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Ralph Gardner Jr.

  • I’d be lying if I said that I shed a tear when I read that the last Boeing 747 ever had left its factory in Everett, WA. I draw the line at developing emotional attachments to mechanical devices, no matter how impressive. Nonetheless, the event marks a milestone of sorts. It’s been a half-century since the first one made its maiden commercial flight. A lot has happened in the meantime; not just in aviation but also in my modest life.
  • One normally waits to share the success of a project until after it’s been completed. My attitude is why wait? If I end up with egg on my face so be it. I like eggs however they’re served. I’m declaring the mission I recently embarked upon a success even though I’ve thus far conducted only one interview.
  • I’ve read a bunch of stories lately with headlines like this one from the New York Times: “Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach.” The substance of the stories is that artificial intelligence chatbots have become so proficient at writing B+ term papers, and students at surreptitiously contracting the responsibility to the machines, that professors don’t know what to do. One of them is quoted as having his students write first drafts in the classroom so they can’t cheat. There’s even been talk about doing away with essay questions altogether.
  • This week I did something I haven’t done in years. I visited a department store. If all of us can be said to have a personal landscape, Bloomingdale's looms large on mine. Sort of like the Matterhorn. My mother sometimes dropped by several times a week, usually with one of her four children in tow. She bought anything and everything for us there. Sneakers. Tennis racquets. Winter coats. Even imported frais des bois for herself, from their basement gourmet shop when the berries were in season.
  • Back in November I wrote a commentary for WAMC about the clear and ever-present danger of unlicensed delivery e-bikes rushing along New York City streets. They can reach speeds of almost thirty miles an hour. A listener suggested I also write an op-ed piece on the subject for a city newspaper, whose residents are forced to dodge these culprits on a daily basis.
  • If the holidays are for friends and family then there was no better way to spend it than visiting a person as responsible for raising me as my parents. My younger brothers and I never referred to Marie O’Grady as our nanny. She was our “nurse.” She joined the family when I was two years old and left to get married when I was ten. If those are the Wonder years, at least according to formative 1960’s TV bread commercial, then Marie did as much to bake the loaf as anybody else.
  • When I learned on Thursday that UNESCO had designated the baguette world heritage status my reaction went something like this: What? I assumed UNESCO had given the long crusty loaf of French bread world heritage status decades ago.
  • It’s too early in the season to declare victory. Doing so is undoubtedly going to jinx my success thus far. If past experience is any indication of future performance I’m setting myself up for serious disappointment and even a disastrous fall. But I’ve got to say it: I think I’ve finally licked our cold-blooded, ravenous squirrels at their own game.
  • Today I’m going to discuss a menace, a scourge, a clear and present danger. I’m not referring to COVID or Donald Trump’s Tuesday announcement that he’s running for President again. I’m talking about the epidemic of E-bikes and scooters on New York City streets, many of them ridden by rushing food delivery drivers. As of the end of August fifteen people had died in E-bike and scooter accidents, and undoubtedly countless more were injured.
  • My friend Bruce Shenker forwarded me an email about a chestnut tree planting event he was attending in Greenwich, NY last Monday and suggested I join him. We’d have to leave Columbia County by 7:30 to arrive on time for the 9:00 planting demonstration. Correction: due to daylight savings time the demo had been moved up. It was now 8 a.m. In other words we’d have to leave at the crack of dawn.