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Ovation: LinkNYC.

LinkNYCWhen our youngest was quite young he was riding in the passenger’s seat of his grandfather’s pickup truck when we saw him poking the armrest with his fingertip.  When we asked him what he was doing, he said he was trying to roll down the window.  He’d never been in a vehicle that required him to physically “roll down” the window and honestly didn’t realize the purpose of the knob on the door.

Similarly, it has recently been pointed out to me that today’s youngsters have never encountered a pay phone!

Beginning next year, children in New York City will never again have an opportunity to see a pay phone but they will have free access to the internet.  At a press conference yesterday, city officials unveiled an ambitious plan to roll out a free city-wide municipal Wi-Fi network that could be the fastest and most wide-reaching network of its kind in the world relying on thousands of kiosks that will be deployed at as many as 10,000 locations currently occupied by pay phones.

The concept was created by a group of companies collectively known as CityBridge who hope to transform the physical streetscape, New Yorkers’ access to information, and create jobs using the network of kiosks supported by as much as $500 million in advertising revenue over twelve years at no cost to taxpayers.  Each of the kiosks, called Links, will include state-of-the-art wireless technology, interactive systems and digital advertising displays and provide the following services:

  • Free 24/7 public Wi-Fi for a 150-foot radius.
  • Free phone calls anywhere in the United States
  • A touchscreen tablet interface to access City services, directions and more
  • Easy access to 911 and 311
  • Free charging stations for mobile devices
  • Digital displays for advertising and public service announcements

Officials estimate that as many as one in five New Yorkers currently rely on mobile phones for internet access, which can be quite costly, so there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the fact that the first of the kiosks could be in service by late 2015.

I’m always amazed by the speed at which technology changes.  While today’s kids might not know how to roll down a window or recognize a pay phone, in the blink of an eye their grandchildren may actually find New York City’s Links to be quaint antiques replaced by something we can’t even yet imagine.

Would you welcome free Wi-Fi into your city?

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Diatribe: The Duck Commander Family Musical.

Ducks in VegasWe went to the movies this weekend with some friends to see Birdman starring Michael Keaton.  Birdman is the story of former action movie star Riggan Thomson (Keaton) who is now that director/producer/star of an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will reinvigorate his career.  My movie-going group agreed that this is a “love it or hate it” sort of film.

A polarizing performance on film can often be successful.  Of course, the cost of producing the product will always determine its financial success but in the court of public opinion it’s frequently a crap shoot.  This is certainly the case when it comes to the stages of Las Vegas.

birdmanIn a peculiar grasp at what appears to be continued relevance, the Robertson family of television’s Duck Dynasty, along with a team from Broadway, is reportedly putting together The Duck Commander Family Musical, a ninety-minute extravaganza featuring actors playing the family members made popular on the sometimes controversial reality show.  The musical, based on a book by Willie and Korie Robertson and featuring fourteen songs with titles like “Faith, Food and Family” will tell the story of the family’s rise to fame.

Scheduled to open in February at the Rio, the show has already garnered a bit of controversy.  Robertson patriarch Phil’s thoughts about gay people have certainly distances the musical theater community and those who share his views are likely hesitant to visit “Sin City” anyway.

I’m not, at all, a fan of the Robertson Family.  I did, however, love the movie Birdman.  I’ll even go so far as to predict Oscar nods for Keaton, Edward Norton and possibly Emma Stone who plays the troubled daughter of Keaton’s character.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a polarizing performance was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Las Vegas, on the other hand, doesn’t always seem to welcome them.

Would you pay to see The Duck Commander Family Musical on a Las Vegas stage?  How about Birdman?

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

Ovation: Lasagna With Bruce Springsteen.

SpringsteenSometimes it feels like giving to charity is a double-edged sword.  At our house we give regularly to about four different charities.  Possibly as a result, we receive emails and “robocalls” asking for donations from dozens of others across the country.  Some are quite aggressive in their email campaigns (I learned this morning that I can help cure Ebola!) and no matter how many times their requests are marked as SPAM they still make it into my inbox.  It’s nice to see people get creative when it comes to fundraising like folks in charge of the 8th annual Stand Up For Heroes comedy and music event in New York City’s Madison Square Garden last Wednesday.

They raised more than one million dollars and more than half of that was thanks to Bruce Springsteen who auctioned off two packages that consisted of:

  • A guitar that he has played
  • An hour-long lesson on how to play the guitar
  • A ride in the sidecar of his motorcycle
  • Lasagna dinner at his home

The two packages sold for $300,000 each.

SUFH-website-NEWStand Up for Heroes has raised more than $21 million in funds to help post-9/11 injured service members and their families thrive long after they return to the home front.  This year’s benefit, which is organized by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and associated with the annual New York Comedy Festival, featured performances by Louis C.K., Jim Gaffigan, John Oliver and Jon Stewart in addition to Bruce Springsteen.

I wish we could afford to donate to more of the causes that reach out to us looking for help.  If I could get someone to pay $300,000 for my lasagna I would!  I’d even do it twice … like Springsteen.

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

Diatribe: Too Drunk To Notice Uber’s Surge Pricing.

Uber Surge PricingMany years ago, a I had an acquaintance who was a bit of a binge drinker.  He was small in stature and what some might call “high strung” inasmuch as he was easily excitable.  Personally, I was always of the mindset that one could occasionally go “out for drinks” with friends and suffer little damage to relationships, employment status or automobiles.  This young man didn’t go “out for drinks” … he went “out drinking”… and he did it with one goal in mind.  He wanted to get slobbery fall-down drunk.  The more he drank, the smaller his circle of friends would become.  Nobody ever volunteered to be his designated driver and the concept of smart phones, let alone finding a ride using an app like Uber, wasn’t even a dream.

Last Friday, Halloween, Gabrielle Wathen went “out drinking” with her friends to celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday.  At the end of the night, the Baltimore resident ended up a drunken mess and decided to use Uber to driver her home, a ride that would take about twenty-two minutes.

Ms. Wathen was apparently unaware of Uber’s dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing, used on busy nights.  It multiplies fares by as much as nine times the normal rate as a way to meet demand and attract a greater supply of drivers.  Uber doesn’t hide the pricing and users are alerted via the app.  Many inexperienced users inadvertently request a more expensive premium car because they don’t see the options or understand the difference.  There’s even an option that allows users to see an estimated fare before they request a ride.  But one must be sober enough to use it and comprehend it.

Ms. Wathen, who works as a waitress and freelance writer, woke to discover on Saturday morning that her account had been charged $362 for her ride home the night before.

Denver resident, Elliott Asbury, also used Uber to get home from a Halloween party on Friday night.  His eighteen mile ride home cost $539.

“I was expecting $44, $50, $60, $100 on the outside.  We got there and he pressed the thing on his phone and it said $539.  (The driver) was shocked, he was embarrassed actually.” – Elliott Asbury.

Uber stands by its dynamic pricing model as a way to balance supply and demand, but the company is said to offer a 25% discount to first-time riders who are caught off guard by the multiplied faires.

“Uber ensures a safe, reliable ride, wherever and whenever, and dynamic pricing allows us to remain the reliable choice, even on the busiest nights of the year. Our in-app features ensure dynamic pricing is repeatedly communicated and approved before any trip is confirmed.” – Uber.

It’s almost comical to think of that guy, all those years ago, getting a lift home from a stranger and learning the next morning that he had paid hundreds of dollars for the ride.  Sadly, I fear he might have risked driving under the influence to save the cost of Uber fare which, by following his peculiar brand of logic, was more costly than a speeding ticket.

I think you’d have to be pretty drunk to not notice these prices.

Do you use Uber?  Are you aware of their “dynamic pricing” model?

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

Ovation: Nick Cannon Donates $2 Million Pair Of Shoes To Charity.

Cannon ShoesAt our house there is always a Honey Do List.  Like most homes, there’s always something around the house or the yard that needs to be fixed, painted or replaced.  The projects on the list aren’t particularly challenging but they’re rarely pleasant either and one can always find something better to do.  This weekend we intend to address one of the larger projects on the list before winter weather sets in … “Straighten the garage”.

During the warmer months our garage tends to fill with clutter that doesn’t necessarily belong there and we just have set aside some time to either pack things up for the trash man or to donate to GoodWill.  When making a trip to GoodWill we like to make it worth the effort so, in addition to items from the garage, we’ll make a quick scan of closets and cabinets for items that we can donate.  Making the trip to GoodWill requires more effort than packing things up for garbage day but it’s often the right thing to do.  Almost every time we make a trip to GoodWill, I bring at least one pair of shoes.

I have never, however, donated a pair of shores like the pair television host Nick Cannon recently donated to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Queens, New York.

The 34-year-old star had a pair of Tom Ford loafers covered in diamonds earlier this year and wore them on the September finale of America’s Got Talent.  It took jewel expert Jason Arasheben 2,000 hours to decorate the shoes with more than 14,000 full-cut round white diamonds set onto white gold and boast a weight of 340 carats.  The Guinness Book of World Records is reviewing the pair, estimated to be valued at two million dollars, for the title of Most Expensive Shoes in the World.  St. Mary’s Hospital for Children will auction off the shoes and gain all proceeds to use towards equipment and other causes.

When you donate at GoodWill, they give you a receipt to keep for tax time.  More often than not, we shove ours into our glove compartment and forget about it.  Our trips to GoodWill certainly don’t add up to much come tax time … that’s certainly not why we go … but knowing that our old cast-offs might be found useful once again by someone else is a rewarding feeling of its own.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to make a $2 million donation and I certainly can’t imagine wearing a $2 million pair of used shoes.

Do you have a Honey Do List?

Do you donate your old shoes to charity?

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

Diatribe: Are Governors Who Defy The White House Guilty Of Insubordination?

State v Federal RightsHoly cow, Election Day can’t get here fast enough for me.  Watching the local news in the morning as I get ready to leave for the office is a part of my daily routine that often gets on my nerves because they tend to play the same commercials over and over but, this time of year, the commercials get particularly nasty.  I’ve seen and heard advertisements lately from politicians who are smiling into the camera and pretty much lying to viewers about what they’ve said in the past, what a particular amendment to our state’s constitution might do or what their opponent actually represents.

It’s enough to make me wonder if today’s politicians studied from the same high school civics books that I used when I was in school … or if they understand how our government works at all.

The system of government established by the U.S. Constitution recognizes both state and federal government by giving them mutually exclusive powers as well as concurrent powers.  In the first half of the nineteenth century, arguments over states’ rights arose in the context of slavery.  In the 1950s racial segregation and the civil rights movements renewed the issues and today we find it front-and-center in the form of marriage equality.

Branches of GovernmentJust this weekend, governors of several states, in response to criticism of the White House’s handling of the Ebola virus outbreak stepped in with their own policies, including mandatory quarantines of health care working returning from West Africa.  These state policies are in complete disagreement with recommendations from the nation’s top health experts and could, ultimately, do more harm than good since they’ll keep health care workers from traveling to West Africa to fight the epidemic if they know they’ll face an automatic quarantine when they return home.

Yesterday, the White House pushed back against the quarantines imposed by New York, New Jersey and Illinois after President Obama called a meeting of public health and national security experts working on the crisis.

“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and other states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa.” – A senior Obama Administration Official in a statement.

When a politician takes action outside the norm during the weeks before a general election, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have done with these quarantines, one can’t help but question their motivation.

The game of politics can be quite distasteful but, when the players begin taking matters into their own hands, the rules start to change.  We all need to know the rules, not just at election time but during the months and years leading up to each election, so that we can make informed decisions about who choose to lead us.  We mustn’t make our choices based on commercials we see during the morning news.

The people we choose could one day take matters into their own hands.

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Like this post? Follow the blog and get involved in discussions! Find “Follow via Email” on the right side of the page.  There’s also an opportunity to follow on Twitter and/or LIKE our page on Facebook so you won’t miss a daily post.  Click on buttons at the end of each post to share on other social media sites, too!  Thanks for reading!

Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

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