Wednesday, June 28, 2006

#300 Misusage

Sometimes I think English is everyone’s second language. Especially for people who should know better. Take Dan Brown, the widely acclaimed author of the Da Vinci Code. Plotter? Pretty Good. Researcher? Excellent (that is if he didn’t lift all the research from those other two guys who are suing him) You know what they say, creativity is nice, but plagiarism is quicker. I don’t remember who I stole that from, but I like it. Copying that research? Excellent. Use of grammar? Horrible. I really wanted to like this book. But I kept getting interrupted by the fact that this guy crucifies grammar and usage. At one point he has the lead female character talking in her head, and at the end of this thought sequence, he uses the words “she said.” Now admittedly, she was having an internal dialogue but “she thought” would have been more accurate and it wasn’t like he only had three minutes to get in all the words like I do in these diatribes. He also has a guy getting into his car and looking in every direction to “ensure” no one is looking. No, ensure is not used that way. Make sure no one is looking. Ensure your health. It’s a style thing. Worse, in the last few pages of the book, he’s rolling along to his thrilling conclusion, which had been telegraphed more than the pounding of the golden pike, and he writes that this character trusted another character explicitly. Oh he did, did he? Did he reveal it in all its detail? Did he trust him only when he went to an extremely graphic porno site? You don’t trust someone explicitly. That means you don’t trust them at all, because explicit means you are spelling everything out. You trust someone implicitly. Nonetheless, Dan is a highly acclaimed and successful author so—props...
And I’m not sure what the wordmeister announcer was thinking at the baseball game. That “no one” guy must have turned up again, a bunch of them actually, because the announcer said, as he gazed over the stadium full of empty seats, “Well, it looks like about 20,000 no shows tonight.” What does a no show look like? Can you carry him anywhere? How do you ensure he isn’t looking at you? There are empty seats in the stadium. The people didn’t show up. The stadium is not full of no shows.
Lastly, major corporate sponsors need to be careful. Occasionally you can run into a verbal version of Janet Jackson in the Superbowl and you’d better ensure your nipple ring doesn’t turn up a no show or what you show will offend people explicitly. Many people view the American Idol phenomenon as the biggest pimpfest for pop talent since Arthur Godfrey sold soap. So when the Pop Tart company decided to sponsor the American idol tour the name couldn’t have been more fitting. Tart being another word for, um, prostitute. I like it, Pop... Tart...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

#298 MPS

The other day, for about the jillionth time in my electronic life, the printer stopped working. Someone with a lot of time ought to do scientific study some time on all the time people waste dinking around with printers. I have never met anyone whose computer system is one hundred percent compatible with one’s printer system. Something is always going down, jamming, misaligning, or whatever. And for no apparent reason. Things will be going along smoothly and, out of the blue, malfunction. Refuses to print. The little physical window on your printer blares out “remove cartridge,” or “clear paper jam.” What is paper jam anyhow? Or the insidious warning window on your computer screen pops on and proclaims, “can not communicate with printer.” Or perhaps the less forceful and helpless declaration, “intervention required.” As in what, counseling?
Because sometimes that’s exactly what the relationship between a computer and a printer seems to require, counseling. It’s like a real relationship. Let’s say in this analogy the computer is male and the printer female. I’m choosing to assign these roles to the computer/printer couple because traditionally the male has been the demanding one and the female has been the sometimes agreeing sometimes not agreeing one. Granted, every relationship is different, and in many relationships, it is the female who wants the consistency and the reliability, and the male who is the inexplicable party. But I think most males and females will agree that part of maintaining the feminine mystique is the ability and desire to do stuff for no apparent reason. To be mysterious, to not be able to be figured out, to engage in an attractive coquettish randomness, is guaranteed to slay the fiercest dragon and bring the staunchest knight to his knees. Should he come upon a damsel fair, shedding a tear and looking woebegone, weeping and vulnerable, a knight will drop in his tracks, and with beleaguered brow, reach out to render aid, and when he looks at her face, see plainly the message, “lower tray empty, please add paper.” Or, “cartridge maintenance required,” or, “clear jam and continue printing.” Said knight will walk away shaking his head, not to mention scratching it, as he wonders why every printer doesn’t come with a clear and readable manual. Truth is, printers and computers are manufactured differently and whatever protocols the not so intelligent designers imprinted into their fuzzy or skuzzy logic boards never the twain drivers shall meet.
Especially when, hoping for a great session, you attempt to initialize the printer, and that one error message blinks loud and clear. “Printer Malfunction Syndrome.” Initialize indeed.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

#314 Wanderings

Yesterday I talked about the new street widening project in the City of Tumwater and how they are cutting trees they just planted in traffic islands which they just put in, so they could take out the traffic islands, so the could widen the road even wider than they did just five years ago. Planning and waste, two sides of the bureaucratic coin. It seems like municipalities plan too long and when they finally act they are already nearly out of date so then they have to plan again and act again precipitously and so on. They should have rolling waves of planners each focused on the next half decade, kind of like firefighters working their way up the hose to the hot zone. Worse, city philosophies change—different concepts of beauty and architecture all have their day. What was once an architectural keystone, the round City of Olympia Hall, now looks like someone’s idea of a inverted pie tin kid’s craft or a past futuristic diner spared by the giant grasshoppers. Visitors from other communities drive by in derision, looking for the carhops.
Back in Tumwater they’ll soon have another problem. A little further down Tumwater Blvd, they aren’t yet doing as much widening. And they won’t. The architectural committee has instructed builders to build their buildings right to the edge of the road. The long-term plan is to create a more “downtown” effect. Which effectively puts a pretty concrete cap on further widening—or lathe and plaster cap, or brick and mortar cap, or all three judging by the mishmash architecture of some of the new buildings. In any event, they’ve built buildings right to the current edge of both Tumwater and Capitol Blvds. So that urban arterial now has a permanent two way infarction. All I can say is, as I remember the ruthlessly felled trees from the traffic islands, I hope they planned better this time. But then again maybe they have a great plan. Maybe they just didn’t get the word out to the public. It’s all about marketing—that monstrosity which is the way we tell people what we have to unload on them. It’s grown steadily since the first caveman had too much meat and needed to fob some off on his neighbors before it spoiled. Here Ug, try some almost rancid rat meat. It’s um, new, and arrgh, improved. Hey, make room for Ooga, you’re blocking traffic here. I just hate the waste. Now granted, I’m a pack rat. I never throw anything away that has even a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being productively used again. I hope my kids have grandkids soon so we can use up all those aluminum pie pans and toilet paper rolls when I teach them how to make cool handmade Christmas tree knickknack things. Maybe I’m just too sentimental about stupid stuff. I’m trying to get better. I used to be a pretty strong environmentalist. I belonged to the Whole Tree Organization. Now I’m just part of a splinter group...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

#313 Wood You Please

A while back I wrote about cities and their enduring quest to beautify roads and provide make-work projects for their idle pension earning staffs. Traffic Islands. Even further back I wrote about the City of Tumwater or the Port of Olympia putting in numerous traffic islands on Tumwater Blvd. And all the trees they planted in those islands and all the trees that were taken out by late night motorists not expecting any thing on the median. And how eventually the city or port was forced to put up ugly warning signs in front of the trees so motorists wouldn’t crash into them on a dark, rainy night. As any Northwest driver knows, at certain points the carwash-nighttime-downpour syndrome means that we are driving pretty much by Braille. I’m a big advocate of reflective paint on the curbs surrounding the islands, but who am I? For some reason most gadflies never manage to pass civil service psychological profiles. Time marches on. The Tumwater Blvd in question, by the way, used to be called Airdustrial Way before its beautification. The City of Tumwater shares an uneasy partnership with the Port of Olympia in the area and Airdustrial way, while a difficult and goofy name to say, was meant to convey the Port’s desire that the area be filled with light industry conducive to airport shipping and what not. The City of Tumwater has pretty much surrounded the area with a no-end-in-sight office park, wooing state agencies from the next-door Capital. Many of these state workers come from Lacey and West Olympia and share a common desire to come to work and get home in under twelve hours. So, the widening they did to Tumwater Blvd during the island beautification plan is now not wide enough. Arguably, it never was. The ultimate extra-widening of Tumwater Blvd has been in the plans for a long time. But some stopgap civil servant or budget bureaucracy decided that since beautification dollars were available back then, spend them, so the crash islands commenced. The other day I drove down the Blvd, and guess what? The new widening has begun. The first step? Cut down all the trees, remove the traffic islands. Started as little 3-inch diameter 10 feet tall saplings, the ones that survived the initial driveovers were now up around thirty feet. They have been watered and tended for the last five or six years, lovingly pruned and nourished by the faithful employees of the roads department. Now they’ve been cut down in the prime of their tree adolescence and cast aside to make room for more traffic. But you don’t have to worry about them. They have received an honorable discharge. A retirement fitting a loyal civil servant. The trees that served the city on the median so well these last five years, are at rest now as they continue to serve and beautify in a park-like setting. As beauty bark in city hall landscaping. Waste not, want not.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

#312 Winners and Whiners

There’s an old saying about the squeaky wheel being the one that gets oiled. Perhaps that’s why the legal system has evolved the way it has in this great country of ours. Those wheels that can’t bring themselves to squeak find someone who can. Of course, the losers in the legal system always bitch loudest about it being broken. My squeak didn’t work in court therefore I’ll try to win in the court of public opinion by squeaking about the courts and lawyers and all those slimy people who don’t think the way I do. Now take the word whiner. Drop an H for hundreds to hire a lawyer, add an N for “nice move counselor,” and you got Winner. Spelling is fun. Since the only thing that separates whiner from winner is a couple of letters it’s no wonder we have so many whiners in the courts. But I confess, even as jaded as I am about the flip-flops people will do, I was unprepared for the next story. Seems that some, probably overzealous, liberal organization was suing a certain talk show host for overstepping his broadcasting bounds. The admittedly conservative talk show host in question—and by conservative he means independent—came out against a particular ballot issue. And he used his broadcasting position to loudly and often criticize and lambaste the measure in question. Now the key to the legal issue is this. As long as the idea was just an idea, he could spit venom till his lips were blue. Grease it up one side and burn it off the other. Draw it, quarter it, and feed it to the mongrels. But as soon as the measure was on the ballot, different rules came into play. Equal time. Candidate A has to be afforded the same opportunity as candidate B and Pro-measure A has to be afforded the same opportunity as Anti-measure A. The lawsuit contended that the un-rebutted talk show host’s commentary amounted to an in-kind political contribution to the campaign against the measure. And should have been reported. And having not been reported, the talk show host in question, butted or otherwise, should pay through the nose he was sticking where it didn’t belong. The talk show host contended that no, his was simply an example of free speech, protected by our great constitution. And here is the irony so potent I almost got heavy metal poisoning: The talk show host was joined in his defense by a powerful national organization. One he welcomed because it has the legal money, muscle, and clout to turn a lot of cases in its favor. The American Civil Liberties Union. That’s right, the ACLU. The same ACLU feared and reviled by conservatives as a bunch of pinko commie shysters, bent on turning our constitution against us. The same ACLU the talk show host in question had tiraded against on countless occasions. Funny thing, if you take the word fiend and add an R for Respect the rights of others, you get Friend.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

#296 Melded Muni

So along with the death of the Olympia postmark looms another thing on the loss-of-identity horizon. Seems the local paper The Olympian has been acquired by the Tacoma News Tribune. I say local paper rather than local newspaper because calling it a newspaper kind of overstates its true focus. The word ad-paper would probably be more accurate. Most papers these days devote over 50% of their space to advertisements. Which I have nothing against, I am in the advertising business, but it’s like taking a thick hamburger patty, ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo, onion slice, and tomato, on a bun, and then adding a thin slice of processed cheese and calling the whole thing a cheeseburger. Proportionately, you may as well call it a pickle burger or a ketchup burger, the cheese is one of the least things on it. Is a Twinkie defined by its faux cream filling or its angel food cake? Is it the space that makes the hole or the solid around it?
So anyhow, the Olympian, once known to Olympians as the Daily Olympian, the Daily Oh, the Daily Zero or the Daily Zip, is being bought yet again and this time by the nosy neighbor to the north. But to anyone who has driven north lately knows it’s not that far north anymore. Oh sure, the city cores are just as distant as ever, but fringes, well the fringes are about to merge, like two clumps in a cesspool chasing each other down the drain. First the postmark then the newspaper, soon the municipalities themselves. They’ll be a new town, like Sea-Tac. Maybe, like Sea-Tac incorporating the best each thriving borough has to offer in the way of airports, discount shopping, and avenues of titillation. The question is what to call it. “Tol-ympia” makes it sound like you’ll have to pay more than high B&O taxes. Plus it give undue emphasis to one entity. Cheeseburger. “Oly-coma” sounds too much like what visitors fall into after they’ve sat on the freeway outside the capitol exits during rush hour. “Ta-CO-pia” is a strong balanced favorite. Except for two things; it sounds a little like utopia or eco-topia, which may keep big business out and if you pronounce it wrong you’ve got taco-PIA which was my problem when I first moved here and the news stories always were talking about a Tacoman helping his community or saving someone a fire. I didn’t read it Tacoman. I read it taco-man. I thought he was some superhero or something. Taco-man rescues cat from tree. I guess we’ll just have to settle for a full unbroken hyphen version of the name. Tacoma hyphen Olympia or Olympia hyphen Tacoma. Maybe the city of DuPont could facilitate the process by changing its name to Dash. Better yet, we could learn a lesson from that whole angel food cake/ cream filling thing and call the new melded metropolis “Twinkie.” I can see the headlines now. “Twinkie Man Tackles Purse Snatcher, Criminal Gets Just Desserts.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

#295 More Gouge

So I’m thinking of getting a small amount of money out of my house. The thought of a refi occurred to me. I’ve read a lot lately about creative financing options. Back in the days when interest rates were going down it was hard to lose on a refi. If you planned to stay in your house at least five years, you could roll in your fees and because you saved on interest on the other end, everything was wavy gravy. Not so these days. You have to borrow out the max of your equity to make it worthwhile. It’s not possible to refi to only pull out 10,000 worth of equity because a) interest rates are likely to be higher than what you were paying and 2) the fees are based on the total loan amount—which means the entire new mortgage. So let’s say you have a current mortgage of 70,000 and you want to add an additional 10,000 to the loan. If the points or fees are one percent, you’d figure hey great, only 100 bucks. But no, the fees or points are for the full new loan so it’s actually the 100 for the 10,000 and an additional 700 for refinancing the original mortgage loan amount. Mortgage? More gouge is more like it. I guess that’s why people are willing to pay higher interest for a home equity loan. You only get charged on the currency you are currently borrowing. Still, I guess I’m in pretty good shape. I read an article the other day that lenders are now actually offering a fifty-year mortgage. All right! I’ll be able to pay it off when I’m 105. Oops. That will certainly add a new wrinkle to one slot in the universal mortgage loan application, date of birth. And lenders, along with all their other loan logarithms and factor scales, along with their credit scores and their home appraisals and flood determination reports, are going to have to add mortality actuarial tables to the mix. So you got your amortization scale and your actuarial tables. Mortgage and mortality. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for life insurance—you know, when banks offer you loan insurance or mortgage insurance and all that, in case you die. Then the house will be paid off and your survivors won’t have to worry, and more importantly, the bank will be paid off and they won’t have to worry. I think they’ll actually start requiring it if you’re pushing the limit on a fifty-year mortgage. Interestingly, the whole idea works out well with folk etymology too. The word mortgage breaks down into the two syllables mort and gage. Mort is short for mortality—as in death. Gage sounds like the phonetic equivalent of gauge. Meaning a device to measure. Mortgage becomes a death-measuring device. Or, if you’ve got the worry of a fifty-year mortgage hanging over your head, a death provoking device. Actually I think the 50 year mortgage’s time has come. It’ll go quite well with a 20 year car loan—on a car that costs as much as my first house. Bet bankers were happy to hear Americans are living longer these days.
America, ya gotta love it.

#294 Misty Allergy

I read this article on allergies. There are numerous theories about why today’s kids seem to have more allergies than the kids of yesteryear—diets of processed foods, bovine growth hormones, reacting to pollutants generally, and odder things like today’s houses being sealed up a lot tighter for energy saving reasons and allergens not being able to get out. Fly dander fly...
The hygiene theory is the new rage. Perhaps its catching on with the public is the 21st century equivalent of the Nobel Savage ideal, which says that man in his primitive state was in perfect harmony with nature—only industrialization stands between humanity and bliss. This ignores the prevalence of typhus, cholera, and other fecal borne diseases in cultures without sewage systems and clean water. The Noble Savage maintained his relative harmony with nature by moving on to a clean campsite after he had befouled the one he was living in—kind of an endless Mad Hatter tea party, clean cups, clean plates scenario. The hygiene theory proposes that we have more allergies because we are too clean. By sanitizing everything in our presence and not allowing our young to play in the pig wallow, we are forcing their immune systems to overreact when they encounter a grain of pollen. Research shows that kids raised in the presence of livestock and proximity of barns have fewer allergies than city kids exposed to all that evil cleanliness. Never mind that country kids are exposed to less automobile exhaust, industrial waste and fluoride in their water. Or city kids are more likely to be formula fed, raised in playdo-infested daycare centers and have the allergy centers of their brains sensitized by too many X-rays emanating from their TV screens and computer monitors. There’s lots of factors. I do think we sanitize too much. But this same science magazine, after trumpeting the ill effects of over-sanitization, two pages later had an ad for a new sanitizing spray you can use everywhere in the home. The ad had little pointers pointing to numerous household items and surfaces with the words “use it here.” The only place you couldn’t use it safely was directly on food. Wonder if the same company owns an interest in Benadryl? Strangely, recent research blames the allergy response on early vaccination. The child’s immune system in the first year is only geared to respond to general systemic threats. The antibodies a child gets from mothers milk take care of the other stuff. Vaccinating near newborns too early conditions a more generalized response to any perceived pathogen later on. The immune allergy response is like firing your whole arsenal when you only need one sniper. Like sending billions of dollars worth of equipment and soldiers when one good assassin could do the job. Apparently, preventative actions have there risks. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
America, ya gotta love it.

#309 Wookie me

It was the day before the deadline. Tim Eyeman, personal government advocate, never able to actually win public office, had sent out a press release to the press. He was going to show up with petitions. The press was led to assume those petitions would be the thousands necessary to put a referendum on the ballot overturning our states non-discrimination bill. Eyeman and his ilk had portrayed it as a bill supporting gay marriage. In any event, Eyeman shows up with petitions all right, but they aren’t the anti-gay petitions, they’re for another tax reduction bill Eyeman is initiating and he didn’t have enough of those either. He actually has another month to collect on that one, so while the boxes look impressive they have nothing to do with his discrimination referendum. So now, the press conference starts to look like the cheap publicity stunt it is. But Eyeman doesn’t look desperate, even though his public support dwindled immediately when he wasn’t offering lower taxes. We the people broke the back of this referendum. No matter, Tim’s initiative/referendum machine seems to keep him fairly well off after, um, expenses. You have no idea how much Perrier and caviar it takes to mount a good initiative.
But the really interesting thing is that Eyeman has chosen to appear in costume for his great initiative flameout. He’s done so before. This year’s costume was picked because he says everyone thinks he’s evil anyhow. Um, what was your first clue hatemonger, the lack of signatures or the total lack of signatures? This year he decided to dress up, or down as the case may be, as the epitome of evil, Darth Vader. Actually, if he was really going for a hated figure Adolf, or, yes, Eichmann would have done fine. I suppose Darth has more curb appeal for the kiddies.
An interesting choice. Good I suppose, because it hid his desperate face. And no doubt having a helmet, even a costume one, is a great idea when you’re appearing in activist Olympia with an anti-anti-discrimination bill. Rocks have been known to fly mysteriously in those parts. But really, complete with ultimate phallic symbol light saber? You see, many film character Freudian psychologists have had a homosexual symbol field day with Darth Vader. Think long-long-ago far-far-away Village People. Darth is the premier psychological icon of tortured suppressed homosexuality—a failed marriage to an older woman, a life carried on alone, following a strange cult of self-denial. Obsessed with the attraction of the “dark side.” The robe, the mask, all symbols of a conflicted soul languishing in the closet of his own wardrobe. And all black too, a perfect example of complete denial of color and form and fashion flair. And that light saber, oh Tim, careful with that thing. You could put out someone’s eye man.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

#292 Mouse-ellaneous

Our friends at the Magic Kingdom have decided to make a position statement for good health in America by banning McDonalds. What, go to the happiest place on earth and you can’t get a happy meal? The major icons of mass market baby boomers severing ties? Fantasyland and reality land at odds?? World of tomorrow giving up on the brave new supersize world? Seems Disney is afraid of being tarred with the uncaring corporate brush that is painting Americans with a thick layer of obesity. Blaming McDonalds, or at least insinuating that it’s the major culprit in the fat food revolution, Disney is distancing themselves from the whole process and giving McDonalds a permanent pass. No truth to the rumor that a specially-dressed Goofy and Ronald McDonald are being featured in a new George Lucas 3-d inter-attraction called “the Clown Wars.” It’s certainly an interesting tack for Disney to take. When I was a kid in the fifties my mom was a server—they called them waitresses back then—at a food joint in Tomorrowland. The place served three things. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries. Tomorrow-burgers, as I recall, looked astonishingly like the super-sized today burgers that Mickey D’s serves up. So if anything, Disney is being a little Disney-ingenuous. Obesity and lack of exercise. This from the company that gave us the “people mover,” that ride that proposed a future where a continuous train of transport would run for you to just walk on and walk off, and would propel you forward at the speed of—walking. That’s right, no one in the future has to walk because you’ll have a machine you can ride in that moves you along at the (deep echoing voice) speed of walking. Imagine the cuts into the epidemic of obesity that would make. No more walking to the store. No more walking on the sidewalk, no more walking to McDonalds. We can ride there.
Personally, I think Disney screwed up when they remodeled the original Tomorrowland. The speed of technology what it is, by the time they got a new ride up and running and scenery tricked out a la Disney upgrades were already out of date. Magic Mountain, the rival Six Flags Park, just slapped up the girders and let the thrill ride screaming commence. When the ride got old they tore it down and didn’t lose a droplet of sentimental tears in the process. But when Disney personalized a ride with Goofy or Pluto or Donald, kids attached emotions to it. When you tore it down you were tearing down Mr. Toads wild lily pad or Dumbo’s house, and you scarred kids for life. They should have just renamed Tomorrowland Yesterday-land, or more convolutedly Yesterday’s Tomorrowland and all the cool campy things that people thought the 21st Century would look like would be forever enshrined in the land of made believe.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

#291 Mitzi-Guided

I saw something interesting yesterday. I was driving back to my house and as I turned a corner, this large truck came screeching to a halt. Luckily, because if he had kept going he would have smashed into my side and killed me. If you’ve ever been nearly killed, you know that in the split seconds leading up to your presumed doom the world takes on an astonishing resolution. Every color suddenly becomes more vibrant, ever breath of wind on your skin feels more textured, every smell becomes more intense, and every visual image is burned into your brain with crystal clarity. Forget about your passed life flashing before your eyes, it is the striking present that engulfs you and the absolute horror that these last impressions will be with you for eternity. So you can imagine my dismay when I realized that the last memory of this wonderful existence that I was about to take to my grave was of a Chihuahua in a cowboy hat. Now I’m not absolutely sure it was a Chihuahua. I know it looked brown and relatively hairless. It could have been a shaved Shitzu. But what struck me most was the ludicrousness of my final tableau. A big truck, with duellies of course, and tons of horsepower. The man driving was modern macho himself, John Deere hat, Carharrt vest, long sleeve flannel shirt rolled up to the elbows, a bulge in his cheek that hinted of chaw. His hands on his steering wheel, positioned properly at ten and two were large and gnarled from years of heavy work. I noticed that he was wearing a seatbelt. A manly man by all accounts. Not the sort you’d expect to have a two-ounce dog skittering around on his dashboard. Most guys I know that care about it, have a lower weight limit for their dogs. 40 pounds a bare minimum to even been included in the definition of dog, so the scene had a certain incongruity. A dissonance in the fabric of the universe as I know it. Perhaps that crack in the dimension wall that was soon to admit me to the other side. Near death makes me remember all the Outer Limits shows I ever watched. So, tell me. Why would someone who obviously lavished so much attention on his toy terrier, who dressed it in cute outfits and crazy hats, who dotes on it, and takes it everywhere as a constant canine companion, why would that person not have his precious poochie in a pet restraint device? They must be available, if not legally mandatory. You have to belt in your braying baby, your terrible teenagers, and your cellphoning self. Why shouldn’t you have to belt in little foofy Fifi, or rambunctious Russell, or Maltese Mitzi? It’s time for some legislation, beause when you come right down to it, loose stewing dogs are a significant automotive crash hazard. I can see it now, fatally wounded by the projectile of an ejected tiny female dog. My o-bitch-uary says: Local punster, killed by a guided Mitzi.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

#290 Mall Content

One of the sad things about our society is the erosion of meaning in our language, or at least accuracy in the use thereof. I blame a lot of it on spellcheck. I used to be a pretty good speller. I could tell at a glance if a word was spelled wrong. Now I always feel like I need to refer to spellcheck first. Call up Word and type in a word and see if I get a squiggly line. The other day I was at Capitol Lake and felt that sense of de-check-vu. I was at the Dragon Boat races, an annual event that promotes international understanding and the spirit of Pacific Rim competition by pitting crews of rowers against one another in stylized Asian boats. I only saw one race but I remember the boats as having two rows of rowers each with a paddle that they swept to their side Indian fashion as opposed to the long sculls that the ivy league establishment favors with a rower in the center, two oars jutting out either side, and numerous highly machined oarlocks and seat mechanisms. The dragonboat paddlers had to hunker down on either side of their boats and paddle furiously to the timing of a real live honest to goodness drummer. The boat with the best drummer appeared to win. Seriously, the boat that did win was sponsored by a local restaurant, the Emperors Palace. Unfortunately, whoever had fashioned the sign to put on the front of the boat, which dashed to a lead in front of its competition, the bow and the name sticking out wondrously in a perfect advertising opportunity, had not had all their oars in the water because they had done the name in all caps. And they must have used a Microsoft Word program to spellcheck it because unless you enable Word to specifically do so, its default setting is not to spellcheck words done in all capitals. I guess the sign maker figured hey, boat race at Capitol Lake, I’ll use all capitals on the boat. Which meant that when they spelled the word emperor they didn’t see any squiggly line so it got pasted on the boat e-m-p-O-r-o-r instead of e-m-p-E-r-o-r. Is there one or two O’s in oops?
As for erosion of meaning, I was walking through the mall and I spotted an empty store. I wasn’t worried. A new store would soon pop up in its place, featuring cellphones, cellphone accessories, or diaphanous tops, short t-shirts and low-in-the-back tight jeans. Maybe even all four and a buttcrack tattoo place as well. They ought to put henna removable tattoo places next to hairstyling salons so the girls that are dumping a couple hundred bucks on single use prom night hairstyles could get temp tattoos for their plunging backlines too. Anyhow, I wasn’t worried about the vacant store, malls were the original environmentalists because they recycle their empties, but I was concerned about the sign in the window. “Storefront for Lease” it said. So, I thought, is the back still being used?
America, ya gotta love it.

#289 Mall Wart

I watched this movie last night called “The High Cost of Low Prices.” Actually, that was the subtitle. The main title featured the name of the mega store it was about. I think it was something like Mallwart. Anyhow, this wart on the carbuncle of capitalism maintains their supposedly low price reputation by going in to depressed communities, driving out all the competition by selling items below even Mallwart cost and then jacking the prices back up again once mom and pop have gone to an early broken-hearted grave. City Councils rolled over like trained puppy dogs to let Mallwart come in and scratch their yellow belly. Yellow, they hoped, with gold and prosperity because of all the jobs Mallwart promised the community. Twp things happened. The jobs Mallwart offered were too low paying for their employee/slaves to buy anything anywhere but at Mallwart, and as soon as the tax kickbacks ran out Mallwart moved out of the city limits into a new non-subsidized non-liable-to-local-sales-tax facility. Everyone loses with the same low prices. So you ask me, Funny Guy, why the hell do you care? You believe in the spirit of American enterprise don’t you, this is just capitalism in all its glory. Well here’s why I care. The foundation of America is small business people. Small business people respond to the needs of their community. They hire the local kids growing up. They teach them the value of hard work and an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. The small business hires people for their whole life, and pays them a decent living wage so they can go out and buy other stuff from other small businesses and keep other people working too. They provide something called service. If you have a question about a product or a way to do something, the small business has people that can answer those questions. The small business system of America is like an organism. Or like a complex digestive tract. Food goes in and at every stage of the way nutrients are extracted and used to build fiber and muscles and tissue. The Mallwart system is like a seagull on laxatives. In and out and nothing in between. A money machine for the few owners and a load of crap for everyone else. And finally, small businesses give back to their communities in many small ways. Oh sure, they don’t come up with a giant cardboard presentation check to give to the chamber of commerce. But they give everywhere and everyday to make their community strong. The members of the Walton family mountain, at about 18 billion apiece, give back less than 1% of their wealth. Bill Gates gives back 58%. The Mallwart employees, with lower pay than just about anyone in the US, nonetheless contributed 1.6 million out of their paltry paychecks into the Mallwart employee fund to help fellow employees in need. The Walton’s contributed a grand total of 6000 dollars to the fund. Not the way John Boy would have done it. And not the American spirit. That’s why I’ll never shop in a Mallwart. If you’ve ever tried to remove a wart you know it’s not easy and it’s painful. But you must, because—
America, ya gotta love it.

#285 MotherGrand

I noticed recently that a place was having a Grand Opening. And it looked like a new one too, not one of those the owner had been carrying on for a year. It made me think about the word “grand.” As near as I can figure, things are grand when they are more than or better than great. Instead of good, better, best, it’s good, great, grand. But a grande is the next to the biggest size in a coffee drink. The newest latte big gulp is a vente. Let’s see, Grande, Grand, Vente... Vent? I hope this doesn’t mean stores are going to be having “Vent Openings” anytime soon. Unless of course they need to air the place out from all those free hot dogs. So when you have a grand opening it’s better than a great opening—more expansive somehow, wider, more inclusive of the whole this-store-is-open phenomena. We’re not just open for business, we’re really open. And, in fact, new businesses, feeling the need to work the bugs out of their routine, routinely have “soft” openings. Yeah, we’re going to have a soft opening on the fifteenth and then on the 21st we’re having a grand opening. A soft opening is kind of like a beta version of the opening scenario. They don’t want to be embarrassed too bad when they realize they don’t have cash register tape or worse, don’t have cash at all, because they forgot to go to the bank in the last minute rush. Much better to screw up in front of one customer who will understand than fifty angry sale shoppers who will now never come back because they spent a half hour waiting in line to pay 2.99 for your doorbuster grand giveaway. Forget about grand, organization is a tall order.
So I’m not sure where the grand thing fits in with relatives. A “grand” mother is your mom or dad’s mother. She’s also a “grand” parent. But her mom is a “great” grandmother. Which never made sense to me when I was about five or so. What was so great about her? She was so dang old her skin was all papery and she moved slower than a slug. She sure as heck couldn’t catch a ball. When I threw one and it accidentally hit her mouth all her teeth came out at once and flapped on the lawn. My “grand” mother could do all kinds of stuff, she could drive us to the ice cream parlor and the donut place and the toy store. Now that was great. Then things got really confusing. My dad’s brother was my uncle. My uncle’s father was my grandfather. My grandmother’s brother was my “great” uncle. But my grandmother’s mother was my “great” grandmother. Did we lose a “grand” uncle somewhere? I finally looked it up. Turns out grand uncle is the same thing as great uncle. I guess when your relatives get that distant any word will do. Even language can get lazy and forget to send a card. And heck, Hallmark doesn’t even have a grand uncle section. Unless they’ve opened one recently.
America, ya gotta love it.

#281 Leave You Can Never

Some have been put off by my recent description of mouse trapping. The tableau of the business end of a mousetrap knocking the teeth out of the head of the poor pitiful pest was a little too much to bear. To which I reply, it could be worse. Back in the old days, I used the classic wire and wood mouse trap. Stapled securely to a piece of wood was an incredibly strong spring. One end of the spring turned into a rectangular loop of pure backbreaking rat death. You placed another wire rod over the retracted backbreaker and locked it under the trip plate, on which you mounted a little piece of cheese. When the mouse tried to take the cheese, the trigger plate would move, the retaining rod would pop up, and the backbreaker would snap down. Perfectly good idea in theory. But lo the unwary or clumsy hunter. Setting a mousetrap required far more dexterity than getting drunk and pointing a high-powered rifle at a bear feasting on mountain blueberries. Because mousetraps were as sensitive as a nerve in a cavity. One false move when you were fixing the restraining rod under the trigger and bam, black and blue thumbnail for a week. So suffice it to say when Ralph Waldo Emerson told us that if a person could build a better mousetrap the world would beat a path to his door, it made a lot of sense. Cause the world was tired of beating its digits all to hell setting the old ones. Also, I’m guessing, where Waldo was had a lot of mice and he was sick and tired of bunging his fingers.
I was once encouraged by a roommate who was squeamish about backbreakers to buy one of those mouse hotel things. Seemed like a good idea. The rat hotel is a cardboard box that’s open on either end. If it were a human hotel I’d think it was lacking in amenities, like you know, four walls. You put your bait inside. The trick is, the surface of the rat hotel, instead of being a nice shag carpet with generations of baby boogers encrusted in it, is an extremely sticky mat. Once a mouse sets foot in it and stops for a split second, he’s trapped. One problem with the hotel Rat-ifornia. And it’s not just that if you’re a rat, you can never leave. It’s that steely knifes or no, you just can’t kill the beast anyhow. The beast dies of starvation. Now, would you rather die of starvation over a long period or have your neck snapped in a millisecond? Suppose two of your friends came into the hotel to help and they got caught. And you all were starving together and finally in desperation you started to consume the only source of food available. Suffice it to say, when I showed my roommate the Hannibal Lector rats she conceded with a mumble that indeed the old traps were better suited to our rat removal needs. Then, by way of punctuation, she puked all over my shirt. Ah, the path unbeaten.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

#280 Lend Me Your Mouse-ears

So it’s really not much of a surprise that we are conflicted by whole rat thing. Rats, like dogs, come in numerous varieties, some of them very cute, others downright mangy. Take, for instance, the cutest of rats, the squirrel. Squirrels are the French Poodles of the rat world. All decked out in a lustrous gray coat and a bouffant tail, perched like a pompadour over the back of the squirrel’s head as it arches forward. The squirrel scampers across the landscape, eyes alert and expressive. And let’s not forget the captivating scene of a squirrel and his nuts. Perhaps that’s why we are drawn to them. When a squirrel holds a nut he looks almost human, his little paws just like hands as he puts it to his face and nibbles delicately. Contrast this with the Norwegian Wharf Rat, who, like his canine equivalent the junkyard mongrel, engenders feelings of repulsion and horror. A Norwegian Wharf Rat using his paws to hold up a nameless piece of gruesome garbage, while similar in form to the delicate nut-nibbling of his poodle-esque rodent kinfolk is nonetheless nauseating. We are, it appears, rat-ist. One variety of rat is praised and appreciated, the other shunned and feared. Adored or scorned because of a big bushy tail. Funny thing about squirrels, people actually put nuts out for them, to attract them to their yard. And put little squirrel jungle gyms out there for them to play on. The only thing they put out for rats is traps. Can you imagine a suburbanite putting out a feeder for a field mouse? Not likely.
Speaking of traps, they got a new one out that’s really cool. It’s plastic and it has a loop spring on the back end. There’s a little rocker in the hinge that is poised and balanced as perfectly as only the Chinese can mass manufacture. You can hold it open while you put a small dollop of peanut butter on the trip plate inside the maw of the trap and then set the whole thing down without it snap-clamping on your fingers. The effective force of the snap is enough to render rodents lifeless in a millisecond, breaking their rat vertebrae with nary a rat whimper. When last I emptied one, I noticed something interesting, the back ends of two tiny teeth. Seemed the trap had come down so suddenly it had knocked the teeth out of the rat’s head. Which isn’t as surprising as you might think. Rats would be no good in a bar fight, but they could keep coming back for more. The reason the rat family is called rodent is because the dent in the rodent refers to teeth. Namely the two “canine” teeth that wear down and get periodically replaced. Kind of like permanent baby teeth that re-grow and re-grow. That’s why rats can chew through walls and wires and concrete and stuff. They have an endless supply of dentition. It’s why they can handle nuts too. It’s just peanut butter they shouldn’t sink their teeth into. America, ya gotta love it.

#279 Louses and Mouses

So you have your louse and you have your lice. You have your mouse and you have your mice. When you have a big hairy and ugly mouse you call it a rat but when you have a big and ugly louse you don’t call it a lat. Fortunately, I live far enough from the city never to have a problem with rats. But I live close enough to the country to occasionally be bothered with field mice. Field mice. It sounds like some kind of migrant laborer type of mice doesn’t it. Or perhaps some hired hand from the dust bowl. Yep, looks like we’re gonna have a good harvest this year, better call in the field mice.
Actually, they can have their fields. It’s when they try to become house mouses that I get concerned. Not that it wouldn’t be helpful to have another shorter and smaller species around to nibble away the accumulated crumbs under the kitchen counter. But their little feces are a nuisance, especially when they put a nest together in the closet wall and all my garments reek of urea. That ammonia-like odor gets me smelling just the opposite of Mr. Clean.
So the other night a field mouse blundered into our house. I caught him out of the corner of my eye, skittering across the hardwood floor and ducking behind the trashcan. We gave chase. Now my wife is not a hunter by nature. Nor am I, for that matter, but I condition myself for the inevitable painful demise of da’ mice by using the simple psychological expedient of calling them rats. “There’s a rat in the house,” I exclaimed, and we all jumped up and assumed our human defense-against-intruder positions. My wife grabbed a broom, I opted for the carving knife, and my daughter stood on her tiptoes and put her hands over her eyes. The mouse-rat broke from cover and dashed to the living room. “The rat!” I shouted, somewhat superfluously. “Mouse,” said my wife, “It’s not a rat.” Oh no, she was already melting. Visions of Mickey and Minnie and Fievel danced in her nurturing imagination. I ran into the living room, knife brandished high. She yelled for my daughter to open the front door and headed me off, trying to broom the rat into the outside. The rat refused to cooperate, instead bolting for the safety of the family room. As the family was now in the living room, I had a brief moment of disorientation. Cut to the chase, or at least the end thereof. We lost. The rat found some crack or cranny and managed to hide himself. My wife held on to the fond hope that the mouse had escaped outside while my daughter held open the door. I asserted that in the process she had likely let more rats in. And the reason we had a rat in our house in the first place was because someone had left the door open earlier. “I’ll set a rat trap,” I said. My wife cringed in horror. Fievel again. He’s ruining or marriage. “Don’t worry,” I lied whitely, “I’ll set it for stun.”
America, ya gotta love it.

#277 Light of Day

I saw an interesting story on the Discover Channel the other day. It was on the weather. One of the great things about the popularity of the Weather Channel is that now the other channels think it’s cool to do extended stories about the weather as well. Whether it’s because stories about the weather are intrinsically interesting or whether the weather is just cheaper to film, with stock footage and a narrator, who knows. It is cool that a subject that was once relegated to the backwaters of small talk has now emerged as a major current of interest on the airwaves. In any event, this story delved into the mysterious phenomenon of rain on the weekends. We’ve all experienced it. We work hard all week and look forward to that drive to the country to soak up some sunshine and manufacture some vitamin D and as soon as Saturday morning rolls in so do the clouds. By noon they’re ominous and by one they opened up on another missed opportunity to mow the lawn. Well apparently, it’s not just in the Northwest. And it didn’t take any Wappler Doppler to figure it out. It just took a look at the records. Turns out meteorologists keep more statistics than professional baseball. And one of those accumulations of data showed conclusively that the weekend weather is related to the five-day workweek. No, nature doesn’t have a calendar. But people do. And all during the workweek people are working, well some of us anyhow, and while we’re working our industries are belching billions and billions of itty bitty particulates into the air. Our commuting automobiles are lofting even more nasty little bits up there as well. As the week progresses, and more junk follows its migratory route to the skies, the moisture that lurks above begins to gather around these particles—glomming onto them like dust bunnies to a dead cockroach. Eventually, enough moisture envelopes the dust mote, and like a pearl around a grain of sand, a beautiful raindrop forms. And when it gets sufficiently heavy, plummets to the polluted earth with a vengeful glee born of nature’s desire to destroy countless of mankind’s boating trips, barbeques, and badly-planned outside wedding receptions. So what do you do? A four-day workweek? At least that way by the seventh day, the heavens would be purged and we could have at least one day of rest. We could call it Sun day. Oh. Right. Or maybe we could have our weekend on Tuesday and Wednesday until the earth catches on again and then shift it back to Saturday and Sunday. Do it every six months, call it “drylight” saving time. If the summer weekends are on Tuesday and Wednesday we could still squeeze a three day weekend out of a Monday holiday. Or we could suck it up and blow less pollution into the upper atmosphere. Nah. I’m no meteorologist but I predict zero percent chance of that system developing anytime soon.
America, ya gotta love it.

#276 Lessons of Life

Age is perception. The word befuddlement is usually used with older folks. And curmudgeon and cranky. Wild-eyed youth has nothing if not impatience, so the plodding ways of their elders seem like the great social impediment. Oldsters are at a loss to understand. Like what does it mean when your teenage daughter throws away all her old clothes cause they’re too small. But the new clothes she come home with from the mall are even tighter? What is that?
Oldsters get to be penny pinchers. I used to think it was the fixed income thing till I realized that here I was in the peak of my earning years and I was getting the same way. Perhaps it has something to do with perceiving the value of a dollar. Perhaps it has something to do with the value of a barrel of oil. Perhaps as you get older and you see your body’s own personal resources dwindling, it becomes all too apparent that the world you live in has limited resources as well. And so you start to conserve. Or you start to hoard. Hoarding is the “me first” strategy of world domination—there’re only twelve donuts left, I’m grabbing ten of them. Conserving is just using things wisely—if we all eat a tenth of a donut a day they should last till we can think up a way to make new donuts.
Perhaps we are impatient with youth and its profligate squandering of what we view as valuable resources. Is it any wonder we see someone spending to the max on all their credit cards, living is a small place so they can at least partially afford a giant TV to put in it, and going over into cellphone overtime extortion minutes, that we say those people need to grow up. When we see people spending and living like there’s no tomorrow we know they’re not old enough to appreciate that tomorrows are indeed extremely limited.
So I find myself doing old folks things. I fill up my tank on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Last weekend’s price-gouging has tapered off and the next weekend reaming has yet to begin. I plan out a menu, shop from a list, and go to the store only once a week. I look down when I walk and find an occasional quarter. I go around the house turning off lights and televisions and the standby mode on my DVD player. Does it cost more energy to burn a green “standby” light or a red “off” light? I pour smaller cups of coffee so I don’t have to microwave it back to temperature as much. I pick up Costco water bottles. My children used to leave half-empty glasses of water in every room in the house. It frustrated me that now they leave half-empty bottles of Costco water all over the house. But age brings wisdom. The kids are in too much of a hurry to notice if the seal is already broken on the cap. So I just refill the bottles and put them back in the cardboard semi-case. Oh yeah, that’s another word they use for old people, cagey.
America, ya gotta love it.

#275 Looking Down the Road

Age brings changes. They say that the difference between a conservative and a liberal is about twenty years. Or ten years of acute cynicism. They say that liberals think with their heart and conservatives think with their brain, having had their heart stepped on too much in their youth. I don’t agree. I see conservatives and liberals of all ages, it’s the other ways we age that are weird.
Old people are interesting. Nature seems to reduce all of us top a common physique. I was driving around the other day and I found myself behind a slow-moving automobile, perhaps one of the Electra or Marquis or Bonneville class of automobiles. The giants of the road before Hummers, but not the Cadillacs, the 6 tons of metal for the common man, or should I say the common old man. Surprise, the oldster was driving slow. Having 6 tons of steel wrapped around his brittle bones wasn’t enough, he was gonna keep the impact speed down below airbag-triggering level. I’m sure he was being prudent. His reaction time was probably down to a drunk’s on a whole bottle of tequila or perhaps a Quaaluder on one too many Lunestas. In any event, when I looked through his rear window I thought it was my dad—posture hunched, wisps of hair poking out beneath the promotional RV company baseball cap pulled down to ear level, two giant ears jutting proudly away from the sides of his head like mainsails in a stiff breeze, or perhaps car doors, Bonneville car doors at that. I knew he would have other oldster facial similarities. His nose would take up half his receding face, festooned with purple blood vessels and pores the size of wading pools. His chin would disappear into the comforting folds of his wattle, sprung rooster-like from the bottom of his ageing face in the last decade. His eyes would have that glazed look, as he tried to puzzle out whether he had enough green left on the light to risk the traffic signal actually turning yellow while he was still in the intersection. Nature’s way. We all get less attractive. So nature helps us endure by turning us slowly blind, blurring life’s ugly protuberances. It gives us big ears, so we can harvest in what little sound our inner ears can still register and also, apparently, to function as sort of curb feelers for our head, warning us before we totally nod off during a conversation that we need to jerk back up. Not that jerking is a great idea. So we kind of do a slow reverse nod as if we weren’t falling asleep at all, but were actually engaged in some kind of septuagenarian yoga. The blindness also functions as a means to help us ignore how poorly we are cleaning our households, as the clutter builds up and the dust bunnies gather in herds on the floor. The dust bunnies have their own purpose in nature’s grand design. They’re there to cushion our fall so we don’t break a hip.
America, ya gotta love it.

#274 Like-o-pene

There’s something unusual on my desk and my wife has just given me a dirty look. Hey, I’m just doing research. Because at dinner last night I just learned about this stuff and now I want to share it with you. Spread it around as it were. Top off your day with a new ingredient for successful living. Add a little spice to your life.
I’m talking about lycopene. And I learned about from one of the greatest mass marketing and advertising tools I’ve ever encountered, a bottle of ketchup. Heinz 57 ketchup no less, the ketchup of liberals. And like a good liberal it’s trying to educate us into how to live our lives better. I know, I know, sometimes it’s annoying hearing liberals go on and on about saving the planet and cleaning up our lives and helping the poor and stuff, but this is important. This is lycopene man, and ketchup is a valuable daily source of it. And finally, a mass American food, instead of claiming what it doesn’t have, like trans fat, is boasting what it does. Lycopene. I like it. Now I confess, until last evening I had no idea lycopene even existed, much less that coating my charred steer flesh patty and fat-saturated fried potato slices with it would be healthy. But apparently so. Lycopene it turns out, is an antioxidant.
If I may digress for a moment. Product advertising is nothing new. I spent much of my childhood soaking up cereal box advertisements and have a closet full of X-ray glasses to prove it. But it is refreshing to see the concept broadened to include condiments. So the ketchup bottle proclaims: “Natural source of the antioxidant lycopene!” Then “Lycopene is another great reason to love Heinz ketchup. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is found naturally in Heinz ketchup, 1.5 mg per serving, and other processed tomato products. Visit for more information on the latest research.” Which I did and found out that “Epidemiological studies have shown that high intake of lycopene-containing vegetables is inversely associated with the incidence of certain types of cancer. For example, habitual intake of tomato products has been inversely associated with the risk of cancer of the digestive tract among Italians.” Oh yeah, give me a ketchup pizza. The bottle goes on to list the ingredients. I notice that a serving size is 1 tablespoon and that in that 1 tablespoon is also 190 mg of salt and 4 grams of high fructose corn syrup. I’m not entirely sure how many actual oxidants are in all that salt and sugar. But I’m relatively certain that net-net ketchup is a good idea. Especially Heinz 57. For one reason because they spell it ketchup with a “k” like a sailing boat in a stiff wind, not cat-soup with a “c”, like something a pussy would slurp up. Although in their serving directions, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to say, use liberally.
America, ya gotta love it.

#267 Lots of Language

I’m holding in my hand an item that I think epitomizes America’s obsession with babble. Babble not in the biblical sense of everyone speaking in different languages and being unable to communicate, but in the sense of people communicating too much. A while back, the plug we put in our sink over the gaping carnivorous maw of the garbage disposal turned up missing. I’ve never really understood how something could both turn up and be missing but, hey, English is only my first language. In any event, I had to replace it. No problem—go to the hardware store, dig into the plug bin and come up with a suitable size. Wrong. I must be still be living in the days before the packaging industry took over America. All the plugs now were encased in their own cardboard and blister pack arrangement. And since each one had cardboard that meant each one had to have printing on that cardboard which meant that someone had to hire a copy writer for that print and so the consort to hyper-packaging in America, hyper-verbiage, flashed her strumpet’s smile and strutted her stuff into the street.
The problem, of course, is what the hell can you say about a plug? Turns out you can say everything but plug. This package was like the 50,000 dollar pyramid, it said everything but the word in question. Amazing, for years and years these things commingled in baskets, tubs and bins, there to be grabbed and added to the piles of screws and nails home handymen picked up to complete honey-do lists before the game. So here’s what the package did say In the upper left the brand. PlumbCraft by Waxman. Plumbing, or at least plug making now appears to have ascended to the height of a craft. Next, the name of the product: “Disposal Stopper.” That crafted item to be distinguished from an ordinary hole filler. The back of the card expounded: “Durable flexible stopper with “stay put” lip provides a watertight seal for most garbage disposal sink drains. Handy knob allows for east removal of stopper.” Then, “this package contains one flexible garbage disposal sink stopper.” Repeat after me: Flexible Garbage Disposal Sink Stopper. Now try this concise alternative: Plug. Finally the big finale. In big letters: “Installation instructions” and then an internationally understandable picture showing cartoon hands, which appear to be holding a disc by a little nipple (the handy knob I’m guessing) and moving it downward as indicated by an arrow towards what appears to be a hole. Underneath the picture it has the number 1 and a period, as if there will be a number 2 etc. There is not. After the number 1 it gives this instruction: “Place firmly into drain.” No hurry. Any sense that America had has already gone down there.
America, ya gotta love it.