Sunday, April 19, 2009

The WiFi coffee shop

Human progress apparently skipped a groove. We have gone from coffee shops that simply served coffee and pastries to those that wished to sit around in public without getting drunk to coffee shops with wireless internet service so customers can geek the internet or maybe work without getting drunk. But what happened to the intermediate step? Maybe I missed the era when coffee drinkers pulled small portable TVs out of their backpacks and messenger bags and watched Seinfeld and Simpson's re-runs while they caffeinated. Must have happened somewhere, probably California.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Pat Murphy was helping me. What we were doing was not fun. It consisted of cutting up a 16' boiler and the ancillary piping and accessories and removing them from the building. Heavy work, uncomfortable, maybe a little dangerous. There was insulation on some of the piping. Maybe it was asbestos, maybe not. It made Pat nervous. He didn't wish to be exposed to a dangerous substance. I could sympathize with that feeling. But what I couldn't understand was Pat's attitude to the rigging and lifting of the heavier items. That really is dangerous. If a lift is rigged wrong or a mistake is made, if the operation is performed carelessly, something can be broken or SOMEONE CAN BE KILLED! INSTANTLY! Pat didn't seem to realize that the immediate results of an exposure to asbestos or a similar substance is nil, there may or may not be an ill effect and it may well take decades for it to make an appearance, if it ever does. The immediate result of a foul-up in a lift, however, could well be DEATH or DISMEMBERMENT! RIGHT NOW! No waiting around for the onset of a chronic disability and regular trips to the clinic. Just a standard autopsy, viewing at the funeral home and a gravesite ceremony. That's what can happen if you don't understand a potentially dangerous activity.

This attitude is evident all around us all the time. People who drive like maniacs, chattering on their mobiles, dog loose on the front seat, woozy from lack of sleep or too much drink, are worried about CO2 in the atmosphere and radon in their basement. Or mercury in the fish they catch. Or the amalgam in their fillings. Or some other substance that can only be detected by atomic absorption testing. But truly dangerous conditions that are all around them, especially on the highway, but in other scenarios as well, are accepted as a matter of course. It's the government's fault.

Easter Dinner with the World

My daughter and I went to a Chinese buffet for Easter dinner. We've been there before. I'm not sure that all-you-can-eat buffets are the best for one's health but this one has very good food and a lot of different sea food dishes. Filling my plate with shrimp diablo, braised baby octopus, and poached salmon, I sat down and after looking around, realized that I was the only Caucasian in the establishment.

Evidently, many others were enjoying an Easter feast and the majority of them appeared to be from a different land. There were blacks obviously from Africa, the men dressed in natty suits and the ladies in satin and lace dresses and head pieces that made them appear like giant orchids. There were Asians of various groups, Viet Namese, Hmong, and Chinese, Maybe others as well. And there was a Latin presence that could have originated anywhere from across the street to Tierra del Fuego. These were just the ones that I could identify by their appearance or language. The place had to be similar to a UN cafeteria.

My second plate piled with more seafood, I couldn't help but wonder at a world and a time where all these people from so many distant places had arrived at the same location, thousands of miles from their birth place, eating Chinese food in a Midwestern strip mall on a Christian holiday. Imagine a large globe with a red line from each of the diner's original homes to this spot. Perhaps several hundred red lines from all over the world converging on one address in Minnesota. Why? Because, at least up until now, life in the US has been much better than it's been in the places these people came from. They were happy to be there, sharing a great meal with their families, in a place where economic opportunity and an improvement in their life was a real possibility, rather than a hopeless dream.