Dear Stefano Pessina

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
108 Wilmot Road
Deerfield, IL 60015

9 January 2015

For the attention of Stefano Pessina
Executive Vice Chairman Responsible for Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions

Dear Stefano,

Let me be amongst the first to congratulate you on the recent coup. That Wasson guy was a fly in the gravy, but now that he’s out of the way, nothing will impede your progress. They say you’re just a temp while Walgreens looks for a new CEO, but I see you hanging around awhile. It’s a global empire now, and you’re sitting on top of the world. Make it last, that’s my advice.

I’ve always admired the ruthless efficiency of your Alliance Boots outfit. I guess that’s why you have your HQ in Switzerland. Lord knows your native Italy isn’t exactly famed for this sort of thing, at least not since that Mussolini guy made the trains run on time. The Swiss do have a flair for order, don’t they? And those tax rates — so reasonable! I know the Walgreens board got a little squeamish at the prospect of relocating to the Alps, but I’m sure under your leadership they’ll come to see the light! Obama can talk about “economic patriotism” but we all know he just wants to hold corporations captive and force them to pay higher taxes to advance his socialist agenda!! It’s getting so I don’t recognize my own country any more. Switzerland is the new America!!!

Enough with the pleasantries. Let me get down to brass tacks. The real reason I’m writing is this silly drive-through policy at Walgreens: no pedestrians or bicycles allowed. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Anti-American, even! A man of your sophisticated European sensibilities will see that in a moment.

No Bikes or Pedestrians Allowed

You see, Stefano, I’m not a jet-setter like you. I’m a humble man of the people, just riding my bike around the streets of New Orleans. And let me tell you, these are some mean streets. That’s why I’m so aggravated about the anti-bike policy. I’m out there risking my dome daily, only to roll up at Walgreens and be denied service? On grounds of safety? Sheer madness! Never mind the streets, what about the Walgreens parking lot? You should see how these crazed Americans drive! It’s like the Indy 500 out there.

If we really want to protect the safety of the customer, there is only one sane solution, and that’s to ban automobiles from the premises. I’m sure you see the wisdom of such a scheme, Stef. Cars are dangerous. Besides which, as we all know, my fellow countrymen tend toward the hefty side these days. Americans could use a little more exercise. You’d be doing us all a favor.

So how about it, pal: Any chance you could get this policy reversed?

Sincerely and respectfully,

Bart Everson

To My Aunt

BART, you probably haven’t read about this [forwarded message: Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin?] ––––– you are so brilliant, and I understand how your mind was to reject Jesus, but He is the only way to salvation, He is the only God who died on the cross for our sins–––statues of buddah, baal and Hinduisms and islam and everything else is NOT the way to anything===go back to reading the Bible and before each reading ask God to help you understand. In these last days, you want to be prepared for heaven and the final judgement–––I am so serious, I really hope you understand that I love you and Christy and Persephone––––wouldn’t be much of an aunt if I didn’t at least tell you how important you are.

Continue reading To My Aunt

Epistle to the Ecotopians

I don’t often do this, but here are some words written by someone else. I guess I should add a few words of my own. I read Ecotopia in the late 80s. Written by Ernest Callenbach, it’s an imaginative novel that speculates on what would happen if the west coast of the United States seceded from the union and established a country based on the radical idea of living sustainably. I read it in a class on utopian literature at Indiana University, taught by the amazing Edward Gubar. I loved that class. Incidentally, today I saw that Edward’s ex-wife Susan Gubar is on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is also a writer facing her own mortality, just as Ernest Callenbach has done. Callenbach died a few weeks ago, and this letter was found on his computer. It was obviously written as a final statement. Please, please read it. Also, many thanks to TomDispatch.com for first publishing this epistle.
Continue reading Epistle to the Ecotopians

Saving Grace

Mid-City Community Dinner

It’s come to my attention that the Episcopal Diocese is planning to close Grace Episcopal Church on Canal Street in the first Sunday in January. This would be a major blow in my opinion. Below is a letter to the bishop urging him to reconsider this decision. Though sent on behalf of my role in FOLC, I feel a strong personal connection to Grace as I’ve attended so many meetings there. My daughter had a wonderful time at Grace Child Center until it too was closed by the diocese under circumstances which I never fully understood. I find church politics very confusing. The Executive Board of the diocese is meeting this Wednesday; I sincerely hope they can find a way to keep Grace open.

Dear Reverend Morris Thompson,

As the President of Friends of Lafitte Corridor, I am writing to you to express how important Grace Episcopal church is to my organization and to many other organizations across the City. This church is far more than a space for worship, it is a place that inspires residents to give back to the community. By hosting and advertising many community meetings and functions that contribute to the improvement of our society as a whole, Grace Episcopal is a true gem in New Orleans and should not be closed. My organization has had monthly meetings here for over three years. I have attended numerous citywide meetings and neighborhood meetings at this venue as well. This church brings communities together to help address societal issues, and if closed, would leave many residents and organizations at a loss for a gathering space. Therefore on behalf of the Board of Friends of Lafitte Corridor, I am requesting that you reconsider your decision to close such an active and important church.

Sincerely,

Bart Everson
President
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

Cc: Reverend Canon Mark Stevenson

Dear Mom & Dad

Me and Mom and Dad

Dear Mom & Dad,

It’s a good time of year to honor ancestors. Many traditions focus on ancestors who have passed away. My genealogical research indicates that the overwhelming majority of our ancestors are in this category. In fact, of direct living ancestors I have but two: the two of you. However much we honor the dead, we should surely not neglect the living. And so therefore I thought this would be a good time to say “thank you” for all that you’ve done for me.

First and foremost, I’m grateful that you brought me into the world. I’ve been around enough to know that simply being alive is not an unqualified good. Some have called this existence a “veil of tears,” and certainly suffering and pain are plentiful. Even so, after four decades (plus some) I can say that I’m glad to be here. The basic existential question was one reason I dithered so long on the question of having a child of my own. The notion that my daughter might somehow regret being born still haunts me, vaguely, however absurd that might seem. Thus I want to remove all doubt: Thank you for the gift of life.

One key reason I can affirm and celebrate the joy of being alive has been my general freedom from want. Granted, I was born in a prosperous nation at a prosperous time. But you worked continually to make sure that all the material needs of our family were covered. I never went hungry as a child. I never did without any basic necessity. I’ve seen enough poverty now to be grateful for that. Thank you for providing food, shelter and clothing.

We didn’t just eat, we ate well. For as long as I can remember, you were always interested in a healthy diet. You never made an obsession out of it, but you read books about nutrition and varied our menu as your understanding evolved. Our fare rarely strayed outside the American mainstream, but it was always wholesome and nourishing. Junk food was not forbidden, but it was never encouraged. As I’ve grown I find this orientation to food has served me well. I don’t struggle to like food that’s “good for me.” I’m predisposed to like it already. Thank you for inculcating a love of healthy food.

The solid foundation you provided allowed my curiosity to flourish, and you always encouraged my personal development. You provided a great example by being curious yourselves, always interested in learning more about the world around us. We traveled regularly and visited museums and cultural centers around the country. You were always reading and took me to the library often. You sent me to schools which were funded with your taxes. You helped me with my schoolwork and valued academic achievement. We hosted exchange students, and you even sent me overseas for a year. It was a difficult time but rewarding as well, an experience I wouldn’t trade. You sent me to college, and I was able to concentrate fully on my studies; I didn’t have to work a job or accumulate an enormous debt. Now I’m gainfully employed at a university. Thank you for funding my education and encouraging the life of the mind.

There are so many things you did as well. Big and little things. You generally respected my autonomy and freedom. When you disciplined me you were even-handed and fair. You taught me the value of a dollar. You taught me to tune out commercials when watching television. You taught me that racism was wrong. You taught me to be honest in my dealings with others. Thank you for teaching me these values.

It hasn’t always been easy. We have had our disputes, and they have not always been trivial. I know you often worried about me during the wild years of my youth. I know I have not always been the most grateful or gracious son. There were times when you were very close to giving up on me. But you didn’t, and in the final analysis, that’s all that really matters. Thank you for that. Thank you for loving me.

You know that I’ve only scraped the surface?

Your son,

Dear Netflix

Dear Netflix,

After many years of loyal patronage, I will be canceling my Netflix membership at the end of December.

As we’ve shared so many delightful years together I thought you deserved an explanation, so I’m writing this letter to spell it all out for you.

I’ve been with you from almost the beginning. I think we first subscribed in 2000 or 2001. We took a break after our DVD player went on the fritz, but we reactivated in 2004 and embarked on a mad alphabetical odyssey, watching almost 300 movies I’d always wanted to see. I reviewed them all on my blog. When we finally finished the list three years later, we started all over again with another alphabetical list, which took us a mere thirteen months to complete. Since then, parental responsibilities have cut into our movie viewing time, and the alphabetical approach has broken down, but we’ve continued to enjoy the service.

We’ve been through some tough times together. In 2005, when our home was flooded and much of the Gulf Coast lay in ruins, I was impressed that you handled our account in a sensible and humane fashion. Not every corporate entity was so enlightened. That led me to believe that perhaps you were that most elusive of chimeras, a corporation with a conscience. But perhaps I was projecting my wishful thoughts because of all the pleasure I derived from those movies. Several recent developments have made me question your integrity.

First, you phased out the Friends feature earlier this year, despite vocal protests from many of your most loyal members. I was disappointed, but decided to hang in there.

Next, you announced our subscription fee would be going up. The reason? You’re wanting to plow more resources into delivering streaming content. You’re also offering a new streaming-only plan which would actually save me money. But here’s the rub: Of the 34 movies currently in my queue, only 12 are available for streaming. I’m perfectly happy to get a DVD in the mail instead. But I’m not happy to pay more for it.

And here’s what sealed the deal: I read Jessica Thurber’s post on the Deaf Politics blog. It seems the Achilles heel with streaming videos is a lack of support for captions. Oh, it’s technically possible, it’s just that you’re not doing much of it, not are you indexing which movies have captions and which don’t. I don’t generally use captions, but I understand their value. When my parents were visiting for the holidays we watched movies with captions so that everyone would catch the dialog.

Therefore, in solidarity with the hearing impaired, and to protest your fee increase, and because I don’t like the way you got rid of your community features, I am going to cancel my membership.

I will probably check out one of your competitors such as GreenCine. I think they may have a better catalog of obscure and artsy films anyhow. For example, they’ve got The American Astronaut which has been in my Netflix “saved” queue for a year now. They’ve also got Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl and The Ipcress File and a whole bunch of flicks you haven’t seen fit to acquire for DVD or streaming. As a matter of fact GreenCine is looking better all the time.

But don’t worry Netflix. I’m sure you can lure me back if you address the issues I’ve listed above.

What’s more, I am posting this letter to my blog, and encouraging anyone who feels as I do to follow suit.

Sincerely,

Dear Mr. Marcello

1025 Bienville St Suite 5
New Orleans LA 70112

Dear Mr. Marcello,

My wife and I recently purchased a house nearby, and we have been very happy to see the renovation activity at 4337-4339 Banks Street. In fact, I supported the zoning change you recently sought for that property, though some of my neighbors did not. I believe a commercial designation is appropriate at that location.

The only reason I’m writing is to provide a friendly reminder that there are regulations regarding lead paint removal. I noted today that sanding efforts are underway. It is my hope hope that you will follow the legal guidelines. In fact we hope you will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure lead paint does not further contaminate the neighborhood.

I am enclosing a photo of my daughter so that you will understand my concern. Lead is especially harmful to children, and our daughter was diagnosed with poisoning last year. That is one reason we sold our old house and bought this new one.

Obviously we wish to protect her from further exposure to lead and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure her future health and safety. If you wish to discuss this matter further please contact me at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Dear Mr. Bissell (2)

Bissell Homecare, Inc.

PO Box 3606

Grand Rapids MI 49501

For the attention of Mark J. Bissell, President & CEO

Dear Mr. Bissell,

Goodness gracious! I’ve just been going through some old files, and I realized it’s been one full year since I wrote to you. I have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.

Is this your idea of customer service? What would your great-grandfather Melville Bissell think if he knew how you were running the business?

I am enclosing a copy of my previous letter for your convenience. As you will see, I was merely asking for clarification of your policy regarding your 90 Day Limited Warranty. Why was I charged for twelve dollars for a replacement hose?

Enclosed please find my personal check for $2.00 to cover the expense of writing back to me. This should cover the cost of an envelope, the appropriate foolscap, ink and even postage.

Sincerely,

Dear Mr. Bissell

Bissell Homecare, Inc.
PO Box 3606
Grand Rapids MI 49501

For the attention of Mark J. Bissell, President & CEO

Dear Mr. Bissell,

We recently purchased a Lift-Off Revolution Remanufactured 3760R vacuum cleaner produced by your company. During its second use, the stretch hose came detached from the hose grip, rendering the whole apparatus inoperable. It seemed a minor repair, and being somewhat handy with mechanical devices, I attempted to reattach the hose grip but found myself absolutely flummoxed.

Eventually I admitted my failure and called your Consumer Services hotline. The representative with whom I spoke offered to sell me a Liftoff Twist’N Snap Hose Replacement for twelve dollars. I asked if the vacuum was not covered under some sort of warranty, since we’d had it less than a week.

Her response? She waived the shipping fee.

Eager to get our vacuum cleaner working again, I authorized payment with my credit card, and the replacement hose has since been shipped to our home, and I am twelve dollars poorer. Not to worry, the sum will not bankrupt me.

However, after getting off the phone, I took a few minutes to scrutinize the User’s Guide. That is where I found the very nice personal message from you, sir, with the story of how your great-grandfather invented the floor sweeper in 1876. This same message touts your 90 day warranty, so I assume that you, at least, are aware of this provision.

Turning to the back of our User’s Guide, I found the 90 Day Limited Warranty spelled out in greater detail. It is probably not necessary to quote this passage, but indulge me: “Bissell Homecare, Inc. will repair or replace (with new or remanufactured components or products), at Bissell’s option, free of charge from the date of purchase by the original purchaser, for 90 Days any defective or malfunctioning part.”

Given the clarity of this statement, I can only wonder why I was charged for the hose. Is this a nefarious scheme to prey upon the illiterate who cannot read and thus would not know of your warranty? I know times are tough, but I do not think your great-grandfather would approve of this way of doing business.

cc: Customer Services

Dear Humana

Humana
P.O. Box 14546
Lexington KY 40512-4610

Sept. 2, 2009

Dear Humana,

I recently took my daughter to a doctor in our neighborhood. I took special care to make sure this doctor was a “participating provider,” because I know how important that is to you.

(I made the mistake of going to a “non participating provider” once before and I got stuck with the bill. You can’t say I don’t learn from my mistakes.)

In the course of this visit she had some blood work done. This was mailed away to Tamarac Medical in Colorado for processing. Unfortunately Tamarac Medical is a “non participating provider” and so once again I am getting stuck with the bill, $40.00 in this case.

Note that I was not given any choice over where my daughter’s blood was sent, nor was I informed at the time that a “non participating provider” would be entering into the picture.

Therefore I humbly entreat you to reconsider this judgment against me.

Hopefully,

PS: Your claim summary specifies August 28 as the “Paid” date for this claim. Given the fact that Humana has not in fact “paid” anything for this service, don’t you feel that terminology is a bit confusing?

Entergy Writes Back

Remember that letter I sent to Entergy? I got a reply.

Entergy Writes Back

July 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Everson

As Director of Customer Service at Entergy New Orleans, Inc., I wanted to thank you for your recent letter regarding the hours of operation at our Customer Care Center located on Canal Blvd.

The business hours of the Care Centers are always a primary concern to us as it is our goal to be available to the greatest number of people. We have conducted many different studies with our customer base and the results show that the majority of our customers prefer doing business after their work hours rather than before. We are constantly monitoring and evaluating the needs of our customers and will adjust our business practices and hours of operation as these needs change.

We do encourage and appreciate the input of our customers and want to thank you for taking the time to let us know how you feel that we can better serve the community. We will keep your letter and definitely consider the suggestions as we continue to change and adapt our service to better fit the needs of the community.

Sincerely,

Melonie P. Hall
Director of Customer Service
Entergy New Orleans, Inc.

I feel like a response is in order, but I’m not sure what angle to take.

Dear Mr. West

Entergy New Orleans
1600 Perdido St
New Orleans, LA 70112

Attn: Rod West, President & CEO

Dear Mr. West,

I just had a brilliant idea on how Entergy can improve customer service in New Orleans. Please allow me to explain.

Every morning I ride my bike past the Entergy office located at the corner of Canal and Jeff Davis. Before 8:30 AM time there’s always a dozen or more people standing in line, waiting for the door to open. If I don’t see the line of people, I know that it’s past 8:30 and I’m running late.

As much as I appreciate the handy time-check, I’m pretty sure the people aren’t happy about standing in line. After all, no one likes to stand in line, especially in inclement weather. But the people are always there, rain or shine, waiting patiently.

I got to thinking. Why would anybody rise early and come to stand in line before the office is even open? Why not wait and come later in the day? Let me tell you, Rod, they aren’t standing there for their health, that’s for sure.

The answer is clear. These people have jobs. Most jobs are from nine to five. They are trying to take care of their business with Entergy before they go to work.

Therefore it seems to me that Entergy could save these folks a lot of hassle through a simple expedient which I will share with you now:

Open the office earlier.

Such an easy way to better serve your customers! Sure, it might cost a bit extra to have the office open longer, but I’m sure you can afford it given the $11 billion annual revenue of Entergy Corporation.

No need to thank me for this idea, Rod. The knowledge that the citizens of New Orleans are getting better service will be all the compensation I require.

Well, I guess if you wanted to knock a few bucks off my next bill I wouldn’t mind. Whatever you think is fair.

Yours sincerely,

Editor B

Update: Shortly after writing this letter, I opened up the Times-Picayune to see the following article at the top of the Money section:

Entergy Louisiana ranked last in J.D. Power customer service rating

Continue reading Dear Mr. West

Dear Aunt Ron

Dear Aunt Ron,

Thanks for Persephone’s birthday gift. It will probably take her a while to grow into those clothes, but better too big than too small.

I also appreciated the letter you included. Rest assured, I won’t “disown” you for the suggestions you make regarding Persephone’s religious education. In fact I am touched that you took the time to write about this.

Apparently you were disturbed by the picture I posted recently of the girl handling a tarot card. I hope to set your mind at ease somewhat, and was pondering what I might say when Persephone took matters into her own hands, so to speak. Of her own accord she grabbed a Bible off the bookshelf and opened it.

Bible Study

She’s too young to actually read, of course, but I was astonished when she pointed to a verse with great deliberation. It was Zachariah 14:1, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh.”

Zechariah 14

Was she playing Biblical Lot? Only heaven knows what question she had in mind. I tell you it sent an apocalyptic chill down my spine.

In all seriousness, though, we don’t want her to be unfamiliar with the Bible or a stranger to the inside of a church. To the contrary, we want to raise our daughter with a well-rounded exposure to the varieties of religious experience, to draw on all the wisdom traditions of the world.

There are certain things we will not do, of course. We will not pretend to know the truth about life, the universe and everything with absolute surety. Being honest about doubts and the limitations of our knowledge is very important to us. The only thing of which we’re totally certain is our lack of total certainty. And that has profound implications. We’re more likely to say, “This is what we think,” rather than, “That’s the way it is.” Please note that this doesn’t mean a wishy-washy perspective devoid of any moral spine. Quite the opposite. Our acknowledgment of doubt and skepticism springs from a love of honest reason as the best source for moral guidance.

As for baptism, you will be happy to know we performed such a ritual on the banks of Bayou St. John last year. I wish you could have been here for it. You can experience the next best thing, because I wrote about it, and there are pictures and even audio of the complete ceremony. I hope you can give it a listen.

And you certainly are welcome to come and visit us in New Orleans if you should ever get the chance.

Love,
Your nephew

Dear Mr. Carrere

Dear Mr. Carrere,

Your name was given to me as a good person to contact in Code Enforcement for the City of New Orleans.

Unfortunately a number of homes in my immediate neighborhood remain hazardous eyesores that have not been properly remediated since the floods of 2005.

Today I am writing to you about what I consider to be the worst of the lot: 3016 Bienville. This double today stands with both doors open and moldering furniture visible inside from the curb. It has never been gutted or even secured. Since I live literally around the corner, I pass by this house often. What I see makes my blood boil. But imagine how the people feel who live one or two doors down or across the street and must gaze upon this travesty every day — not to mention keeping their kids out of harm’s way.

This is a historic shotgun double, and as such it is an important part of the fabric of the block. It does not need to be demolished. Indeed its demolition would add injury to insult. It should be renovated. And in the meantime, it should be secured immediately.

It makes me furious to contemplate how a property owner could be so irresponsible, and so disrespectful to me and my neighbors. But furious or not, I understand that some people are just bad eggs. I can accept that. What I wonder about, and the reason I am writing you today, is to ask this question: What can the city do to hold the owner of this property accountable? What will you do?

For my part of I have filed every kind of report I can imagine on this property. We have received assurances that he’s going to sell, etc. And yet today the building still stands there without even the rudimentary and step of boarding up the front door as required by ordinance.

Personally I believe the owner should be fined and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

At the end of my rope,

Bart Everson

PS: You can see a picture of the house here.

3016 Bienville

Note that this photo was taken almost two years ago and not one thing has changed since then, except the weeds have gotten higher.
Continue reading Dear Mr. Carrere

Dear Goody Clancy

Here’s a letter which I hope to present directly to representatives of Goody Clancy at tonight’s District 4 meeting (6PM @ Jesuit).

Dear Goody Clancy,

Friends of Lafitte Corridor has been reviewing the Master Plan draft. It is quite impressive. However, there are several points that concern us. We believe that the revitalization of the Lafitte Corridor, with a central greenway, offers a model for nurturing the values of sustainability and community that the Master Plan draft espouses. Therefore I am sending this follow-up to my recent e-mail.

  1. Chapter 13 mentions the Mississippi River Greenway Initiative, but we could find no mention of the greenway project planned for the Lafitte Corridor.
  2. The greenway shows up on the proposed bike route map, but it is not the correct length. (It should extend from Basin Street all the way to Canal Blvd. instead of terminating at City Park Ave.)
  3. Note the two-part structure of the project as the Office of Recovery Development has conceived it and City Planning Commission staff has endorsed: development of a Lafitte Corridor Revitalization Plan and design of the greenway/trail itself. These two prongs are distinct and substantial.
  4. In recognition of the unique opportunities the greenway represents, we recommend a special land use designation for trail-oriented development along the entire length of the Lafitte Corridor.
  5. The integrative nature of the project as “green infrastructure” should be emphasized — integrating active transportation, public health and recreation, economic revitalization, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability initiatives.
  6. For an excellent example of trail-oriented land use planning, please see the Midtown Greenway’s Land Use Development Plan

  7. Attached please find a copy of the City Planning Commission’s recent review of the Lafitte Greenway Master Plan. Note their recommendation to integrate this plan into the Citywide Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance effort.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these matters in greater detail. Also please feel free to contact my fellow board members: Dr. Lake Douglas who is a professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at LSU, and architect Daniel Samuels.

Yours sincerely,

Bart Everson
President
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

Dear General Zia

This is the second installment of three sample documents dredged up from my old Brother WP-500 disks. I think this letter more or less explains itself. I wrote a number of such letters, inspired by author Bruce West, and in fact that was my original motivation for purchasing the WP-500 in the first place. With its daisywheel printer, it produced documents that looked like they were typed the old-fashioned way. Thus, I think it has maximum impact when viewed in its original format. I’m embedding the document here; please use the “full screen” toggle button in the upper right corner to make it legible.

Continue reading Dear General Zia

Dear Coby

One of the key tensions in my relationship with Xy has to do with television. To put it bluntly, she’s for it and I’m against it. I long ago gave up the battle to keep television out of our home, but at least we don’t pay for cable or satellite. We get our TV off the air for free. We switched to digital when our old TV got flooded, and we’ve been enjoying high-definition broadcasts ever since.

I use the term “enjoying” advisedly. I’m just enough of a video geek to think the whole technical aspect of getting high definition signals off the air is cool. I can watch a crappy TV show and still marvel at the gorgeousity of the image.

I was mildly horrified when Xy got a portable TV for our kitchen, but that’s another battle I’ve given up on. Her little $16 set will be made obsolete by the impending digital transition. So as a token of my undying love for her and my boundless magnanimity, I decided to get her a portable digital TV for Xmas. Who else can condescend so nicely?

Only problem, as anyone who’s shopped for such a product knows: It’s slim pickings. Portable digital TVs? I could only find three on the market, and they all cost a lot more than $16.

Ultimately I sprang for the Coby TF-TV791 7″. It arrived a couple weeks ago, and since we don’t believe in delayed gratification, it’s been deployed on our kitchen counter ever since.

It works pretty well. The reception is a little funny, as we can get some stations better than with our main TV downstairs, but others are worse. Xy’s just impressed that it’s in color.

There is one major glaring problem.

I’m going to need an illustration to make this clear. Bear with me.

Coby Comparison

A tip of the hat to the talented Jon Rawlinson for sharing this high definition video frame under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

The top image shows a 16:9 high-definition video frame in its proper aspect ratio. This is how HD video should look on a widescreen TV.

The middle image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 16:9 mode. Note the black bars on top and bottom. As a rule you shouldn’t see bars on top and bottom on a widescreen TV. Note also that the video image is scrunched down, vertically compressed.

The bottom image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 4:3 mode. Note that the image is no longer scrunched. It is actually displaying in its proper aspect ratio, but it’s not filling the screen as it should. Something is way wrong here.

I’ve written a note to Coby about this:

I recently purchased your TF-TV791 as a Xmas gift for my wife.

It works well except for one technical issue which is frustrating me.

The set displays 4:3 standard definition video quite well. However, it has a problem with 16:9 high-definition video.

I am of course aware of how to switch back and forth between the 4:3 and 16:9 modes using the remote. The problem is that high-definition video is simply not displayed properly. There are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when viewing a high-definition signal.

As a general rule, there should not be black bars on a widescreen TV when viewing widescreen video. I’ve been able to check the same broadcast on our larger Panasonic television and verify that the signal properly fills the screen without stretching.

Therefore I can only conclude the problem is with the TF-TV791 unit. Is there some way to correct this problem?

I wonder if they’ll get back to me.

Letter

This arrived in the mail yesterday with no return address. View the large version for easier reading.

Letter

Note: I cut the writer’s name off to preserve his/her privacy.

This letter is in response to the most recent article about us in the Times-Picayune. The writer means well, but the discerning reader will not have to strain much to discover a certain subtext. I guess this pretty much stands on its own. I don’t have much to add except…

The teens on our porch are definitely not scaring the neighbors away. I can say this with some confidence because the teens are the neighbors. I mean, they’re from the families who are moving. No one around here is scared of them. They’re just trying to get away from the family for a little bit. You know how teens are.

Good Neighbors

It was good to see a letter from my neighbor on the editorial page of the Times-Picayune this weekend. (Note: The “Good Neighbor Program” started off as a city ordinance that dictated storm damaged homes must to be gutted and secured one year after Katrina. We are now approaching the two-year mark.)

Not such a Good Neighbor
Sunday, June 24, 2007

What is going on with the Good Neighbor program?

As a long-term property owner and investor in Orleans Parish, I am very concerned.

My neighbor’s abandoned property at 3920-3922 Bienville Street has a rodent problem. I have reported this property, and other neglected properties owned by the same person, to the Good Neighbor program on numerous occasions without result.

Prior to the storm the properties were already in bad condition. The owner is a very hands-off type of landlord. The houses were boarded up a few months ago; I do not believe they have been gutted.

The owner says he has no desire to renovate the properties and does not care to sell. Regardless of how hard we try to renovate and move forward, it is extremely difficult when you live next to a biohazard.

Our home is to be our place of retirement and long-term commitment to Orleans Parish and Mid-City.

I would sincerely appreciate the same commitment from my representatives as well.

Christina Sorrels-Guillot
New Orleans

But wait, there’s more! Not one but two letters on this subject.

Why isn’t program enforced?
Sunday, June 24, 2007

It is difficult to express my frustration level with the Good Neighbor program. The New Orleans City Council passes these recovery programs and the city does not enforce them.

The old Avenue Sandwich shop on City Park Avenue burned many months ago. The roof is being held up by a single 2×4. Worse, this is a bus stop used by Delgado students. Many times when I pass there someone is leaning against the board.

Surely someone owns this building, and one would think that the city could apply pressure or simply take the initiative to tear the place down. Do we have to wait for some unsuspecting student to be injured or killed?

Additionally, there are hundreds, if not thousands of homes in the neighborhoods that have not been gutted or closed up. There is no incentive for the neighbors to invest money to fix their own homes, therefore no recovery.

James M. Taylor
New Orleans

And here’s a letter sent today from the Vice-President of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization to a city official.

Ms. Addkison,

As Vice President of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, I attended the Mayor’s Town Hall meeting for our area, along with many of my neighbors, back on March 17, 2007. At the urging of your office, neighbors compiled the attached list of the 14 worst-offending properties in Mid-City with regard to imminent danger of collapse and health hazards. These properties were initially reported to the Good Neighbor Program, many of them in mid-September 2006 following a detailed survey of the neighborhood.

This list was initially sent to Patricia Robinson on March 23, 2007. Our first follow-up email, dated April 16, was prompted by the collapse of one of the properties. The next follow-up email was May 16, while the debris pile from the April collapse still was blocking the sidewalk and part of the street. The most recent follow-up email on June 11, 2007 finally produced a phone message from Mr. Winston Reid. However, on the occasions when I have called the number that Mr. Reid left (915-0092), the recording says that the number cannot receive messages and nobody returns my page.

Many of our concerned Mid-City residents have recently contacted your office, the Mayor’s office, Councilmembers, and the media regarding this ongoing problem with the failure of the Good Neighbor Program. It seems that in most of the responses, there is no clear action on the part of the city.

I am providing you with the chain of emails, on-going for more than 90 days. As a neighborhood that is more than 60% populated, with neighbors daily making a decision whether or not to return and/or to rebuild their homes, these dangerous properties weigh heavily in their decisions.

I ask you on behalf of the residents of Mid-City to provide us with a clear plan and timeline for when these most dangerous properties will be dealt with. Mid-City neighbors stand ready to assist the City in any way possible to address these issues, we only need your leadership to begin.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Weishaupt
Vice President
Mid-City Neighborhood Organization

I applaud my neighbors for doing what they can to bring attention to this issue. Irresponsible property owners and ineffective government conspire to hold us back. But we need to think carefully about what we want the solution to look like. I don’t trust government or business to solve this problem alone. But the community working with government and business might be able to get something done. We need to start exploring other models.