Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘culture’

Dear John

Clear Creek Trail

Restroom on Clear Creek Trail

Dear John ,

You are ‘privy’ to wearing one of my favorite doors. I don’t give you nearly enough accolades for the times I’ve been delighted to see your door.

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It’s Free … Is It?

I do not want to wade into controversial topics. I know where I stand on most issues and how I fit (or don’t) with prevailing opinions. Occasionally though, I’m stumped when hearing about a mindset or practice that seems innocuous or acceptable, but causes me ill-ease.

While I might rant (off-line) at corrupt or negligent government and corporate malfeasance, I support both taxpayer-funded institutions and for-profit capitalism. I try to live by the “Do what’s right when no one’s watching” moral code.

Recently I read a blog post about a town where metro tickets are priced by the hour, and people who don’t use the full hour leave the tickets near the metro entrance for others to use. The blogger did not say, but I presume this is not intended or condoned by the governmental agency who expects each rider to purchase a ticket.

The blogger called this “free metro tickets” and likened it to the growing “peer-to-peer sharing economy” (see link below). The intent of the post was to promote this valuable “free” service.

As I was reading the post, I had that sense of ill-ease.

Why?

The metro ticket probably cost a couple Euros; it had already been paid for; it would clearly benefit the follow-on recipient.

Where’s the harm?

As I read the peer-to-peer article, it became clear that ownership and intentional sharing are the underlying premises. A homeowner, car owner, or outright owner of any asset is willingly sharing/renting the unused portion of that asset. No other individual or entity has a stake or ownership in the asset. Therefore no third party is subsidizing, paying for – or is financially harmed by – the sharing/rental.

What is different about the purported “free” sharing of the metro ticket?

The ticket owner does not own the asset; he/she simply purchased the right to use the metro for an hour. I know – you might ask, “Then doesn’t he/she have the right to give away the unused time on the ticket?”

Honestly?

I don’t know … but my ill-ease tells me the answer is No.

Governments collect taxes based on their projections of capital and operating expenditures; usage numbers and many other factors. Taxpayers have paid for these government assets. While this ticket sharing might appear “free” to the user, it certainly isn’t without cost to the taxpayer. I doubt the metro agency is willingly allowing this “free ride” on a taxpayer-owned asset.

Publicly touting this as a “free metro ticket” and deeming it part of the peer-to-peer sharing concept seems incongruent to me. In addition, our growing electronic environment facilitates numerous opportunities to exploit similar “free” practices that, with enough exploitation, could significantly harm taxpayers and business owners.

I am a former restaurant owner. How long would I have stayed in business if customers ordered meals, paid the bill, ate half, and allowed someone else to slip into their seats to finish the “free” meal, using space and labor that should have been available to another paying customer?

Is the “free” metro ticket any different? Why? Because it’s a service instead of a product? Because it’s a government entity? Because the taxpayer’s cost is invisible to the user? Because it’s only a Euro or two?

Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

But my gut tells me this is not the same thing as peer-to-peer sharing.

C’mon, Sammy. Stop kvetching. It’s free … is it?

Sochi and All Things Russian

The excitement of Opening Ceremonies is just hours away.

Check out www.wsj.com/sports and type “opening ceremony bingo” into the search box. You’ll see a list of All Things Russian – 25 iconic images. You can even play Bingo with the images.

Every four years, I tell myself to ignore the media hype, the done-too-often Up Close and Personal sagas of athletes’ struggles to reach their dreams, the almost frantic attempts to heighten the drama. I much prefer to let the competitions reign – pure and simple athlete vs. athlete.

There has been a lot of talk about the lack of readiness at this late date – hotels with inadequate facilities, difficulties with transporting spectators, Sochi not being quite up to “the standards” of other host cities.

Mitt Romney, who presided over the Salt Lake City Winter Games, said it best in an interview last night. To paraphrase: “the games – and the focus of the preparations –  should be about the athletes, their safety, their comfort and their competition. Spectators and tourists must remember they are visiting another country; one which might not be able to accommodate them with the same quality found in their own country. In addition, Sochi is in a remote part of Russia and was not a hub that was modernized even before it became an Olympic site.”

Of course that begs the question why Sochi was selected; that’s for others to answer. Nevertheless, Mr. Romney is right. As long as Sochi takes good care of the athletes and their competitions, they have prepared well.

Let the Games begin!

Class Acts at the Super Bowl, Part 1

So my Denver Broncos got soundly spanked in the Super Bowl.  Heartsick, I couldn’t even watch the game after that disastrous first 10 seconds, hereafter known in Bronco lore as The Snap.

After seeing the Seattle vs. San Francisco playoff game, I knew we didn’t stand a chance if Seattle was “on” on Super Bowl Sunday.

Seriously, did all the sports forecasters forget the stats accumulated over decades of titanic football clashes? A strong defense will, with few exceptions, prevail over a strong offense (and they’ll beat the crap out of an admittedly discombobulated offense).

In spite of the cruel loss, this Super Bowl left me with two breath-taking moments I will long cherish.

First:  Renee Fleming

I don’t know who selected her to sing the Star Spangled Banner, but let’s immediately put that person in charge of all decisions by the federal government for the rest of 2014.

What a Class Act she is. No pun intended because choosing a classically-trained opera soprano was an unusual choice, given how relatively few Americans listen to classical music or attend operas.

To have her perform such a joyful, honest rendition of our national anthem; to have her dress so beautifully in modest, unadorned clothing; to have her celebrate the magnitude of that patriotic song in such simple, soaring splendor is something I will remember for a very long time.

Tomorrow: Class Acts at the Super Bowl, Part 2

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