New and Improved? Not So Much.

New and improved? I believe it all started with the car bumper (and if I believe it, it must be true?). Anyhow, I’m well over a half century old, so I remember a lot of stuff. This includes when cars were made of steel, with substantial chrome bumpers. You could crash that thing into a cement building and the building would lose. New and Improved?

Then, the car manufacturers decided to replace the chrome steel bumpers with cheaper plastic bumpers and so-called crumple zones. This is where the front of the car folds up like an accordion to absorb some of the impact, and your engine. New and Improved?

This was marketed as new and improved; the car was supposedly safer and weighed less for improved gas mileage. Honestly, if I gotta be in a head-on crash with a cow, deer, or brand-new car, I’d like to have my old Ford with the chrome steel bumper back. I’m thinking new and improved really meant cheaper to manufacture, but then after living this long I’m perhaps a little on the cynical side. As my wife always says, follow the money, and she’s way smarter than I am. New and Improved?

Then there’s drug manufacturing. The old drugs are never quite good enough; we always seem to need new and improved ones. The TV advertisements even encourage me to go online, self-diagnose based on my current symptoms, and ask my doctor about a specific new drug that might help. New and Improved?

With all the stress in today’s world, how many of us don’t have some type of problem? High blood pressure (from all the new and improved products that don’t work), anxiety (from all the giant 24-hour a day manure spreaders that pretend to provide the daily news), depression (we are just now getting through the Covid pandemic…or are we?), aches and pains, and at my age parts that just randomly stop working or fall off. New and Improved?

So, I have a headache, feel depressed, am constipated, and perhaps have developed a slight twitch in my right eye. I go online to self-diagnose and discover that I probably have something called neurosaddeningbloatitis (I probably just made this up, but you can go online and check for yourself if you’d like or call your doctor). I call my doctor to ask about it, and he tells me this is very serious. Then his assistant makes me an appointment for three months from Thursday. New and Improved?   

I’m a nervous wreck for three months, until the appointment arrives. I find that my appointment is actually with his physician’s assistant; it’s very difficult to see an MD these days. She asks me what’s wrong, and I tell her my symptoms. She goes online, does some reading, and tells me “You have neurosaddeningbloatitis. There’s a brand-new drug for that called Relaxabloat. It’s a unique new combination drug made up of Xanax and Tums.” New and Improved?

She writes me a prescription, and I rush to the pharmacy where I am charged $2000 for twenty pills. I rush home, take my first pill, and all of a sudden, I don’t care so much about my symptoms, or the fact that my credit card now has a $2000 charge on it. And even better, one of the side effects is a four-hour erection. I’m loving this new age of medicine. Perhaps new and improved isn’t so bad. New and Improved?     

Another example, I phone my doctor and say, “Doc, I was cutting up an onion to put in my fried potatoes for breakfast, and I cut my finger off. What about this new drug, Digitgrowback? Would that work for me?” The doctor’s nurse says that I should make an appointment for next Thursday and be sure to keep that finger on ice and bring it along. New and Improved?

 The nurse tells me that Digitgrowback is a great new drug, but it can take up to 50 years to work, and side effects include horrible excruciating death, diarrhea, painful death, headache, dying, constipation, and other fingers falling off. Plan B would be to just sew the old finger back on. When I asked about the cost, I was told the surgery would cost two thousand dollars. A year’s worth of Digitgrowback was two million dollars, but well worth it for a ground-breaking new drug. New and improved?

Another new and improved thing involves the fact that our esteemed federal government just keeps on printing and spending money with great abandon. This tends to result in runaway inflation. When my wife returns from the grocery store these days, I’ve noticed that the grocery bags are much smaller. New and Improved?

The Eggo waffles have become bite-sized, a dozen eggs have been redefined as 10, and a bag of potato chips should now be called a bag of chip (as in chip and dip instead of chips and dip) because there’s barely more than one chip per bag. There is even a term for this. It’s called shrink-flation. This is new and improved as well. New and Improved?

The inflation part is actually not new at all. The federal government has been overspending for a very long time. I’m still trying to find a credit card for myself with a limit of infinity and no need to ever make a payment. But that appears to be reserved for Congress. New and Improved?

Perhaps shrink-flation is improved though. For example, the smaller grocery bags full of tiny containers of food costing the same as before, or more, are much lighter to carry. This helps prevent back problems for the shoppers that have to carry them home. New and Improved?

Furthermore, it is well-known that obesity is a major problem in America. You just don’t gain as much weight by eating chip and dip as chips and dip. So perhaps this new and improved shrink-flation is a good thing. And think of all the money we’ll save in healthcare and pharmaceuticals; not as much need for pain killers for back pain, or heart problems from obesity. New and improved?

There’re also new and improved ways to control your home. For example, an AI known as Alexa was sent to me as a gift by one of my daughters. Alexa now turns on lights for me, plays playlists that I put together, wakes me up when I tell her to, acts as a timer, sets reminders, tells me the weather, the news, and answers pretty much any question I can come up with. If I chose to do so, she could also control my TV, my thermostat, home security cameras, and God only knows what else. New and Improved?

This is all new to me, but I’m not so sure about the improved part. I can’t tell you how many times Alexa has refused to turn the lights on or off, and I still have to get out of bed and walk to the light switch. I think perhaps the old “clapper” was better. New and Improved?

Then there was the night when she decided to turn the bedroom lights on at three o’clock in the morning, which scared my wife and me half to death. She refused to explain why she did this. She also seems to have trouble understanding me; perhaps I mumble. Often when I ask her to play my Reba playlist, I get to hear Johnny Cash instead. I don’t think anyone mumbles that badly. New and Improved?

It might just be my imagination, but I’m beginning to think that my Alexa has developed an attitude problem. Sometimes she chooses to ignore me altogether. And every now and then she gets downright grumpy and testily explains to me the difference between “bedroom lightbulb 1 and 2”, like I’m not too bright. New and Improved?

And then there’s her suggestions and recommendations. “Would you like me to wake you up to that same song every morning?” Or “Would you like to hear a joke?” If I wanted this stuff, I’d ask. Then there’s the fact that I always record basketball games so I can fast-forward through the annoying commercials. Alexa insists on telling me the scores before I get a chance to watch the game. Improved? Not so much. New and improved?   

One of the most annoying examples of new and improved includes the never-ending train of software and operating system updates to my iPhone and Macbook Pro laptop. I refuse to allow these devices to update automatically and set them to notify me when a new update to the operating system is available. Then I go online and research the update to see if there are any problems before actually allowing the update to occur. New and Improved?

With both devices, every time I research a new OS update there appears to be a ridiculous number of security repairs to the software. I’ve actually seen updates to my phone or laptop where the new OS update includes repairs to over 30 security issues, and then when I allowed the update to occur 50 more security issues showed up. It’s almost like they are purposefully adding security and bug problems instead of removing them. How is this new and improved? New and improved?

Then, I finally get my laptop set up just the way I like it, and I have figured out where all the important settings are located. Along comes the next new and improved OS update. And all of a sudden, I can’t figure out how to change settings anymore, and my laptop is set up the way some guy at Apple wants it to be. There’re forty more security issues, and half of the functions that I used to like are gone or changed…for the betterNew and Improved?

I especially like the new Microsoft Word for Apple, with all the suggestions for words I should and should not use so I don’t insult my readers. And I prefer to say “have to” and not “must”. Talk about the word police. Don’t they teach basic reading, writing, and grammar in school anymore? Now I gotta argue with the damned software just to say what I wanna say? There’s probably a new medication for that. I’ll have to call my doctor to ask. New and improved?

I’m thinking in this realm of cell phones and laptops, new and improved is also synonymous with “engineered obsolescence.” For one thing, many of these updates include decreasing the life of the battery and filling up the device’s memory. Suddenly my battery only lasts 10 minutes, the hard drive is full of all the update crap, and it’s time to buy a new phone or laptop. This is actually not a new concept. Engineered obsolescence had been around longer than I have, and that’s quite a while. It’s quite a profitable concept. New and Improved?  

There’s also the age-old question of “folding phone versus flat-screen phone.” My first cell phone was a so-called flip-phone. Granted, it was not a smart phone, but it folded up and fit nicely into my pocket. Then we went to smart flip phones, and then suddenly it was preferable to have a flat phone with a larger display screen and virtual buttons. New and Improved?

Now, it would seem we’re back to folding smart phones. In this case it appears that it’s just a fad thing. Some idiot in Hollywood, or one of those so-called internet influencers with a kajillion bots following them, buys a new type of cell phone, and everyone in the know (read lemming) has to have one. Doesn’t matter if the thing works better. You just gotta have one to be popular, like everyone else. God help us all. New and Improved?

We used to read books…real books with real paper and print that you could hold in your hand. You could turn the pages, and it just felt right. You could read a book in the bathtub and if you dropped it in the water, you didn’t get electrocuted. New and Improved?

Now we have the Kindle Paperwhite and a kajillion other electronic readers, which also come with eternal updates. Or I can read a novel on my cell phone, which is also handy. Until someone calls me while I’m reading and I either lose my place or throw my phone across the room because I’m startled by the fact that my book is ringing. I’m thinking this is not exactly improved. New and Improved?

There is one new and improved thing that I like. We just bought a new iRoomba and I named him Ferd. He actually mapped out our entire condo, can find his way around, and will vacuum any and all rooms that I tell him. I can control him through my ever-updating iPhone, and he actually does what I say and is even capable of telling whether one of my tennis shoes is a permanent thing or a temporary obstacle. New and Improved?

Ferd can also avoid cat poop, which I find to be an excellent trait, although we don’t have a cat. Ferd also has a camera that broadcasts and takes photos, although I’m not sure who is watching at the other end. So, I never tell Ferd to vacuum unless I’m fully dressed. (Whomever is out there, you’re welcome). New and Improved?

Unfortunately, I can also tell Ferd what to do through Alexa, and that’s where it can get kind of dicey. If Alexa is in one of her moods, she might tell Ferd to ignore my tennis shoe, in which case he’ll suck up one of the strings. Or she might tell him to ignore the stairs, in which case he is toast and I’m in the market for a Ferd 2. New and Improved?

Also, when I use Alexa to communicate with Ferd, for some reason he’s not capable of learning anything. In fact, he sometimes seems to forget how to navigate and just keeps running around in circles. Funny, but sometimes the same thing happens to me when I try to get her to turn off the bedroom lights. Ferd by himself I consider to be new and improved. Ferd with Alexa, not so much. New and Improved?

Finally (thank God, you say), there’s the whole social media thing. To me it’s all new and improved. I became involved in social media a few years ago when I published my first murder mystery and started trying to market it online. When I first started, I used to call it Faceplace instead of Facebook. New and Improved?

I market my books on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Parler, and Linked-In mostly. Each of these are constantly updating to “new and improved” software, which drives me crazy. Just when I figure out how to use one of them, they change things up. I don’t like using apps if I don’t have to, because I’m convinced that they are able to steal even more of my data. (Although I can’t imagine how much more they can steal, or who in hell would be interested in anything related to someone my age). So, most of the time I sign onto my laptop using my browser. New and Improved?

And the passwords drive me nuts. I have so many passwords at this point that I need an entire encyclopedia to write them all down. And every app or website is very anxious to store my passwords for me, which makes for great security. Let’s see, let’s put all our passwords out there on the internet, to make it much harder for a hacker to find them? Yikes! New and Improved?

My wonderful daughter taught me how to use Adobe Photoshop, which has come in quite handy. When I post about my books on the various social media sites, I usually include a picture or two. And each social media site often wants different picture sizes, number of pixels, and so forth. This is America, and if you don’t have a kajillion choices to drive you nuts, it’s not good enough. New and Improved?

I guess it’s kinda like toothpaste, standard, fruit-flavored, tooth hardener, tooth softener, stool softener (no, that’s a different problem), lime jello flavored, tooth whitener, tooth darkener (just to mess with your dentist), and on and on. I’ll have to call my doctor/dentist and ask him about it. New and Improved?

The most maddening thing about social media sites is that they obviously DO NOT want me to ever sign out. I don’t like to stay signed into any software or leave my laptop on the internet when I’m not using it for security purposes. However, I find that all the social media sites hide the sign out or log out button in the strangest places. And I swear they move with each new update to further confound me. I’ve been known to spend 15 minutes on one of these social media sites interacting with folks and posting about my books, and 45 minutes trying to find out where they have currently hidden the log out button. New and Improved?

New and improved? Mostly just causes my blood pressure to go up. I’ll call my doctor to ask about the new blood pressure medicine, Deflaticin. Or perhaps I should just go to one of the new medical marijuana clinics that have sprung up lately. From what I hear, it’s easy to get a script for marijuana, and you don’t even have to ask your doctor. There’s some doc from India on an internet site in the store who asks you if you are stressed. You tell him you just bought a new cell phone, so yes, and he writes you a prescription which the store owner then immediately fills. New and Improved?

With your new prescription you can relax and forget everything, including your problems, name, address, contact information, where you live, your wife’s name, with the consumption of a few gummy bears. Now that’s what I call new and improved! New and Improved? 

If you liked this blog post, you’ll probably also enjoy my medical comedy murder mysteries, including the award-winning THE REALTOR’S CURSE. These books are better than an antidepressant. Call your doctor to find out more, or just go to for more and links to buy the books.