By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: miscellaneous Page 2 of 7

If the title fits

Click here and check out the file name of the photo. It’s a perfect fit. (Via Charles Adler.)

Dexter prefers the print edition

But he refuses to pay for content.

Calling all academics (II)

I got some great responses last month when I asked for ideas on how to organize my research for a book project I’m working on. For the time being, I’ve decided to use ugly old Excel. It works, I’ve already got it, and if I find something better, I will almost certainly be able to import my Excel database into it.

It’s a shame that Apple let HyperCard die, because, with the right export capabilities, it would be ideal. I did discover that its commercial successor, SuperCard, is still with us — but it doesn’t strike me that it could possibly be worth $180.

I also took a test drive of FileMaker’s newish personal database program, Bento, and was underwhelmed. It didn’t seem to me that it provided much more than an attractive front end for an Excel database. Worse, unlike Excel, Bento doesn’t seem to support hyperlinks to my documents.

A few people suggested that I use FileMaker itself. I may — it’s freely available to faculty members, and I assume I could learn a few low-end skills fairly quickly. So if my Excel data get to be too cumbersome to work with, that would seem to be a reasonable option.

A great line

Michael Miner, writing in the Chicago Reader: “The Internet pelts us with news; a good newspaper arranges it in our heads.”

Change we can believe in

Dexter Kennedy

Calling all academics

The last time I conducted book-length research was more than a half-dozen years ago, when I was working on this. My notes for every book and article I read and every person I interviewed got a separate AppleWorks file. (That’s right; I was a Microsoft Word holdout for many years.)

When I was done, I could easily see what I’d read and whom I’d interviewed. But sorting and searching left a lot to be desired. In some ways, it was actually a step backward from my master’s-thesis method, which involved stacks of five-by-seven index cards that could be endlessly sorted.

As I gear up for another book-length project, what tools should I use? Something like a digital version of those index cards, which I could tag, search and sort any way I like, would probably work. (Remember HyperCard?)

All suggestions welcome.

A sad day for the Fenway

One of the great things about working at the Boston Phoenix was its proximity to cheap, good, independent restaurants on Peterborough Street. Those restaurants were only slightly less accessible from Northeastern, as they were just a quick walk across the Fens.

Sadly, six of those restaurants were wiped out in a fire early today. Three of them — the Thornton Grille, Rod-Dee and El Pelón — were longtime Media Nation favorites. Along with the recent closure of the slightly more upscale Brown Sugar, around the corner on Jersey Street, the Fenway is now pretty much bereft of good lunch places.

More than 100 people, many of them elderly, are at least temporarily homeless, too. Fortunately, early reports are that no one was injured.

Uncomfortable, yes, but ineffective, too

I read this story last night with the delight I normally reserve for accounts of casino-crazed former tribal leaders pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Only those with a childlike faith in the medical establishment could be surprised to learn that colonoscopies aren’t nearly as effective as had previously been thought. Of course, they are extremely effective in generating revenue, so no doubt we’ll continue to be told that everyone over 50 should get one every year blah blah blah.

Next time somebody feeds you that line, just ask a simple question: “Why?”

Thinking about public pensions

The Boston Globe’s Todd Wallack reports today that investment losses suffered by government pension funds will force even more draconian cuts in local services than had already been anticipated.

Let me speak out of ignorance for a moment. It’s OK, because mainly I’m advocating that we start asking some tough questions. I have no answers.

Haven’t most private-sector businesses and non-profit organizations phased out pensions in favor of 401(k) and 403(b) accounts? Isn’t governmental employment the last redoubt of pensions?

I’m sure there’s nothing we can do about pensions owed to current retirees. But isn’t it time to take a hard look at whether we should keep paying a benefit to public employees that very few of us in the private sector enjoy? Lord knows I want to tear my hair out when I read about a former elected official receiving a big pension. Let them plan for their retirement like everyone else.

Obviously there are some special circumstances that need to be considered. There are good reasons to offer early-retirement incentives to police officers and firefighters, for instance — you don’t want 57-year-olds putting their health at risk every time they go out on a call.

But other than unusual cases like that, it’s time to get serious.

Bait, switch and lose a customer

This morning I brought the Media Nationmobile, a 2007 Corolla LE, to the dealership for its 30,000-mile maintenance. I will omit the name of the dealer in order to protect the guilty.*

Anyway, on the dealer’s Web site the price for the 30,000-mile pit stop is $230. But once I arrived, the guy I handed my keys to told me it would be $575.

I canceled, and told him I’d have to think about it. I also told him that the online price was only $230. It must be a mistake, he informed me, to which I replied that it appeared to be a mistake aimed at fooling people into thinking they could actually afford to have their car worked on there.

He then made me a copy of the “Corolla Maintenance Schedule” the place uses in order to show me that I must be wrong. Well, guess what? The price was listed at $390 — $160 more than the online price, but $185 less than the price he’d quoted me. Then again, he’d also told me the dealership recommends an alignment at 30,000 miles, which wasn’t on either the online or the printed price list. So I guess that’s what brought it up to $575.

I am done with the dealer. I called Direct Tire of Peabody, which has done some pretty amazing work on our 1993 Volvo 240 station wagon, and was quoted a price of less than $200. And the dealership has lost another customer.

*Update: OK, I’ve been shamed into it by Ron and Adam. The dealership is Ira Toyota of Danvers. But let me offer a few caveats: (1) the guy I dealt with was completely upfront about the price once I got there, so I was in no danger of being ripped off; (2) there are probably more goodies on the $390 printed list than on the $230 online list, but I didn’t bother to do a comparison; (3) I should have printed out the online list, gone back and demanded to see a manager. But I didn’t.

Photo (cc) by Tracy O and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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