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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rant #1,722: A Shock to the System

Yesterday, my family and I had a shock to our systems that could have been worse, much worse, than it actually turned out to be.

For the past few weeks, we have noticed that during peak hours of electricity usage, our electrical power in the house has gone down, and gone down noticeably.

My son first realized that something was funny in the house, when his air conditioner was spouting hot air, not cold air.

Certain appliances did not work well, either.

At times, our oven, television and dishwasher wouldn't work correctly.

This was sporadic, not happening every day, and an electrician did come to the house and told us that our circuits were fine.

So we chalked it up to overuse of power by not only us, but of our community.

The heat has been unbearable this summer in my neck of the woods, and people are using more power than ever.

It would stand to reason that at peak usage times of the day that power would be impacted, so we thought it was that.

But then the lack of power went from sporadic to a few times a week, and we kind of knew that something was amiss.

The last straw was on Tuesday, when our air conditioners were blowing hot air, our oven wouldn't get hot, our TV would not work and our dishwasher clunked along, hardly making a sound.

The electrician came back to our house, and while I am not going to use the correct words to describe what had happened, he did find something was not right with the power in our house.

Using my own terms, he found that some of the circuits were generating less than half power, maybe slightly over 100 when they were supposed to be generating 200-plus.

He told us that once these circuits got below 100--and they were just over 100--that that would be the end of the power line for us, per se, and we would have no electricity.

He went outside, checked the actual power line, and determined that the problem was the lack of electricity being generated from the pole and the transformer outside, so it became a PSE&G problem.

He called PSE&G for us, described the problem, and a truck was going to be coming to fix this mess, but it could come anywhere from about 8 p.m. to 12 midnight.

In the meantime, we had to shut off all power in the house, and I do mean everything had to be shut down.

So with sweltering temperatures outside, we had to shut off everything, including the barely working air conditioner.

My parents live beneath us in the house, and as you know, my father is recovering from pneumonia. The power company allowed us to keep his air conditioner on to keep him cool, but everything else was shut down.

I cannot take the heat, so I sat in my car, charging up my phone and tablet and sitting there with the air conditioning on.

Yes, that was a good move by me, because it also allowed me to see when the repairman was going to come to the house. And yes, I was prepared to sit there all night.

My mother was also waiting for him, but she refused to wait in the car with me, laying in the living room in the blistering heat. My father was OK in the bedroom, but it must have been over 100 degrees in the rest of the house, and my mother just decided to stay it out, but she was falling asleep. I begged her to come into my car, but she refused.

Anyway, sometime after 8 p.m., the repairman came, and determined that the transformer our house was attached to was faulty.

Evidently, there is a default mechanism wherein if the transformer you are hooked up to is faulty, it automatically switches you to another transformer so that you don't lost your electricity.

The problem was that the transformer our house was switched to was itself overtaxed, and being that we were the last one on the line, we were the ones who were getting shorted on power, and this is the reason whey our electricity has been so in and out during the past few weeks.

The repairman determined that while more than 50 houses could have been directly impacted by this, only three actually were, our house and two others, so he set to work to remedy the situation.

He found another transformer with fewer houses attached to it, and set about hooking us and the other two houses up to that transformer.

After about an hour, we got our power back, and we set about resetting the TVs and the other appliances.

Hopefully that will be that with this mess, but it was scary.

I was just happy that my father was comfortable; that aspect of this really scared me, and early on, we were told to bring him to a hospital until the power was restored, but as long as he was allowed to keep his air conditioner on for the bulk of this episode, he was OK.

You don't realize how very important electricity is to your life except when you lose it, and without it yesterday, we were really sunk, and honestly, it could have been a life and death situation for us.

But everything appears to be fine now, so thank goodness for the repairman; he earned our kudos last night, and for the electrician, who first pointed out exactly what the problem was, and called the electric company so he could pinpoint to them exactly what that problem was.

Yes, the night could have even been hotter than it was last night for my family and I, but it all turned out fine.

I am going to work tomorrow, but I will be going in late, as I have another dreadful appointment to fulfill, so I am going to skip my Rant tomorrow.

I will speak to you again on Monday, and may the power be with you during this dreadfully hot weekend.

Speak to you then.

Classic Rant #366 (November 2, 2010): WWE: Woo, Woo, Woo

Fresh off of going to the Knicks' home opener at Madison Square Garden, my son and I went to Nassau Coliseum to see last night's live Raw show.

Months ago, I bought tickets for this show, and then entered a contest for tickets to the show. Lo and behold, to my surprise, I won the tickets. We sat all the way down, probably about 20 yards away from the ring, and these seats were by far the best we have ever had.

(I gave the tickets I had to a co-worker.)

My son and I have been to numerous WWE shows before, including a few Smackdowns, pay per views and one house show.

Say what you will about them, but the WWE knows how to put on a good show.

Right now, the big storyline is the NEXUS, a gnarly bunch of brow beaters who are trying to rule the WWE. John Cena, the all-American boy of wrestling (sorry Jack Swagger), has been pulled into the plot, because due to various circumstances, if he does not do what the NEXUS demands that he do, he will be gone from WWE.

He keeps on getting involved with matches revolving around various NEXUS members, so what's a poor boy to do?

Last night, Cena was a referee in a tag team match between NEXUS leader Wade Barrett, and fellow NEXUS member David Otunga versus popular wrestler R. Truth and the champion, Randy Orton.

Cena had to balance being a referee and leaning toward the NEXUS to win the match. And in true WWE style, Cena went for the "right" thing, and Truth and Orton won the match, to the consternation of the NEXUS bunch.

Yes, as you can see, wrestling hasn't changed, and it will never change.

It's still a soap opera for boys, although there were plenty of females in attendance.

I have been watching wrestling for probably about 45 years, and you still have the element of good vs. evil, and right now John Cena is somewhere in the middle.

He is the good guy, but because he has been dealt a bad hand, he now has to delve into being a heel.

But that's the way things are in professional wrestling. Things are never as they seem.

It's like they operate in an alternate universe ... and they do.

The WWE has come under additional scrutiny as we vote today on Election Day as Linda McMahon, the wife of WWE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon, is running for a Senate seat in Connecticut. By all indications, she has spent about $50 million of her own money on the election, and she is supposedly trailing badly, if you want to believe the polls.

This point was brought up last night by a video showing Vince M. waking up from a coma to hear that Linda M. was running a political campaign and was spending all of this money. Vince M. almost went into cardiac arrest when he heard about this, but had to go to the bathroom first.

Yes, this is an alternate universe, and if you buy into it, as millions around the world do, you buy into the craziness, both real and written, that surrounds the WWE and professional wrestling in general.

Last night, the matches were good, pretty crisply orchestrated, and continued all the storylines that are in place now.

And Pee Wee Herman was the show's guest, promoting his Broadway show.

I mean, is this a circus or what?

But it was a fun evening, and I know my son and I will definitely do it again sometime soon.

(P.S.: First, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for their World Series win, the team's first in 56 years and its first in California. Also, don't forget to vote today; it doesn't matter who you vote for, in my book, as long as you go to your polling place and vote.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rant #1,721: It Hurts To Be Healthy Today

Congratulations to Hillary Clinton, who yesterday, became the first female ever to win a major party's nod as its presidential candidate.

I won't vote for her for a number of reasons, and one of them is because she supports our current health system, which has conveniently become known as Obamacare.

Under Obamacare, everyone is supposed to have some form of health insurance, and many of those who did not have health insurance presumably have at least the opportunity now to have such insurance under this plan.

Bah, humbug! This plan is killing many in the middle class, and I am one of those unfortunate souls, who is paying for others, as well as myself, with this completely ridiculous plan, which puts extra burdens on people like me.

I am being killed by Obamacare. I have paid out thousands of dollars in health care this year versus prior years, because this plan has forced many private companies to downgrade what they provide to employees, including my employer.

Thus, services we either got for free or for little cost before have now skyrocketed, and I am really feeling it in my wallet.

Sure, you can't blame Obamacare entirely. The insurance companies are in bed with this, too, and rates have conveniently risen dramatically since this plan came into being.

I just got another bill yesterday of nearly $200 for procedures supposedly done late last year. I have no idea what procedures were done, only the dates, so I am going to question this bill before I pay one cent of it.

I have noticed that bills are being itemized in strange ways, not giving the supposed owee any clue as to what the services are that you supposedly owe for.

And I am sick and tired of helping others get health insurance.

In a perfect world, it is a wonderful thing for all to have health care, but this isn't a perfect world.

If it is coming out of my pocket, I could care less about those indigent souls who I am helping to get health care.

And no, it doesn't make it better for all of us if everyone has health care. Not when I look in my wallet and see less cash in there.

On Facebook, there has been an ongoing debate about the virtues of Obamacare, and it has picked up as we have gotten into the presidential conventions.

Many people will defend Obamacare with the very blood of their being, and just as many will deride it.

I am one of the latter people, but it is quite interesting who actually is defending this plan.

I have found that those who defend it generally fall into four categories--those who love anything and everything about our president, so whatever he does is wonderful; retirees with good pension plans; and more importantly, those who either work for the government or work for the insurance industry.

Those who work for the government have not been affected at all by Obamacare, and many have coverage for life. Those with good pension plans, well, bully for them. They also don't have to worry about their coverage for the rest of their lives, so they defend this program.

Those who work in the insurance industry agree that some have it better than others, but many state that we are all better off with so many people now covered by this plan. I guess it sustains their profession.

Baloney on all of them. Those who have good pension plans, and those who work for the government, should not be chiming in when talking about the virtues of Obamacare. They are just plain darn lucky that their level of care has not been negatively impacted by this program.

The others who defend this program ... I don't get them to begin with, so what's the use of debating with them anyway?

This is the bottom line, or at least my bottom line: I work for a small, private company that provides its employees health insurance. Due to rising costs brought on by Obamacare, they have had to downgrade what they provide us. Thus, my rates have gone sky high, because things that were once covered aren't anymore, and other things that are still covered demand a greater payout.

And while it is bad for me, what about those who pay out of pocket for their health care? My parents, 84 and 85 years old, are in this boat. Their rates have gone to the real extreme. My rates are really bad, theirs are even worse, and much, much worse.

My father was in the hospital for about two days with pneumonia. I cannot even fathom what that is going to cost my parents. Sure, they use the government plans that are available to them, but those plans basically cover a fraction of their health costs. And you wonder why, at nearly 85 years of age, why my father still works.

I am sure Mr. Obama did not figure that into his equation when he and his minions came up with this plan, how it is actually hurting many elderly people, not helping them at all.

If people cannot understand this, I guess that is their problem.

Now, I have to check into yet another health bill, and try to figure out why I owe what I owe.

So anyone who supports Obamacare is someone I cannot support, cannot vote for, and is someone who I question because they actually support this plan which is sucking the life out of many in the middle class, including myself.

So congratulations, Mrs. Clinton.

But you won't be getting my vote, nor will any other candidate for any elected office who supports this mess.

When was the last time they paid through the nose for their own health care like I do?

Classic Rant #365 (November 1, 2010): Same Old Knicks

My son and I went to a New York Knicks game on Saturday evening, October 30.

It was the day before Halloween, and the Knicks turned in another frightful performance.

They lost 100-95 to a very talented Portland Trailblazers team, and lost the game after leading by nine points with five minutes to go.

I have now taken my son to four Knicks games over the past three seasons, and he hasn't seen the Knicks win a single game.

It was the first game of the season at Madison Square Garden, and with Amare Stoudemire leading the team, there is a lot of hope that this year's version of the hapless sad sacks of the past might just make some noise this season.

Well, they have now started the season at 1-2, and face the Orlando Magic tomorrow, so that noise might just have to be put on hold for awhile.

The Knicks always promise so much, and in recent years, they have delivered so little, but the fan support is amazing for this franchise. They could lose 20 games in a row, and still have packed houses at the Garden.

That's what a little history will do. Today's team is inextricably linked to the golden years for the franchise, from 1969-1973, when they won two championships.

Those were the Knicks of Red Holzman, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier, and later, Earl Monroe, and the only current link to the team is by Frazier, who does color commentary on the TV broadcasts of the games.

The Knicks have had some great teams in between their last championship--in the 1972-1973 season--and now, including those wonderful teams they had in the 1990s lead by Patrick Ewing.

But since Ewing left, there has been a curse on this team and organization, and this year there was hope that that curse could be obliterated.

Sure, it is just three games into the season, but you get the feeling that even if the Knicks improve upon last year--when they won just 29 games--it won't be enough to stop the boo birds at the Garden. Yes, Knicks fans support their team, but they will also let their team know it if they stink.

And losing a hefty lead in the last five minutes of Saturday's game isn't a good way to begin the season.

My son and I go to our next game on Nov. 27 against Atlanta, and maybe I will have a more chipper report for you.

Tonight ... WWE wrestling at Nassau Coliseum, Monday Night Raw. Look for us, we have tickets in the pricey area this time.

And that's another story for another day ... tomorrow.

P.S.: Since this is the 365th rant I have posted, that makes a full year of entries at this blog, even though the blog is much older than that. This blog has received over 8,000 hits, and while that is pretty small, especially compared to other blogs that get 8,000 hits in a nano-second, it is still impressive.

I realize that probably a good percentage of those hits are from me, but I appreciate those that regularly visit the site. I would like some more feedback, but what can you do?

Thanks again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rant #1,720: Sitting Room Only

As I told you yesterday, my family and I went to Long Island's wine country last week, and we had a great time.

But my wife and son's vacations were not over on Friday, so on Saturday, amidst the things we normally do on Saturday, we went to the movies as a family for the first time since last December, when we saw the latest installment in the "Star Wars" franchise.

This time, we saw the latest installment of the "Star Trek" franchise, so I guess you can say we are into "Star" sequels.

Anyway, the reason we don't go to the movies very much anymore is really two-fold.

The movies generally stink and the prices for tickets are too high.

That is as succinct as I can make it.

And on Saturday, we saw "Star Trek Beyond," and while the movie was OK, the price for tickets was Ridiculous, and yes, I used that capital "R" on purpose.

It used to be that the movie was the spectacle, and that is why you went to the theater.

You wanted to see the stars, you were interested in the story, and it was a relatively inexpensive way to pass the time for two or three hours.

And it was a great place to go with your friends to have fun, or better yet, even go out on a date.

Today, the seating arrangement has become the spectacle, and you wonder why many of us don't go to the movies anymore?

We walked into the theater, and I kind of knew we were going to get fleeced.

The particular multiplex theater has a reputation for having high-priced tickets, but if we wanted to see this movie on Saturday, we really had no choice of theater, because the time was right for us, so yes, it is partly our fault that we paid so much for tickets.

My wife and son went to the food stand as I paid for the tickets. I told the cashier, "three for 'Star Trek' at 3:25."

She spins the screen to me, and she said, "Pick your seats." I knew I was in trouble right there.

I picked three seats on an aisle, and she turned the screen back to her and said, "Forty-one-twenty-five."

Yes, $41.25.

I paid, but shook my head as a paid.

I went back to my wife, told her what I paid, and she said, "I know all about it. I just paid $30 for water for us and ice cream for Josh."

We walked into the theater, and there were a few people already inside. The theater was pretty big, we located our seats, and we saw that they are those luxury seats, which you can spread out on, by a push of a button. You can lie on these seats as if you were in the dentist's office if you want to, and yes, I feel like I just had a root canal on my wallet.

You see, this is what the movies have come to. The seating arrangements are more important than the film itself.

To me, that is wrong, wrong, wrong. That is not why you go to the movies.

For years, I have sat in the usual movie seats, walked on sticky floors, and had other experiences in the theater in my life--one death, one fire, among other things--that I didn't pay an exorbitant fee for.

Today, the seat is the thing, and not the movie.

And you wonder why these so-called "blockbusters" make millions and millions of dollars.

I think the true measure is ticket sales, and don't tell me that "Star Trek Beyond" will sell more tickets than, let's say, "Gone With the Wind" has in the theaters, even though the former will probably make many times the money that the latter made in a shorter time.

As for the movie, it was not as good as the first "Star Trek" reboot, but much, much better than the second one in the series. The film features as good a crop of young actors as you will find in a current film, and although the first half of the film was OK, it picks up in the second half.

And once again, the actor who plays the younger Spock, Zachary Quinto, completely steals the show.

But to pay $13.75 a ticket to see Quinto steal every scene that he is in is simply not worth it.

Look, don't get me wrong, it is fun going to the movies, and it is fun seeing a movie with your family.

But it will be a long time until I go to the movies again, nice chairs or no nice chairs.

The movie is supposed to be the attraction, not the seating arrangements, but I guess I am behind the times with this concept.

Woe is me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Classic Rant #364 (October 29, 2010): Boo To You Too

Halloween is coming up this Sunday.

Boy, do I remember the Halloweens of my youth.

Living in a place known as Rochdale Village--with 20 buildings and thousands of apartments--Halloween was more treat than trick for us. We would start at our building, go from floor to floor, apartment to apartment, and have full bags, and then we would move over to the next building, go from apartment to apartment, get full bags ...

Heck, I didn't even eat the candy--I gave it to my sister. It was the fun and thrill of getting candy, mixed with a few pennies thrown in for good measure.

And boy, was it fun.

In those days, you would have the occasional creep who would give you something that could hurt you. I remember my sister got an apple with pins in it. We knew exactly who gave it to her--an old lady--but in those days, you didn't do anything about it. You just threw it out and moved on to the next thing.

It was so much fun.

Until some other types of creeps would mug you in the hallway for your candy.

Yes, this did happen. It took the fun out of Halloween for me, and by the age of 13, I was done trick or treating.

I remember the last year we lived in the development, some girls, after receiving candy from us, threw an apple at our door.

And a very nice splatter it made.

Today, Halloween is much more controlled. Parents walk with their kids, and by and large, only go to houses where they know the family. Thus, we only get a couple of trick or treaters, even though we have lots of candy.

Their loss, I guess.

But also, the holiday has become such a corporate one. Millions of dollars each year are spent on costumes, candy and decorations.

It's just not the same holiday that we had when we were kids. Sure, there were costumes, but we basically winged it, and it was so much more fun.

And I just don't think it is as good a holiday today as we it was when we were kids.

Like I said, we would get the occasional rotten treat, but generally, people were very nice. It was a real kids' holiday, which it isn't anymore.

And that really is a shame, isn't it?

Boo to that!