Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hold My Mail (Please!)

The U.S. Postal Service says it will discontinue Saturday mail delivery, possibly as soon as this summer.

Why stop with Saturday?

I wouldn't mind not getting mail on Tuesdays or Thursdays, either. Mondays and Wednesdays I might be able to do without as well. So I guess just deliver mail to me on Fridays---maybe every other one.

Have you looked at your mail these days? Is anything grabbing you?

It seems that all we are for a bulk of this mail is to be the middle man between the sender and the landfill. How much mail doesn't even get opened?

The question is asked everyday at our house---usually by me, since I'm the one not home during the day.

"Anything good in the mail?"

The question is a red herring, because what I really mean is, "Anything bad in the mail?"

Let's face it, how much "good" mail is there, anyway? My question says "good," but what I really mean---and my wife is on the same wave length---is, anything bad, like bills (or worse)?

Our daughter has been shopping online a lot in the past year. She enjoys buying clothes, trinkets, videos, you name it from the Net. So for her, the mail is a good thing---something to be anticipated and met with excitement.

She'll learn someday, but I'm not about to rain on her parade.

That is, of course, if the U.S. Mail stays in business long enough for her to learn that there is far more "bad" or useless mail than good.

Would you miss your mail being delivered every day of the week (save Saturday and Sunday)?

It's not even that more and more people are receiving and paying their bills online. Or that, at the very least, if they receive paper bills, they are paying them online or via phone (I do). There just isn't anything worth looking forward to in the mail anymore.

I used to have a pen pal when I was 13, 14 years old---a fellow adolescent baseball fan I met via the Baseball Digest magazine. He lived in New Jersey, I believe, a Yankees fan. We wrote back and forth several times one summer. The excitement I would feel when my mom told me that Mike Maurer (yes, remember his name) had sent me another letter was palpable.

I also wrote back and forth with my grandmother in those days. She lived in the U.P. and the letters were all handwritten. Nothing more than just updates. But again, there was anticipation and joy when another correspondence would arrive in the mail box.


Bills. Junk. Advertisements (a few that are actually useful to us).

You'd miss all that?

Frankly, I don't know how the USPS can be in such dire straits. Every time I venture into the post office the line is a mile long. But I digress.

No Saturday mail? Perfect. You can keep it all, as far as I'm concerned. Except for the stuff our daughter orders online.

Maybe I'll Google Mike Maurer. We could keep in touch.

Via e-mail, of course.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Watershed Moment

It was the swig of water seen 'round the world.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has caused quite a stir around the Internet (and the water cooler; sorry!) for an oddly-timed grab for a water bottle and a quick swig during his rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union speech.

In a way, you have to feel for Rubio. It must have been a terrible feeling to know you're on national television and in dire need of water.

But why wasn't Rubio's rebuttal pre-recorded? Everyone who is anyone in Washington gets an advanced copy of the president's SOTU address---especially the folks, you would think, who are charged with formulating the official retort. Instead, Rubio must have delivered his bit live---hence the frantic water grab.

I used to be in local cable TV and watching Rubio's dry mouth dilemma reminded me of something comical (for me, at least) that happened during a live talk show.

The guest was then-leader of the Michigan ACLU, Howard Simon. We started the show (live) and not long into the first question, Simon began coughing uncontrollably. I mean, he gagged and retched for about 8-10 seconds, which is an eternity in live television. When he was through, Simon looked at our host and said, "OK, can we start over?"

Our host grinned sheepishly and said, "Uhh...we're live!"

Simon was aghast. "You're kidding," was all he could manage.

Uh, no.

I didn't see Rubio's "moment" live, when it happened. I had stepped out of the room and my wife told me about it. She was beside herself with laughter as she recounted it.

Rubio's "watershed" moment

So it wasn't until much later in the evening when I finally saw the water grab. And, I must admit, even knowing it was coming, I still cringed. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see live, when you didn't know right away what was happening.

Rubio kind of lurched and leaned to his left, reaching for the bottle that was just off camera. He grabbed the bottle, took a quick swig, and continued his address. To me, the funniest part was his efforts to never take his eyes off the camera the entire time.

If you saw it live, you must have wondered if you were seeing a guy about to go down. I never got that sensation, but it was still awkward as hell.

Rubio, God bless him, made light of the moment. He posted a pic on Twitter of an empty Poland Spring water bottle. He swigged water this morning on the TV shows on which he was a guest.

"I needed water, what am I going to do?" Rubio asked on ABC's Good Morning America.  "God has a funny way of reminding us that we're human."

And also to pre-record next time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Iron Cast Out

How much would you wager that a good portion of the fans who online voted the iron out of Monopoly and the cat in, have never played the game?

The famous Parker Brothers game is nearly 80 years old, but who knows how much it's being played by those in their teens and early 20s---the demographic that never met an online poll/contest it didn't like?

Regardless, it was announced today that, through an online vote using Facebook as its platform, toymaker Hasbro was dumping the iron token and adding a cat to the board game that Parker Brothers bought in 1935.

Voting closed Tuesday night and the iron was the loser in a race that put the shoe, wheelbarrow and iron in a down-to-the-wire race for elimination. Meanwhile, the cat was the winner for inclusion in a five-token contest pitting it with a robot, a diamond ring, helicopter and guitar.

"We put five new tokens out for our fans to vote on and there were a lot of fans of the many different tokens, but I think there were a lot of cat lovers in the world that reached out and voted for the cat to be the new token for Monopoly," said Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president for Hasbro gaming marketing.

By far, the cat's instant Monopoly nemesis---the Scottie dog---was the most popular of all the tokens, netting about 29 percent of the vote, while the iron garnered the fewest votes and was thus eliminated from the game of which it has been part since Monopoly's inception.

Make no mistake---this contest was a marketing stroke of genius. Using Facebook made sense, as Monopoly boasts over 10 million fans on the social networking site. And even if a lot of the votes came from folks who rarely if ever have played the game, the results put Monopoly back in the consciousness of those of us who not only are veteran players, but who take their choice of tokens seriously.

Hey, the contest was even branded the "Save Your Token" campaign.

I was always the horse and rider. By far, my favorite token. Some loved to be the Scottie Dog; others, the top hat, or the race car, or even the thimble. Regardless, token choice was personal and if anyone was asked what they wanted to use to navigate around the board and was non-committal, that person was considered a freak.

I have little to no feelings about the iron; I understand why it was voted off the Monopoly island---it was boring!

As for the cat, I like its look: sleek, alert and in mid-stride. I also like the little "M" tag on its collar.

Monopoly's new cat token

I'm a dog lover, but even I admit that after about 60 years, it's only fair that Scottie Dog (he joined the cast in the early 1950s) finally sees a feline landing on Park Place and Reading Railroad.

So how did Monopoly come to use tokens as players' game pieces?

The niece of game creator Charles Darrow suggested using charms from her charm bracelet as tokens. The game, as most know, uses names of streets of Atlantic City for its property identifiers. Monopoly has sold about 275 million units worldwide.

I haven't played in years, and probably will never play for many more---if I do at all. Perhaps my grandkids and I will move around the board someday.

I'm finding out that I may not get to be the horse and rider, if we ever get around to playing; apparently that token isn't included with the current sets.

Umbrage is now taken. This is an outrage.

Do NOT pass GO!, Hasbro---and no $200 for you!