Deleters Versus Retainers

They say that opposites attract.  It must be true, because Kish and I are complete opposites in one very important modern characteristic.

I am a dedicated email deleter.  She is a confirmed email retainer.

We get along well despite this significant difference in our approaches to modern communications.  It’s just one of those distinctions and behavioral quirks that we ignore in furtherance of the greater good and the ultimate goal of happy household harmony.

IMG_7439In reality, I try to avoid even looking at Kish’s email box when its on our home computer screen, because it usually provokes a grim sense of horror.  Even a casual glance tells me that her inbox is chock full of obvious deletion candidates, like that Williams-Sonoma solicitation for us to buy high-end knives — one of dozens of Williams-Sonoma emails that we’ve received since we bought some cookware there a few weeks ago and reluctantly agreed to track the delivery of our order on-line.  (Sigh.)

In my in-box, such unrequested solicitations and other junk emails would be identified, highlighted en masse, and deleted immediately, with great relish.  But in Kish’s emailbox they are examined, and then . . . accumulate and remain, apparently forever.  She is a gentle soul at heart, and no doubt is pained at the thought that whoever sent the email might be troubled by a quick deletion — especially a deletion without even being read.

I like the idea of keeping a crisp, limited in-box, so that the important emails aren’t mixed in with a bunch of crap and unable to be promptly located amidst the clutter.  And, candidly, I enjoy the little thrill of accomplishment that comes from highlighting and deleting an entire screen of junk and then hitting the garbage can icon.  It gives me the same sense of control and glow of basic achievement that also comes from rinsing off the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, putting them in the dishwasher, and wiping off the counter, or sweeping off the back patio to remove the debris falling from the trees overhead.  “Begone, solicitations, and Twitter announcements, and Facebook notifications!,” I think.

I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to experience the joys of regular email deletion — but I guess such differences make the world go round.


It’s obvious that ad revenue on some free websites is tied to “clicks” — how many times people tap their mouse to access a story.  It’s one way for the website to account for its traffic and provide data to advertisers who want to know how many people are seeing their banners and pop-up ads.  Not surprisingly, many websites are set up to maximize clicks.  That’s why you often need to click “next page” to read an entire article, for example.

The most irritating aspect of the click-counting emphasis, however, are the articles that clearly are “clickbait.”  You’ve seen them featured on the websites you visit, cluttering things up like unsightly litter on the side of a highway:  where are members of the cast of an old TV show now, what “jaw-dropping” dresses got worn to a recent awards show, which celebrities have killed a person (number 8 will shock you!), what “weird trick” will allow you to immediately lose 20 pounds or secure your retirement, and on and on.  You’ve probably gotten to the point that you don’t even notice them anymore on the websites you visit.

What’s discouraging about the “clickbait” phenomenon, however, is that even more high-end internet content providers seem to be unable to resist publishing their own form of clickbait.  Those are articles that clearly are designed to stoke controversy and provoke criticism, in hopes that the articles will be linked and discussed on other websites.  They’ll gladly accept harsh bashings if a few more clicks come their way.

Even as august a publication as the New York Times isn’t immune from the lure of clickbait.  Recently the Times published an article called “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man” that can only be viewed as high-end clickbait.  It’s a silly piece that lists grossly implausible attributes of “modern men” — such as that they not only buy shoes for their wives, but will know their wife’s shoe size and which women’s shoe brands run large or small — and it’s gotten creamed all over the internet.  But I’m guessing that it’s been one of the biggest click-producers that the Times has published recently, and that will make the Times, and its advertisers, happy.  (I’m not going to link to it because the last thing I want to do is reward the publication of any more clickbait.)

It’s sad, really, to see publications like the Times stoop to the level of clickbait.  It makes me wonder what kind of long-term impact the internet is going to have on the quality of journalism in America.

Rating Everyone On-Line

You can “rate” just about any commercial enterprise on-line, and you can see what other people have to say about those enterprises, too.  So why not a ratings app that allows every everyday person to “rate” every other member of the general populace — whether that person wants to be “rated” or not?

Gee, what could go wrong with that?

Apparently such an app, called “Peeple,” is going to be rolled out in the near future.  It will allow you to post ratings, on a one-star to five-star system, of everyone you’ve known.  As currently configured, the app would allow you to be added to the mix by anyone who had your cell phone number — yet another reason to be circumspect in giving that number out, by the way — and once you’re on the site you’re fair game, whether you’re an attention hound who wants to be reviewed by the world, or not.

What’s the reason for such an app?  Well, some people say it would be nice to have a reference guide that would help them to determine whether to trust someone they’ve just met, but that seems like a pretty flimsy justification to me.  I might pay attention to the overall gist of ratings of a hotel or a restaurant, but are people really going to trust someone in important interpersonal dealings — think of picking a babysitter — because they’ve got one positive review on a mass website from somebody you don’t know?

The real reason for the app seems to be: well, why shouldn’t it exist?  We rate everything these days, don’t we?  And wouldn’t it be interesting to see what people have to say about each other — and, especially, about you?  In a selfie-saturated world, a people-rating site is bound to be appealing to those poor souls who stand at the absolute center of their own little world.  They’ll be flipping to that app constantly, checking to see whether they’ve received a new positive review, and posting positive ratings of their friends to encourage reciprocal ratings of themselves.  Hey, I’m up to an average rating of 4.75 stars!

If you want to be rated by the world, I suppose that’s fine — although I’m guessing that anyone so self-obsessed is bound to get a negative review or two that might jar their healthy self-image a bit.  The real problem is for those folks who would just like to exist without being “rated” by everyone, or thrust into the toxic world of on-line comments.  They’re not offering a hotel room or a meal to the general public; they’re not teaching a class or trying to get you to buy a ticket to see their film.  They’re just living their lives.  Must they really be subjected to “ratings” by people they’ve encountered?

This is another one of those socio-technological developments that seems fraught with peril and destined to produce some serious angst.

Fake Philanderers And Just Desserts

The saga of the “Ashley Madison” website — which used the tagline “Life is short.  Have an affair.” and purported to bring together people looking for confidential extramarital liaisons — just keeps getting better and better from a “just desserts” standpoint.

The whole concept of the website is appalling, obviously, but nevertheless a number of people looking to cheat on their spouses evidently signed up.  Apparently they didn’t have any qualms about giving their personal and financial information to a website that existed solely to facilitate adulterous sexual trysts. That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it, because marital misconduct traditionally has been one of the biggest causes of blackmail and extortion in the world — which means any rational cheater would be pretty dubious of entrusting a third party to arrange for their affair.

But a bunch of unfaithful sleazebags nevertheless did so, anyway, which logically would make the “Ashley Madison” website and its trove of data about cheating husbands a prime target for hackers.  After all, if you were a criminal looking to gather information that could be used to extort money from others, wouldn’t a database that collected the information of millions of philanderers whose very participation in the website was self-incriminating be impossible to resist?  And, that’s exactly what happened.  When the hacking incident was disclosed to the website’s users, how many of those cheating spouses who were titillated by the idea of having an affair began to dread the thought of phone calls from unknown numbers and started to scan their mail for anonymous letters?

But the “chickens coming home to roost” element gets even richer.  The hacking revealed that the website’s membership was decidedly male in makeup, by about a five-to-one ratio — and now there are allegations that a number of the “female” members never actually existed.  Data experts have been looking at the “Ashley Madison” data released by the hackers and tracing it back to root IP addresses, and say they are finding that thousands of the “female” members curiously share the very same IP address.  Others are claiming that the website sent out computer-generated messages from fake female members to the scuzzball husbands who signed up for the website — and then those husbands paid the website for the privilege of responding to tantalizing messages from potential sex partners who didn’t actually exist.

So the faithless guys who tumbled to the lure of “Ashley Madison” have been hacked, exposed, become prime candidates for extortion, and now discovered that they stupidly may have been paying for a pig in a poke (so to speak).  Karma is a bitch, isn’t it?

Hand Crank

On a recent trip, I asked to get the cheapest, most no-frills car that the rental agency offered — and they delivered.  And how!

IMG_6977Believe it or not, I got a car that did not have power windows.  Instead, it had the old hand crank, which I dutifully used to raise the window and lower it.  I found myself wondering how many people under the age of, say, 40 would even know what the hand crank was and how it worked.  They might still be searching for the automatic window button.

The car also did not have an automatic trunk de-latching lever — you had to manually use the key to unlock the trunk.  I know that this was mystifying to the younger generation, because the 20-something guy who brought my car from the valet parking area tried to pop the trunk , but couldn’t find a latch to do so.  When I explained that you needed to get out of the driver’s seat, go to the back, and unlock the trunk manually, he seemed astonished — like he expected pigeons to fly out of the trunk or some other magical feat to be performed.

I know the older set among us will be thinking about other signs of older cars versus newer cars.  I can advise you that (1) the car had seat belts, (2) the car had bucket seats, and (3) the car did not have only an AM radio.

Still, the hand crank for the windows was a trip down memory lane, back to the first few cars I ever owned.  It was bizarre to find it on a recently manufactured rig.

A Great Advance In Draft Beer Technology

Recently I was seated at a bar directly in front of the beer tap, engaged in a pleasant conversation.  We decided that the talk would be aided if we wet our whistles, so we ordered two drafts.  The barkeep placed a plastic cup on a platform, pressed it down, and the cup started to fill — from the bottom.

Wait . . . what just happened?  And thanks to that apparent bit of beer tap magic, the conversation stopped dead in its tracks.


It turns out that what we thought were the beer taps were really just for show, to let people know what draft options were available.  The bartender explained that the bar was using the latest in draft beer technology, and what seemed like magic was really just a clever use of magnetism.  Each plastic cup has a coated magnetic disk oon top of a metal ring on its bottom, covering a hole through which the beer is poured.  When the cup is pressed on to the beer injection surface, the disk is dislodged and the beer rises to the top, without any spillage or sudsy overflow.  When the cup is moved, the disk moves back to the bottom of the cup, keeping the beer snug and secure, ready to be enjoyed.  According to the barkeep, the system was first seen on a TV show where entrepreneurs display their products, and it works like a charm.

The bar saves money because no beer is wasted, and the customer gets a perfectly poured glass of cold beer — and a little magic show, besides.  Pretty cool!

Old Phones For Old Folks

I’ve really come to dislike those T-Mobile commercials.  Filled with quick cuts from one group of happy, dancing twenty-somethings to guitar-playing scruffs to youthful, grinning selfie-snappers, all of whom are precisely dishevelled and wearing kicky scarves and snazzy hats, the T-Mobile commercials are even more specifically focused at an age group than toy commercials on Saturday morning TV.

And it’s an age group that I no longer belong to.


I’ve been dimly aware for some time that I’m completely out of it when it comes to phones.  I know this because of the shocked expressions of my younger colleagues when I haul out my cell phone, immediately followed by a bemused expression when I plug it in to charge the battery — again.  It’s the same bemused expression you probably gave your grandparents when you noticed that they spilled food on themselves while eating a recent meal and are walking around with tomato soup on their blouse and breadcrumbs on their cardigan.

I think I’ve got an iPhone 4.  Could a new iPhone do more, if I got one?  Undoubtedly.  But my current phone provides the limited phone/email/internet access/apps I actually use — and, candidly, rather than being moved to ecstatic dancing about getting a new phone, I kind of dread the thought.  I know that when I go to get one the customer service rep will be some precisely dishevelled, phone-arrogant twenty-something who probably plays guitar on breaks who will ask me condescending questions about my phone needs that I don’t fully understand.  It’s nettlesome.  Plus, there’s an obvious risk that, when I get a new phone, the apps I actually use will mysteriously vanish or move or be unworkable.  So I stick to my old, tried-and-true, reliable-if-constantly-leaking-battery-power phone.

When I see those irritating T-Mobile commercials, I feel guilty about my phone backwardness — but then I read a recent survey that shows that a majority of Americans will upgrade their phones only when the phone stops working or becomes obsolete.  That basically means I’m still comfortably in the majority and maybe even a titch ahead of the curve, because my phone still works fine and doesn’t appear to be obsolete — not that I would know.

Ha!  So take that, T-Mobile!  It’s nice to know that there is a Silent Majority of technology-challenged Americans who aren’t data obsessed and sent into paroxyms of dancing joy by the newest cell phone and data service plan.

Now excuse me while I check my shirt for food stains.