June 02, 2005
Northwest Airlines: Episode II — Elimination of the Periodicals
Tuesday I noted the death–spiraling airline's directive terminating — with extreme prejudice — free pretzels on all flights beginning next Thursday, June 9.
The new policy has already taken effect: Northwest snuck this one by us this past Tuesday.
So now you know why there weren't any magazines in the rack as you went by it to your seat — they didn't "forget."
Northwest expects to save $565,000 a year by eliminating its magazine subscriptions.
And that's not even counting the savings in jet fuel since the planes will be lighter now.
What with dropping pretzels, magazines, pillows and blankets I'm certain the weight differential is cutting a minimum of 3 cents off the cost of every flight.
And when you're losing $458 million — that's simply in the last quarter — why, every little bit helps.
Talk about a sorry bunch....
Someone once said that when you start to become fodder for late night comedians, you're over — by that criterion, Northwest Airlines is so history.
BehindTheMedspeak: Mermaid syndrome baby surgery successful
Milagros Cerron was born in Peru in April, 2004 with an extremely rare condition called sirenomelia, or Mermaid syndrome.
It occurs in 1 in 60,000 births and most babies born with it do not survive more than a few hours.
In the condition an individual's legs are fused (Milagros is shown above prior to her surgical procedure).
She is resting comfortably now (below)
after a four hour procedure yesterday in Lima, Peru, during which her legs were separated.
An 16–year–old American girl named Tiffany Yorks, who had a similar corrective procedure when she was a few months old, is now 16 years old, and is the only other person on Earth known to have had this surgical procedure performed successfully.
Should tires have an expiration date?
Sure, we know that when they wear down it's time to replace them.
But what about people who don't drive much, and consequently have low–mileage but long–ago–purchase–date tires?
Are they living — and driving — on borrowed time?
Dare I say it... hanging by a tread?
My interest in this subject was piqued by this past Tuesday's Wall Street Journal article by Timothy Aeppel on this very subject.
So I instructed my crack research team to look a bit more deeply into the subject and see what turned up.
Turns out that on May 1 of this year Tim Nelson of ABC News in Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina did a story on this same topic.
Ford has begun urging consumers to replace tires six years after their date of manufacture, regardless of wear.
Toyota has long warned drivers that tires are perishable.
Daimler–Chrysler's Mercedes division had been telling drivers that tires last only six years; last fall the Chrysler group began including such a warning in its 2005 owner's manuals.
General Motors so far has not taken a position.
First, you find the line of print beginning DOT; read to the end of that sequence of data and you'll come to a final three or four digits.
They tell you the week and year a tire was produced.
If there are four digits then the tire was made in 2000 or after.
4805 means the 48th week of 2005; 0401 means the 4th week of 2001.
If there are ony three digits then the tire was made in the 1990s.
347 means the tire was made in the 34th week of 1997.
And so on and so forth.
The Wall Street Journal story noted, "Not only are the numbers difficult to interpret, but they can be hard to locate: the numbers are printed on only one side of the tire, which sometimes is the one facing inward when the tire is mounted on the wheel."
I went out and checked my car and learned that all four tires were made in 2000.
Then I checked the spare: it read 143.
That means it was made in the 14th week of 1993.
That's 12 years ago — 6 years past its expiration date.
Next year when I replace the four on the car I'm going to buy a fifth and replace the spare as well.
And if I should happen to need the spare before then, well, I'm gonna get it replaced ASAP.
A mechanic I used to go to in LA, when I drove terrible cars, giant old American–made aircraft carriers, once told me that only two things will kill you outright if they go wrong while you're driving: brakes and tires.
So it seems to me that updating my rubber is well worth the expense.
Here's the ABC News story.
- Dangers of Old Tires
Angelo Womack walks along I-40 and his thoughts are never far from what happened 10 years ago along the same stretch of highway.
"They veered off to the left and went down an embankment and the truck went into a flip and it flipped twice, and each time it flipped it landed on my father's side."
Womack says his father, Roger, died after a tire on his truck blew out.
Angelo's been extra careful ever since.
"You could get a blow-out at anytime."
Tires can blow out for many reasons, not just simple wear and tear; some believe age is the key.
Sean Kane [president of Safety Research & Strategies] says he's tracked 65 cases nationwide where tires with good tread have failed catastrophically, causing crashes.
He says tires can age and treads can separate even when they're not used.
He says that any tire at least six years old can be dangerous.
His solution is to put expiration dates on all tires, just like a bottle of beer or gallon of milk – to keep drivers safe.
Right now you can find out how old your tires are but it's not easy.
Each tire comes with a Department of Transportation code, but it's kind of an alphabet soup.
First, find the series of letters and numbers following the letters D-O-T.
The last three or four digits are the important ones.
They tell you the week and year a tire was produced.
It will read the number of the week and the year.
An example would be the 485, or the 48th week of 1995.
Tires made before the year 2000 only have three last digits – if it said 4805, for example, it would be the 48th week of 2005.
We wanted to know just how common aging tires are on the road, so we went to some parking lots across the Triangle.
We were surprised to find at least a half dozen tires were probably too old to drive on.
The owner of one BMW may want to consider getting new tires — they were made the 48th week of 1998, about 7 years ago.
The oldest tires we found, made the 38th week of 1993, are almost 12 years old [picture at top: it reads 383].
Not everyone is sold on the idea that age alone causes danger, and some think an expiration date would be more of a hindrance than a help.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association tells us there's no scientific data that says tires will no longer perform beyond a certain date.
We also took the idea of an expiration date to the head of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
He says he's not against the idea but sees several potential problems with trying to tell consumers exactly when their tires are too old.
"If you dated two tires the same date and one's being used and one hadn't been sold yet, then obviously the tire being used is gonna have more wear and tear and deterioration than the one that's still on the shelf, so how do you, when do you end it?"
Those may be legitimate questions, but they're not the ones that concern Angelo Womack.
He wants to know why expiration dates aren't on tires now.
"It would be helpful because it would give people a general idea of the time I have left on these tires."
And that he believes could be the difference between life and death.
Red Yardstick Chair
What is it with these tricky chairs all of a sudden?
Is synchronicity in play?
Last week was Jeremy Alden's Pencil Chair (below).
Now comes artisan Dorothy Spencer with her Red Yardstick Chair (top and below).
"Colored yardsticks are extremely rare — these rulers are all naturally red, not painted — and in their previous lives were used as advertising giveaways for places like hardware stores, seed companies and dairy barns."
The handmade chair measures 14"L x 16"W x 36"H.
One difference between the two chairs, I suppose, is that Alden's is a one–off while Spencer's can be purchased.
The Yardstick chair is $400 here.
Coffee Shop Zombies
No, not the latest in the "Zombies" movie franchise but, rather, the new new thing as reported in the May 30 Financial Times by Simon London.
Turns out an apparent critical mass of people now sit forever in coffee shops and use the free high–speed wireless internet access.
They buy nothing, just sit there.
Like zombies, almost.
Hence the term.
I find it interesting, the different takes on the problem offered by different business owners: some are turning off the Wi–Fi on weekends and evenings; others wouldn't dream of it.
Here's London's story as carried by MSN.com.
- Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Wi-Fi Users
Coffee shops across the US are finding that offering free wireless internet access to customers is leaving a bitter taste.
"There are times when 90 per cent of the people in here are surfing the internet," says Jen Strongin, co-owner of the Victrola Coffee & Art cafe in Seattle. "It has really changed the atmosphere."
Students of coffee-house culture call it the "zombie effect" — people staring silently into their computers, oblivious to those around them.
Zombies are not only anti-social but also bad business.
A single laptop user can take up a whole table.
It is not unusual for web surfers to eke out a single cup of coffee for hours.
"We have people in here for six, even eight, hours without buying a thing," says Ms. Strongin.
Her solution is simple: from now on the wi-fi network will be turned off at weekends, the Victrola's busiest days.
The Canvas Cafe in San Francisco has taken the same step, restricting wi-fi access to weekdays.
The upmarket Samovar Tea Lounge, also in San Francisco, turns its service off at 5pm each day to prevent "zombies" from crowding out early-evening diners.
An alternative is to charge customers for wi-fi.
But small cafes recognise that free internet access is an important weapon in the battle against Starbucks, which offers pay-as-you-go wi-fi in 3,500 of its coffee houses.
Activists at the Boston Wireless Advocacy Group hope to head off a wi-fi backlash by encouraging coffee house owners to display wi-fi etiquette posters.
Top tips include: "Make purchases and tip"; "If it's busy don't overstay your welcome"; and "Share a table."
Besides, some customers are more attached than others to ubiquitous internet access.
At Buck's Diner in Woodside, California, a favourite haunt of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, the free wi-fi service is on all day, every day.
The high-tech clientele expect nothing less.
In nearby Portola Valley, the Konditorei cafe - immortalised five years ago by tech industry entrepreneur Randy Komisar in his book "The Monk and The Riddle" - follows the same zombie-friendly policy.
Armando, manger of the Konditorei café in Portola Valley, advises: "Wi-fi etiquette? Keep using it until we kick you out."
Is there anything that doesn't vibrate these days?
Beds, chairs, phones, shavers, there's no end of buzz.
I guess you can add soap to the list now.
"The Vibrating Soap has a vibrating motor built into the soap itself."
Batteries not required — Doh!
"To use, simply lift the soap off the soap dish holder (included) and voila, it switches into vibrating mode."
"Colors will vary."
I happened on this strange site just now.
It would appear Dan Rather is their patron saint/poster boy, which I suppose makes sense.
The site states it is "dedicated to the lachrymal performance of the elderly."
The home page is headlined by a quotation from the Observer — "The clandestine nature of manly sobbing is a modern phenomenon."
But don't laugh — the site was featured on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now" (below)
last December 2 as follows: "There's even a web site called 'Old Men Crying' that posts photo after photo of tearful men and although some are offended — 'what sort of sick freak are you?' — the site's creator says he was inspired by his own father's tears."
All I know is Paula Zahn hasn't yet noted the existence of bookofjoe so hats off (and handkerchiefs and crying towels out) to oldmencrying.com.
Dress–A–Vac — 'Turn any upright vacuum into a great conversation piece!'
"Turn any upright vacuum into a great conversation piece!"
From the website:
- Doll up your upright vacuum with whimsical covers.
Handcrafted with plush heads and hands.
Keep your vacuum handy and hidden, free up room in closets.
Choose from Cat, Bunny, Bear or Maid.
Regularly priced at $19.95 — now reduced to move fast at $14.99 here.
If you don't tell, neither will I.