Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#857 Familiarity Ties

I’ve noticed an interesting thing in the last year or so. More Bush news conferences. And it seems to be tied to his popularity ratings. Which seems to be tied to his familiarity.
And as we all know, familiarity breeds contempt.
It’s usually not my purpose in these thought nuggets to delve into things political. So I don’t want to do so here. But the things I’m about to say I would say about any public figure whose popularity was once high and through repeated exposure became lower.
Like Mel Gibson when we found out his thoughts on the Jewish community, and Bill Clinton when he had his subscription yanked to Cigar Aficionado.
Now I know there are still plus or minus 23% of the people out there who like Bush. And I’m not saying one way or the other how I feel. But like a loving mother of a sociopathic child I can feel one way and still see the process surrounding the whole thing.
The fact is, the more news conferences Bush gives the less people like him. It could be the news clips of him dancing with world leaders. I mean it. How a person dances is a dead giveaway in the meat-market dating bars.
Bad dancers go home alone.
But I think it’s just the more people see, the more opportunity they have to catch his misspeaks and mispronunciations and alternately surly slash silly style.
His jokes fall flat and his seriousness sounds belligerent. Like a pouting spoiled child when he doesn’t get his way and like a gloating bully when he does. That “I’ll do what I want to do so neener-neener” style that’s been so endearing to the rest of the world.
Again, I’m not one to kick a man when he’s down. But I think during his first term when he had, like, two news conferences in four years, his popularity was a lot higher.
Maybe it’s time to pull down the shades again.
It’s kind of like why older couples have sex in the dark.
When it comes to good results, sometimes seeing isn’t believing. It’s wishing you didn’t have to believe what you’re seeing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

#856 Thought Nugget

I sure will be glad when election season is over. Every pundit and his brother is giving me a pain. It was a sad day for our country when we decided we had to fill multiple 24 hour news channels with people in love with the sound of their own voices.
And when we encouraged these people to give us nothing but inflated opinions thinly disguised as fact.
I was going to be a pundit once. Then I discovered pundits were blowhards and not just people who were good at puns. Being good at puns is so much more satisfying.
So I was wondering: If they invented Hamburgers in Hamburg, Germany, and if they invented the Frankfurter in Frankfurt, what dish came out of Spitzbergen? Is that where the first berated waiter finally snapped and retaliated to a rude customer by hocking something into his meal?
This is where the pursuit of puns leads you.
So I heard about this annuity. It supposed to be some creative way to use your retirement money. Or possibly it’s just an annuity for inventive people. It’s called an “ingenuity.”
It’s part of a portfolio of annuities that are for specialized market segments. They even have one for Alaska sponsored government annuities for indigenous tribes. It’s called an Inuit-y.
So anyhow, forget punditry. When people ask, I’ve had trouble figuring out what to call these columns I do. So I heard a new description: Thought Nugget.
What do you think? I think it fits really well. They’re thoughts. But they’re more concrete than just random willy-nilly thoughts. They’ve had some time to come together into semi-solid bits of reasoning. But not so much research as to actually be a thesis or an essay.
Still, they’re chunky enough I can throw them out there and hit a target. I like it.
Your daily thought nugget from Funny Guy on the Prowl.
Which reminds me. Some people say my thought nuggets are like annuities for people who are incontinent.
They’ve got incontinuities.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

#863 Land of our Fathers

Nevermind. I am unsuspending my suspension. But I won't keep you in suspense, with this follow up to our economic salvation...

In yesterday’s essay, I suggested that the oil companies bail out Wall Street. They have sufficient capital to buy and hold the toxic mortgages until they become valuable again or the land underneath them does.
Once defaults happen on many of those mortgages, at least the oil companies would own all the land.
Then they could drill on it.
The idea has a lot of merit. First off, it’s cheaper for you and me. The government bailout plan requires every taxpayer to pony up the equivalent of 5200 bucks. Since that same government gave us 600 bucks last year this seems like what they used to call Indian giving—where you give something and then ask for it back.
The term “Indian giving” was never meant as a slam against Native Americans. It really referred to the endless contractual reversals of the federal Great Fathers who kept finding valuable stuff under treatied reservations.
Stuff like you know, oil.
In any event, a $4600 return on investment reaffirms the feds still know how to deal dirty.
So sell the mortgages to the oil companies. Then do one of two things with the land. Allow them to drill in the crackerbox developments where all the sub-primers defaulted.
(A derrick would make a nice cellphone tower so you’d have that problem covered too.)
The oil companies say new oil drilling is environmentally sensitive so why make them head off to the frozen wastes of Alaska where no one sees them.
If it’s so clean, drill in our back yards.
Or...swap them acre for acre for offshore drilling rights.
My friend Rick had an even better idea. The tribal casinos have a ton of money they’re looking to invest. The money is just sitting around doing nothing. Have them form an investment pool and buy up all the mortgages.
Then the money gambled away by the descendents of the Great White Fathers will be used to buy up the land they stole from Native Americans so long ago.
Throw in a few strings of beads, and they could probably pick up Wall Street in the deal.
America, ya gotta love it.

#862 Oily Rescue

Alert Alert Alert!!! I am suspending my campaign's normal posting of Americas Ya Gotta Love It because of the economic crisis and giving you the following essay just written today!

As I write this, Wall Street is having a bit of an apocalypse. The four horsemen of market correction have mowed down major firms like equine tanks. Doom and gloom are everywhere, and the treasury department and the president are asking the American taxpayer to finance a 700 billion dollar bailout. But with a twist. Secretary of the Treasury Paulson is asking for complete discretion in funds distribution and no oversight and requirements of him by anybody. Sounds good to me. Bail out the big boys who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar with one too many cookies, and do so using taxpayer money dispensed by the treasury secretary that didn’t have a clue the crisis was coming. Sure, why not? This from an administration that was for deregulation and keeping all federal hands out of big business. The same administration who constantly touts the benefit of cutting taxes. Now he wants to in effect raise our taxes and use them to get the government involved in propping up a big boondoggle. If you changed boondoggle to bureaucracy he’d sound like what he says is a liberal. Well, I have a better solution. It’s common in the investment world for one company that has a lot of money to invest in badly run companies that are failing. They buy the tarnished stock at a discount, fix the company, and build the stock value back up, benefiting investors that held on. These are market forces. They need no regulation or interference. The French call it laissez-faire economics, although it often seems laissez-unfair. So who has a lot of capital right now after gouging us for the last 18 months? Um, the oil companies? Right. Huge profits. 1200 bucks a minute there for a while. Here’s what the government could do—broker a deal with the oil companies to buy up all the toxic mortgages. Those mortgages that still go into default leave the oil companies with the underlying land. So now they just don’t own all the oil. They own all the land too. Then they can drill on that. America, ya gotta love it.

#855 Going to the Dogs

I may have just seen the solution to our oil problem. Foreign oil dependency is an enormous strategic and national defense issue.
Some patriot ought to convince our government what a huge barrel oil companies put us over so they can reap short-term profit. Look at the damage to our economy just from gas going up a couple of bucks a gallon.
Going green is a matter of national security.
And it looks like a good idea has emerged from where it always seems to crawl out.
The bottom of the barrel.
In this case the bottom of the barrel of society. I’m not sure if I should scorn these people for animal cruelty or praise them for an amazing carbon footprint-reducing strategy, but it certainly looks like a workable idea.
Dogs and skateboards. More specifically, dogs pulling human beings on skateboards.
I’ve seen a few of them now. They’re usually people who look to be of the urban camper variety. Often festooned with backpacks and other home-free outdoor living paraphernalia.
And they have longboards, those extra large skateboards that are designed for cruising. Longboards are great, but like all skateboards they suffer from the need to occasionally remove one foot from the board and push it against the pavement.
Enter man’s best friend. The dog I saw had a shoulder harness so he didn’t seem to be pulling with his neck. It was attached to a leash, the leash attached to the hand of the hobo.
Off they go down the street.
The dog seemed to be happy. Seriously. Like others I’ve seen, he really looked like he was enjoying the opportunity to do a little physical effort.
It’s not too much of a pull. The bearings on the wheels of the skateboard keep it running smoothly. The bicycle lane of the road is relatively smooth and works as well for the skateboard mushers as it does for cyclists.
At one point, these two pulled into a park and the man let his dog loose to play Frisbee.
The sixties were good for something after all. A man, his dog and a skateboard.
Take that oil companies.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

#854 Bully Pulpit

I need to get on my pulpit here and talk about bullies. And how they are ruining our roads.
I was walking along the roadside yesterday and watched an older feller in a car going the speed limit put on his turn signal as he approached a right turn. He then slowed in a perfectly appropriate way and negotiated said turn.
The young buck behind him honked his horn, pounded his steering wheel, flipped him off, swerved illegally around and accelerated down the street.
Forget about the young guy’s traffic infraction, the old guy about had a traffic infarction.
I was amazed. Nothing in the old driver’s behavior called for that kind of response. The young driver was just a bully.
But what struck me most was his complete lack of awareness that he was the one in the wrong—that cocky consciousness that immediately puts the blame on the other person for daring to get in his way.
People like this frustrate me more than any other type. I hate to even acknowledge they’re human. Where is the capacity for empathy? Where is the putting yourself in someone else’s shoes? Where is the acceptance that sometimes you’re the one that’s wrong.
No, it’s just all bluster and bullying. Your car’s more powerful, so other cars should get out of your way. You’re in a hurry so move aside. Why? Because you can. Might makes right and all that stuff.
People say there will always be bullies until someone knocks them down. But you know, I’ve never known that knockdown to stick. The bully just gets up, starts shouting about “cheating” and “sucker-punching” and walks off grumbling.
Then he finds another weak person to pick on.
You wonder what the survival value of a bully is. How that misdirected anger DNA stayed in the species.
Because it’s not like bullies are ever in the front lines in the military. Bullies aren’t brave, they’re just opportunists.
Maybe that gene was good in hunter groups, for picking weaklings off the back of the herd of prey animals. Maybe that balanced out the annoyance of having them in the tribe.
And they’ll keep at it. Cause dammit. It’s their road to ruin.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#853 Voting Bubbles

Not long ago I was voting. It was in Washington State’s new Top Two Primary so it was very exciting. The Top Two Primary came about after a long hard legal struggle—a complex series of sophisticated arguments and debates by the smartest men and women in the world. The chance to vote in a new, freshly Supreme Court-approved primary made the experience of exercising my privilege so much more exhilarating.
I could barely keep my coloring in the bubble.
Coloring in the bubble. How nice that all of our technology comes down to what we learned in kindergarten. Stay in the lines. Keep your coloring neat or your vote won’t count.
You’ll get a U for unsatisfactory young man!
It’s also funny when I went to mail in my ballot. In the time it took to arrange the various nesting envelopes like some bad marriage of origami and Russian matryoshka dolls, I could have gone to my computer and answered six emails.
I was struck by how we vote. It seems like it’s always the next oldest technology that worked. The most common method of mailing and bill-paying these days is the computer and the ease and functionality of email.
So we snailmail in our ballots.
When everyone was using mail to communicate we had to go to a polling place and vote. One day we’ll vote by email, when everyone spends the bulk of their time communicating by text.
Speaking of voting, I learned something interesting. You don’t just pay a simple filing fee to file to run for a state office. It’s based on a percentage of the salary that job pays. 1% to be exact. So to file for Governor you have to have more money than to file for State Representative.
Um...wasn’t this whole democracy thing based on equality of opportunity? So…We can all vote equally like we’re in kindergarten but only those rich enough to apply can run for higher office.
Wow...talk about bursting my bubble.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

#852 Gadgetolic

Sometimes I wonder about our addiction to new and flashy technology. It seems to make our lives needlessly complex in the pursuit of simplicity. We trade a lot of time trying to figure something out for the supposed time we’re going to save using the dang thing.
I said, I ain’t gonna use no dang RE-mote con-TROL. When I caint get up to change the dang channel you can shoot me.
There are now four remotes sitting on the coffee table. One of them never gets used. It’s the universal remote I can’t figure out how to program to replace the other three.
I was at a friend’s house. They had this new double oven with all the bell and whistles—timers, rotisserie, convection, broiler. It had a program console that looked like it came out of a jet cockpit.
The technologically-challenged spouse was having a hard time setting it to “warm.” Finally she did what all digitally disabled folks do. She pressed the help button.
You know your oven is too complex when it has a help button.
There is something incredibly wrong with having any device telling you how to work it.
A tool shouldn’t be smarter than its user.
But we rush out and buy these things. Even when we know they can hurt us. Remember a few years back when offices across the land were getting sued for carpal tunnel promoting practices? Remember the solution—those weird “ergonomic” keyboards that were sort of split in half? You couldn’t see the keys because they tilted out of your line of vision so you could hold your hands in a “more natural” sideways position.
Ever looked at the keyboard on a laptop? The keys are spaced further, the whole thing is flat, and sits up higher. Ergonomic it ain’t. Why no lawsuits?
Because laptops are voluntary. People will subject themselves to a lot of pain to get the coolest gadget. If they were required by their employer to endure that same pain, no way.
But to while away the day in the coffee shop, browsing the internet, and impressing friends with their acquisition of the newest technology? Seize the pain baby.
Carpal Diem.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

#851 Cheesy Words

I’m worried about the decay of our language. Language has a certain poetry about it, words resonate in ways that are almost musical.
You know a word fits with a certain thing.
The words shark and snarky sound alike for a reason. They both evoke that edgy “arkyness.”
Likewise the words pound and round. They have a fullness of sound that makes you think of curvier, broader things. You strike something with a hammer. You pound it with your fist. A pound of fat makes you more round.
Or a pound of cheese.
Cheese is what I’m worried about. We like cheese.
And we don’t like things that are cheesy. Or, at least, we think things that are cheesy are not as solid and well-built as things that aren’t.
Cheesiness as a description of shoddiness and poor workmanship and as a description of something that’s just in poor taste has been around a long time.
Cheesy was a great word to use in any company when saying something was a piece of—you know. You could even cut the cheese in the home of the preacher’s wife.
But lately the fast food places have been co-opting the word cheesy. Trying to make it good. Instead of saying “lots of cheese” and “full of cheese” and “loaded with cheese” and a “big slab of cheese”, they are actually saying “cheesy.” Jack in the Box has a “cheesy bacon wrap.” Taco Bell has a “cheesy rice and bean burrito.” Kraft Macaroni and Cheese says it’s “the cheesiest” mac-n-cheese around.
Now in my day, if some company proclaimed that its product was the cheesiest around people would have laughed at them.
My Ford Fiesta is the cheesiest car around.
My Yugo is cheesier.
But today, with Generation Y, Generation Whiner, and Generation Why Not all exposed to conflicting cheesy messages the distinction isn’t so clear.
“Oh man, I got the cheesiest laptop.”
“What? Was it defective?”
“No Dude, I was pounding down some snackage and got Cheesy Ranch Doritos in it.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

#850 Exercise Power

A while ago I made a humorous suggestion to solve part of the energy shortage. Personal Power.
Anyone who knows power knows that power is produced with potential. That is, by harnessing the difference in potential states between rest and motion.
Water spins a turbine. The turbine produces electricity. Gasoline in your car engine explodes and pushes a piston, which pushes a crankshaft, which eventually turns your wheels. A treadle can power a sewing machine with enough pedaling and a bicycle can power a little bicycle light with a simple attachment.
Why then, I joked, couldn’t you harness all the stationary bikes, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, and treadmills in a health club to return power to the grid? Or at the very least supply the power needs of the health club.
Finally, a way to keep the hot tub hot.
Well, once again, reality has caught up with my humor—sort of.
Seems that a company called Dissigno has created a prototype system in Haiti that charges 12-volt batteries with a pedaling system. Using a simple alternator, six hours of pedaling can effectively light six homes for six days.
Farmers can now stay up later after the harvest and have light to see their poverty by.
Now granted, the average home of a Haitian harvester is smaller than a health club. But health clubs have a hell of a lot more pedal power to harvest.
And really, it just makes sense. Here you have all these folks sweating out the effort anyhow. Why not exploit them in some way?
It couldn’t be that hard to design a treadmill whose potential increased with each level of resistance. Hit the button on the console for incline and not only will the treadmill get harder to tread, the power output increases. Set that stationary bike for an uphill grade and you have the same effect—harder pedaling, higher power.
So here’s my challenge to fitness clubs. With so many out there, one of you should do this to get a leg up on the competition. The totally green 24-hour anytime fitness center.
Who needs a power drink?
Belong to a power club.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

#849 Narcissism Alert

So the other day I got a pleasant comment on one of my blogs that had been posted a long time ago. You never think of your blogs staying out there on the web forever and being new and fresh to a person just reading them for the first time, but it’s true.
One man’s old meat is another’s potential sausage I guess.
In any event, it got me looking through the rest of my blogs to see if there were any other comments I hadn’t seen.
Well there was one, from a guy named Roger Stone. Roger Stone had left his remark at the bottom of series of blogs. At first, it had me confused because the actual blog he left the comment on had nothing to do with his reply. I figured it out when I scrolled up through the whole month’s blogs posted in that archive and found the article about him at the top.
True to form, since he’s known for going to the bottom of the barrel, he went to the bottom of the blogs to reply. The comment was from the Roger Stone, famous Political Dirty Trickster, mudslinger, and smear-a-tician.
At first, a shiver of paranoia went down my spine. How had the famous Roger Stone noticed little old America Ya Gotta Love It Funny Guy on the Prowl?
And then I realized—Google Alerts. It’s why every time I write an article with Newt Gingrich in it I get an email from his minions. Google Alerts, that quintessentially 21st Century technological combination of paranoia and narcissism.
Some would argue that paranoia is always narcissism. The world is after all out to get you.
But Google Alerts are special. They allow you to instruct Google’s search spiders to find any mention of your name in web news or blogs and then report to you along with a link to the mention in question, every morning.
On the one hand, it’s oddly satisfying that people are talking about you. On the other hand, people are talking about you¾behind your back.
And you caught them!
Just as, when I post this, Roger will catch me.
Hi Roger, how’s tricks?
America, ya gotta love it.

#848 Digital Food

Well it’s finally happened. In a land where every entertainment format has gone from the smooth natural continuous wave of analog to the crystal brittleness of digital could our last pastime hold out for long?
No. Food is finally digital.
As in, by the digits we call numbers. Digits, numerals, you name it, it’s the solution to dietary confusion—food by the numbers. The plan? Make shopping simple for the average consumer.
There’s negative news about this food, and cancer-preventative good news about that. High glycemic index here, low HDL there. What’s a shopper to do?
Math of course. Take all the competing info and assign a number to an article of food to indicate positive or negative value. Researchers at Yale University’s Griffin Prevention Research Center set their grant money to work and created the Overall Nutritional Quality Index, or ONQI for short.
ONQI as in Honky. As in, it takes a soulless yankee wasp mathlete to try to reduce food to numbers. Dude.
The values are arranged from 1 to 100. 1 being bad and 100 being good. The top of the list is what you might expect. Raw broccoli. It has 100 points. So does an orange.
Yeah yeah, what about the good stuff? Bagels are 23, Salted, dry-roasted peanuts are a mere 21. Interestingly, at 44, a New York Strip Steak comes in higher than a skinless chicken breast at 39.
Of course my first thought, since they are using a mathematical algorithm to come up with this list, is do other mathematical principles apply?
Like, oh, I don’t know, the additive property.
Can I eat a burger at 24, slather on some peanut butter at 23, slap on a slab of Swiss cheese at 17, mayo at 21, add a side of cheese puffs at 4, some dessert chocolate for 10, and wash it down with a soda for 1, and still get the same benefit as the equal-numbered serving of broccoli at 100?
Cause, you know, I’d like the variety, and, um, taste a little more.
So tell me this; what happens to the numbers next time I go to the store and there’s been an E-Coli outbreak on raw broccoli?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

#847 McCain-uccino

The other day I saw one of those new advertising things. They are essentially giant billboards about three feet thick mounted on the back of a flatbed truck. It’s not a painted semi. It’s not even a painted panel truck. It is specifically a billboard on a truck that companies can hire to drive on the highway and through town in a bold stealth-marketing move.
Problem is, at 4 bucks a gallon these days, that’s getting pretty expensive. So this one was parked downtown at a meter. Or two meters as it turned out. Apparently it was still cheaper than driving. That’s how bad it’s got.
So when I heard the McCain-uccino story, I was so surprised my hair stuck up like a $400 John Edwards haircut. You’d think that someone campaigning for president would stay on message in his attempt to relate to the ordinary American voter.
Now, don’t think I’m that naive. I know darn well it ain’t cheap to run for Prez. And you need a couple of million of your own or a rich spouse to consider it.
But still, it’s the little things that speak volumes. Forget for a moment that McCain has been pilloried by the press for not knowing how many houses he owns. As pilloried as Obama was Hillaryed for elitism in the Pennsylvania primary.
What got me was the Starbucks story. Seems John McCain has to go out every morning for his Starbucks fix.
As the article I read put it, presumably he has a coffee maker of some sort in his home. He can probably even afford a fancy espresso maker and a secret service man with the skill to make it.
But instead, during the most gas-expensive campaign trail ever, from whichever of his houses he’s staying in, he leads a motorcade of staff and secret servicemen and an entourage of reporters on a fifteen minute drive down to find the local Starbucks.
From a house in no danger of foreclosure, I’m guessing.
I don’t know, can copping a cappuccino be insensitive?
Frankly I’m amazed he can pull it off. At my age drinking that much coffee keeps me up to 3 A.M.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

#846 Bowl Me Overweight

It’s no secret there are fashions in fast food. And as any culinary artist will tell you, presentation is half the battle. Fast food places have always understood the value of packaging. They have refined the art.
Remember, it was the packaging of a McDLT that made it famous. The burger itself was ordinary. Its special Styrofoam container kept the hot side hot and the cold side cold. And the ozone layer thin and the planet greenhouse warmer.
Actually, the packaging was a failure, even in its stated purpose, as it managed to keep both sides uniformly tepid.
It’s also no surprise why a certain fast food company’s slogan is to think out of the bun. Referring, of course, to the presentation of food itself in what is arguably the first packaging—two slabs of baked carbohydrate between which to put a meat-like item.
Two slices of bread made up the original portable and fast food, the sandwich.
Lately it’s been all the rage to order one’s food in a “wrap.” Wraps supposedly diminish carbohydrate intake. But actually they just offer another reason to go back to McArboDairyKentuckyBellKing and try a new dish.
Well get ready for the next fast food fashion—The Bowl.
Taking a page from the popularity of teriyaki joints, the mass marketers have come up with a new way to get your mass enlarged. Goodbye bun. Goodbye wrap. Hello bowl.
Food pile in a cup. Mush it all together and serve it up.
And it doesn’t eliminate the carbohydrates either. The KFC bowl has mashed potatoes in it. The teriyaki bowls are loaded with rice. And the new Jack in the Box breakfast bowl has a layer of hashbrown sticks.
Wow, two fast food innovations in one meal. Hash Brown Sticks and a bowl.
Jack in the Box, or should I say Jack in the Bowl, is packing in the calories too. Because they top the potatoes, eggs, sausage, bacon, and cheese off with a special ingredient. White cheddar cheese sauce.
That’s enough to bowl me over, with a cardiac infarction...
America, ya gotta love it.

Repeat #740 Isle of Thule

One of the dangers of having a ferret-like mind like mine is sometimes you go chasing down some weird rabbit holes. Sometimes all the way to the tullies.
I suspect you know what I mean when I say “way out in the tullies.” It’s an expression we all learn early and it means pretty much the same as “way out in the sticks.” In fact, I always assumed tullies were sticks, or possibly some reed-like things that grew in marshes. Cattails in the swamp, or something like that.
The phrase “out in the tullies” always conjured up notions of desolation and the kind of landscape where you were likely to get bit by something poisonous while you died of thirst being swallowed by quicksand as swamp leeches drank your blood.
So one day while I was writing the word tullies I noticed that it redlined in my spellchecker. I looked it up in the online dictionaries and it wasn’t there. Not in the online etymology dictionary either. I finally Googled the word and an entry from wiki-answers came up asking people desperately if they knew the origin of the word.
So the matter rested until the other day when I read about a book based on the phrase Ultima Thule. For the first time I made the connection that thule was spelled the same as those pods outdoor types strap on top of their cars that hold skis and gear and what not.
The name of one of the podmakers is spelled the same as the last word it Ultima Thule, except it’s pronounced tool-ie. So I looked up Ultima Thule. One of the pronunciations is Ultima thoo-lie but one of the pronunciations is Ultima tool-ie.
Aha, I thinks, with one of those Koestler-ian eureka moments. I have discovered the origin of the tullies. Folk idiom has preserved Latin origins. Because the term Ultima Thule means “the ends of the earth.” Medieval geographers put in on their colorful maps next to the wind-blowing gargoyles and fearsome creatures of the unknown.
And used the term to refer to any place beyond the borders of the known world.
Sounds like the tullies to me.
Watch out for seamonsters in the rabbit holes.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

#822 Zoeller Fuzzy Thinking

I understand full well that if you are a golfer, the following dissertation will seem stupid, ignorant, narrow-minded and oblivious to the captivating wonder which is golf—thinking fuzzier than a guy named Zoeller.
I am not a golfer. So the many things that golfers do are an utter mystery to me. My own early attempts at golf were complete failures. My ball kept getting stuck in the windmill.
Miniature golf, or putt putt golf, was designed to be hard, as in fixed. The balls were bad; the clubs were bent and the final free-game-winning hole crookeder than a carny with a crack habit. It was a frustrating game to play.
To outsiders, golf seems like an odd sport. I mean, come on, is there any other sport that allows you to redo a shot you don’t like and call it by a name that sounds like a hobo stew—Mulligan.
Oops, my club slipped, I’ll take some hobo stew on that one.
Likewise the notion that golfing is somehow communing with nature. Admittedly, it is communing with the outdoors. And granted, in areas where there were no trees it was a beautiful thing to surround nicely mowed lawns with little stands of woods.
But in the Northwest those lawns lie on areas carved out of the trees. So a golfers commune with nature first involves a rapacious rampage of destruction through same.
Golf is also an interesting sport because it appears involve as many ways as possible to avoid what is often the point of sport, exercise.
It’s a rare golfer who actually carries his or her clubs from hole to hole. Most at least employ a rolling hand trailer sort of device. Many use a cart and so avoid walking as well. That commune with nature allows you to drive in couple hundred yard spurts.
Carts typically seat 2 people and 2 giant bags. The giant bags contain highly engineered clubs with massive oversized heads designed to increase power without, um, effort.
And the point of the game? To have the lowest score. To swing your club the fewest possible times.
In fact, to reward you for doing less.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Repeat #828 Clumpster

I saw this commercial for a kitty litter product. A woman was on a roof trying to get her kitten and slipped. She slid off the steep roof, wailing all the while like a stepped-on kitten, and at the last moment saved herself by hanging on to the rain gutter.
The rain gutter gave way enough for her to hang in front of her window. She looked through the window and saw her kitty litter box, which she noticed had a large clump of cat stuff.
She then grabbed her clump scoop, removed the excrementory mass with one hand, and put it in what appeared to be a specialized kitty kaka disposal bucket. Do they call it a clumpster?
I have no cats, so I’m not privy to all the hygiene gyrations cat owners must perform to deal with the waste issue.
Or the issue of waste, as it were.
So I was disturbed that the lady was so positively impressed with the clumping properties of the litter, she interrupted her screaming as she was hanging on for dear life. I was alarmed the kitty litter box appeared to be on a kitchen table, making it high enough for her to reach through the window and scoop away.
The commercial focus, as near as I could figure, was premium clumping power. I suppose it’s a fair bet the cat does a little pre-clumping some of the time. Unless it has an alimentary ailment, it’s elementary that certain of its deposits are already clumpified.
It’s my own fault for watching the television while I was eating, but I feel somehow violated that I was subjected to a commercial making a big to-do about doo-doo, feline feces, and kitty clumps.
But worse, the commercial producer felt the necessity to actually fully reveal the clump in question, sitting serenely in the box, lightly dusted with kitty litter, like a sprinkling of crumbles on a cake donut.
And then to show it in all its clumpy glory perched nobly on the scoop on its way to the disposal bucket.
There are some things for which high definition TV is a bad idea.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Repeat - #725 Enlarged Peer Pressure

The scene in the commercial is hauntingly familiar. A group of men, or perhaps they’re called a herd, engaged in numerous sporting endeavors.
The first scene shows them deep sea fishing. There are five of them. They appear to be robust, happy, full of life, vim, and vinegar. The next scene shows beautiful scenery and a curving road. Around the bend comes that same group of men, laughing, obviously sharing that camaraderie only a group of bosomless buddies can share.
They point out scenery to one another like little kids, some echo of the time they collected frogs together down by the creek with Tom and Huck.
The next scene shows the same men, but this time they’re roaring down a river in kayaks, grabbing the world of whitewater by the roostertail and exulting in victory—oars held high and fists shaking in the air.
This is life.
And these are men.
But wait. Something about this commercial is odd.
You’re ready for the last scene. You expect all of them to be crowding into a tavern and ordering a round of Bud Lite.
But no, a strange word is flashing on the TV screen.
It’s... Can it be? Yes. It’s...
This isn’t a beer commercial at all. It’s a commercial for a drug to shrink your prostate gland.
Oh no!
That explains the other thing you noticed about this ad that is only now registering—all these men are middle-aged. They all have glasses and thinning gray hair.
But where are their families? Why is this group of aging adolescents still out grab-assing with each other? Biking and fishing and kayaking? Where are the kids? Where’s the wife?
Oh, she’s home, probably nagging someone.
And that’s the real truth the drug companies understand. The wife’s been after the husband for years to do something about his benign prostate enlargement. But he won’t listen to her.
But if his buddies do it, well that’s a-okay. Take one for the team? You bet.
For a certain type of guy, the drug companies know how to sell product. Peer pressure for prostate shrinkage.
Hey guys, whaddaya say we go out and knock back a couple of Flomax?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

#845 Laying Rubber

It’s rare that I stomp on the gas. I’ve never been one of those “jackrabbit start” sort of drivers. Maybe I’m just too much of skinflint, but it never seemed smart to burn off a layer of rubber just to prove I had the capacity to reproduce.
Signs of maleness and displays of mating behavior have their place. I’m just not sure any potential mate would be impressed by a streak of black on the pavement. As I currently don’t have a mate, maybe I’m wrong.
Likewise, the strain to one’s automobile, in the stress put on the transmission and other mechanical items, can’t be economical in the long run. Nor is it particularly gas efficient. Study after study has shown that a sure way to burn off excess gas is to emerge from an intersection like a bat out of hell.
So with gas prices skyrocketing, Nissan thinks it has a fuel-saving answer to jackrabbiting drivers—a pedal that pushes back. If you stomp down on it too hard, it resists you. The car refuses to be pushed to inefficiency. The ECO pedal system can increase fuel efficiency by 5 to 10%.
You know, this is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. After years and years of tooling automotive engines to be super responsive, to go from 0 to 60 in 8 seconds, to be nimble in traffic and have the instantaneous power you need to pass and get out from under a lumbering duo of semis about to crush you, you’re going to install a pedal that pushes back?
How the hell does the pedal know whether I’m in a life or death situation and suddenly need to squirt out of there?
How the hell does the pedal know if I’m sitting at a stop sign and look in my rearview mirror and see some idiot about to plow into my backside because he’s yammering on his cellphone and not paying attention?
In this instance peeling out can save your life.
And yes, I suppose that means you’ll live to reproduce another day.
So I guess burning rubber can be a mating strategy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

#844 R.I.P. Mouse

As a great cartoon character once said, I loves my meeses to pieces.
And now they’re going away. Meeses that is.
The Gardner Group, who predicts these things, says the computer mouse will be obsolete within three years. It will be replaced by joysticks, touchscreens, and to some extent, facial recognition software.
Facial recognition… Don’t click on that tab, smile at it. Maybe you can frown at the red squiggly line under a misspelling in spell-check and it will correct the word for you.
Well I, for one, am sad. The mouse just turned forty this year. I see no reason to replace the little pest. I mean heck, I finally got the timing of double-clicking down. And scrolling… and right-clicking…
I’ve even got pretty good at clicking on the moveable bar at the right side of a page and dragging it down in one continuous movement without going crooked and having to start all over.
And since I write a lot, I’m not half bad at using my right hand on the mouse and my left on the keyboard to correct the jillion spelling errors I always have in my essays the first time through.
I said I wrote a lot, I didn’t say I was good typist.
But I am a relatively good mouse-ist. Or should I say mouse handler? And I’m not ready to let the little beast go.
Oh sure, in the old days, you would get sticky mouse balls. It’d get you cursing as you tried to move the cursor to exactly the right place.
But I got used to them in all their variety. I feel comfortable with my mouse. We’re, dare I say it, in touch. When I take it in the palm of my hand, it feels good. And familiar.
I hate those touchpads on the laptops. Fingering them seems cold and artificial. And I get a finger cramps.
I’ve developed wrist muscles for my mouse. No more carpal tunnel for me.
And I don’t care if sometimes you have to stick it in your pocket.
Every laptop should have a mouse.
Let me rest in peace. Please save our meese.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

#843 Dropping Eaves

The world continues to get smaller as more and more of us connect electronically. Its getting so we are like people crammed together in a cheap apartment house. And the walls between us are very thin.
This means, of course, we are more vulnerable than ever to eavesdropping. And as if that isn’t bad enough, the manufacturers of certain hardware devices are dropping eaves on us as we speak.
As we speak on our phones that is…
Suppose I told you evil Bill Gates could get a look into your computer from the heights of his new Vista? Suppose he didn’t like what he found. Maybe you were running some Mac software.
Suppose I told you he could kill those programs anytime he wants?
He wouldn’t have to fry your computer outright. He could just remotely disable any program he chose. Maybe he didn’t like your desktop screensaver because it had an unflattering picture of him.
When you connected to the internet, he was able to tunnel into the bowels of your code and see anything he wanted.
What if when you connected to cable, Comcast could fry your TV for running its shows through TiVo?
You’d be outraged, right? A violation of privacy. Harkening back to the days of AT&T’s monopoly over the phone system, when they wouldn’t even allow you to hook up a phone made by another company to their wires.
Well outrage away. Because that’s what the new iPhone has. A hidden kill switch. And it wasn’t the supposedly evil Bill Gates that installed it. Nope, it was good old Mr. nice guy, Steve Jobs.
Anytime Apple doesn’t like an app that you put on your iPhone, they can kill it remotely. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to connect your computer to the internet and have Microsoft search your computer for updates, viruses and worms.
But your iPhone?
Whenever you call someone, the Apple bunch can tap in and search your phone for apps it wants to kill.
This means every time you call, someone is listening...
Evil big brother?
Or, well, doing it for our own protection?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

#842 Shredded Belief

Nutrition is getting to be a pretty hard thing. Either you can’t afford nutritious food or the food you eat is nutritiously suspicious.
I try to adhere to the “at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day” rule. Sometimes it’s tough. Take apples. I like to have one of them a day to keep the colon doctor away, but it’s getting pretty expensive to stay with a regular program.
The apples I like are now a buck-ninety-nine a pound. That’s right, 1.99 for an apple. ‘Cause that’s about what it works out to. The apples are big, plump and crisp. And they set me back almost two bucks apiece.
Now if I were a smart shopper I’d be saying to myself, “Gee what’s the most bulk and pure calories I could get for my money?” And I’d probably go down to Taco Bell and spend those same two bucks on a couple of 99 cent burritos.
Burritos keep me “running for the border” too. And Taco Bell’s trotted out a new value menu with 79, 89, and 99 cent items. Sure, they’ll send you to an early grave, but they’ll send you full.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a restaurant prepared food entrĂ©e costs half as much as one apple.
It’s hard to be nutritionally savvy just about everywhere. Take frosted mini-wheats. Their box proclaims, “Clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%!”
How do you measure that?
“How awake are you, Freddy?”
“Well, I’m nearly 20% more awake than usual, Mrs. Johnson. That’s 20 over a hundred.”
But here’s what worries me. The disclaimer in extremely fine print says: “Based upon independent clinical research, kids who ate this cereal for breakfast had up to 18% better attentiveness three hours after breakfast than kids who ate no breakfast.”
First, notice how “nearly 20%” became “up to 18%,” so it was probably 15%.
Second, I’d hate to be one of the kids in the clinical study who they experimented on that didn’t get breakfast to prove their point.
Because basically, this study proved that kids who had a meal paid attention better than kids who were STARVING!
America, ya gotta love it.

#841 Problem Spellers

There’s been a movement afoot lately to put less emphasis on spelling. The current advocates again maintain that exact spelling just ain’t that important. Added to their argument is the prevalence of the text message, which for reasons of space and economy has pared the English language down to bare necessities, like abbreviations and numbers to represent sounds.
Unfortunately, it also makes texters look self-centered, frivolous and superficial.
Us older folks don’t like getting a text message. Why? Because we have to pay for it. It’s like a letter coming postage due. Your first thought is who’s the cheap S.O.B. who sent me this?
And with the mangled language of text, the message itself loses validity and sincerity. Having a job applicant text in a “thx 4 the iview” is a far cry from a formal letter sent by snail mail. The snail mailer will have a better chance getting the job.
Something the immature never understand. You get respect when you earn respect.
So, as if I needed another reason to be concerned about left wing college students, I got this leaflet stuck on my car the other day. It’s hard to respect students who can’t spell. The broadsheet purported to give the early signs of fascism.
Their argument started out on the wrong side of persuasiveness when they spelled fascism with an extra i-s- in the middle, fasiscism.
They went on to list disdain for human rights as a symptom, except they spelled it d-i-s-t-a-i-n-. There is a distain with a “t” as opposed to disdain with a “d” but it doesn’t mean the same thing.
With a “t” it means to dishonor with a “d” it means feeling scorn for, or holding in contempt. I’d give them a “D”.
They then listed “fraudlent” elections, somehow managing to ignore the middle syllable-letter “u” and inadvertently making sense.
What is a fraudlent election? One that leaves out “u”.
I suppose these youngsters would see my insistence on proper spelling to be a fascist indication too.
Just as I suppose their inability to spell indicates their inability to buckle down and do something well.
America, ya gotta love it.