April 2017

What's all this about making America Great Again?  Listen carefully, all you cranky older white people: you can't go back in time, but even if you could, you wouldn't want to accept all of the problems we have laid to rest.  Isn't it ironic that most "Make America Great Again" hats are made in China, and that most people wearing them shop at Walmart?? Here we will compare 2017 to 1977. Let's neglect the fact that if you were 20 years old in 1977, you were measurably smarter than you are today at 60.

What was better forty years ago?  It was a struggle but I came up with few things: Jimmy Carter was president. He was a humble, thoughtful engineer/farmer who served our nation's military from 1943 to 1961 (if you count his time in the Naval academy and in the Naval reserves) and never once tried to cash in on being president. Carter once helped disassemble a crippled nuclear reactor.  Go ahead and compare Carter to "45". Try to leave out any thoughts on policy, if you write to me to disagree.

Second, people were not as greedy as they are today.  Have you notice a new trend in advertising?  Ads now play up to people's selfishness, like the Chex Mix Decoy series (videos here and here) or the Taco Bell Loaded Grillers - only $1 so you don't have to share (video here).  On the subject of food, need I point out that people didn't live to eat the way they do today, and obesity was not an epidemic in the 1970s?

Another down-hill trend is that there are now so many sharing companies - home share (AirBnB, FRBO) ride share (Lyft, Uber).  It means that people are struggling to find good work that pays well.  It is sad to see someone wax up their bank-owned car and offer rides around town for so little money, being part of one of the most evil companies in years, run by a genuine A-hole.

Public schools were better in 1977. The decline was unnecessary, it came from "school choice" programs that don't benefit the public at large. By starving public schools of funding and keeping the disruptive kids quarantined there, the idea that schools are failing became self-fulfilling.  If you home school, does that mean your son is going to take your daughter to the prom?  BTW, in the 70s, the prom included a full bar for kids that were 18.  

steve prom

Spirit of Seventy Six hair in Pine Brook New Jersey

Before we get started with things that have improved, we must pay tribute to Chuck Berry, who passed away in on 18 March.  Novel Prize winner Bob Dylan once called Berry the Shakespeare of Rock.  I scratched my head and tried to come up with Chuck Berry's greatest quatrain, and came up with these lines, from the song Memphis:

Last time I saw Marie she was waving me goodbye,

with hurry-home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye.

Marie is only six years old, information please -

try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee.

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee...

In 1977 you would might be making that call to Memphis on a dial phone, made in USA, that you were not allowed to buy.  You had to rent it from the phone company, which was an actual monopoly. This one still works but won't ring.  Most phone lines no longer provide the 110V signal used to ring the mechanical bell. 

dial phone

Time out for a commercial

This type of conversation should be sponsored by an "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up"(TM) product.

Life alarm: help is on its way, Mrs Fletcher!

Racism, misogyny  and homophobia

Although the 1970s were well past the Civil Rights era, racism existed in many forms such as denying housing in "white" neighborhoods to black people.  Social media has been able to expose a lot of chilling events that would never have been in the news forty years ago, for example you would never have heard of Travon Martin in 1977.  Lately it seems like we are going back in time on these problems.  I am here to inform you going backwards on these issues is not acceptable. To those reading this rant, to hear is to obey.

Food and drink

Coffee and beer have improved in the past forty years, especially beer.  All those crap breweries like Schaeffer and Schlitz (the exception being Pabst Blue Ribbon) have disappeared or been absorbed into global companies like Imbev, but they are not to be missed in today's beer playground.  San Diego alone has 74 micro-breweries and will be the site of the IEEE combined CSICS and BCTM conferences in October 2018, come join us. Congrats to my favorite brewery, Ballast Point, that sold for $1B recently.

I would not call what the average Starbucks visitor purchases a coffee. When I was in college (Stevens Tech) the best coffee came from a food truck that also sold Sabrett hot dogs with red onions if you were in a hurry for lunch.  There was only one size coffee, but you could tell the vendor (Jose? I can't remember) how many scoops of sugar and whether you wanted "cream" or not.  Cream in this case was evaporated milk from a can. Trust me it, tastes fine.  Did you ever hear about soldiers in WWII eating dry powered coffee from  C-ration with a spoon in order to stay awake?  You don't know how good you have it.  The cup was an important part of the 70s food truck experience, it was always served in one of those Greek cups you still see around New York.  They date back to 1963, and you can buy them in bulk on this web site.

 Greek cup2


I am old, but not old enough to call lighting "lectric lights" (as opposed to gas).  My parents did refer to our refrigerator as an "icebox" though.  The incandescent light bulb was invented by Edison in 1879.  You should rent the 1940 movie Edison the Man to see Spencer Tracy's version of Edison.  Edison was a real jerk toward Tesla, but was still an awesome inventor.

Edison lights up New York. Note Gas company exec with his face hidden in a hat.

Today's LED lights are amazing.  Instead of using several kilowatts to light your house, you only need a few hundred watts.  Lighting design has come a long way from trying to fit everything into an "Edison" base.  The lamp below (lens removed) shows LEDs mounted to circuit cards and driven by a miniature transformer. It fits a lower profile and thus makes your rooms seem taller. The design is brilliant, the LEDs are well scattered and the three PWBs are shaped so they tessellate onto a large format. The entire thing cost maybe 20 bucks, and it is made in China. To answer your decorating question, no, I am never getting granite counter-tops, laminates are better for the environment than mining rocks in New Hampshire and shipping them to Tucson. Nor do I allow stainless steel appliances into my home.

LED light

Drugs and health

Today you don't have to suffer from tobacco smoke in public places.  No one in their 20s today would believe what it was like to go to a bar or sit in an airplane in the 1970s.  Nowadays lead is not allowed in pipes, and asbestos is all over but the clean-up. Thanks to the EPA and people that actually care about you.

Some things are a mixed bag when compared over time.  Want to know what is better, but more expensive?  Weed (or so I have been told...) In the 70's you could "cop a lid" for thirty bucks and the full O-Z for forty, perhaps a bit more if the dealer claimed it was Jamaican.  The lumber count was high, and all those seeds would give you a headache if you didn't strain it.  

Commander Cody sings Down to Seed and Stems Again Blues 

Today there are dozens of cannabis varieties ostensibly developed for medical treatments, with names like Facewreck Haze and Wonder Woman.  Too bad you will be paying $300-400/ounce (compare that 10X increase to 4X due to inflation) but on the other hand you will be purchasing a superior product. By the way, I don't partake, but I am happy to keep you company if you choose to light up a blunt.  Below is my idea of doing a bowl...

doing a bowl

My pathetic idea of "doing a bowl" today

How many people died from drug  overdoses in the 1970s?  Typically 8000 per year.  Compare that to more than 60,000 (12,000 from opioids alone) in 2016.  What happened to that "war on drugs?" After decades of locking up people for using a popular drug that doesn't kill due to overdose, drug companies, doctors and pharmacists got involved with selling prescriptions for addicting drugs for just about anything. 

Two years ago I was in the middle of ripping down most of a house. Working eight hours a week, I can see the end of this job in 2018. I got a good sized splinter in my leg while moving waste wood into a dumpster, ignored it for a week and it got infected. I can't imagine why it got infected, I thought by now I would be immune to bird feces, lead paint, rock wool dust and termite poison. This was my beautified, varicose-vein-free leg, you can see some of the small incision scars.

dumpster  splinter 

I went to the clinic, spent an hour with a GP as she tried to dig and squeeze out the splinter, which was pretty painful due to the infection.  She gave me a scrip for 24 tablets of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 5-325, I filled it for maybe five bucks and used two of them.  There are 1.8 million people addicted to hydrocodone in the United States, why do I want to risk becoming one of them? I wonder if they put acetaminophin in the pills so that you will die of liver failure as a punishment for trying to get really wasted.

prescription bottle of hydrocodone and acetaminaphine

 It's party time in America thanks to Actavis

The internet, social media and all that

Does anyone really want to go back to using paper maps in a car, or searching for information in the card catalog at the school library? No.

One thing we have now is too many choices, and you don't need them.  I hate listening to commercials on video (hey, I just used the new word for "television") but the one ad that has me reaching the fastest for the remote is for Trivago (video here).  Did you know that the average person searches seven sites when they are looking for a hotel? That's BS.  The average person goes to their regular site, and it probably is not Trivago.  Our household must be well below average, we spent two weeks in Ireland last year, stayed at 10 different places, and only once booked on-line.  Trivago is not going to list all the bed-and-breakfasts that are the best way to go. The Trivago guy reminds me of the Countrywide money guy (video here) back ten years ago when they were giving away refinancing without credit checks.  I wish Mr. Countrywide was in jail, but he probably is not.  He is probably in hiding somewhere.

Privacy: A brief story of Bacchanalia

One thing that sucks now is that there is no privacy, due to two things: the internet, and cell phone cameras.  All of my youthful crimes occurred long ago and therefore are not Googleable, which is a good thing.  A bad thing is that everyone has to be more careful today, which can limit fun. Forgive me, it is time for a story...

In the summer weekday evenings during the seventies, I was out every night with friends.  Not all of us enjoyed air conditioning in homes or even cars, if we wanted to cool off we went swimming.  Sometimes we would break into a nearby lake after hours, drink beer, and use the diving board. One night we had some girls with us and we asked them to go skinny dipping.  I don't think we thought they would say yes, but several of them were game, so we parked down the street from "Hidden Cove", a really crappy man-made lake in the crappy town of Lincoln Park, New Jersey.  No, the Band Linkin Park was not named after this town, but nearby business Fountains of Wayne did spawn the name for a rock group.

It was pretty dark as there was no outdoor lighting (sadly, as we wanted to see more of the ladies) and we were a rowdy bunch, having consumed a mess of beer. Apparently we were too loud, as someone called the cops and they came down the driveway and lit up the night.  I think most of the party was close to shore and put their clothes mostly back on before The Man came over with a flashlight.  I was far out in the lake, and decided to swim for the other side to wait it all out.  On the other side of the lake I waited and waited as the flashlight scanned the lake for my bare butt.  I did not want to talk to the cops, so I made my way around the lake, mostly a wooded area and of course infested with the New Jersey Air Force (mosquitoes), found my pants and shoes (and found that everyone had left).  Below is a map of what I am talking about.

What is the point of all of this?  If you were to do this today, some idiot would post videos or photos of it, and anyone who was arrested would have a public record.  

Skinnydipping map

 Steve's adventure

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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