A family illness

While I’m a fan of many sports, and my following of these sports is quite tidal, there are three bloodsports in my life that return time and again. I will follow these sports rigorously for a time, take a break if the talent wanes, and return again at some point to again root for my team or participant. These staple sports are: Longhorns college football, championship boxing, and the Miss America Organization beauty pageants.

So it was with great enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago that I accepted an invitation to judge the final preliminary for the Miss Louisiana Pageant, the Miss Louisiana Jazzland pageant in Shreveport, La. The competition was Saturday, but it was going to be a long and grueling day. So I made plans to overnight in Shreveport and make a weekender out of it. Friday, we would go to Shreveport, we would arrive early enough to do some shopping, to hit the Nissan dealership for a wheel center-cap (missing for years before I bought my Altima), and maybe catch a show or a buffet at a casino.

We planned accordingly. I sorted out the clothes I’d like to take for the two-day trip. Kya put down extra food for the cats, fed the fish an extra time, and we packed our bags–even remembering to bring our toothbrushes. The one thing I forgot to do was to water her majesty.

For my 35th birthday, my friend and colleague Sunny Meriwether gave me a beautiful phalaenopsis known as Queen Beersheba, according to the little tag that she came with. She was in bloom when Sunny gave her to my keeping, instructing me on the proper care and maintenance of my new charge. I was to keep her watered well, but not so well that she got root rot. Also, orchid food was an imperative. Not too much light, but enough that she thrived. Not in the window, but near the window. Don’t let her dry out.

Before we go any further, understand this if you understand nothing else: I walk through a cemetery and the silk flowers wilt. Vinyl leaves start to drop from plastic stems of fake tropicals. I can’t keep dirt alive, much less an actual green plant–which is sad and virtually inexplicable, since a green thumb runs in my family. My grandmother could grow an oak tree from a well-varnished table leg and my mother once (quite legendarily, I might add,) kept the same English ivy alive and thriving for more than twenty years. That particular plant, a condolence gift during my brother’s funeral, only succumbed to advancing age last year after it got “shocked” during a move to Arkansas.

So when I say it’s inexplicable that I can’t keep plants alive, hopefully you believe me. And it’s not for wont of trying. I worked in a nursery one summer after high school and before college. They made me stack bails of pine straw because of an unfortunate incident in which fifty pallets of flowers died after a routine watering. The instructions from the owner had told me to turn the spigot to half, water for ten minutes, then come back and turn the spigot off. I did this precisely. Every day for three days, just as instructed. I added nothing, I took nothing away. Inexplicably, the plants all died and I was relegated to bail duty and loading bags of potting soil. Nothing doing with plants from that point on. It wasn’t my first failure. I tried every year, three times a year, to seed a yard growing up. Nothing. Those “roll out and water” flower mats? Still black and dead and buried now under someone else’s flowers, I suppose. Even the oak tree in the front yard of Sandy Halperin’s house eventually had to come down after a truly modest trimming of only the greenest branches.

Plants do not like me. Period.

Except Her Majesty, the Queen. She has thrived under my hand for 338 days, sitting loved and secure on the corner of my computer desk. She didn’t mind when she got relocated slightly to make room for the larger monitor. She just adjusted a leaf or two and went about her business of being green and preparing for a spring blossom which was, until this weekend, only days away.

Today, the postmortem:

Tuesday, she was fine. The mossy head of her pewter pot was still damp, but I knew she would need water in about a day. Wednesday, it was closer but a scare earlier in the year made me gun-shy. Thursday, I forgot to check. Friday, we left early. I didn’t come back to the desk until this morning, when I found her single, long spike yellowing and withered. Of the four large, succulent green leaves, only three remained. The fourth, having fallen to the bottom of the pewter pot, was flaccid and broken. A second leave seems to have a split near the stem, but I’m hopeful that it may recover or, at the very least, won’t destroy the rest of the plant. Also, the stem itself still has some green at the tip and near the base, so perhaps with a little luck she may survive. I don’t expect her to flower, though, which is a letdown.

I’m more than a little ashamed how all this has affected me, too.

I’m listening to Mozart, avoiding a pile of work I have to get done before midnight, and trying to will her back to health. (It’s not working.) Losing a plant should not be this sad, this depressing. Yet, it is, if only because of what she represents. Perseverance, attention to details, and repetitive actions have paid off. At the same time, this gift came at a time when I was expecting nothing and it meant so much. I’ve even said a little prayer for my plant today.

I’ll keep you posted on her progress. Wish me luck.

Bailouts have Strings?! Nooooo!!!!

Four years ago, AIG begged for and received a $125 BILLION bailout from the citizens of the United States. They paid that money back–with interest. In exchange, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank held a 92% equity stake as collateral on the loan.

Over the weekend, AIG began to air television commercials in which the company bragged about how it was “back” and had repaid every penny and even generated a profit for taxpayers/The Fed. The employees featured thanked you and me for taking these extraordinary measures to save a massive, massive company from oblivion.

Yesterday, AIG joined a class action lawsuit claiming the Government deprived it and its shareholders of $25 billion in profits during the bailout period before it repaid the money.

To AIG, AIG shareholders, and attorneys, and on behalf of the people who saved your sorry asses from both prison and demise: kindly go #!$@ yourselves.

 

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The Vegans and the Carnivore: a parable

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This started out as a note to all my Christian friends. But the message is something bigger and I think it bears sharing. Then again, I’m a novelist, an English major and a reporter. So I usually think every thought in my head is worth sharing, even when it’s not.)

Post-election, it’s important to note as we realize that the Earth still travels its path around the Sun, the tides still roll, and fire and brimstone have not rained down from the heavens, that Jesus, Paul and a fleet of prophets all said things go just as the were ordered ‘before in the beginning.’ That does not mean that “God has turned his back on America,” “America has run away from God,” “We are being punished for gays/drugs/drinking/fornicating,” and any permutation of that argument. It simply means that, from a “God” standpoint, everything is as it was always intended to be.

To put it as my atheist and determinist friends would understand: Obama won because unknowable subatomic particles bumped together during the Big Bang, setting off a causal chain leading, inexorably, to the victory of President Barack Obama over Gov. Mitt Romney. If you’re one of my free-will Christian friends, well…I believe “free will” and “Christian” are mutually exclusive terms. Free Will appears no where in the Bible where it is not directly countermanded by the word of God. If you’re among my “free will” atheist friends, then there’s just no helping you. Go read Edward Lorenz and hope for the best.

I wanted to preface what I’m about to say with all of that to say this:

If you are a Christian American, believe in Jesus Christ, and in the immutable power of God, trust that immutable power, would you?! Just because someone next door is gay/lesbian/killing baby sea lions does NOT mean that *you* will be gay/lesbian/killing baby sea lions. As proof, I offer up the parable of the Vegans and the Carnivore.

Two young vegans moved into a new apartment building. The building was in a nice neighborhood surrounded by pleasant trees, across from a quiet park and adjacent to a community garden. There was room in the apartment for the two young vegans to start a family, to grow vegetables next door, and to share in the glory of the Universe by basking in the sun on warm Spring mornings. The first evening in their new home, in which the Vegans anticipated spending the rest of their lives, passed quietly. The following day, they arose, ate a delicious breakfast of hearty wheat toast and Marmite topped with sprouts and tomato. The couple went for a walk in the park and then staked out their spot in the community garden. But when they returned to their home, they noticed something they hadn’t smelled before. It was a thick, heavy, sweet smell and it permeated everything. Even the bathroom, which normally smelt of lilac and lavender, wreaked with this heavenly scent. Our young Vegans searched for the source of this aroma, which was quickly growing on them. “There is something pleasant about it, don’t you think,” He Vegan said. “Yes,” agreed She Vegan. “Indeed there is. But we must find it, because it is making me hungry!” Finally, the young Vegans discovered the source: the vent pipe over the stove was the source. Their neighbor next door, the Carnivore, was frying bacon.

Now…you have a choice, my dear friends. Think of it as a choose your own adventure.

Do you think a.) our young heroes rushed down to the corner Rouses and  bought bacon, which they devoured from the pack raw and with their bare hands? Or do you believe b.) they immediately packed up and moved to another country to be far away from the Carnivore? Option c.) is also a possibility: they beat on the Carnivore’s door and bombarded him with Vegan books, Vegan literature and a photo slideshow of a sausage factor. Maybe, for some, Option d.) represents the course: they lived next door and utilized will power to avoid faltering and falling off the no-meat wagon.

Think about this the next time you hear someone suggest that “neighbors doing drugs means I’ll do drugs,” in the War on Drugs or someone tells you that allowing Gays to marry will destroy Straight marriage. That, my friends, is the argument they are making and that, my friends is just as crazy as thinking our Young Vegans will begin butchering swine in their living room because the Carnivore fried bacon.

 

 

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Finding inspiration and will power

One of the most frequent questions writers are asked is about their “writing space,” that special place to which they retreat to spend hours upon hours with a keyboard and a stack of blank paper. The question is a tried and true staple of interviewers seeking to get inside the heads of their writer-subjects.

Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up in what was little more than a tree house. Dorothy Parker (and several others for that matter), wrote in bed. I’m told from a reliable source that Anne Rice‘s writing space is a room comprising four walls, a floor and the ceiling, all painted primer white. She has her desk and a cup of Sharpies she uses to write on the walls, floor, wherever she can find a blank spot. It’s kind of John Nash, if you ask me, but who am I to judge?

I have my own writing space at home. It’s nothing fancy. A computer monitor, a great IBM Model M keyboard, a trackball, and about a gazillion items that I find either inspirational or distracting. I’ve written some about the setup before, about the pictures overlooking the desk and about my Joe DiMaggio autograph on the wall.

What I haven’t told you much about is the framed picture on the far corner.

The photo resides in a simple black frame that is a little oversized for the print. I’m standing in a room of people with my arm around an older woman. We’re both wearing badges and it’s obvious we’re at a conference of some sort. What isn’t obvious is why she’s on my desk.

She’s not a recognizable face. And, unless you’re an avid reader of things other than James Patterson, she may not be a recognized name. More often than not, I’m asked, “Is this your mother?” (Sorry, Julia.)

She’s not my mother. She’s National Book Award Winner Julia Glass. And she said some of the nicest things about one of my books. (You can read some of what she had to say on the back cover of The Patriot Joe Morton. It was quite lovely, I promise.)

I keep her photo on my desk, though, not for what she said about my book but instead for what she wrote to me when she signed her book.

“Persevere!”

It’s inspiration advice, to be sure. And it’s the only way writers of any calibre or quality are ever going to find success and recognition. But right now, as I stare at this screen and sit in this room, completely unable to write the first coherent word of the next book, it’s about the only thing keeping me strapped in this chair.

Maybe I’ll watch the Olympics or something and try to find some inspiration.

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Villain, thou name is Grammar

I’m not a grammar Nazi. I don’t wander around with a copy of Strunk & White‘s Elements of Style in my satchel, waiting to pounce on the first individual to dangle a modifier or end a sentence with a preposition. (Okay, fine. I do carry a copy of Strunk & White. But I don’t lie in wait to pounce….) And I’ll almost guarantee you that I’ll break more than a few rules of grammar in this post. (Hint: I already have. Twice. Make that three times now.)

But today, I noticed something that bothers me. It makes the little prickles on the back of my neck rise. It is the chronic misuse of the noun “graduate,” specifically in conjunction with the modifier “former.

I’ve seen it in headlines on newspapers across the country, in Facebook posts, and on at least one tee-shirt. While I don’t go as far as my old friend, Sandy Halperin, and insist that the verb “to graduate” be limited to its transitive form, I cannot abide by “former graduate” because it is not only bad writing, but it says the exact opposite of the intended.

So let’s clear this up once and for all.

Graduate is a binary state. Either you are or you are not a graduate. Once you have become a graduate, you cannot be “ungraduated” from your institution, at least not without good cause. The phrase “graduate” needs no modifier to indicate that the individual graduated years ago. If you do wish to indicate the passage of time, you’ll need to use more words. For example: Class of 2012 Graduate Joe Blow.

But if Joe has, in fact, received a diploma from the University of Biteme, he will forever be a graduate of the University of Biteme. The only — and this is the only — way he can ever become a former graduate is for the university to rescind his diploma. This very rarely happens.

What would help headline writers and copyeditors with this needlessly troublesome little word, (which is, after all, a scant three syllables long), would be to modify it appropriately in the other direction. If you wish to describe someone as a “recent” graduate, that is perfectly okay. I even encourage you to do so because it will bring a much needed bit of clarity to the word. “Graduate” is in the past–any time in the past. “Recent graduate” means it happened sometime in the relatively recent past.

Technology Retrograde

Or: Why we need frontiers to succeed as a species.

One of my favorite television shows is AMC’s Mad Men. For the three people on the planet unfamiliar with the hit drama, the story revolves around the lives and work of a group of advertising executives at the height of the Madison Avenue golden age, also known as the 1960s.

The show is the brainchild of Matthew Weiner, Mad Men tells the story of an era of wonder, hope and progress through the jaded filter of Don Draper and his band of cohorts. So spoiled as a generation were these people by modern marvels like the microwave, color television, and the electric typewriter, they often failed to notice the Space Race and man’s inevitable march toward the stars.

I fail to notice it, too. But that has more to do with the constant march in reverse where exploration is concerned, and less to do with the wonder I demonstrate each morning when I push the largest of the three available cup sizes on my Keurig.

I clicked with great interest this Space.com story about the Boeing Corporation‘s latest and greatest spaceship, which the headline promised had undergone a very successful test. As I waited for the page to load, my mind conjured up images of sleek, gleaming slivers of metal and carbon nanotubes streaking through the sky. Of course, the latest and greatest spaceship should be powered by an ion pulse engine, so of course the beast seems to hover in mid-air by some sort of magic.

Then the page loaded, and what did I see? A capsule yanked from 1963.

Where was my shiny new spaceship? What about those ion pulse engines? And why was there a picture of an Apollo-era capsule crashing towards the desert floor?

Then it hit me. This is the latest and greatest. We’ve given up on the space race because we’ve given up on progress. We’re too comfortable, too laid back. Why do we need to fight for anything at all when what we have is so easily obtainable?

So I decided right then to give you a preview of the coming technological innovations:

1.) Don’t mess around with those silly bullets anymore! No! You need the latest and greatest in MUSKET technology! That’s right, load it yourself, pack in the powder and let ‘er rip! (And if you’re really lucky, you’re a fast enough on the reload to actually hit your target in the next volley. That is, of course, as long as your target isn’t a ravenous, rabid bear who closes the distance between the two of you before you manage to reload.)

2.) Gas stations are a drag. So is that awful smell! Avoid it all with the Buick Steemer. We at Buick pride ourselves on being the first to market with this new technology. A cast-iron pot sits above a fire pit. You fill the pot with water and the truck behind the driver’s seat with firewood. Strike a flint, stoke the flames, and in roughly two hours, you’re chugging your way to work powered only by WATER!

3.) Don’t you get tired of dialing numbers on those little glass-screened keypads? All that clikittyclickclick gets old. The audophone is for you. This do-it-yourself project is perfect for everyone. Two empty bean cans, a spool of twine. And voila! Mr. Watson, I need you!

4.) First, there was bipedal motion. Then came crudely fashioned strips of animal flesh wrapped around the feet. Now, the latest development in the evolution of human movement. Get rid of that 747. Park the yacht. And put away the keys of that Porche. Are you ready for…the stone wheel?

Yeah…I didn’t think so either.

So, Boeing, here’s a little message from little ol’ me to big ol’ you. Innovate already. I’m tired of us getting our collective asses kicked by communist China. Hell, North Korea’s on the heels of the technology you just “debuted” in the desert.

 

A Dab of Luck?

Elliot Engel @ Pinewood Country Club, Sponsore...
Elliot Engel, Author “A Dab of Dickens, a Touch of Twain.” (Photo credit: Asheboro Public Library)

(Or: How astrology seems to impact the pattern of literature)

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not buy much into the belief that where the stars are when you are born plays a large role in your development as a human being. I’m enough of a hard determinist to refrain from discounting the possibility, but I would think that the ability to measure what must be minute causal affects and their subsequent effects would be next to impossible. Having said that, we proceed.

I’m currently enjoying A Dab of Dickens, A Touch of Twain, a book by renowned lecturer Dr. Elliot Engel, in which the doctor follows the development of English-language literature from Chaucer to Hemingway. In each of the couple dozen biographical sketches, Engel shares pithy insights, wit, and just a dab of what went in to making the literary greats–well…literary greats.

One interesting point he raised is that lasting literary genius generally occurs in clusters of five or six authors who come onto the scene around the same year and exit in their own good time. Specifically, Elliot notes that great literary periods are born in five-to-six-year spans, with the birth dates of the authors clustered inside.

Examples of this phenomenon abound, but perhaps the most well-known cluster today entangles the Modernist greats.  Dos Passos (January, 1896) led the pack. He was followed promptly by Messrs. Fitzgerald (September, 1896), Faulkner (1897), and Hemingway (1899). Steinbeck provided a punctuation mark on the whole thing, being born on a cold February morn in 1902. According to Engel, following this explosion of literary genius, there wasn’t much in the way of lasting writers. And there certainly wasn’t a dearth of them.

That got me to thinking about the cultural relevance of great writers in their own day and how they seem to transcend the time in which they write by finding a universal relevance. And, relevance it is. With the glaring exception of Dos Passos, all of the modernists are well-remembered for both their books, their impact on society of their day, and their lasting value to the study of Literature. And note the capital-L literature, please.

I don’t know what the answer is to this conundrum. It’s hard to forget they were all alive and most of them fighting in World War I. Surely that had a cultural impact on them. But they all also felt what they had to say was important enough to warrant putting it down on paper and then asking people to pay them for the privilege of reading it. Say what you will, and remember, I’m speaking as both a journalist and a multi-published novelist, that takes cajones.

Then again, all of these people knew one another. They were, if not friends, at least colleagues. Maybe the literary atmosphere itself is part of the catalyst? I really don’t know. But looking at the best-selling writers today, I’m terrified of what the future holds for literary studies of the early 21st Century. The other day, I found a well-loved copy of The Notebook tucked in between Moby Dick and Madame Bovary at a local book fair. I’m certain it was either a misfiling on the part of an overworked volunteer or a change of heart from someone who realized they already have a well-loved copy of The Notebook next to their own copy of Moby Dick. Nevertheless, I have had a constant stream of nightmare visions of trudging into a bookstore when I’m seventy and finding the Classics section overrun with Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks.

The joys of a french press

English: French Press
A French press service. (Image via Wikipedia)

For years, I was one of those people who looked at the glass and steel lines of a French press sitting in the corner of a friend’s fancy-dancy kitchen with about the same look of condescension that I shot at countertop pasta machines. I mean, seriously, people. Why does a simple cup of coffee require special cups and surgical-grade pyrex and stainless to prepare?

Then Starbucks quit brewing my favorite variety. And, to be quite frank, what passes as brewed coffee in a Starbucks is much more aptly described as “burned coffee bean husks in muddy water.”

So I complained. That’s when the helpful barista  changed my life.

“Why don’t you order a French press?”

Surely she was joking. Who on earth would want one of those effete phallus-wannabees on their table? Certainly not me. I was anything but convinced, so she pressed on.

“Really, it’s great! I’ll give you one on the house.”

Now was I in a pickle! While I thought the French press was little more than a poncey affectation the Frogs used to mask an obviously depraved cultural turpitude, I had spent a king’s ransom in Starbucks over the years. Here was my opportunity to put one over on Starbuck and those dandy hairdressers all at once. Then I took a sip.

Sitting on the corner of my desk, right now, is the poncey coffee maker. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, and I most certainly didn’t buy one of those stainless numbers. No, mine is a much more reasonable plastic-and-glass model by Bodum. But it makes damned good coffee, even from crap beans. Every time I make a pot, coworkers flock to my desk, their cups perched in their open hands like something out of Dickens.

Now that I’ve had a press for about six months, I do have to admit I was wrong. There is something infinitely relaxing about the hands-on nature of making a press. The plunger slides–no, glides–the plunger glides down, leaving in its wake delicious refreshment. The glass beckons quietly from that shelf in the kitchen, “Hey…pick me.”

And sometimes, I imagine what happens when I leave the house and it’s just the kitchen utensils and my three cats.

They’re on the sofa, listening as the Bodum argues with the Keurig about which one makes a better cup.

I’m glad I’m not expected to settle that particular dispute. They can discuss it amongst themselves, when I’m not there.

The end of hatred on (our) airwaves?

(Or: Rush Limbaugh should just STFU.)

I believe we are witnessing the death of hatred on the public’s airwaves.

Let me start by saying that I will defend, to the death, the right of anyone to say anything they damned well please, so long as they do not represent a public threat (the classic “shouting fire” rule).  When Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves on his nationally syndicated talk radio program and verbally attacked a Georgetown student because she wants her insurance to pay for birth control, he inadvertently taught us a valuable lesson.

This is America, where every citizen has a right to say whatever vile, hate-filled and disgusting things they can think of. Thank the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment for that right. Rush is absolutely protected from prosecution from the government for calling the student a slut, a whore, and several other equally unflattering and, frankly, misogynistic names.

But that doesn’t mean Rush is free from the effect of his words.

Today, national advertiser “The Sleep Train” pulled its ads from Limbaugh’s show, citing intense blowback from the mattress manufacturer’s customer base, which took to the interwebs to defend the young woman against Rush’s fury. The advertiser made what it believes to be the prudent decision to cease a voluntary affiliation with someone who spouts hatred and venom, as Rush did in his attack on the Georgetown student. This will cost Rush and his investors precious revenue and will cut, however insignificantly, into that $20 million he makes a year. To his credit, Rush has yet to call out The Sleep Train on their withdrawal from his program.

But Rush and his somewhat-smaller bank book is not where the real story lay. For that, one has to understand how syndicated radio works.

Talk radio operates on advertising revenues. Rush makes money because Sleep Train pays him to run its ads during his program. Affiliates pay Rush for the right to broadcast his show, in which Rush has a certain number of advertising minutes reserved for The Sleep Train and other show sponsors. The show comes down with gaps in Rush’s programming, which the individual affiliates hope to fill with advertising of their own — enough to pay the affiliate fee and to produce a profit  justify carrying his program.  Pay attention, because this is where it gets a little tricky.

Radio stations sell those ads to local businesses. Some stations also take part in regional or national advertising networks that ship them ads to fill space. So, without having any real input, Molly Mabry Realty and Joe’s Seafood Emporium are advertising on the Rush Limbaugh Show, whether they realize it or not.  So are some national companies, like Century 21.

And lest you think Century 21 is unconcerned about this dilemma, they took to Twitter today to confirm that they are in point of fact not a sponsor of the Rush Limbaugh Program, in direct response to the Georgetown Birth Control flap.

Now the affiliates are involved in revenue loss, perhaps they will start paying attention to what goes on their airwaves. Just maybe, they’ll take notice of Rush’s antics and rein in the Big Guy. Or, maybe, they’ll find out he can’t be reined in and they’ll just remove him from the airwaves all together. Either way, this is the start of something very different, very exciting and quite new. And Rush doesn’t get to complain about this. It’s simply the effect of the free market.

God bless the United States of America.

Wal-Mart, you’re still the Devil

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted that Wal-Mart is the Devil. This morning, the company’s Twitter-monitor replied. Below is the e-mail I sent to the Twitter-monitor, who asked if there was anything that Wal-Mart could do to make my customer experience better.

To Whom it May Concern:
I recently received a tweet-reply to a comment I posted about the fact that your company is the Devil. Thank you for your concern about my recent experience at a Wal-Mart store. There are, in fact, things your company could do to make my customer experience better.

1.) Hire qualified people. The people you hire are the lowest common denominator of the lowest possible level of competence or initiative. Better people would make a better company. That would make for better customers.

2.) Hire more people. It would be one thing if the people were just incompetent. Your stores are ludicrously understaffed. This makes it doubly infuriating when, after wandering a store for 45 minutes looking for someone to direct you to whatever abandoned coal mine the toothpicks have been moved to, you find the person and they speak so poorly, are so uninterested in their jobs, and are so under-trained that your 45 minute search for help would have been more productive if you’d spent 45 minutes finding a tall edifice from which to throw yourself.

3.) Carry more than 1 variety of a product (in addition to the Greater Value brand, which is quality-shy, at best) and stock more than two of them.

4.) Quit removing self-checkouts. We already detest most of the employees in your company because of incompetence, rudeness, or unprofessional behavior. The one island of serenity is that moment when the polite, soothing and efficient computer voice welcomes us to Wal-Mart at the self-checkouts. When you eliminate those, turn them off, or don’t repair broken ones, that forces us to interface with the incompetent, mismanaged and (sadly) overworked cashiers that you guys just sprang from the county clink. That’s just bad form.

I could go on, but I think we both agree that to do so would be to waste my time and yours. After all, the chances of Wal-Mart actually attempting to fix any of the 2.8 trillion or so things that are wrong with the customer experience are next to zero.

Thank you again for your attention,

Michael DeVault