THE CRIMINAL CLASS

August 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MAILBOX – Here is the usual stuff I don’t want to receive. Ransom notes, junk mail from my children, dunning letters from the Leg Breakers Collection Agency (“Pay or die.”). Eh? What’s this? “The current administration is out of touch with small business.” President Obama is a jerk. He’s against God, small pets and drilling in your church yard on Sundays.
OK, I get the drift. This mail-out is from my Congressman, Rep. Stanley Shady, whose IQ is equal to his age. (Mark Twain wrote: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”) Still, Shady was fairly elected by his constituents, my neighbors, whose idea of treasonous liberalism is the Bill of Rights. They are so right-wing they have banned leftovers. (rim-shot) My neighborhood has white hoods. They want UT to abolish the College of Liberal Arts.
Rep. Shady, being a Republican, declares the Democratic majority in the Senate “has blocked nearly all of the free market, pro-growth initiatives.” He wants unlimited offshore drilling and blasts “record breaking welfare and food stamp rolls.” “It is all disheartening to job creators.” This is a recording.
Wait. There’s very small print here. “This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense.” That’s you and me. Hold everything! We all know that members of Congress can use campaign and/or personal funds to tell us how great they are and how their opponents are rotten skunks. I’m good with that. It’s a tradition. Or — repeat, OR — members of Congress can use taxpayer funds to tell us how they voted, bills they passed and about their tax-paid fact-finding expeditions to darkest Monaco. But they should not use my tax dollars for their political campaigns. Isn’t that illegal? Next thing the National Guard will be putting up his billboards and my mail carrier will be wearing a “Shady For Congress” button while delivering me these costly diatribes.
In answer to your next question, yes, I would be just as angry if my Congress member voted exactly the way I wanted every time. For me, there is no red state or blue state. It is the state of my green, and it’s getting wasted. This sleazy self-promotion is only the latest outrage we are getting from those 535 incompetents we call members of Congress, and we don’t like it. The June 2012 ABC News/Washington Post poll found only 13 percent of Americans approve of the job performance of Congress, and 84 percent disapprove. It’s the worst ratings since the first survey in 1974. Gallup puts approval at 17 percent. Said one Congressman, “I’d like to meet that 17 percent who thinks we’re doing a good job.”
About three-quarters of registered voters (76 percent) say most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, the highest such percentage Gallup has measured in its 19-year history of asking this question. Those who say most members deserve to be re-elected is also a record low. That’s hypocritical, of course. We don’t like any members of Congress except our own. In recent elections 98 percent of the Representatives and 89 percent of Senators got re-elected.
How much does it cost to operate Congress? Just $5.042 billion a year. Figures are deliberately hard to come by, but let’s try. A base salary for members of Congress is $174,000 and slightly higher pay for its leaders. Then there’s the staff: our pols love to be surrounded by minions. Running the Senate: $869.3 million a year, mainly for the personnel and office expenses of individual Senators; and the salaries of their employees – secretaries, doorkeepers, food tasters. The House of Representatives has more members and its costs amount to $1.2 billion annually. The Capitol Police Dept. has the full time equivalent of 2,125 people. Annual cost: $300 million. Capitol Hill has half as many police as the City of Houston. There are funds for the gift shop, recording studio, etc. Some costs are hard to hunt down — the “Senate Restaurant Fund” is listed as a “Public Enterprise Fund.” And on and on. Years ago Mark Twain also wrote: “There is no native criminal class except Congress.” Nothing’s changed.
Here’s another point: The 2011 House met for only 174 days. If the House stays on schedule, it will be in session a total of 128 days this year. Does your boss allow you to spend less than half the year at work? There are many other small perks to the job. Members of Congress get free, up-close parking at Washington’s Reagan Airport. Both the House and the Senate have their own gyms with swimming pools. There are no signs on the gym doors and only members and gym workers are let in. For gym use, House members pay $20 a month; the senators pay $40. Experts in the profession say those fees in no way cover the actually costs, which, you will be surprised to learn, are not listed in any budget, just stuck in entries such as Architect of the Capitol. Honest.
Did you know that there is a Senate Hair Care Revolving Fund? For fiscal year 2010 it was $33,387. But even more importantly, this “revolving fund” has a balance, which is appropriated solely for this Senatorial hair care. That fund balance, which is invested and gains each year, is $261,117.19. All these expenses are for a Congress consisting of 245 millionaires. Based on 2009 data, there are currently 66 in the Senate and 179 in the House (among current voting members). So while just 1 percent of Americans are millionaires, 66 percent of senators are millionaires, as are 41 percent of House members.
Getting back to this expensive pamphlet from my member of Congress which I paid for, it reads, “The federal government doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.” No. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the federal government doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has an idiocy problem.

Ashby is outraged at ashby2@comcast.net

Natchez, MS

August 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

NATCHEZ, MS NAMED AS ONE OF LIFE MAGAZINE’S “100 PLACES TO SEE IN YOUR LIFETIME,” IN THE NEW YORK TIMES’ BEST SELLER, 1000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE AND AAA’S SOUTHERN TRAVELER READERS CHOICE AWARD FOR “BEST SMALL CITY FOR A WEEKEND!”

Natchez, MS, July 13, 2012: Natchez, MS, the oldest and most historic Southern port city on the Mississippi river, has been selected as one of Life Magazine’s “100 Places to See in your Lifetime.” The world renowned magazine included Natchez in their 2011 publication which is the ultimate guide to the world’s greatest destinations. Among other sites chosen were the Great Beach at Cape Cod, Yosemite, the French Quarter, the Grand Canyon, Big Sur, Gettysburg, the Florida Keys, Hawaii’s Volcanoes, Yellowstone and Washington, D.C.
Gorgeous views, local charm and sites to see made all these sites worthy of New York Times Best Seller, 1000 Places to See Before You Die. A view of the Mississippi River and the American Queen steamboat at Natchez occupy page 47 of the magazine’s special edition on shelves now. The write-up on Natchez refers to the antebellum homes, the Natchez Indians and the Civil War.
Natchez was also recognized as the Best Small City for a Weekend by AAA Southern Traveler Magazine for the second year in a row!
“In a word, Natchez is the South. Nestled in the southwest corner of Mississippi and hugging the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez embodies the stately architecture, easy charm and genuine hospitality that you’d associate with small Southern towns.

Among the attractions that make the town so compelling are its collection of elegant antebellum homes. Indeed, the town’s unceasing dedication to historic preservation has yielded more than 1,200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and six National Historic Landmarks. The popular Spring Pilgrimage affords visitors a chance to appreciate the historical mansions in their full splendor, decorated with spring blooms and attended by hoop-skirted belles.

During a weekend getaway, visitors can choose to stay in some of the historical homes that welcome guests to get a taste of antebellum life. But there are modern pursuits as well, including trendy shops, museums and restaurants that serve the best Southern food this side of the 19th century.”
–AAA Southern Traveler Magazine
“We are thrilled with the recognition from these prestigious publications,” said Marsha Colson, Director of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. “It is such a remarkable way to start a new decade and we look forward to consistently outdoing ourselves.”
Natchez’s annual Fall Pilgrimage, September 27 – October 14, is just around the corner and is a prime time to discover the historic charms and natural beauty of Natchez, Mississippi. This year’s annual tour of 20 antebellum mansions includes Longwood, an opulent octagonal dream mansion
Look for “Characters in Costume” along the extensive tour of homes in which characters from the houses’ history are depicted in the first person. Evening entertainment includes Stone House Musicale—a 19th century intimate piano concert with renowned classical musician and native Natchezean Joseph Stone at his family home; Amos Polk’s Voices of Hope—a bountiful plantation dinner and a stirring gospel concert at The Carriage House Restaurant with Chef Bingo Starr; Sordid Lives—an uproarious and very bawdy comedy presented by The Natchez Little Theatre. For tickets, bed and breakfast reservations, and information on all things Natchez, please call Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at 800-647-6742 or visit: www.natchezpilgrimage.com.

PLAYING CHIKIN

August 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE DRIVE-IN – The line begins at the pick-up window, winds around the front and snakes down the drive to the street. These people have made the decision to run to a Chick-fil-A to order one of each. That way they can voice their support for the company’s founder and CEO, Dan Cathy, who donated food to an anti-gay marriage group then issued a statement supporting one-man, one-woman marriages.
It wasn’t exactly an anti-gay message, but that’s what everyone on both sides of the argument made of it. Nor is it clear just why chatty Cathy jumped into the fight and needlessly chapped off a million gays who will boycott the Chickster’s 1,500 fast-food locations, mostly in the South.( No wonder the Bible Belt is expanding.) By contrast, KFC has 17,000 locations in 105 countries. Then there is his mastering of the English language: “Eat mor chikin.” Huh?
Nevertheless, he did enter the brawl and we all took sides, as we do on everything these days – global warming, Joe Paterno, buying bazookas from door-to-door salesmen and boxers vs. briefs. Nothing happens that we don’t angrily take a stand. This left me with a decision. I have never been to a Chick-fil-A, but maybe I should go stand in line for the 23-piece Fatty Feathers with fried onion rings and hushpuppies, buttered biscuit and cream gravy to enliven my cholesterol level while making a political statement. But what about the chikins? I would be supporting the slaughter of helpless free-range roosters, and PETA would drop me from its mailing list seeking more money to cover the cost of its mailing list.
To avoid playing favorites this election I anonymously donated a million dollars to the secret PACs supporting Mitt Romney. Just to cover myself, I donated the same amount to Obama’s secret PAC. To support ending child labor in China I went to Walmart to buy only Made in USA products. I took pictures, recorded my own observations and tallied up the prices on my iPod and iPhone which were made, uh, never mind.
We all like to support our causes of righteousness, the American Way and our own particular religion. I, for example, always pay my federal income taxes to support Newt Gingrich’s Congressional pension to cover his Tiffany’s bills, not to mention my bailing out some of the worlds’ richest bankers and brokers. And like you, I attend rallies for candidates who, if elected, will pave my roads, teach my children, increase military spending and still cut my taxes. And I demonstrate against those candidates who tell me the truth. I only watch Fox News because it tells me that, no matter what bad happened, it wasn’t my fault. That makes me feel better.
Generally, however, we don’t have to choose stores, beers and clothes pins because companies race away from controversy. Why tick off half your customers? Target discovered this problem in 2010 when it gave $150,000 to a group supporting a gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who had close ties to an anti-gay group. All sorts of trouble followed. Target now sells same-sex marriage cards. Miracle-Gro’s CEO has donated $$200,000 in company funds to a Romney PAC, no doubt to stimulate grass roots organizing.
Sometimes greed overcomes principle. A major Texas grocery chain, owned by hard-shell Christians, refused to sell alcohol – not even a six-pack of Lone Star. Then the family owners bought a north Texas chain and discovered how much cash the brew-and-wine aisles were bringing in. One guess what happened. By the time the family sold to an even bigger chain, their grocery stores were more booze than butter.
We do business with those who give us the best deal, or don’t have video cameras trained on the beer cooler. Rarely do politics enter into the decision. Oh, sure, some angry Cajun shrimpers probably sold their majority stock in BP. No doubt liberal Dems dropped Koch Classic in favor of Sprite Lite. Tea Party members probably avoid French toast, the Cincinnati Reds and left turns.
As we all know, “boycott” — like leotard, hooker, blanket, guillotine and Obamacare — is an eponym, i.e., a word named for someone. Capt. Charles C. Boycott was an English land agent in Ireland around 1880 who was ostracized for refusing to reduce rents. When countries try it to boycott, the action is called an embargo, and works wonderfully well. Note how the U.S. embargoes against Cuba and North Korea have produced the world’s two longest-running regimes. Otherwise, boycotts’ results are pretty mixed. There was the successful Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott by blacks during the early civil rights protests. The US and the USSR traded Olympic boycotts in 1980 and ’84, which were pretty stupid ideas.
As shown by the long lines at Chick-fil-A, there is the opposite of boycott: we can support companies we like. I have long supported the International Brotherhood of the Vodka Industry. Not all Cubans are commies, as I told the tobacconist at my boutique cigar store. (LaTisha at Sam’s Club.) But what if Capt. Charles Boycott’s name had been Capt. Support or Endorse? “I hate that store’s politics. Let’s support it.” Sign on the demonstration line: “No more fur coats! Endorse them!”
Another boycott is by individuals. We don’t go back to places which give us rotten service or products. Example: one of my sons and his wife, both lawyers, have their own firm. A few years ago they went to a fancy restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. They got screwed on the bill and will never return. The two attorneys entertain lots of clients at restaurants, hold staff parties, celebrate taking Exxon for 500K, with expensive meals. That $50 overcharge has cost that restaurant a lot of cash.
After much thought, I decided to support Chick-fil-A and its Christian stand against opposing views. Figuring to join a lot of families who would want a good lunch after church, I went to a store. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays

Ashby boycotts at ashby2@comcast.net

ParksByYou Mid Main First Thursday Block Party

August 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

www.mid-main.com

www.parksbyyou.org

HOUSTON RESTAURANT WEEKS EXTENDED

August 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

THROUGH LABOR DAY WEEKEND, ENDS SEPT. 3

WHO & WHAT:  Houston Restaurant Weeks, Houston’s premier philanthropic culinary event benefiting the Houston Food Bank, will extend through Labor Day Weekend, ending on Monday, Sept 3, 2012. Houstonians can take advantage of the long weekend by dining out to help out at 170 participating restaurants.

This year Houston Restaurant Weeks hopes to exceed the 2011 donation of $800,000 to the Houston Food Bank. The Food Bank feeds a total of 137,000 people each week and provides more than 53 million nutritious meals annually.  Participating restaurants offer a three-course gourmet dinner for $35 per person and donate $5 of the proceeds to the Houston Food Bank. Some restaurants also offer a $20 two-course lunch menu, and donate $3 of each lunch sold. Select restaurants also offer $20 and $35 brunch menus.

INTERVIEWS WITH SPOKESPEOPLE AVAILABLE: Cleverley Stone, founder & chair of Houston Restaurant Weeks; Houston Food Bank representatives; Cooking demos with chefs from participating restaurants

WHEN & WHERE:  Houston Restaurant Weeks Original Dates: Aug. 1—31, 2012. Now extended to Sept. 3. (Note: Restaurants are not required to extend. See list at: www.HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com)

WHY: Since its inception in 2003, the event has raised more than $1.7 million to fight hunger in Houston. For the latest Houston Restaurant Weeks information, including restaurant listings, menus, sponsor information, and reservations, visit www.HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com.  Follow HRW on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/HouRestaurantWk and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HoustonRestaurantWeek.

About the Houston Food Bank
Now operating from a new, 308,000 square-foot facility, the Houston Food Bank is the nation’s largest size Feeding America food bank and source of food for hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties. They have been named one of 10 Top-Notch Charities across the nation by Charity Navigator. A network of nearly 500 food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies, feeding a total of 137,000 people each week, provides more than 53 million nutritious meals annually. Fresh produce, meat and nonperishables are distributed from the new warehouse at 535 Portwall, and hot meals are prepared and distributed from Keegan Center, a 15,000 square-foot industrial kitchen. Additional community services range from nutrition education to assistance with food stamp applications and hands-on job training. Red Barrels offer a convenient way for grocery shoppers to donate nonperishables for their neighbors in need. The Houston Food Bank, founded in 1982, is a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network. The organization plans to grow to an annual distribution of 100 million nutritious meals by 2018.

Deer Lake Lodge & Spa names Pamela Girouard as Wellness Director

August 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

HOUSTON – (August 7, 2012) In preparation of the grand opening this Fall 2012, Deer Lake Lodge & Spa, an
exclusive destination health spa and wellness resort, has named Pamela Girouard Deer Lake Lodge & Spa Wellness Director, specializing in colonic and various wellness therapies.

Girouard began her holistic health journey in 2004 at Colon Therapeutics Research Institute where she completed 1,500 hours of training and certification programs. She also trained and was tested in all levels at the International Association of Colon HydroTherapy. Wanting to be recognized as an expert in her field, in 2007, Girouard decided to further enhance her career by becoming Nationally Board Certified through the International Association for Colon Therapy.

As the owner of Total Cleansing Spa, Girouard has a positive record of helping others achieve improved health and a greater understanding of their bodies. Her commitment to a high standard of service and integrity for her clients and community are sure to contribute to the success of Deer Lake Lodge & Spa.

By taking the time with each client and incorporating a “total person” approach, Girouard will assist guests in better understanding their health, how disease is manifested within the body and how environmental factors, relationships and state of mind play into their physical wellbeing.

As the completion of the resort quickly approaches, Girouard’s insight and expertise will contribute to a triumphant grand opening for Deer Lake Lodge & Spa. Located on a 50-acre rustic-chic oasis, only 40 minutes from central Houston and 15 minutes from The Woodlands, the green-construction health haven will provide guests with a one-of-a-kind experience by being the only spa in the Southeast to offer all four services of juice fasting, colonics, body works and energy works. Deer Lake Lodge & Spa’s ideology is to rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit through these holistic services and treatments. Guests of Deer Lake Lodge & Spa will return home not only feeling cleansed and relaxed, but energized and educated about living enhanced and healthier lives.

Spa amenities include a fasting lounge, heated saltwater pool, jetted spa, infrared sauna and scenic countryside walking trails. The cleansing program consists of a combination of semi-fasting and therapeutic treatments targeted towards detoxification and elimination. Guests have the option to participate in yoga and attend a variety of seminars on meditation, relaxation, healthy living and other similar topics. In addition, every element of the resort is carefully selected and made from all organic or natural materials.

Initially, Deer Lake Lodge & Spa will offer one program from Thursday through Sunday; and the resort allows no more than 22 guests at a time, ensuring the highest level of care for each guest. The resort will also be available Sunday-Wednesday for private corporate events and seminars.

For more information on Deer Lake Lodge & Spa, please visit www.deerlakelodge.com. To make advance accommodations for a weekend getaway, and for pricing options, call 713-590-3771.

About Deer Lake Lodge & Spa

Deer Lake Lodge & Spa is an exclusive destination health spa and wellness resort that was co-founded in 2012 by sisters Tracy Boulware and Dr. T.C. Hughes, N.D. As the only spa in the Southeast to offer all four services of juice fasting, colonics, body works and energy works, Deer Lake Lodge & Spa aspires to improve guests’ health in an environment where they can enjoy a multi-faceted detoxification program in a rustic-chic resort atmosphere. Through relaxing holistic cleanses and therapeutic approaches, the sisters aim to educate their guests about how healthy, natural options can reenergize not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.

Deer Lake Lodge & Spa is a 100% eco-friendly holistic spa and resort located on 50 beautifully-secluded acres, only 40 minutes north of Houston, at 10500 Deer Lake Lodge Road, Montgomery, Texas 77316. To make advance accommodations for a weekend getaway, and for pricing options, call 713-590-3771.

For more information on Deer Lake Lodge & Spa, please visit www.deerlakelodge.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Walk MS: Houston Series 2012

August 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

WHO & WHAT
Approximately 4,000 Houston-area residents will unite for the Walk MS: Houston Series 2012 to raise funds and bring awareness to multiple sclerosis. Participants will take part in four walks in the greater Houston area to generate an estimated $345,000 to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Funds raised will support the Society’s research initiatives, programs and services for more than 56,000 Texans impacted by MS.

Visit walkMStexas.org to register to walk, volunteer or donate. There is no cost to register, and online registration is currently open. There is a no minimum pledge commitment; however, the average walker raises $225. Individuals interested in joining or creating a team can sign up online with co-workers, friends, family or neighbors.

WHEN & WHERE

Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012

  • Walk MS: The Woodlands, presented by KBR
  • Rob Fleming Park (One mile and 5K routes)
  • 6055 Creekside Forest Dr., The Woodlands, TX 77389
  • Site Opens at 8 a.m.; Walk begins at 9 a.m.
  • Dogs welcome at walk.

Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012

  • Walk MS: Sugar Land, presented by KBR
  • Sugar Land Memorial Park (One mile and 5K routes)
  • 15300 University Blvd., Sugar Land, TX 77479
  • Site Opens at 8 a.m.; Walk begins at 9 a.m.
  • Dogs welcome at walk.

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012

  • Walk MS: Houston, presented by KBR
  • University of Houston; Main Campus (One mile and 5K routes)
  • 4800 Calhoun Road, Houston, TX 77204
  • Site Opens at 9 a.m.; Walk begins at 10 a.m.

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012

  • Walk MS: Kemah, presented by KBR
  • Kemah Boardwalk (One mile and 5K routes)
  • 215 Kipp Ave., Kemah, TX 77565
  • Site Opens at 8 a.m.; Walk begins at 9 a.m.


WHY

About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Every hour in the United States, someone is newly diagnosed with the disease. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being  diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and over 2.1 million worldwide.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

MS stops people from moving. The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn?t. The Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional  ducation, collaborating with MS organizations around the world, and providing programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move forward with their lives. In 2011 alone, through its national office and 50-state network of chapters, the Society devoted $164 million to programs and services that assisted more than one million people. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested $40 million to support more than 325 new and ongoing research projects around the world. The National MS Society serves more than 56,000 Texans affected by MS with offices in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock, Midland and San Antonio. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at www.jointhemovementLoneStar.org.

Early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can
make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis. Learn
about your options by talking to your health care
professional and contacting the National MS Society at
nationalMSsociety.org or 1-800- 344-4867.

PAD IS OUT TO LAUNCH

August 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE SHOP – Somehow this machine isn’t working as advertised. My iFad, that is. It was given to me by my kids who explained how the iScoop can bring me news, the iSore can delete unhappy notes and the iPatch cuts out half the spam, but iMe is having trouble making it work. So I have come back to this shop on the mall. Other stores around here are half empty, but not the iShop, which is absolutely crammed. Most of the customers and clerks are too young to vote. I could set up an Acne R Us treatment center and make a fortune. So I stick out from the crowd, Gramps with my mysterious contraption (“contraption” is not used here, nor are “constipation,” “gout” and “Medicare.”)
“May I help you?” asks Nerd Number One who no doubt still puts up his stocking at Christmas. I carefully explain that my gizmo doesn’t cohabitate with the icon so I can’t get the cricket scores from Bangladesh. The clerk sighs and gives me that condescending look reserved for the1 percenters in a Walmart. He takes my iFad, touches a few icons, whips his fingers over the screen, frowns, and does it all over again. Nothing happens.
He tries again and again. Zero results. So he leads me to Nerd Number Two and explains the problem in Portuguese or maybe Estonian: the 45-Y doesn’t contort with the main wuppy, or something like that. Nerd Number Two eyes my iFad, goes through the same routine of touching icons, muttering, and guess what? He can’t fix it either. That’s two down.
“I’ll get you a reservation,” he says. Reservation? I inquire whether this is a gizmo sales and fix-it shop or a white tablecloth restaurant. He says I need the help of a highly trained technician, but explains I must have a reservation because there are others in front of me. Obviously, a whole lot of people must be having problems, which speaks volumes about the product.
Let me back up a moment. My story actually began last week when this instrument stopped working after I accidentally left it in a pants pocket. The spin cycle must have been the final insult. I tried to fix the little box myself but was afraid I’d start a fire, so I brought it here. At that time the iClerk gave me the usual sigh, tapped a few times on the screen, then said, “It’s fixed. Got to run. Almost 5 and Mom’s picking me up for Little League practice.”
Mister Young Smarty Pants may have fixed the weather map and notebook. The Daily Duh and the Playboy Channel come in fine, but he wiped out my Cooking for Cannibals and the weekly guide to used hubcap sales. He solved one problem while creating a whole slew of news ones. Now here I am, back again, being passed off from one adolescent wizard to another. The third technician turns out to be a young woman who takes my little iGift and begins to punch and touch it. She frowns, mumbles that the double-button output from the intake mushroom doesn’t seem to be toggeling, then says something about the spin cycle.
As she re-invents the wheel, I look around the shop. As mentioned, it is jammed. There are customers buying and employees selling. On tables are square and oblong things with screens (I speak fluent cutting-edge technology) that perform all sorts of tasks. There are laptops, iPhones, tiny TVs, cameras and probably hearing aids which twert and tweet, scan and tan. The conversations in the crowd are plump with techno-babble. My own knowledge of communications began with smoke signals and semaphores and ended with the Telex, but I try to keep up. For instance, I took my new fangled (another term they don’t use here) instrument on trips to such exotic foreign lands as Ireland and Waco and could read my hometown newspaper to find out who was murdering whom, and read The New York Times to find out who should be bumped off for supporting capital punishment. I could send and receive e-mails and photos. OK, I could receive them. I can’t take pictures because I can’t find where to insert the roll of film.
Do you have one of these new electronic boxes? Well, I say “new” in that I’ve had mine a month or so and understand there have been several newer models out. In fact I got an inquiry from the Smithsonian about donating mine to their Museum of Old Stuff. My little gizmo is a simple machine. The kids didn’t think I could handle an Apple, explaining, “Dad, you have trouble operating a flashlight.”
All of this electronic gadgetry began with the very first person in the world to buy a Windows 95 software program: a 19 year old business student in New Zealand by the name of Jonathan Prentice. Others followed and at the end of that first day, Aug. 23, 1996, $30 million worth of the Microsoft program had been sold. By the end of that year 20 million copies, at roughly $85 each, were purchased.
That was light years ago, and since then the gadget industry has taken over our society. Hotels began installing outlets in their rooms and charged $10 a day for guests to use their WiFi or KiWi or whatever. Then some hotels began advertising “free WiFi” and the competition had to do likewise. The city of Houston signed a contract with a company to make all of downtown free WiFi. Officials conjured up pictures of folk sitting in parks in 105 degree heat and 110 percent humidity happily tapping out their master’s theses. The plan didn’t work. Probably the WiFi workmen refused to happily climb poles and string wires in such weather.
Ah, my iFad must be ready because the fixer hands it back to me. “Next time at least put it on the gentle cycle.” That I did, while trying to turn on my flashlight.

Ashby is wired at ashby2@comcast.net