Saturday, December 31, 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
In contrast, unlike folks who really live with it, we Southerners think of winter precip as a Holiday. When snow is predicted, Wal-Mart runs low on sugar and chips. As the 21st-century analog of the Trading Post or General Store, W-M serves as an indicator of sorts, holding clues to what's on the popular mind, and snow = fun to us.
This year, a few days before Christmas, it was plain that Johnston County was due for an onslaught of sausage balls. Witness the condition of the meat cooler at the Clayton-Garner Wal-Mart; nearly every kind of bulk sausage, except the expensive Jesse James variety, is gone. Even the frozen pre-cooked patties we like for breakfast were in short supply.
On the other hand, a few days later, after Christmas, the ramen noodle department had been ransacked. Beloved Wife's theory credits a popular salad made with crunched-up ramen; I wonder if it's repentence over too much ham and good cheer ("No thanks … just a little soup, I think").
For what it's worth, though, there seemed to be less repentence over gifts than I've observed before; the return lines were not nearly as packed as I've seen in previous years. Maybe the gift card business has something to do with it. John Hood at the Locke Foundation has a few observations of his own today.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Did this consultant use a buzzword generator to write his report? I don't think you can parody this kind of stuff:
"So far, however, a combination of device-centric and network-resident barriers have conspired to suppress attachment rates beyond the initial corner-office inbox junkies," said David Kerr, vice president of the company's Global Wireless Practice, in a statement.
"While improved data economics coupled with expanding device portfolios from Microsoft Mobile partners, Symbian camp evangelists and aspiring Asian vendors all augur well for the future," he added, "no dominant paradigm has yet emerged to transition these PDA users into true converged device solutions customers."
The link to the article follows, but I already read it -- it still doesn't help much translating the gobbledygook above.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I am not part of the I-hate-Wal-mart crowd (heavily overlapping the I-disdain-people-who-shop-at-Wal-mart crowd); while I recognize the trouble a big-box discounter causes certain smaller retailers in the neighborhood, I know for a fact that they have their come-uppance too -- for example, when there are two big boxes in the neighborhood, even with the same company, market forces begin to reassert. When we lived in Louisiana, the local WM had specially selected their staff for surliness and slovenly habits; we routinely drove an extra seven minutes or so to shop the next WM, one town over. Everywhere, too, we do our pharmacy business with a local firm; the one in Smithfield, Carroll's Pharmacy, is outstanding, even though I differ with the pharmacist's politics.
But there is one thing which almost makes me sign on to conspiracy theories -- at certain levels of fatigue and certain hours of the day, I've noticed, I can almost sense a sort of haziness come over me in the supergiantmegabox WMs here. It is accentuated by the difficulty in cell phone reception, especially the new WM between Clayton and Garner (very minimal signal by the cheese cooler, though enough digital to text message in an emergency … HOW MUCH BTR? ND REG FLOUR? -- It's Christmas week, you know. Another five yards down the baking supply aisle, you lose digital service. By the computer department or hardware, all signals are gone, period.)
We've dubbed this twilight place "Walmartgatory" -- where unrepentent shoppers are held indefinitely suspended in a sea of merchandise, cut off from weather and time, their communication with the outside world blocked or garbled (CAN YOU HEAR ME?), no information or reality except that which is selling or for sale. It's like sensory deprivation experiments with your eyes wide open.
Is it the lights? Do they flicker at a rate which induces a zombie-like state?
Or is it simply the effect of too many trips to the same place for wildly different needs? Surely this didn't happen at the General Store. I can't say but it occurs often enough to make me wonder. The only solution I've found is focus, focus, focus … must stay focused …
Monday, December 19, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
I have to break out of that habit for this one, though -- Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer. This is not a new book, copyright 1996 I believe, but it is fascinating, a terrific blend of biography and political/military history. Fischer has enough material for two books here, the biography of Revere itself, but also an hour-by-hour account of the events of April 1775, demonstrating his stated thesis -- that history does not tell of a lonely midnight rider or two, but actually a well-organized group of civic leaders throughout New England, keeping in close contact by means of signal and courier, and an effective network of surveillance and intelligence interlocking with the Whig political leadership and the militias of the villages across Massachusetts and Connecticut.
While Paul Revere did ride that night, he rode on many nights and many missions, and he was only the foremost of dozens of other couriers who carried the alarm of April 18. Although I was concerned that Fischer's book might be a revisionist work to downplay the contribution of a loved folk hero, in fact the reality he brings out places Revere in a less romantic but much more deliberate, influential, and noble role all along.
This is great reading and highly recommended. There is some profanity, quoted directly from the soldiery, and some observations in the early chapters about the practices of vice - mainly prostitution - as adapted to still-Puritan Boston, so a bit of editing is in order if shared with a younger audience.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
The December issue of Carolina Journal is posted on the website here and includes my interview (page 23) with Wake Forest pastor Scott Brown, discussing how his daughter's family history project became a book (Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer by Kelly Brown, published by Vision Forum) and led to a feature-length movie, The League of Grateful Sons.
A really interesting family and a terrific project -- and if ever an article writes itself, this one did.