Saturday, September 17, 2011


The Dictionary of Jewish words defines the Yiddish word "Chazeri" (pronunced kah-zeh RYE) as "worthless junk." Although Jerry doesn't speak much Yiddish, he has a few words that he uses regularly, and Chazeri is one he has often used for a pile of my junk that he knows he doesn't dare touch. It's junk to him, but for me it generally is there for a good reason and every so often I thin it out, using what I saved it for, and either filing or tossing the rest. Today's blog is because it was time to tackle the chazeri I'd accumulated on the end of the davenport: several loose newspaper pages and a few torn magazine articles for a someday blog.

The first item I'd like to mention falls in the "Now I've Seen Everthing" category. Above is shown a new touch screen tablet now on the market; it was designed for children from 1 week of age to 4 years.

The designer, a mother of two and a networking entrepreneur, says, "Children are curious about touch screens. We are just leveraging their curiosity." It's called a "Vinci," as in you know who "Vinci". The specs say it is smaller than an iPad, it is suspended in a rubbery red frame to protect it, and it comes loaded with a few stories and games that encourage children to think about feelings, numbers, letters... "and more apps are in development."

It is priced to sell from $389 to $479. But alas, no Wi-Fi.


The next item set aside in my chazeri was this photo:

I spent a long time looking at this simple picture. Obviously it is Obama going up an airplane ramp in the rain. But here's what I thought:

Is it really raining?
Who is than man following Obama? Does Obama have an aide whose job is to carry his umbrella?
Is this man doing a good job?
Who is getting wet, Obama? This fellow? Both?
Does this man know his umbrella is in the wrong place?
Doesn't Obama care?
Perhaps it stopped raining and neither of them are aware of it.

My newspaper comes very early in the morning and I don't think all that clearly right out of bed. Maybe an hour later I wouldn't have wasted my time speculating on all this, but still I find it an exceptionally interesting photo. Thanks to Jim Watson AFP/Getty images.

Now I know I have a strange "area of interest" for my reading material. Probably none of you who read this blog, with the exception of my son whose reading choices are and always have been as eclectic as mine, will find this newish book interesting:

When I started taking Journalism in high school, one of the things we did was to publish a weekly newspapaer. As I worked through the flunkie jobs on the way to becoming editor, one of the things I most liked to do was to write headlines. To start with, I was given a certain number of inches to play with, and a certain number of Font styles to choose from. I had to come up with a headline that was acceptable to my "boss" (the page editor) and to figure out what font and what pitch I thought was best with it, taking into consideration our newspaper's style (and of course our school printshop's stash of fonts.) Each letter of each font had a "count" -- that is, how much space it would take up in an inch, so I had to quickly learn how to count by ems and ens to make up my good headline. Sometimes it took awfully creative wording to get a satisfactory headline of the right font and pitch!

I suspect that is one of the reasons why this book appealed to me - and it reminds me of my past. The book review in our newspaper written by Wesley Bausmith let me know that a whole lot more is in this book too:
Flying in the face of the digital-age mantra that "Print is dead," Simon Garfield's "Just My Type" takes an engaging look at the world of fonts, the building blocks of everything we read. With wit and insight, he enlivens a topic that few outside the graphic trades might ponder. He wants to change that!

Anyway, "Just My Type" is now on order through my friend Abe of Abebooks. And my couch is a bit less messy!

There is one additional thing that is going on here in Southern California that is quite startling. The employees of the major grocery store chains (Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons) have through their union been negotiating for several months on a new union contract. They are still very far apart in their offers, which mainly at this point center around medical benefits. The last strike to hit these three major stores happened in 2004 and lasted for four months. At the conclusion of that strike, there was still not a lot of satisfaction, and it was felt that both stores and employees suffered financially.

At this point in time, our economy being what it is, there is a lot of fear around. Finally the employees decided if no acceptable bargaining agreement was reached, they would go out on strike again tomorrow (Sunday, 9/18). In response, Ralphs announced that if a strike was called, it was going to shut down all their stores for the duration of the strike and at that time would re-evaluate each individual store to see if they wanted to put it back in business when the strike was over or if they would close it permanently!

I guess what makes this so shocking is that we have been Ralph's customers since 1994, when we returned from Istanbul. We know them and their products and their people like the back of our hand. At the end of July the nearest Ralphs store to us (but not the one we shopped at) closed down. To think that all of the stores might do so tomorrow, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, is just a shocking thought. And of course we can't help but think that all those employees who have become our friends through the years will have to juggle their finances which, if they are like many of the people we know, is a very scary proposition that we wouldn't want to be in.

So we are kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or waiting to see who is going to call "Uncle" first.

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