This Time it is Different, and that is sad

This time it’s different, is a phase that should strike fear in your heart if you invested in stocks and lived through the dot COM bust.

In the dot com bust of the stock market showed that things may have changed but people and society had not. People and society change very slowly but they do change.

The other day I went to a Radio Shack store that was closing. The place was clean (a tip of the hat to the guy that was running the place) but almost sold out of everything. And there were customers in the place. Sure some of the customers were older but not all.

One article postulated that Radio Shack make a big mistake getting into cell phone in a big way. There was and is nothing to stop anyone from getting into selling cell phones and under cutting you.

Another article talked about how you use to be able to buy radio controlled cars at Radio Shack at Christmas time and the cars were something no one else had.

Another article remembered how you could buy a computer at Radio Shack and it was as good as many other computers.

Today there is a second hand store in town that sells new cell phones. There are a half dozen store fronts selling cell phone in the poorer part of town. How can even AT&T and Verizon compete with those stores?

The Motley Fool calls it having a moat around your business. Something that keeps others from competing with you and undercutting you. Radio Shack does not have anything different to sell.

I remember Radio Shack before computers, back when it sold vacuum tubes and glow in the dark was a warm and good thing. I also remember when Radio Shack was going to have a store within 10 minutes of anyone in the continental U.S. Those were the days before overnight express delivery. Ordering a couple of resistors to repair or build something could take two week to two months for the parts to get to you. There were not that many mail order places to get parts from either. Today if the part isn’t on their doorstep in two days people go ballistic.

Hardly anyone remembers Lafayette Electronics. It was a smaller chain of stores than Radio Shack but it had a big mail order business. The company even sold musical instruments before electronic keyboards were available to consumers. In those days you could buy a guitar in your local drug store. Lafayette stuck with the hobbyist and repair man instead of mass marketing and went out of business in the 1980s.

You could also order parts from Allied Radio and if real cheap you could get parts from Poly Packs. I sent a lot of dollar bills to Poly Packs. In 1960 paying $8.00 to $10.00 for a vacuum tube is like paying $50.00 to $100.00 dollars for a very simple semiconductor like a basic transistor.

Things have changed, people don’t build things anymore. Vacuum tubes are a specialty hobby or elitist item. Surface mount electronic components have made building electronic devices at home very hard and requires special tools.

If you do want to build something then there are many places to buy the components on line. Hobbyist and experimenters no longer grab the old TV set that someone has set out on the curb so they can salvage the parts out of the set. Parts out of an old computer are so out of date that they are unusable before the computer has stopped working.

A few people who are mostly labeled wide eyed fanatics still wonder what will happen if the over night delivery system breaks down, or the country that makes the needed electronics stops sending the equipment to the US for some reason, or if we have a big war or depression where you have to make it work longer or do without and the equipment can not be repaired (because repair parts are not available or the equipment was not built to be repaired).

Society has changed, but is it for the better?

Good bye old friend, you are not the Radio Shack I knew but I will still miss you.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

Writing advice from a real writer

The other night I tripped over a YouTube video of an interview of JK Rowling.

The video was made in 1998 and she was working on her second Harry Porter book.

It shows her in a coffee shop or tea cafe having a cup of something (it never showed her drinking form the cup) and writing long hand on unlined paper. Of course she has beautiful hand writing. (and yes there are times that I can not read my own hand writing so I type what I write but I do write in a note book and have a note book with me at all times).

Writing long hand is quicker than printing but more importantly it forces you to get your thoughts straight before you put them down.

There was no loud music at the shop. The shop was not crowded during the filming and the conversation in the back ground was not loud. Not like the big-name chain coffee shops around here. Packs with kids or young adults, noise and distractions.

Side note she pronouns her last name as Row-ling not Rowl-ing.

Now get out there and write.


Write on, draw on.   Professor Voltage

Batting less than 100 with books

Just finished reading a book by a famous author that I really like.

It was Meh. They can’t all be winner.

The book was a let down. So I made it a learning experience.

What was right with the book. It was fast paced. I could not tell what was going to happen next. I couldn’t figure out the problem.

What was wrong; I didn’t care for the hero, the end of the story was a let down (not inventive enough), the villain had a killer that was to good.

The hero didn’t care, so why should I. The hero has five days to save the universe and he spends two days just goofing around. He doesn’t try to solve the problem, he’s convinced that fate has predetermined he will save the universe so he doesn’t care and doesn’t try. He doesn’t even try to make saving the universe safer or easier. A big let down after the book started so well.

The end of the story left me cold. Big build up, people in jeopardy, armies ready to attack. Almost a Deus Ex Machina.

The story had a killer that had killed over 2000 people and no one got upset. One of the people he killed was the vice ruler of the world. Why didn’t the rulers of other worlds do something about this killer. Family and friends of the killed did not do something about this killer? This is not a serial killer of prostitutes.

I did finished the book. If a book is not fast paced or interesting I won’t get half way through.


Write on, draw on.     Professor Voltage



Kids breakfast and a changing world

Between writing and serious family obligations I don’t get out much.

The other day I had a doctor’s appointment. A five hour appointment. The instructions said bring a lunch ( a fatty lunch so I got a cookie to go with the sandwich). It’s 8:00 in the morning and I stop at the local Subway sandwich shop. There’s a line out the door of high school kids. Many were eating their sandwiches at the tables in the shop.

What struck me was, less than half of them had backpacks and the backpacks were not heavily loaded with books. They were getting sandwiches not the breakfast specials or flat bread wraps. They were mostly girls and they were not over weight.

The lack of backpacks stood out because schools today don’t have lockers. When I went to school you got issued a locker and hopefully it was an older locker that could hold all your books and your jacket. Even with a locker I had to haul two or three books home each night to do reading in or home work from and I wasn’t the greatest homework doer.

A sandwich for breakfast is better than an “Egg McMuffin” with grease soaked potatoes but as a school kid I ate a lot of cold cereal for breakfast (chocolate coated corn and sugar bombs or multicolored corn and sugar bombs). I also cooked a lot of scrambled eggs for by brothers and sister. I could cook a skillet of scrambled eggs at one time and feed everyone. Everyone wanted fired eggs but that meant cooking an egg or two at a time while everyone complained about how long it took to cook the food. You either got scrambled or cooked them yourself, and only after I was through cooking the scrambled eggs. After one or two times cooking their own eggs they went back to eating scrambled eggs and complaining. Amazing how lazy people are in the morning. Sometimes when things were good we got cheese or peppers or chorizo thrown into the scrambled eggs. Eggs were a couple of pennies each back then and are only fourteen to fifteen cents each today. How can kids afford six to seven dollars for breakfast? That’s almost as much as a cheap breakfast in a sit down place. I can’t afford to buy a Subway sandwich every day.

It was surprising to me that it was mostly girls in the line at Subway shop and they were not massively over weight. I figure the guys and overweight girls were over at the fast food places.

OK, how do I work this into the next story. The story is set in 1880’s so the schools girls are dressed in uniforms. They have rich parents or they would be working in the factories so they can afford to eat in a cafe. It’s a French style cafe so they would be getting coffee and a croissant. Alternately trying to look grown up and talking like little girls.


Write on, draw on.   Professor Voltage