Thursday, April 24, 2014

New daily newspapers in the U.S. since 2004

 In the last decade, the United States has seen the birth of these daily newspapers:
  • 2014: Los Angeles Register
  • 2013: Journal-News (Butler and Warren counties in Ohio)
  • 2013: Long Beach Register
  • 2013: St. Petersburg (Fla.) Tribune
  • 2013: Irvine World News (five days a week)
  • 2009: Detroit Daily Press (only lasted five days)
  • 2009: Portland (Maine) Daily Sun
  • 2008: Daily Post (Palo Alto, Calif.)
  • 2008: High Plains Daily Leader (Liberal, Kans.)
  • 2006: Baltimore Examiner
  • 2006: OC Post (Orange County, Calif.)
  • 2005: East Bay (Calif.) Daily News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to spoil a meal with friends

Periodically, I will dine out with a mixed group of friends or coworkers. Some in the group may be couples, some singles, sometimes we have parents with children. Some people order a lot, some a little, some add on wine or drinks.

All goes well – until the check comes. Then the Great Debate over splitting the bill begins.

Some say the check should be split evenly among all diners. Others will suggest that those who ordered more – or less – should pay commensurately. And, when kids are present, there's always some uncertainty about whether kids should count the same as adults.

Inevitably, people throw cash at some poor person who gets stuck with tallying everyone’s share and trying to make it equitable. Some people obviously contribute too much – no one wants to look cheap.  Inevitably, someone feels like they’ve been treated unfairly.

All in all, it’s a sour and untidy way to end an otherwise pleasant outing.

It seems to me there’s an obvious solution: separate checks (requested, of course, before ordering). But whenever I bring this up, someone shoots down the idea. “It’s SO much more work for the server,” they say.

Well, yes, it IS more work – but doing work for the customer is the server’s job.  Should we take our orders to the kitchen and retrieve our own dishes, too? 

An unfortunate consequence of all this is that it makes me less enthusiastic about dining out in the first place. And I've found others who feel the same.

This seems like a negative for everyone – restaurants get less business, servers get fewer tips, and people get fewer opportunities to meet up with friends – but it seems like we've become boxed in by our reluctance to ask for separate checks.

I'd like to hear from others on this. Do you ever request separate checks?  If you work as a server, are you bothered by such requests? Is there another way to handle these situations? Please put your comments in the box below.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Is this Dataquick's idea of customer support?

Searching on Dataquick recently, I ran into a problem trying to email a document to myself.  A message popped up saying, "An error occurred while emailing your report. Please try again. If the problem persists, contact customer service at 877-498-4853."

I tried twice more, but got the same result, so I called the "customer service" number.

I can't say it worked out that well. The number is disconnected.

As it turned out, calling that number worked out just as well as what happened when I called the correct number (800-888-4492). They were too busy to answer the phone, or so they said, so I left a message. And by the time they called back, I had solved the problem myself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Giving up caffeine has more benefits than you might think

I've given up caffeine again.

I've never drunk coffee, but I have a longtime diet cola habit.  Some might call it an addiction.  I might down 2 or 3 cans of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi in a day, or for a change of pace, get an enormous "bladder buster." I get a buzz from it, no doubt about it.

But it doesn't feel right, so last week, I went caffeine free. It hasn't been easy, especially that first day when my body screamed that I needed something caffeinated.

This isn't the first time I've gone caffeine-free, and each time I experience a tug-of-war. Yes, there are times in the day when a little caffeine lift would feel just right. But I have to remind myself that going caffeine-free has a surprising number of benefits:

  • I sleep better. A lot better. When I'm "on" caffeine, my sleep is shallow. I tend not to fall asleep easily, and I wake up and stir more often. This is true even though I try not to have any caffeine after 2 p.m.
       But without caffeine, I sleep solidly and deeply. I have rich, even crazy,
       dreams. It's great.

  • I need less sleep. With deeper sleep when I'm in the no-caffeine mode, I need fewer snooze hours. That means I can stay up a little later, or get up earlier. I can watch an extra TV show, or read a little more. 
  • It saves me money. The cost of soda adds up.
  • I don't have to run to the bathroom as often. Diet soda just races through you.
  • I eat better. When I'm drinking soda, I find a way to make a trip to a burger joint such as In-n-Out, or to get a hot dog at Costco. Gee, as long as I'm here, I can get a soda and free refills! Without the lure of the soda, I'll find something better than a burger or a hot dog to eat.
One thing about a caffeine-free lifestyle: You've got to have a afternoon nap. Or at least I do. I sometimes take naps even when I'm in the soda lifestyle, but without caffeine, they're essential.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book review: "Mother of God" by Paul Rosolie

Paul Rosolie loves the Amazon jungle. And he wants you to love it, too.

In his entertaining but inconsistent "Mother of God," Rosolie takes readers into the jungle and shares his personal encounters with jaguars, huge snakes, isolated tribes, and many other wonders of the Amazon.

Rosolie was raised in Brooklyn, but explains that he found his calling when he went to Peru after high school to work at a wildlife station as a researcher and guide. It changed his life, he says.

Great moments followed. He rescues and raises an orphaned giant anteater baby. He wrestles, and is nearly crushed by, a 20-foot anaconda. He discovers a hidden "floating forest." He goes up within feet of a wounded jaguar and stares into the "savage intensity" of the animal's eyes.

By his own account, Rosolie has a tendency to rush headlong into situations and then find himself in trouble. That's how he ended up lost in the jungle, with no shelter and no supplies, caught in a raging storm and fighting to stay alive. It's his own fault, but makes for page-turning reading, regardless.

Rosolie tells these stories to get our attention; he has deeper point. He is passionate about the need to preserve the wild spaces and the wildlife of the Amazon, and he warns readers that the jungle is under assault from encroaching human development.

His point is valid, but he sometimes tries too hard, and starts lecturing.

"What is about our species that allows us to watch sit-coms and argue over sports while cultures and creatures and those things meek and green and good are chopped, shot, and burned from the world for a buck?" he laments in one good rant.

Rosolie is a good writer, but not a great one, and some parts of the book can be skimmed, like his occasional tangents into semi-scientific lessons. His adventure stories are better.

The book also has occasional lapses in basic narrative. In one confusing scene while Rosolie is visiting India, he describes a mob descending on the ashram where he is staying. He helps lock a gate to keep out the mob. But in the next moment he's outside the locked gate face-to-face with the mob. How did he get out there? It's not clear.

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