Friday, June 29, 2007

#548 Thrifty

So recently I was in a store trying to buy a Fathers Day card.
They were out.
They still had lots of cards for those mid- to late-June cohabiters in the Hallmark aisles, grads, but no cards left for Dad.
Only Mothers Day gets a time of month all to itself.
But I’m not bitter. Dads endure worse than a greeting card snubbing.
Anyhow, they were out. Well, actually, not out.
Put away.
I went shopping for a Fathers Day card the day after Fathers Day hoping to save 50% on my sentiment. My dad would have approved.
One of the many values my father instilled in me in his quest to make sure I was ready for the world, was thriftiness. He knows that I love him, in my own words or those of some greeting card doggerelist, so my spending full price is not an issue.
My exercising one of his values, parsimony, is a far better way to honor and emulate him.
They were putting the last of the cards away just as I approached. And I was a little insulted. Here I was prepared to peruse countless maudlin maundering tributes and sing-songing ditties to find just the perfect one for my dad this year and there they were packing them all away for next year.
As if a Fathers Day card is something you can store away with the winter linens.
I was appalled. I want my purchased sentiments fresh, not dug out of boxes year after year like so many recycled holiday decorations.
My dad is not a turkey day placemat.
So I was forced to buy a blank card and write in my own message. Which, as it turned out, was far more meaningful anyway.
But still, I had to pay full price for the blank card. And it kind of bugged me. The card was blank. Oh sure, it had a pretty cover, but inside it was blank.
And I paid the same price as one with words.
Something is not right here. Labor cost is half. Intellectual property rights and royalties are nil. So gosh darnit, I resent paying for empty space.
My dad would have been so peeved. It just wasn’t thrifty.
America ya gotta love it

#547 Tailgate Seniors

The other day I was in a meeting about the Lacey Farmers Market. The speaker was describing the upcoming events of the summer season.
Among them pet’s day, kid’s day, senior day and a chili cook off.
Nothing like a good all-American chili cook-off at a farmers market. You’d think you’d wandered into the 4H cow pavilion after feeding time.
Methane never seems to be an added ingredient in chili but it sure finds its way out of various digestive orifices when it’s consumed.
One of those orifices you could certainly euphemize as the tailgate, if you know what I mean.
So every time I hear the phrase “tailgate chili” I run for cover, or break out the clothespins for my nose.
Anyhow, on Pet Day the Farmers Market folks are promoting a low cost pet-chipping clinic. So I asked the speaker at the program if on senior day they were going to be offering a similar service for seniors.
Cause you know, some seniors do tend to wander off.
Everyone at the meeting laughed. Not least because we all get a little vague and spotty at times. And close to home humor rings the loudest.
But here’s the thing. It isn’t a bad idea.
The principle behind pet chipping is that a dog without a license and, of course, the ability to speak coherently—except to Timmy when the neighbor kid’s fallen down the well— can be identified with the little microchip implanted in their neck.
I see no reason why we couldn’t do something similar with at risk seniors.
I mean, really, wouldn’t you feel better if the nursing home, excuse me, assisted living facility, took the time and trouble to chip Aunt Mabel in case she wanders away from the kitchen garden.
We are so much better to our pets than we are to our people. We give them powerful painkillers when they’re in pain without worrying about addiction, we chip them, and we euthanize them to put them out of their suffering.
And the sad truth is, Little Oscar dog food is more nutritionally complete than the canned food we expect most low income seniors to survive on.
And yes, that includes chili.
America ya gotta love it

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

#546 Tidbits Too

Time again to slough off the loose ideas.
Exfoliate the joke drawer.
It’s the nature of the beast that semi-humorous ideas accumulate in the desk drawer of essay writers like me. Little squiggles and bits of nonsense that constantly nag me to find the airwaves but aren’t good enough to support an essay of their own.
Like I went to a Chinese wedding the other day. Pretty cool up to the last.
Then my suit was ruined because they threw sticky rice.
Thongs, the underwear not the sandals, are contributing to a lot of arguments and anger.
Because the bad thing about wearing thongs is it’s easier to get your panties in a knot.
What is it about real estate people and their pictures? Is it really important for me as a buyer to know what my seller looks like before I pick him or her? Does it affect their performance?
I mean, I like supermodels and all, but I’m not sure I’d want one of them handling the fine legal details of a home buying transaction.
And this picture thing is getting out of hand. Not only do they have it in the phone book and on their cards. Their putting it on the signs they stake out in front of houses.
I guess it helps you tell which ones are the new agents.
I drove by a sign the other day and there was this guy’s name, company, phone number and such, but there was also this empty box in one corner of it with a little label that said, “picture not available.”
Better, I suppose, than a bad picture like some I’ve seen that looks like it should be labeled, “Have you seen me?”
I heard this DJ accidentally make up a cool new word the other day. He was talking about one of those typical northwest days that feature both rain and sun and he stumbled and said we could expect shun-shine all day.
I like it.
Intermittent rain clouds occasionally shun the sun.
It could be our new slogan. We are the Shunshine State.
Hey. It’s better than Say Wa. There was an idea that should have been sloughed off.
America ya gotta love it

#545 Terror-able

Terrorism is a weird thing. And it makes people do weird things.
As Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Or as my kid once said, “Fear can be scary.”
If only because us poor imperfect humans do unreasonable things when we’re scared. Like the whole interrogation thing.
Lawyers for the current administration recently characterized what many people call torture as “enhanced interrogation.” It was then pointed out by others that the last time the term “enhanced interrogation” was used by an official body was by, um, a certain government in Germany during World War Two.
Apparently, said government felt they had an urgent and necessary need to enhance interrogation so that they may protect the Fatherland.
Fatherland Security, as it were.
That’s why our founding fathers warned that Freedom isn’t free, but it ain’t worth a plug nickel if you purchase it with inhumanity.
Another interesting example our fearful world is this story. It appears that a Wal-Mart employee, perhaps a little nettled by the rigors of customer service, posted a joke on his Myspace website that if every Wal-Mart were bombed the collective IQ of America would rise precipitously.
The next day at work security arrived, took him to the office to be fired by management, and then escorted him to the parking lot.
He protested it was only a joke.
But apparently Wal-Mart has an enhanced paranoia when it comes to joking employees. They’ve seen what damage to a reputation over-the-edge, stressed out, overworked workers can create.
God forbid that people who were once described as going postal should now be described as going Wal-Martal.
As this maligned and mistreated ex-employee now has even more reason to do.
But worse, I suppose, is that somehow someone at Wal-Mart Central monitors Myspace for jokes about Wal-mart and then decides from those jokes who is a threat to the sanctity and security of the bastion of Always Low Prices.
And you thought Myspace was just a place to preen, posture, act out, vent, and troll for friends on the internet.
Take a snapshot of this with your cellphone kiddies; it’s a new place for enhanced surveillance.
America ya gotta love it

#544 Truck Decal

I was driving behind this car the other day and I had occasion to reflect on the birth of a huge industry. Who would have thought a simple and crass idea would turn into such a huge national moneymaker?
Yep. Cartoon kid decals doing things.
Somewhere about five or ten years ago, some genius entrepreneur scribbled down a cartoon character looking not unlike Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. A little boy.
And that little boy was relieving himself.
Such began a decal dynasty. People flocked to buy decals of the little boy relieving himself on all the things they disliked.
Chevy owners bought decals of him relieving himself on Fords. Ford lovers bought decals of him relieving himself on Chevys.
They both embraced renditions of him relieving himself on all foreign makes and models.
Soon every preference and political persuasion was wetting down their opponents with the showering disdain of piddle-boy.
But that wasn’t enough. I mean, heck, a cottage industry can’t thrive unless you give it the opportunity to grow.
So gender equality reared its seat-down head. Piddle-girl was born, and sometimes with a cowboy hat, sometimes without, she sprinkled disapproval on the same enemies as her outdoor-plumbed pee-cursor.
And then remorse.
The unforgiving and arrogant nature of the piddle-kids was replaced by the charity and acceptance of the cross kids. Except they weren’t cross.
They were praying in front of one.
The boy and girl, bladders now apparently empty, were depicted in cartoon postures of reverence, praying to a cartoon cross, possibly for the souls of Ford and Chevy owners and what not.
And the cartoon creator continued to make money hand over fist.
So my research project is to find that first cartoon excretor creator.
Plumb the depths of the mind that first used incontinence for intolerance, and then reverence for acceptance.
My fantasy is he succeeded because when he first checked into the cost of making the decal, the manufacturer said:
“We’re having a sale today, so we’ll give you a discount on your first design. Urine luck.”
America ya gotta love it

Friday, June 22, 2007

#543 Trace This

So the other day I got a wrong number.
That is to say, someone got a wrong number on me.
It was on my landline, so it didn’t cost me a cent like one of those pesky wrong number cellphone calls, but still, it was an annoyance.
I was having an intimate and steamy conversation with a special person and it intruded on the call I was currently enjoying. The intermittent beeping in my earpiece was distracting from the task at hand.
I was unable to flash the intruder in time and so when I finally did hang up the phone—if you know what I mean—I saw a message-waiting message on my headset.
I love message-waiting messages cause you get two messages for the price of one. The message you have waiting and the message that you have a message waiting.
The message that was left was from this woman.
It said, “Hi, this is Jennifer from McDonalds and I was wondering if you’d like to come into work today.”
I was a little taken aback. McDonalds is now headhunting? I usually get calls like this at the executive level but hey, if they pay me enough, I’ll flip burgers.
If only because I got a McSolicitation from a McHeadhunter.
The 479 area code on my caller I.D was odd. Still, with all the area code changes, it could be anywhere, and since I have a digital phone with no long distance charges, I called the lady back.
“I’d like to speak to Jennifer,” I said.
“Speaking,” she spoke.
“I got a call asking me to come into work. Do you mind telling me where you’re calling from?”
“Arkansas,” she said, with a trace of now apparent drawl.
“Um,” I said, “I don’t think I’ll be able to make it in today. I’m from Washington. I’m surprised you called, I’ve got a 360 number.”
“It says on this application that a guy named Vince just moved here from Olympia. I guess he kept his cell number.”
Modern society. Calling an Olympia cell number to get someone in Arkansas.
It’s a small world after all.
Or a McWeird one.
America ya gotta love it

Thursday, June 21, 2007

#541 Thy-roids

There’s a new term looming on the horizon.
And it has to do with America’s proclivity for fads—most especially fads in food.
Ever since Captain Crunch added crunchberries, America has jumped on food bandwagons even as they careen to the cliff of doom., To the utter detriment of their health, that is.
So it is with salt. Yes, salt.
Today’s connoisseurs and gourmands have rushed to the seashore to gather the tidal bounty. Sea salt.
And they’ve put it in grinders to use at the table, they’ve mixed it with pepper and dried garlic, and they’ve basically come round full circle to adding salt back into heart-attack, high blood pressure conscious, low salt diets.
But they left something out. Iodine.
Iodine is an ingredient that’s been added to table salt in the U.S. for almost a century, primarily because certain areas of our country, like the Great Lakes and the Midwest, were low on other dietary sources of it.
Lack of iodine makes your thyroid gland under-produce certain key hormones. That makes your pituitary gland say, hey, we need more thyroid gland tissue to make up for the low output.
You know, if your workers aren’t producing enough, keep them and hire more workers.
The body doesn’t always have the intelligent design to be a good businessperson.
Anyhow, when your thyroid gland grows, your neck begins to swell up like a pelican trying to swallow a sturgeon, or one of those mating bullfrogs with the big balloon-like croaker under his chin.
And no turtleneck sweater in the world can hide the result.
You’d think the extra nodules of tissue would be called thy-roids, but no. The result is a condition known as goiter.
Round about the turn of the last century it was determined that adding a little iodine to table salt would cure this problem. And like most cured problems, people forgot is was one.
So now the specter of goiter is looming on the horizon once again, as food faddist gurus from Emeril to the Naked Chef are proclaiming the tastier benefits of pure sea salt.
I don’t know about you, but I think Emeril’s neck is looking a little thick.
Could he have that soon-to-be newest of maladies, gourmet goiter?
America ya gotta love it

#541 Tiers of Pain

I’m about to break a solemn vow.
I promised myself I would never write about a certain person whose sole claim to fame is that she’s famous. She has little or no talent, was in a salacious video, and was born into money.
From that point, she has been a self-indulgent brat, flouting the law at every turn, and laughing up her fashionable sleeve that she gets away with it because she can always buy or fame her way out.
I won’t stoop to mention her name, but think a city and a hotel. I’ve always wondered if she has a sister named Vienna and a brother named Bucharest.
Recently the law finally caught up with her. Yes boys and girls, in the two-tiered legal system we call America, where a black man or a poor white guy can do hard time for driving while intoxicated—repeatedly—this woman was finally lightly incarcerated.
Now think for a moment. If this famous woman or a poor person had run over a child while intoxicated, the child wouldn’t be any less dead in either case.
But apparently the drunkenness of a spoiled rich person is less worthy of a penalty. She got off with probation the first time and was finally jailed the second time for drunkenly violating her probation.
But before she actually served any part of her incredibly harsh and dehumanizing 45 day sentence she was given time off for good behavior for, um, showing up at the jail.
Then after 4 days, she was released to house arrest with one of those ankle bracelet thingies.
Medical reasons.
Apparently she was feeling bad.
And, you know, you can’t punish someone when they’re feeling sick. It’s so mean.
Please. This is a bar-crawling party animal. She feels sick after a few days of relatively tame jail regimen?
Spokespersons leaked that she had a rash. Probably from the prison shower soap. It’s so harsh. Maybe isn’t even hypoallergenic. Probably doesn’t contain one emollient.
Others say it was the food. Prison food is hell on bulimics. It’s not even good enough to puke up afterwards.
Exactly what I feel like doing every time I hear how this woman gets special treatment.
A frustrated judge agreed. She’s back in jail.
America, ya gotta love it

#540 Tweaking Soccer

As I wander through life, I’m sometimes led to the conclusion that much of it is dull, depressing, oppressive boredom interrupted by brief spasms of catastrophic joy.
Then again, there’s sports.
I think sports evolved as a great leisure pastime because it allows a vicarious participation in combat. It’s the ability to root for your tribe and be engaged in the outcome of a fearsome and challenging test of your guys over theirs—without significant bloodshed.
But maybe a little.
The extent to which one’s participation becomes passionate determines the fight potential on the field and in the stands. And the fight potential in the stands tends to increase with the lack of progression in the game, as measured by the score.
Take curling. You almost never see a fight break out in curling. Curlsters don’t run around the ice rink chasing each other with brooms.
But hockey players do slap each other with sticks.
Heck, they don’t just slap, they whack, chop and tomahawk each other. Why?
Hockey players hardly ever score.
Not scoring builds up frustration, and soon that frustration has to be dealt with. Usually in a socially unacceptable way.
That’s why American sports chiefs have generally realized that putting points on the board keeps players and spectators playing and spectating and not, um, killing each other.
The occasional bench-clearing brawl in a baseball game almost always ensues after a tight, scoreless, frustrating game. I’m sure baseball has a statistic to prove that somewhere.
They have statistics for everything.
But anyone who has followed international soccer knows that their fans actually do KILL each other.
I propose improving the game of soccer so more scores are made. Baseball has been tweaking the size of the mound forever, trying to get that perfect offense/defense mix, so why not soccer?
Here’s my suggestion. Add players to the offense. Whenever the ball crosses midfield, 4 extra offensive players rush on and overwhelm the defense. Or try to. If the defense battles it back to midfield, they’re now the offense and get the same privilege. Extra players must clear the field in five seconds or there’s a penalty shot.
Mark my words. There’d be fewer fights from frustration.
Cause there’s nothing as satisfying as scoring.
America ya gotta love it

#539 Triple Tonguing

The other day I had occasion to MC an event.
Let me use the phonetic word “Emcee.”
MC the initials stand for Master of Ceremonies, so it’s really incorrect to say I MC’d an event as if the initials were a verb. I master of ceremonied the event?
In the process of emceeing the event, I had a guy come up and compliment me on my performance. “It’s odd,” he said, “some people just freeze when they get in front of a crowd but you make it look like the most natural thing in the world, and keep on yammering like there’s no tomorrow.”
How nice.
Let that be my epitaph.
He yammered like there was no tomorrow.
I yammer. Because what is an emcee but a professional yammerer?
Kill me now Lord, I have arrived at the gates of heaven. I am a professional yammerer.
Yammer is a ridiculous word. But it’s real. It’s of Dutch origin and it means to complain or lament. America changed it to mean to run off at the mouth.
It’s always cool when a nonsensical word turns out to be real.
Like I was listening to an old song from the Scottish group The Proclaimers the other day and the guy sang, “If I haver, I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you.”
He pronounces it hey-ver. Haver? What the heck is haver? It sounds cool. I want the opportunity to say haver meaningfully.
So I looked it up.
Haver is a chiefly British term that means to vacillate or equivocate. Why the guy in the song would want to be equivocating with his proposed love is not explained.
But it’s also a Scottish word that means to maunder. To chatter aimlessly.
Again, why one would want to suggest to his intended love that they chatter aimlessly together is not up there with the top ten things to which most lovers aspire.
Perhaps Scotland is different in that regard. And chattering aimlessly while one tours the highland heath may be incredibly romantic.
I just know that if I emcee in Scotland I won’t be a yammerer anymore.
I’ll be a haverer.
America ya gotta love it

Friday, June 15, 2007

#538 Tortuous Turnings

It’s not always a pretty place inside my brain.
You got your chaos, and your disorder, and your random thoughts flitting in, piling up, and rustling around like stacks of autumn leaves.
Perhaps I have an overactive sense of wonder.
Or perhaps an overactive sense of “I wonder.”
Like I wonder if they ever clean the tubes in the fast food joint play areas. And if so, who does it?
You see the play areas at all the family-oriented burger joints. Plastic statues of burger and nugget-shaped characters. Nets, tubes, and platforms crawling with kiddies. An occasional ball pit to simulate the fun experience of drowning. They are usually chock full of kids from two to ten.
And they often have colds.
Runny nose toddler mucho mucus colds
So between the snot, the hamburger grease, and the smeared ketchup, at what time does a play area crawl tube become a public health threat?
I don’t ever remember seeing one of the employees of the fast food establishments brandishing a giant Fuller tube brush. Or a hose for that matter.
And you’d think after a couple of years of burgers and boogers there’d be a great need for a thorough pressure washing.
So is that like the night shift’s worst job?
Night shift in a fast food place is always the grungiest duty. Empty and clean the fryers. Wipe the shelves and base plates of the refrigeration units. Hose off the pallets from the walk-ins, and then that most disgusting of jobs, periodically clean the sewer grease trap.
Enough, as they say, to gag a maggot.
So I’m guessing after mopping the floor, and after the toilet patrol, that’s what happens to the newest and presumably smallest of a fast food joint’s employees.
Tube duty.
“Hey you, Shorty, you got the playland swabby duty.
Grab a rag and some Clorox solution and wipe the tubes. Scrub ‘em good too, we don’t want the rugrats getting sick.
Their parents might sue the company.
Which reminds me, sterilize the surfaces with some of our super hot coffee. And don’t get stuck!”
America ya gotta love it

#537 Tasteless BBQ

I’m one of those people that pays attention to ads. I like deconstructing an advertisement to calculate how effective it may or may not be.
I’m the kind of guy that notices at the end of a movie car chase how a car crashes into a Camel billboard. It’s no coincidence the camera lingers on the scene long enough for the idea of a soothing cigarette to waft through your brain.
I read an article the other day about how challenged TV advertisers are by DVDs, DVRs, and TiVo. All mediums that employ the two letters advertisers are afraid of the most—FF.
As in fear factor.
As in fast forward.
Through the commercial and on to the content. A full factor of fear to advertisers and TV producers, who know that without advertisers they are nothing.
And with the prospect of planned Nielsen ratings that actually rate the commercial break itself, all of these people are scrambling to find a TV advertising alternative.
Like burying product impressions in the story. Or actually having a character in a drama intone about the positive qualities of this product or that.
Or even a return to the Prairie Home Companion days of having the personality on an entertainment show directly hawk the product.
Good Godfrey Arthur, they’re doing your shtick.
When they do, I hope they think the ads through a little better. Maybe a little thoughtful last minute editing by the performer will help prevent booboos like the Wal-Mart BBQ ad I heard recently.
The ad has this Wal-Mart clerk blocking traffic indoors because to promote BBQ products she is offering fresh-grilled burgers in the BBQ aisle.
Heavens to Murgatroid, Virginia! She’s not actually barbequing indoors is she?
I hope she’s not using charcoal.
During the power outages last winter didn’t a lot of people barbeque indoors and DIE?
Careful Wal-Mart. Remember all those people that were trampled in your doorbusters a couple of Christmases ago?
Can you say suggestible? Indoor barbeque?
Not very thoughtful. Not a good example.
Arthur Godfrey never would have told us to go down to the five and dime and get some lawn darts for the kids. Although he did say Camel filters were better for our throats…
America ya gotta love it

#536 Taste of Summer

Barbeque is killing us.
And it’s killing the planet.
Seems the latest health scare is what we all dreaded. Barbequing changes meat and makes it more toxic.
Yep. Crusty brisket accelerates Alzheimer’s.
Pulled pork causes your blood vessels to pull apart.
Ribs kill your kidneys.
A chemical process that only occurs in meat at backyard grilling temperatures creates a whole new class of toxins known as AGEs—AKA: Glycation end products.
Glycation end products have been known to accelerate the aging process. And are associated with inflammatory conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, vascular degeneration and kidney disease.
What that means is, the crusty cook on all the trail drives in western movies looked so old because he ate too much of his own cooking. He was actually about thirty-five.
And the reason the planet is being killed is because the thing we barbecue most, livestock, is contributing more to the methane gas buildup in the atmosphere than automobiles.
That’s right, cow flatulence contributes more greenhouse gassing than automobile exhaust.
PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals, not the bread you can wrap around tasty barbequed cow kabobs, suggests we eat fewer cows.
They miss the point.
At least for a while we should eat more.
It’s live cows that are cutting loose on our atmosphere. Just don’t replace them when we do eat them.
So I challenge each and every one of you, eat a cow this summer to save the planet.
But don’t grill them over charcoal. Too much carbon release there. And don’t grill them over natural gas either. Cause you don’t want to accelerate your aging and all. And don’t eat them raw, cause of that whole E Coli thing.
So I’m guessing boiled. Boiled cow. Not too bad. Throw in a bunch of spices and a mess of beans and you got chili.
Yeah! When you fire up the big truck and burn up a ton of fuel as you fight traffic on your way to the big ball game there’s nothing like celebrating in the parking lot with a big heaping bowl of tailgate chili.
Maybe not.
That may just be passing that cow thing down the line.
America ya gotta love it

#535 Role Dispersal

Read an interesting article in a magazine called The Week. It was about a Pasadena, California online magazine.
A little while ago, the online magazine hired two reporters to cover the Pasadena local government beat. They saved a lot of money on the reporters because they were from the little known suburbs of Pasadena, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Never heard of them? Here’s a clue. If you have an old map, Mumbai used to be called Bombay.
That’s right, in India.
Just a touch east from Pasadena. Close to San Bernardino, I think.
Seems the outsourcing thing is kicking into high and very absurd gear. The magazine’s publisher points out that since the Pasadena City Council meetings are webcast, and official documents are online, there’s actually no reason for his reporters to be physically in Pasadena.
It’s not like you have to smell the flowers to appreciate the Rose Parade.
And certainly no one could accuse them of having a local bias.
Hell, they don’t even have a bias towards the country.
I worry though. I’ve had huge language barrier problems whenever I’ve called India tech support for one of my electronic issues. Not least because they tend to pronounce whisky, viskey.
They miss the slang. So they may miss some of the local flavor.
The publisher of the magazine doesn’t care. Outsourcing his local coverage to India means he can get 15 “local” news stories a week and only pay about $10,000 a year. Lots less than your typical underpaid American reporter.
In a way, it does kind of make the notion of objectivity in reporting a little more defensible. I mean, it’s hard not to be unbiased when you don’t know the place, the people, and the local worldview.
Unless, of course, the city council is debating the merits of outsourcing its tax preparation to India.
But it will completely eliminate the intangibles reporters pick up in one-on-one interviews. Like the gut instinct, certain knowledge that a politico is lying through his perfect teeth.
About the only good thing you can say about it, if the idea catches on, is that at least Fox news won’t be bitching about the snooty eastern liberal media anymore.
Unless they mean really far east.
America ya gotta love it

Monday, June 11, 2007

#534 Roller

The other day I was scared out of my sox. This kid comes drifting up to me and he wasn’t moving his feet hardly at all.
With his ethereal, ghostlike sort of stride-slide, he looked like a moonwalking Michael Jackson or something.
He had one of those Bluetooth earphone thingies in his ear, so for all I knew he was a robot.
Or a Stepford child.
Then he slid away, this time propelling himself by pushing with the toe of his right foot while he slid on his left. Except he wasn’t sliding, he was rolling.
And I know it pains you to hear it as much as it does me to say it, but with the way he was tilting his heels up and down, he was actually rocking and rolling.
Long live rock and roll.
The child in question was sporting that newest in fashion aberrations and urgent care clinic moneymakers, the Heely.
In case you just unrolled out from under a rock like me, the Heely is a shoe that contains a hidden wheel in the heel.
Hence Heely.
An adept and agile child can master the balance necessary to roll on one’s heels while holding one’s toes up ever so slightly, thus gaining forward, robot-like, weird, adult-frightening motion.
Said child can roll down hills, skate through malls, and generally make a self-propelled nuisance out of himself where roller blades, real skates and skateboards are forbidden.
The schools make the kids take the wheels out when kids come on the grounds.
For safety.
The kids scoff, of course, and laugh heartily when one of their tribe comes slamming down on his keester because he misjudged and his heel slipped out from under him.
Imagine wearing shoes with the heel part as slick as black ice.
Talk about having to tiptoe around difficulties.
And although the manufacturer recommends it for the self-altruistic reason of evasion of liability, I have never seen a Heely child in helmet or pads.
Although I did actually see one rolling along with his arm in a cast the other day.
His parent was pulling him by the uncasted other hand.
America ya gotta love it

Friday, June 08, 2007

#533 Ran Dumb

I got to thinking about animals recently.
No, not that way.
I’ve never even been to Enumclaw.
I was thinking about how animals infect every corner of our lives. From the tiniest bacteria in our gut to the giant whales on our Mexican vacation.
And, of course, our little dogs.
What got me to thinking was a news story about how Paula Abdul had broken her nose because she was running and tripped over her Chihuahua.
Talk about a random act of blindness.
Somebody ran dumb indeed.
But really, is this a man’s best friend thing? At what point do little doggies qualify as free range nuisances? Trip its mistress for gosh sake. There’s a boon companion for you.
Now when she goes to the expensive plastic surgeon and he has to give her a little nose job, I hope tiny Chi Chi won’t have to cut back on the gourmet dogfood nuggets.
Who wants to bet Paula gets a slimmer, perkier nose out of this ordeal?
So when I was thinking of Chihuahuas I thought of a few things. Like the word Chihuahua reminds me of a muted trumpet playing a swing band tune.
And the Chihuahua’s smarter cousin is the coyote. So much so that we call it a wily coyote, or say someone is wily as a coyote.
We often compare traits of animals to descriptions of human beings.
Wily as a coyote. Dumb as an ox. Proud as a lion. Cute as a kitten.
And my favorite—naked as a jaybird.
Any help on this one?
Why is a jaybird any more or less naked than any bird?
Is a jaybird a jayhawk, as in the Kansas mascot? Is it because folks in Kansas are more candid? And therefore more naked of pretense than the rest of us?
Or does it refer to the classic blue jay, who is loud, obnoxious, and less likely to give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks.
Naked truth as it were.
Which like a naked jaybird, and a plucked chicken, isn’t pretty.
Kind of like some hairless dogs.

America ya gotta love it

#532 Right Makes Mite

So the other day I did an essay on a little mite known as the Demodex mite.
Right there you got some potential for funny. Is there a republi-dex mite? Does it only infest right eyelashes while the demodex inhabits the left?
Can you find them in the Dex yellow pages? Under spooky little arachnids who frolic on your face?
But I chose not to go there.
Instead I went for the Andy Rooney reference.
I figured, hey, if a tiny little microscopic mite inhabited one hairy part of your eye region why not another? And if there ever was a macro niche for a micro mite it would have to be Andy Rooney’s eyebrows.
And if you have a niche, um, scratch it.
Especially if that niche is full of mites.
Well I was wrong, and I’m a big enough man to admit it. In going for the joke, I disregarded the facts, and gosh darnit, I’m really sorry.
Mistakes were made. I accept full responsibility.
Mite-a culpa.
A listener called the station and politely informed me the demodex mite is a mite of the eyelash, not the eyebrow. And the article I should refer to was in the June issue of Discover magazine, page 45.
Precisely, as it turns out, where I got the idea in the first place. And which facts I ignored on my way to Andy Rooney. If the facts are close, I never let them stand in the way of a good joke.
In this instance, that kind of sloppy humoring wasn’t enough.
In the original version of my essay, I actually did say eyelash but my girlfriend pointed out that jumping from eyelash to Andy Rooney eyebrow was confusing.
A mite confusing, one might say, mightn’t one?
So I changed all the references to eyebrow, and did science, and my listeners, a grave disservice.
All that said, I just now googled “demodex” and the wikipedia article said demodex mites inhabit eyelashes, nose hairs, and guess what, eyebrows. I take it all back.
Nose hairs. Some potential for funny there.
But for some reason I want to sneeze.
America ya gotta love it

#531 Rules of Disengagement

Interesting story out of the Midwest.
Seems Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White has forbidden parents from cheering when their graduate’s name is called during the graduation ceremony.
He said his new policy is aimed at restoring a sense of decorum and to ensure each name is heard. “The graduation commencement is the completion of a 12 year program of study. It’s a joyous time, a proud time, and a formal time. It’s not a party,” he said, “It’s not a pep rally.”
Someone throw this man a lemon to suck on.
Of course it’s a party.
And how can you be joyous without a little hooting and hollering and carrying on?
I’m sorry people get carried away sometimes. But I don’t go to a graduation to sip tea from demitasse cups and air out my raised little finger.
I go to cheer.
As one parent put it, “some kids overcome tremendous challenges to get through. We sometimes cheer for the kids we know have struggled, especially if no one else does.”
There didn’t appear to be anything in the news about the superintendent forbidding cheering because he was sensitive to the self-esteem of those not cheered for.
And we’ve all seen those at graduations. The popular kids got their rooting section. The struggling kids got theirs. The mid kids just shamble up and shuffle off, cheerless and forgotten, destined to be the next Bill Gates.
But here’s where the superintendent really took his imperiousness seriously. He sent letters home to parents announcing the policy of no applause. Then he reminded them that there would be 30 school police officers on hand to enforce the rules.
Bring out the storm police.
Someone is clapping.
Blow the whistle on the hooter. Gag the hollering offender.
Having your parent zip-tied and dragged out of the ceremony because he or she cheered for you—there’s a blow to your self esteem.
I’m guessing superintendent Eugene won’t be getting a standing ovation at the end of his traditional commencement address.
Perhaps the parents would be generous enough to silently proffer him some produce. You know, throw stuff at him.
I suggest lemons.
America ya gotta love it

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

#530 Rich Environment

Sometimes paradigms shift.
Seas change. A watershed has its moment.
So it is with “Green.” Suddenly everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon.
People who’ve been condemned as treehuggers for years are being embraced by the humans who used to scorn them.
I was at a big business meeting a few weeks ago and the speaker—from Forbes magazine—was telling all those assembled, “Green is the future. I don’t care how you feel about global warming. I don’t care how you feel about environmentalism. The writing is on the wall and someone wrote it in black oil.”
The price of crude is going to be crude indeed.
At 100 dollars a barrel, the price of everything will go up. Because everything is transported by oil-burning planes, trains, automobiles—and trucks.
Goodbye to cheap shipping, online buyers.
So it was with great interest that I saw the Master Builders embracing “green” construction. There are actually some new “green” developments, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a “green” Street of Dreams in the works.
Kind of a different green house effect.
Because green will sell. Energy efficiency is such a big deal that even The Home Depot was giving away free compact fluorescent bulbs on Earth Day.
Of course, the next week they had a sale on riding lawn mowers.
At least they kind of got it.
But the builders have discovered something very important: They can charge a lot more for a green home. Energy efficiency can generate more up-front revenue to the builder.
And the consumer is happy to pay.
It’s what I call the Prius paradigm.
Environmentally concerned people are concerned enough to fork over more right now, in the expectation there will cost savings down the line. And that “down the line” includes a cooler planet and less overall stress on the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, and pollution generally.
Some competing car salesmen laugh because by the time the cost savings in gas is realized in a Prius, its expensive batteries are due for replacement.
Of course that’s assuming gas prices stay at ONLY 3.50 a gallon.
Anybody up for any bets on that one?
I’m betting on green. It’s the color of money.
America ya gotta love it

#529 Richard DeBacle

Had a friend in college.
He was a bathroom philosopher. Had a pocketful of wisdom, but only when he wasn’t actually sporting pockets. Could only wax philosophic in a wet towel while shaving.
Must have been using Occam’s razor.
One day he comes into the can, proceeds to shave, and spouts this out like foam. “Sometimes you can’t go wrong. Sometimes you can’t win for losing. But it all evens out in the end.”
Words to live by.
Sometimes you can’t win for losing. That’s how House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt must have felt recently.
Seems the legislator flipped his truck and hit two other cars.
Not good.
Especially not good when you’re a state representative. Making laws and stuff. People just kind of naturally expect that, um, if you’re making laws you sort of, kind of, understand them. Like, you know, whether to stop at a stop sign or not.
Apparently not Mr. DeBolt.
When people are legislators do you still call them “mister”?
We are woefully short of honorifics in our language. Doctors you call doctor, but doctors of philosophy you call professor, and lawyers you just don’t call for dinner. It doesn’t seem right.
Lawyers go through a heck of a lot of school too. But can you call them Lawyer Jones? No, but Doctor Jones is perfectly appropriate.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Legislator DeBolt. He was cited for his malfeasance. Or is that pronounced mall-feasance?
No, that’s when a shopping center is built without the proper permits.
Lej-man DeBolt was cited for failing to stop.
Well, yeah. Flipping over and hitting two cars could be interpreted as a failure to stop.
Although, technically, he did eventually stop.
And hey. I think the public would have understood. His cellphone wasn’t in his hand by the time the police arrived so that most likely wasn’t the cause of his missing a stop sign, flipping over, and wiping out two cars on the way to his technical stoppage.
What was embarrassing was he was also cited for expired tabs.
And cheap Eyman tabs at that.
Youch. I’m guessing that coveted transportation committee assignment is a lot further down the road.
America ya gotta love it

Friday, June 01, 2007

#528 Ricochet

It’s baseball season.
Many of my friends talk about little else. I spent a lot of time playing baseball as a youth and even more time as a scorekeeper and announcer.
So, um, I’m kind of sick of baseball.
That was back in the day when kids used wooden bats. My friend Bobby pointed out the other day that he’d read an article which bemoaned the fact that it was possible for star players to make it all the way through little league and college and never have swung a wooden bat.
Which is the only bat they allow in the majors.
Promising careers cut off because of aluminum, competing bat lobbies, and fears of splintered bats flying back to the mound to bean pitchers.
Which, by the way, I witnessed as a youth.
The pitcher did okay. What scared him most was dodging both the incoming ball and the bat shrapnel. The laws of conservation of energy saved him. Neither bat nor ball had as much power because they had to split the kinetic force.
So the pitcher’s worst injury was compound whiplash from double ducking.
My dad must have worried that would happen to me because he used to “toughen” me up with a hardball.
Throw skipping grounders and burn balls at me when I was 7 years old. I was a nerd and a klutz, and to top it all off, slow and clumsy.
Took a ground ball in the front tooth once. Fresh new permanent tooth too.
Got a nice permanent chip in it.
I told myself this man must love me.
I mean, after all, he was throwing hardballs at me at incredible speeds.
That’s how men love each other, right?
And, hey, a broken tooth made me look tough didn’t it?
Even today, I can’t help loving people who throw hard objects my way.
How does that saying go, what doesn’t kill you makes your teeth look funny?
No, what doesn’t kill you makes you look dorkier?
No, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s it.
I hear four out of five dentists prefer neither wood nor aluminum bats. They just like baseball.
America ya gotta love it