News of the Week: Vegas Does Tech, Oregon Pumps Gas, and Boston Makes Burgers (Sort Of)

For the week ending January 12, 2018, Bob Sassone gives us a glimpse of CES, a falling Chinese satellite, the gas pumps in Oregon, a month’s worth of whole wheat bread, and more.

2017 CES
(Kobby Dagan /

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Finally, a Fridge That Will Call Uber for You

Every winter, journalists and geeks … I mean “technology enthusiasts” … get together at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to oooh and ahhh over the latest gadgets invented by companies. This year’s week-long event ends today.

A lot of the new inventions are things most of us will never use — but some are fun. Travis the Translator can translate 80 languages almost instantly, which sounds very Star Trek-ish. Buddy the Robot is like an Amazon Echo crossed with your pet, though there’s no way I’m spending $1500 for it. Or how about this 65-inch LG television that rolls up like a newspaper? I’m sure that LG has to explain to younger people what exactly a “newspaper” is. There was nothing from Apple, because they skip the show every year.

I find myself getting less and less interested in the “new” tech as the years go by. All the fancy this and web-connected that just make things more complicated, and I find myself shrugging more than saying “wow.” I’ll still take landline phones, desktop computers, and typewriters over most of the new things being introduced.

As I’ve said before, I’m waiting for someone — Apple, Amazon, Google, Tom Hanks — to launch a line of manual typewriters. Not electronic typewriters or typewriters that have USB or Wi-Fi. I just mean old-fashioned manual typewriters. If they want, they can put an “i” in front of the name to make it sound more modern.

Maybe We Need New Tech to Control Falling Satellites

How many people remember the Skylab space station? It was launched in 1973 and fell back to Earth in 1979, which caused some panic and a lot of news coverage. The sub shop around the corner from my house even had a special Skylab sandwich on the menu. I think it had ham in it. It burned up in the atmosphere (the space station, not the sandwich), and several pieces landed in Australia.

Now there’s another space object falling to Earth, and right now scientists don’t know exactly where or when it’s going to fall. It’s a Chinese satellite called Tiangong-1 and it’s scheduled to fall back to Earth some time in March. Not only do they not know where it will fall, there’s also no way to control it.

Maybe this satellite should pick up our latest issue, where we explain the right way to fall.


Gas pump in winter

Did you know that until recently there were still two states where it was against the law to pump your own gas into your car? Now there’s only one, because Oregon has passed a law saying, yes, you can now pump your own gas.

A lot of people see this as a positive thing, that it’s about time residents of Oregon were able to do something almost every other state has been able to do for decades. But some people are, well, freaking out. They think it’s dangerous, they think it’s complicated, they don’t want to be bothered doing something a gas station attendant should do, and most of all, they don’t want to go to work smelling like gasoline.

Now the only state where you can’t do it is New Jersey.

The Fire and Fury Book (No, the Other One)

You’ve probably heard of a certain book that’s causing a lot of controversy in the worlds of Washington politics and New York media. Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury is selling like hotcakes (or whatever similar cliché you’d like to plug into this sentence). It’s currently No. 1 on Amazon and sold out at stores around the country. But if you buy books based on the title alone, maybe there’s another Fire and Fury you might like.

I don’t really understand how someone can order a book and not actually look at it to see what they’re getting, but University of Toronto professor Randall Hansen is happy that several people are making that mistake. He wrote a book in 2008 that also happens to be titled Fire and Fury, and some people are buying it, not realizing it’s a book about World War II battles and not about the inner goings-on at the Trump White House.

I’m going to write a cookbook and title it Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

RIP Jerry Van Dyke and John Young

Just a couple of weeks after the death of Rose Marie comes the passing of someone else with a Dick Van Dyke Show connection. Jerry Van Dyke, the real-life brother of Dick who played Rob’s brother Stacey in four appearances on the sitcom and later went on to star in My Mother the Car and Coach, died last Friday at the age of 86. He also had a recurring role on The Middle, playing Patricia Heaton’s dad.

John Young was an astronaut who walked on the moon and commanded the first Space Shuttle flight. He also sneaked a corned beef sandwich onboard for the Gemini 3 mission in 1965. He died last Friday at the age of 87.

The Best and the Worst

The Best: My favorite story this week is about Virgil Westdale, a former Army Air Corps pilot who was stripped of his wings after the attack on Pearl Harbor because his father was Japanese. Westdale recently got those wings back, on his 100th birthday.

The Worst: I’m disheartened by all the store closings! Macy’s, Sears, Kmart. All the stores we shopped at when I was a kid are closing more and more locations. So far, none of the store locations are close to me, but I know that day is coming.

I still remember vividly how I would go through the Sears Christmas catalogue (the “Wish Book”) every year and make a detailed list of the toys I wanted. I’d make a chart for my mom, letting her know exactly what I wanted, the price, and even on what page of the catalog the item could be found (I was just trying to be helpful). Today I’d probably use PowerPoint.

This Week in History

Schoolhouse Rock Debuts on ABC (January 6, 1973)

I haven’t seen this in 40 years, and I’m amazed (and a little bit frightened) that I remember most of the narration and the songs. Zero, my hero, how wonderful you are. How wonderful you arrrrrrrrrrre!

First Typewriter Patent (January 7, 1714)

It was granted to Henry Mill, an English inventor and engineer. Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson takes a look back at some great vintage typewriter ads that ran in the magazine.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Park Street, Boston (January 7, 1961)

Park Street, Boston
January 7, 1961

They’re aren’t many Post covers where I can say, “Hey, I’ve been there!” Besides this cover by John Falter that depicts the State House and Park Street in Boston (click on this page to see the entire painting), the only other cover I have a personal connection with is this one by John Clymer, published just a month later, which shows an area that’s just a couple of blocks from where I’m typing these words.

January Is National Whole Wheat Bread Month

I don’t know how exciting I can make National Whole Wheat Bread Month, but since we’re on the subject of Boston, how about making these Boston Cheeseburgers, which can be made using either wheat or white bread.

Note: There’s no burger.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15)

After King’s death, the idea for a national holiday came from Representative John Conyers of Michigan and Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. The bill they introduced failed to pass by five votes, but another bill was passed in 1983 and signed by President Ronald Reagan. The federal holiday was first celebrated in 1986.

Winnie the Pooh Day (January 18)

This day celebrates the birth of A.A. Milne, the man who invented the yellow bear (with inspiration from his son Christopher Robin, who later grew to hate the books). The two were subjects of the 2017 movie Goodbye Christopher Robin.

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  1. Travis the Translator could be quite helpful/useful depending on your need. Buddy the Robot, too. He’s actually some technology that’s fun and entertaining in a different way, but $1500.00 ($1,650 w/tax) IS pretty steep.

    I agree with you on the landlines, desktop computers and typewriters. Whether Tom Hanks follows through on ‘his plan’ is probably doubtful. I’m VERY surprised there were/are states NOT using self-serve pumps until now. In CA this conversion was done almost 45 years ago in either ’73 or ’74 after the first oil embargo crisis. I only wish gas prices out here were in the mid $2 range per this ‘snow pump’ photo. Anyway, these people don’t need to scared or freaking out about pumping their own gas. It’ll be fine, and your clothes won’t smell of gasoline.

    I haven’t gotten the new book on Trump yet, but I did get the new issue of TIME with his hair on fire, the latest in their ‘meltdown’ series of covers. I’m sure the President loves it, and is having it framed this week. I’m with you on the store closures, and said so recently in Jeff Nilsson’s “11 Common Items That Are Disappearing” feature.

    As far as two thriving ‘economy’ department stores go (Target and Walmart), Target is a lot more expensive than Walmart; it really is. Walmart’s quality, selection of goods, image and checkout system (faster than Target’s) have largely closed the advantage gap on Target over the past 10 years. They still might not have the ‘perceived status’ of Target (yet) but are closing in on that too.


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