Fan Fans

It’s been obscenely hot in Columbus recently.  We’ve had the appalling combination of stifling temperatures, high humidity, and sunshine that make you feel both broiled and wilted at the same time.  Under such conditions, any rational person lingers inside, where they can enjoy the blessings of air conditioning.

IMG_2599Yesterday some friends and I went to a fundraiser at a local business that doesn’t have air conditioning.  (Who knew that such places still exist?)  They did, however, have a big industrial-sized fan that was running at peak speed.  Fans really aren’t an adequate substitute for air conditioning.  In reality, they mostly blow the hot air around.  But any breeze is preferable to sweltering in the hot, dead air, and when there’s no alternative a gigantic fan that’s blasting out air currents at close to hurricane speeds will have to do the trick.

I grew up in a house that didn’t have air conditioning, and the room UJ and I shared always had a window fan during the summer months.  It was loud as hell and didn’t really make the room that much cooler, but it was fun to talk through the spinning blades and hear your voice emerge, chopped up and garbled, from the other end.

Yesterday I resisted the temptation to talk through the fan again, but after standing for a bit to the side of the room, and feeling like we were going to melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, we shamelessly moved directly in front of the fan.  We tried to avoid completely blocking the air currents, in deference to the other people in the room, but the interests of self-preservation in the face of the blazing heat kicked in and overwhelmed our sense of social decorum.  We weren’t the only ones who were repositioning ourselves in relation to the fan, either.  As the gathering went on, people were drawn to the fan’s wind tunnel effect like moths to a flame.

Fantasy’s End

There’s one good thing so far about the upcoming NFL season — we’re not being constantly bombarded by those annoying commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel, those fantasy sports sites that presented themselves as the roads to big money.

draftkings-valuation-plummetingLast year, you just couldn’t avoid those stupid commercials, where scruffy looking guys got big checks and talked about how they got huge paydays after investing only a few bucks.  For a time, the two principal fantasy sports sites spent more on advertising during sporting events than the beer companies — which is the highest possible standard you can reach when you are talking about advertising designed to reach the American male. We saw those DraftKings and FanDuel commercials in our nightmares.

Now, though, you don’t see or hear much about FanDuel and DraftKings.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines has a good article about why that is so.  It’s long, but it tells an fascinating story about how the sites came to be, their rapid rise to prominence and their aggressive marketing, their competition with each other, their legal troubles — and mostly how they came to be a way for professional players to sweep up the investments of small-time recreational players you were lured by the “get-rich-quick” commercials.  The casual players who thought they knew baseball or the NFL from their everyday status as fans would get creamed by the sophisticated players who had spreadsheets and algorithms and spent all day working the sites.

Ultimately, those annoying, ever-present ads attracted the attention of people like New York’s Attorney General, who started to look into DraftKings and FanDuel and consider whether they violated New York’s laws against gambling.  Ultimately, the NY AG sent letters to the sites telling them to stop accepting bets from New Yorkers.  Other state AGs began investigating, too, and people filed civil lawsuits.  DraftKings and FanDuel worked to get states like New York to regulate the industry and permit it to function, so they could start accepting money from New Yorkers again.  Now the two companies are talking merger and trying to figure out ways to make the games safer for casual players and avoid predatory play by the pros.

It will be interesting to see whether FanDuel and DraftKings make it.  Me, I’m just glad that I’m not seeing the commercials any more.

The Fed On Facebook

Recently the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System — let’s call them the Fed — decided it would be a good idea to have a Facebook page.  You know . . . Facebook, that aging social media site where people post selfies and pictures of babies and weddings and political memes that don’t change anyone’s mind.  Yes, that Facebook.

So why did the Fed decide it needed a Facebook page?  It’s not entirely clear.  After all, the Fed has functioned for decades without having much of a public face.  It’s the grey, boring group behind currency and interest rate decisions, all of which are made by unelected people who are completely unknown to 99.99% of us.  So why Facebook?  Who knows?  Maybe the Fed, like other aging Facebookers, just wanted to get a little attention.

fed20reactions203You can see the Fed’s Facebook page here.  It’s a pretty hilarious page, actually, because the Fed decided to allow people to comment, and every post by the Fed features venomous comments from people who think the Fed has ruined American money, manipulated our currency, and should be audited to determine its fundamental solvency.  The Fed isn’t responding to the comments, so a bland post about one of the Fed’s “key functions” provokes an avalanche of over-the-top haymakers from the Fed haters.  It’s probably the most tonally disproportionate Facebook page in history, and even the American Banker, which is normally pretty sympathetic to the Fed, has declared the Fed’s Facebook page a full-fledged disaster.

It’s hard to imagine that a federal entity would think it’s wise to have a Facebook page, and it make you wonder how much it costs the Fed (that is, we taxpayers) to pay the schlub who writes the puff pieces that then get ripped to shreds by internet trolls who are happy to have a new target for their venom.  I can’t believe anybody at the Fed, or any other federal agency, honestly believes that people are going to learn about the agency and what they do by going to Facebook, as opposed to the agency’s own website or, God forbid, an actual book.  How many people go to Facebook expecting to get the unvarnished truth?   Does anyone?

Maybe there’s a positive in this catastrophic combination of faceless but powerful government entity and social media:  maybe the Fed will decide not to proceed with its impending dips into Tumblr, Ello, Hyper, Shots, and Bebo.

Ramen Trade

Anybody who’s ever seen a prison movie knows that cigarettes are the currency of choice for inmates, with coffin nails being furtively traded for information, goods, or special treatment.  Earlier this week the Guardian carried an article suggesting that coffin nails have been replaced — in some prisons, at least — by ramen noodles.

ramenAccording to a study by a doctoral candidate, the popularity of those square packets of ramen noodles that are ready to be tossed into boiling water with salty “flavor” packets is due to a combination of factors.  First, the quality of prison food apparently has declined significantly, because prison populations have increased and spending on prisons and supplies like food hasn’t kept pace.  Second, many of the inmates exercise constantly, and those ramen meals are high in calories and give them an energy boost.  One inmate actually wrote a book about the ramen culture in prison and provided some favorite inmate ramen “recipes” — like the truly disgusting sounding “Ramen Tamale,” made from Doritos, canned pork and beans, and ramen.  (I can only imagine the sodium content of that combination.)

Ramen noodles have been known to start fights in prisons, and allegedly inmates have been killed over their failure to repay ramen “debts.”  The Guardian reports that ramen noodles also helped resolved a race riot between African-American and Hispanic inmates in one prison who reached a peace accord and marked the resolution with a ramen feast.

As any college student knows, ramen is one of the cheapest foods you can buy.  It’s weird, and sad, to think that ramen packets that can be purchased at any grocery store for pennies have become the currency of choice for inmates, and that human beings are fighting and dying over a hardened brick of noodles that provides a single serving of soup.  The “ramen trade” should cause state governments to take a hard look at the quality, and amount, of food available in our prisons.

The Charging Issue

Should you charge your smartphone overnight, or not?  It’s one of those choices that wasn’t an issue years ago but that is now complicating our modern lives.

20150911171157-iphone-charging-apple-batteryThis article on MSN says:  it depends.  The act of charging is bad for the battery on your phone, even though my iPhone, and Android phones, have chips that prevent them from being overcharged.  That’s because one of the recent smartphone advances is the incorporation of technology that allows phones to accept more current, faster.  As a result, we no longer have to groan because it takes freaking forever! for our phones to charge.  But, that quick-charging technology also causes lithium-ion batteries to corrode more quickly than they would otherwise.  So, if you are charging your phone overnight, you are promoting battery corrosion.

Why is the MSN answer “it depends”?  Because the corrosion process is gradual, and batteries usually don’t start showing signs of wear for two years — which is about the period of time many people use a phone before upgrading to get their hands on the latest model.  So, if you’re the kind of person who plans on getting a new phone whenever your cell phone carrier allows you to do so, charge away, baby!

I’m not one of those people; I keep my cell phone until is goes toes up.  I also charge my phone overnight.  Rationally, I accept the conclusion that by doing so I am contributing to eventual battery performance problems, but emotionally it is hard for me to not start the day with a fully charged phone.  I’ve been caught with a dying phone too many times, and therefore my reflex approach is to charge up when I can — like overnight.  But I defer to science.  I’m going to try a new approach, not begin to charge until I get up, and then stop the process when I hit that 100% charged level.  We’ll see how it goes.  Old habits die hard.

Card Family

This weekend we had a blast up at Put-In-Bay, thanks to the generous hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Gleeful Retiree.  Saturday night eight of us sat down to play a little euchre tournament, with team pairings that changed every five hands.  It was a lot of fun.

luep0gEuchre is a great game for that setting, because each player is dealt only five cards.  As a result, every hand is over quickly, so if you get a crappy hand — which unfortunately happens from time to time — it’s only a matter of a few minutes before you get a new one that hopefully isn’t filled with nines and tens.  And there’s never a gap in table talk, either, because each hand offers opportunities to chat about the cards, the hand just played, the lay-down loner you didn’t get to call, and your run of ridiculous, inexplicable bad luck.

It’s the first time I’ve played euchre in a while, and it brought back a lot of memories.  I come from a card family, and both Mom and Dad’s families were card families, too.  For as long as I can remember, cards were a huge part of the Webner family dynamic.  Kids progressed through the card game difficulty spectrum — starting with war, moving on to hearts, spades, gin rummy, and euchre, and finally getting up to cribbage and bridge.  On  family vacations, there always was a nightly euchre tournament where different combinations of uncles, cousins, and grandparents paired off for some friendly competition and bragging rights, and taunting was the order of the day.  The bad jokes and gibes around the card tables at those euchre tournaments are some treasured memories and helped to make my childhood a little richer.

Some families are card families, some families aren’t.  I’m glad I was from a card family.  Richard and Russell are good card players, and we’ve had some good times playing cards together.  I’m happy they’re carrying on the family tradition.

Jack Riley

Jack Riley died this week.  His name might not be familiar, but he played the memorable character Carlin — one of Bob’s patients — on The Bob Newhart Show.  Riley was famous for his venomous deadpan delivery, which made virtually every line he uttered a funny moment.  In the clip above — which is actually from the later show Newhart — Riley riffs on his earlier character.

TV shows normally have obvious stars, but what typically separates the great shows from the less-than-great is the ancillary characters that can develop and blossom — characters like Larry, Darrell, and Darrell on Newhart, or Cliff Clavin on Cheers, or Newman on Seinfeld.  Carlin was one of those characters.