreciation, deference, respect to your fellow being, even love for humanity. All positive things, things that could make society better, if practiced on a daily basis.

Yet, I noticed that the respectful, loving, appreciative "you are welcome" is now being replaced by a nasty "no problem", and variations thereof, such as "sure, no problem", etc..

It seems that the generation of LOL, omg, lmao, believes that "you are welcome" is a cheesy, old style, unassertive response to thanks, and has replaced it with the now ominous "no problem". This "no problem" seems to me a tad passive aggressive, and even worse, it gives the person who utters it an air of superiority. In other word, the very reverse of "you are welcome". It seems to be short for "no problem this time, but don't try me".

If "no problem" were used with a smiling face, that showed some physical semblance of appreciation where words fell short, ok.  However, people who use this expression have an air of arrogance that would make Madonna and Lindsey Lohan blush.

I wonder if they are being taught this is good customer service?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Facebook, the new twitter, a whole lotta sex and celebrities

I do not hide my dislike for twitter. To me, it is the greatest waste of time EVER. Sure, there might be some good uses for certain businesses. By and large, though, it is full of celebrities, or celebrity wannabes, offering little or no content of real interest to humanity.

A lot of titillation, sexual innuendo, waste of grey matter. No real interaction is offered. And people are deceived into thinking that most celebrities are actually posting things, when it is really PR people. What a waste!

The problem is that Facebook is becoming the same.

A few years ago, before twitter began to be promoted as the "next" internet thing, Facebook was a place where there was true interaction among real people.

The problem is that now it is cluttered by a celebrities galore, some true, others fake. Plus the hundreds of thousand (millions?) sexy profiles that were supposedly prohibited, but spring about all over.

People are so silly. They believe that the celebrities are really posting things, when in most cases, it is PR people. Silly, silly, naive people! Celebs are out having a ball with the money you give them, not interested in what you think about their supposed latest action!

When a celebrity "writes" an update in Facebook, immediately, dozens if not hundreds of likes, comments and shares ensue.

If you are a nobody, forget it, unless you put a silly picture, a baby, animal or sexy woman photo, you get no feedback.

Thus, celebrities have by their sheer volume, destroyed another good Internet platform.

It may be time for me to just walk away from the thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Not complaining, Miami Beach parking woes

I like living here. Sure people are not extremely professional, things take a long time to get done. Some say it is the smell of the ocean, others the heat, Southern living. Whatever, residing in Miami Beach is basically a nice experience. But for parking.

There seems to be a nasty parking related surprise all the time.

The old style meters, which by the way, never really matched the speed of my watches, have basically been replaced by solar powered ticket dispensing machines. Nice, new technology, solar and all that. Except that sometimes you have to try as many as five of them to get a ticket, because they emulate the working habits of many folks around this town. They don't like to work.

Then, the parking lot at Collins between 72 and 73rd, which every once in a while gets very busy on Sundays, now has tons of designated valet only parking spaces. Most of which seem to be empty.

Sure, it might be a good deal to get paid an ~x~ amount by a valet parking operator, who, if lucky, might a 5-fold return on any given day, charging clients much more than the 1 buck an hour deal provided by the city lot.

For the life of me, though, I don`t see any place around 72, 73 that might require valet parking. I have looked, and have not found it. Is it underground?

Thus, it seems to be just another parking related nuisance.

I am seriously thinking about walking to the beach...  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aroma in Sunny Isles, 163rd Street anything but

Sure, Aroma does look cool. It is spacious, well lit, looks comfortable.

However, if there has ever been a misnomer for a restaurant, there you have it. Calling Aroma by that name is like calling McDonalds Nofat!

Nothing in Aroma is aromatic. Not even the coffee really has a strong aroma. The food is basically very forgetful. Sure the salads are very healthy, but they are tasteless - and without aroma.

I am not being unreasonable. I have given the place a few shots, for I have so friends who insist that is an "in" spot. I suppose it is "in" if you don't like food.
The least they could do is offer a variety of sauces, to see whether the salads can be slightly turbo charged.

The whole thing seems very pretentious. I reckon it might be a good place to flirt, but since I have not done that in a few decades, it is not for me. Actually, a lot of women and men who frequent the place seem to go there to find a new boyfriend or girlfriend. if you catch my drift.

The free small chocolates they give are OK. By and large the only OK thing in the place.

I have not tried the soups, people say they are OK. Somebody says it is over seasoned.

Thus, if you like food, avoid this place at all costs. Spend your money wisely elsewhere.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reckless driving

It kinda occurs to me that the one most dangerous thing one does in traffic, which is reckless driving, does not get punished enough.

It does not take much to find reckless driving. Go to I95 in South Florida, any time of the day, and you realize that a lot of people are using their vehicles as weapons. They should have their licenses revoked, some should go to a mental institution, or get locked up for good!

I understand that it is easier to fine people crossing red lights, blocking intersections, or overstaying in a parking space one minute. Or doing 36 mph in a 35 mph zone! It is easier and safer.

If you bother to read Census bureau statistics, you find a curious fact. A lot of law enforcement deaths are not caused from shootings, as people normally think, but rather, traffic deaths. The death of a human being at work is tragic, no matter what.

So, I suppose that trying to keep up with a motorcycle cutting across traffic at 120 mph, or  chasing a heavy SUV driven by a crazed Jeff Gordon-wannabe is not good for the health of any p.o..

On the other hand, there is so much technology taking pictures at quiet corners, transponders collecting toll, video cameras, and helicopters galore, it does not seem to me so difficult to devise means to get some of these folks out of the highways.

I do not know if statistics bear what I will say, but I bet you that reckless driving even beats drunk driving as the number 1 source of traffic deaths. The cost in hospital stays, deaths, loss of work days, etc., is staggering.

Maybe some day, emphasis will be placed on the difficult. 

Punished for success by Facebook

One is supposed to be rewarded for success.

When there is money involved, such might be the case. When there isn't, you get punished.

Anybody who had close to the 5000 Facebook friends had a surprise a few days ago. Suddenly, the number of friends of increased by a few hundred.

It took me a while to figure out this sudden increase in popularity.

It seems that FB has done us the favor of including in our list of friends people who had closed their profiles, a few quite a long time ago. These were revived as friends, although they don't even exist in FB anymore, at least not in the guise of the former profile.

That would not be so troublesome, except that I cannot add people I want to add anymore, until I remove these five hundred deceased profile friends.

Additionally, doing it in timeline involves a lot of work. After one month, I think I managed to remove about 60. You have to go through the whole list, and find the closed profiles.

I suppose a lot of latte can do this to you.

So much for details.

For the sake of argument

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that somebody invents a miracle anti-death drug. In a weird twist of events, let us say that the national association of funeral homes has a final say as to whether or not such drug can be brought to market, although it does not own the rights to it. Sounds preposterous? Well, this is all hypothetical, but I don't think this miracle drug would ever make it to market under these circumstances.

The idea above might sound silly. Well, let's try another one, closer to home and reality. Let us say cancer vaccines are developed, which obviously, have to be marketed by drug companies. We all know that drug companies make billions of dollars a year selling oncologic drugs. Do you think these vaccines would be easily brought to market and kill the golden egg goose? I don't think so.

Lastly, how about private prisons? I do believe government should stay out of most enterprises, but here is one area that I see private intervention with suspicion. Sure, normally private companies are more efficient, however, once you start turning the prison population into market share, profit centers and things of that sort, there will be another force in society which aim is the expansion of crime. The more crime, the more convictions, the greater demand for prisons etc..More lobbying, pressure on prosecutors to come up with more "clients" for the private jailers.

This sounds like an altogether stupid idea.

No price tag should be placed on certain things.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Popularity and revelance not the same thing

Says who?

Well, it seems that search engines (and the internet in general) mix up both concepts.

Let us say you are looking for information on a term, phrase, that happens to be the title of a song. Forget it. You might find the information you want in the 395th result of your search, the first 394 dominated by the song, which, sometimes, was not even a huge success.

I have got nothing against music, I love it. However, the relevance we place in it, within the context of society, is astounding. Especially because tons of lyrics have no social, poetic, historical, philosophical, esthetic, political relevance whatsoever.

Funny that the engines do tweak results, when the term has a wikipedia entry. Don't tell me this is all done by algorithms, I do not believe so. Likewise, the song lyric results could be pushed a bit further down the list. After all, if you want the lyrics to a song, you normally write lyrics after it. I do.

Thus, we are left to live life to a soundtrack, often not knowing the meaning of what we are singing.

When the punishment far exceeds the violation

Driving around South Florida is getting dangerous. Not only because people drive like nuts, without a single shred of courtesy or decency. But rather, because all types of costly fines, violations, hidden tolls spring about seemingly every day of the year.

I understand that the only way to make people drive more sensibly, and obey traffic laws, is to make the pocket hurt. However, people's pockets are hurting and they are still driving dangerously, like maniacs.

A fine of US$500 for blocking an intersection in Sunny Isles seems to a tad too much for the violation. Let us face it. Sunny Isles is not a hub of tourist or business activity, any time of the day. The plans for the city didn't quite pan out, and the mammoth buildings that line up the shore remain basically empty. There is no justification for charging such a hefty fine, besides the principle of hooking the careless fish every once in a while.

On the other hand, the levying of such fines do nothing to upgrade the standards of driving in the region. Driving around I95's southermost section is a humbling experience. You feel like Evil Knievel, danger looming in every nook and cranny, with huge SUVs swerving in front of you at 100 mph, motorcycles with helmetless drivers flying at 120 mph, and huge tractor trailers tailgating small cars.

Walking and sticking around town sounds like a good proposition by the hour.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Daddy, can I have some money?

These days, having cash is a sign of criminality. If you are carrying a lot of cash, it means you are a criminal. Unless, of course, you operate a towing company in Miami Beach, which basically only takes cash.

I suppose there are several advantages to this, one or two which benefit us, the consumer. By and large, the advantages benefit banks, retailers and taxation authorities.

The real problem is the outrageous fees charged when you attempt to get your hands on some cash. You either go to your own bank - God forbid you bank with a small institution - or you are in for a nasty surprise.

Places like Walgreens offer US$20.00 cash without fees. I think Publix does too. The rest, well, the rest. They ask you whether you want cash, you might be stupid enough to say yes, then you pay $2.00 or more to get a mere US$20.00! You just paid 10 % interest on your own hard earned money!  What a concept!

Additionally, you might have a ton of money in the bank, but they determine how much you can spent. Yes, siree! I have to ask big daddy to spend my own money - which, by the way, they charge a fee to retain (unless you have US$75,000.00), while making money on top of it. I cannot withdraw more than $500, and can only spend US$3,000 on my debit card per day.

In other words, I cannot go crazy with my money. BUT IT IS MY MONEY! If I want to go crazy with it, I should be allowed to! However, I have to ask big daddy to spend my cash.

I suppose that as long as I can withdraw US$500, and Beach Towing and Tremont Towing do not raise their already outrageous fees to release MY car, then I will be OK...

Still beats being arrested for carrying suspicious cash.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vomit, the new sex

Film and TV are in love with vomiting. It's the new "conquest" of the media.

At one time it was taboo to kiss on the lips. Then came  pseudo nudity, bust nudity, frontal nudity, male nudity. From this to almost explicit sex, it took little. All this straight sex, by the way. Over time, came homosexual sex. Male, then female. Today there are more lesbians in movies than on the streets. Every woman is a lesbian in Hollywood's perspective.

All this was accompanied by great achievements in gibberish. Four-letter words gained a lot of space. Today "ass" is said without hesitation on American TV. Great achievement of society, able to say "ass" on TV unimpeded. After this, to achieve perfection all we need is to eradicate world hunger and find a cure for cancer.

By the way a lot of movie scripts are written around the "F" word these days. I guess the way to do it is write the "F" word about 5000 times, then insert other conversation around it. Voila. You have a movie script.

As there is little left to invent, for comic flatulence has been reigning free for years, now Hollywood has discovered vomiting. Amazing how much vomiting there is in movies today! Copious rivers of noisy regurgitation are displayed inside and out of context. Police, teens, elders, women, youth, children, drug addicts, drunks, lovers, sick, healthy, rockers. Everyone vomits! At the hospital, restaurant, street, in the bedroom, living room, school, playground, soccer field, at weddings. Everything is an excuse for a delicious puke.

All with different colors, too. After the famous green vomit displayed by Linda Blair in the Exorcist, a milestone in cinematic vomiting, the more photogenic yellow is now the rule. There is also brown, with various consistencies and viscosities. Sometimes even the dreaded black. But it is always explosive vomiting, phreatic, generous, large and extroverted. High impact puke.

They even say that young actors are putting on their resumes the ability to vomit on cue as a special skill. Many people have got important roles because of their vomiting abilities. Control vomiting is a challenge!!! The big drama schools spend more time teaching students to throw up than cry. In short, if you want to be an actor in Hollywood, start vomiting on the side.

Start early, too. Even in those corny young girl pageants, here and there a little girl's presentation consisted of vomiting. Word is that this is a crowd and judge pleaser.

I would not be surprised at all if vomiting makes it as a competitive sport as well, and in a few years, is adopted as an Olympic category. I heard the ancient Greeks fancied vomiting as well, so here is a great connection to the origin of the Games.

All this depresses me because I threw up less than ten times in my life. I am now in my fifties. Once again, I'm out of fashion.

I am a failure!

If visiting Miami Beach, beware

Every once in a while, one reads in local newspapers about people that came to Miami Beach to have a good time, only to be drugged or seriously inebriated, and then either raped or robbed.

Honestly, I do not have that much sympathy for people who abuse substances. Not that I have never drank more than I should, but I quit that practice a long time ago, having seen the foolishness of destroying most organs on the long-term, and on the trot, losing consciousness on the short-term.

Notwithstanding, two wrongs don't make one right, and I believe it is an atrocity that people abuse others in any shape or form. I insist though, that if you abuse substances, you are looking for trouble, and eventually, you get it. Sometimes big trouble, sometimes tiny trouble.

This post is about dangers that can affect Miami Beach tourists who have not had a single puff of a joint or a single drop of  alcohol. That can make your trip to "paradise" hellish or at least unpleasant.

A few days ago, I ate a local restaurant. One day later, a couple of charges for full tanks of gasoline appeared on my debit card. You guessed it, the debit card was cloned. However, being a debit card, the crook could only use it for gas, where PINs are generally not required in Florida, but zip codes are. This tells me that however stole my number did from a local restaurant, and probably knows I go there a lot, and assumed my zip code - correctly. I have a very good idea where this happened, but I will not be vain and tell you. This would be libelous. However, let me tell you, I have eaten there dozens and dozens of times, and it is not a place where you would expect this type of thing. In other words, check your debit card online constantly, if you come to visit Miami Beach.


Then, stores here in Miami Beach seem to be very liberal when charging things, the cashiers seem to be the ones on vacation. We recently went to a local store, that could be characterized as a "tourist trap", and made a $30 purchase (including tax). My wife paid with a credit card, except that the guy ran US$35.00 on the card. We caught it on the spot, the clerk semi apologized and gave us US$ 5.00 back. I wonder if he did this to all tourists.

At a major restaurant, we had a US$60.00 bill turn into a US$90.00 debit card charge. This is how this financial "miracle" happened. The waitress brought the bill, I gave the debit card, and when they brought back the receipt for signature it was for a US$90.00 charge. Again, we caught it in time (no alcohol or drugs in our brains), but then they reversed the US$90.00 charge, then charged US$60.00 separately. For a while, I thought the problem would linger for a long time, for it took a while for the reversal to post to my bank account.

This got me thinking. They probably have one credit card for reversals, another for charges. They close the reversal's batch every "x" days, while the charges they close everyday. That way, they build a "float" of a few thousand dollars. Therefore, maybe it was not an honest mistake at all. I know because I am a credit card vendor myself. When I reverse a charge, it IMMEDIATELY posts to my account, if I close the batch immediately. ALWAYS READ CAREFULLY BOTH YOUR BILLS AND THE CREDIT-DEBIT CARD RECEIPTS FOR SIGNATURE.


Driving through Collins Avenue, in Bal Harbour, is very pleasant. You can enjoy the broad boulevard, beautiful trees and open spaces and gardens of that particular borough. The lights at night make it even more pleasant. However, if you are a visitor to Florida beware.

There is a traffic law in Florida, which I consider a good one, that calls for drivers to reduce the speeds of their cars when approaching a parked emergency vehicle with lights on. This is meant to protect the emergency workers, such as policemen, paramedics and firemen, as well as the people they are attending to. As I say, it is a good law, when emergency vehicles are actually serving the public in an emergency.

However, the local police likes to place on the southbound lane two police cars with lights on, which are not attending to any emergency. An officer might stop your car way before it even approaches the emergency vehicles, flagging you with a flashlight. Guess what? They will tell you that you are supposed to reduce the speed upon approaching/ passing an emergency vehicle, and give you a hefty $106.00 ticket. This has happened to me.

There are two things wrong with this scenario. First of all, it seems clear that the law calls for the vehicle to reduce its speed upon approach and passing of the emergency vehicle. If you are a couple of blocks away from the police car you are not yet approaching the emergency vehicle. The violation would take place if the driver passed the emergency vehicle without slowing the speed, not way before reaching the police car. The driver must be given the opportunity to violate the law, before being stopped and given a ticket.

The second wrong scenario is that this law exists to protect emergency personnel and victims, in actual emergency situations, not to make revenue for the city. Placing two emergency vehicles which are basically doing nothing, but giving tickets, erroneously amounts to a light version of an immoral sting operation.
I suppose out-of-towners end up getting most tickets, and I really have no idea whether these ever get paid. Locals mostly dispute these in local Traffic Clinics.

I do believe that with the current real estate market debacle this type of practice might be even more pervasive. Thousands upon thousands of real estate properties are going on the auction block, foreclosed, and who knows whether real estate taxes are being paid on time. I guess they are not. As these constitute the brunt of taxes collected by local communities, there will be strong revenue shortfalls across the board, most specially in South Florida, where real estate speculation ran rampant in the last few years. Thus the need to make up for the revenue shortfall somewhere...


Do not ever park at a store parking lot, if you are not going directly there. And do not go elsewhere, in fact, do not even talk to anybody, or pick up a newspaper from a box, until you get back into your rent a car. That is because a couple of towing companies, with a mandate from the city, make huge amounts of cash towing cars from these parking lots, left by innocent tourists who do not know any better. Don't believe the towing companies are simply called by the stores. Actually, they might get tips from some folks that should be doing something else, besides getting involved in private matters (for parking in store parking lots is a private, not a public matter). I am not going to tell you who these are, but you probably guessed it... These towing companies prey upon tourists, driving by these parking lots constantly, looming around corners looking for suckers. This can cost you as much as 300 bucks, and they pretty much take only cash, no credit cards. It will definitely ruin your vacation. Any MB resident has horror stories from these two towing companies, that behave as if they are "authorities", cutting through red lights, driving against traffic, etc...

I am not even going to talk about petty crime.

Thus, there is more danger to MB than getting plastered and then raped.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Barnes and Noble, naughty naughty

A couple of years ago, I went to buy something at BN. When I went to pay for it, the cashier had extremely bad  breath, and began to tell me about their reward program. Enrollment was not free, though, it was US$25.00 a year.

I suppose to get rid of the smell that seemed to be entering the depths of my soul, I agreed, although my experience with most such programs is not the best.

I used the card the first year, and got some discount. Not enough to justify paying 25 bucks, but I got it.

I buy lots of books, but normally when I travel overseas. Some of them are highly specialized books that I buy on the internet, not from BN.

I kinda forgot about it, until I found  one year later, that US$25 had been subtracted from my account for renewal without notice. And once renewed, no refund would be given.

Then I promised myself I would cancel the thing this year, for again, I did not enjoy the promised myriad benefits of membership.

I got an email from BN, saying that renewal was up, and again, I would be charged. I reckon a few people complained about the absence of notice, so they sent the email. I immediately went on the site provided, looking for ways to cancel the thing. There were all types of links, except for cancellation. The email did not have an opt-out of program link.

I was very frustrated, put this in the back of my mind, saying to myself I would do it, one way or another.

Then, I was charged again for one more year of wonderful "membership". Yes, US$75 thrown down the drain.

I suppose there should be a law prohibiting automatic renewals of such things.Companies apparently prey on people, such as me, who are very busy, and adding insult to injury, do not provide proper facilities for cancellation of membership in these "wonderful" programs we cannot live without.

So unless there was link on the site, which I did not see, a big shame on you, Barnes & Noble.

Shades of New York in Miami Beach

I lived for a short while in the Village, in New York. It was nice, a lot of fun, except for a few things. One of the things that bothered me the most (and any resident, I guess)  was the frequent movie, TV and photo productions taking place in the area, which caused major disruption to daily living.

You see, the theory is that being the site of photo shoots, TV or movies is good for the image of city, brings tourists and money. Nice theory, except that given that most movies these days have tons of crime, blood, crazy people, vampires, mosters and death, I have no idea of what type of tourist is being drawn to these cities. Maybe that guy from Colorado...

That is just a detail. The nastiness of it all is that whole sections of the city were often blocked for days on end. You could no go through a "production" area, not only by car, but also walking. Exceptions were made if you lived in the block.

What bothered me was the truculence of the people who worked in the productions. They behaved as if they had just bought the block and you, the taxpayer, were trespassing it.

If you see a motorhome parked anywhere in Miami Beach beware. Do not even think of parking near it. It is likely to belong to one of the several hundred (dare I say thousands) of photo, TV and film productions that use the city as backdrop. Some of them bogus, by the way.

I can't believe I will say this, but I actually miss the truculent production people in New York, because at least they warned,  in very certain terms, what was going on.

It seems that anything dealing with parking in Miami Beach is shady.

There was such a production with motorhome and  all, nearby at the beach parking lot at 75th street. However, you had to guess it was a production and that you could not park near the bloody thing. No sign, no truculent guy (or gal, for that matter), or MB's finest.

However, they were quick to tow my car. Makes me wonder if the absence of  notice was intentional.

The "production" cost me almost 300 bucks! I wonder how many tourists it will bring the city, at the end of the day.

So follow my advice. Stay as far away as possible from motorhomes parked in public parking lots. Or else, you might be the next sucker to fall for the ever hungrier MB parking money machine.