Tuesday, December 29, 2009

#1160 Soy-Ganic

Yesterday I wrote about why we say “not to mention” in our conversation and then go ahead and mention it anyhow. “The rain is coming down hard, not to mention the creek's rising.”
Obviously, the perpetrator of that sentence did mention the creek was rising. My friend Rick pointed out how perceptive my observation was.
How did I reply? I said, “Don’t mention it.”
Fortunately for my ego he already had.
But here’s something I will mention. It’s what I found out when I read the ingredients list on my “Organic Soymilk” carton, which I had acquired to make vegan fudge.
Organic soymilk sounded good, because I’m all for things without artificial additives and suchlike. Turns out I have no idea what organic means.
The top ingredient said the box contained organic soymilk, which it said (in parentheses) included organic soybeans and filtered water.
That’s my idea of organic. Unfortunately, then it went on to list 10 other ingredients. When I tasted the organic soymilk, I noticed it was very sweet. Sweeter than I remember soybeans tasting. The second ingredient on the list explained that. It was “organic evaporated cane juice.”
If you were to, say, take a chunk of sugar cane, wring it out, and let it dry, you would have evaporated organic cane juice. You would also have a pile of sugar.
Which can be sticky, so you need to add the next ingredient on the list, tri-calcium citrate. Not an organic day goes by that I don’t wish I had some tri-calcium citrate.
The next ingredient was sea salt, one hopes evaporated from seas not near major industrial or sewage outfalls.
After that was my favorite food additive, second only to guar gum, carrageenan. Always sounds like that Kung Fu guy David.
Then there were two ingredients in succession that perplexed me. One was “organic vanilla flavor,” the next was “natural flavors.” Couldn’t they have included organic vanilla under natural flavors? Or is there something un-organic about natural they’re not telling?
The final four ingredients were vitamins. I suppose to make organic soymilk more like milk from an organic, um, cow.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

#1159 Mention Hunger

I was reading some articles the other day and I was struck by how strange we humans are. The first article cited the statistic that one out of every four Americans is now dependent on food stamps.
That’s so sad.
It’s certainly a step up from one out of every four children dying of hunger like some countries but it’s still not good.
On a separate but related note, this holiday season some Salvation Army bucket minders will be offering an alternative if you supposedly don’t have any cash. They’ll be taking credit cards. I imagine it will be tough to hold a bell, stand in the cold at a supermarket entrance, and wield a little card swiper machine...
Speaking of giving, that’s another article I read. One of those “polls” said that 52% of the nation’s pet owners plan to buy their animal a gift for the holidays. Up from 43% last year.
That’s great, not to mention, it’s a sure way to give your little pussy something other than the Christmas balls to play with.
By the way, why do we always say “not to mention” right before we mention whatever it is we preface with saying not to mention it? You can always be sure someone is about to mention something right after they say “not to mention.”
“Not to mention, it’s colder than a witch in a coal mine out there.” “Not to mention, I’ve been busier than a one-armed guy at an alligator kicking party.”
I don’t get it. Just mention it and move on.
Where was I? Oh yeah, people and their pet toys. Here we have one in four people on food stamps, people so desperate for cash that the Salvation Army is taking credit cards, and 52% of pet owners are giving a toy to Fluffy or Fido.
So, not to mention the other aspects of the poverty, but do you think those food stamp families might need a warm coat for their three-year-old?
I guess the good sign is that pet toy spending is up from 43% to 52%. Maybe the economy’s turning around.
I hear cat food sales are up too, and not just at Senior communities...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#1158 Wet Honey

Recently I’ve been confronted with a couple of food challenges. Like I was driving down the road and I saw a readerboard in front of a Mexican restaurant that said, “Wet Burritos.”
Is it just me or does that sound especially unappetizing. Wet food just sounds weird. I’m going out for a wet hamburger. Would you like to try my wet chicken?
It just doesn’t trigger the old mouth-watering glands. Maybe because your subconscious is thinking, “Why water what’s already wet?”
Or maybe it’s because we got used to burrito sounding like burro and were okay with that, but now that we’re calling it a wet burrito it sounds like a wet burro and there’s nothing more unappetizing than a wet donkey. Unless we’re talking wet dog, or a wet weasel...
The other food challenge I had was when I was making fudge for folks who were vegans and I wasn’t sure about some of the ingredients. The vegan info I read said that vegans don’t eat animals or animal products. Hmm...
It’s like with vegetarians. They don’t eat animals, so you got to wonder if they eat yogurt. Yogurt often advertises that it contains live acidophilus bacteria. Bacteria, although small, are animals.
So are you still a vegetarian if you eat really really small animals?
The problem I had with vegans was honey. Honey is a natural sweetener and vegans, at least some of them, are vegans because they’d like to be healthier. Are vegans condemned to unhealthy white sugar because they can’t eat honey?
Because honey is an animal product, as it is essentially bee puke. So if it’s wrong to squeeze milk from a modified sweat gland from a cow, wouldn’t it be equally morally suspect to eat the sweet modified pollen regurgitated from a insect?
You can’t even use a non-cruel “free range” justification as most of today’s bees are loaded in factory hives that are trucked all over the fifty states.
Luckily, I’m an omnivore, but still, if I had to choose between forgoing honey or snarfing down a wet burrito, being a vegan would be easy.
Although I still think Vegan sounds like one of the alien races on Star Trek...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1157 Kramma’s Place

I’m amazed about how folks occupy time. Like the guy in the news recently who’s suing the World of Warcraft game people. His suit maintains that the video game is harmful and he became dependent on it for, quote: “the little ongoing happiness he can achieve...” Word has it the company is trying to settle by offering him first crack at its new online game, “Get a Life”.
Back in the old days, they knew how to motivate people in life. They invented boogeymen. And in pagan times, when science was dim and dark knowledge covered the fact that it wasn’t knowledge at all, some of the boogeymen could really boogie.
They’re bringing one back in Germany now. He was the old time yin to Santa’s yang, balance of forces being important in early mythology. Nowadays, when kids are presented with the naughty or nice behavioral choice, Santa does both the giving and the punishing. If you’re good, you get toys. If you’re bad, you get a lump of coal.
(Which some early tribes would have killed for in cold northern winters by the way.)
Back in pagan days, Santa gave good kids toys but the bad kids got a different prospect altogether; they were stolen from their home. And the ritual kidnapper was a really cool creature named, you won’t believe this—Krampus. That’s right, like cramps. I can think of a no more horribly scary term for a bad creature. Krampus.
He was also the bad god of going into the swimming hole too soon after eating.
Krampus looks a lot like the devil, red with big fangs and stuff. He comes from the era that eventually inspired the truly grim Grimm Brother’s Fairy tales, where children were hurt, maimed, and eaten a lot.
But I’m amazed at how some terms hold their flavor over time. The “cramp” sound invokes discomfort, crankiness, and anger. Like the cranky grandpa all young children fear. Or the witchy grandma.
Krampus sounds a lot like Grampa. Was his wife Kramma?
So was the whole wolf thing with “to Kramma’s house we’ll go” really an adult metaphor for how horrifying it is to visit relatives during the holidays?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

#1156 Dryer Coffee

The other day the power went out. It was one of those blustery Northwest days. With 50 mile an hour gusts, there’s always the possibility that some tree is going to blow over and wreak havoc on a power line.
My neighborhood has underground power but overground power still feeds it. Can you say overground power? Anyhow, there was some power issue up the line, and the power company was working hard to fix it, but meantime I was without.
It’s amazing how many ways to pass the time are dependent on power. I couldn’t check my email. I couldn’t watch TV. It was too dark to do a crossword puzzle.
And I couldn’t use my coffee maker.
That really made me feel powerless. So I go through the house trying to find the parts to my old-fashioned Melitta filter coffee system. I find the carafe right away; it’s fairly accessible in one cabinet. Then I find the paper filters. Mellita filters are not like regular Mr. Coffee style filters, which wouldn’t fit in my plastic Mellita filter-holder thingie.
Which I can’t find.
At least at first. Meantime, I’m going from cabinet to cabinet, closet to closet, nearly setting the house on fire with my dripping candle. And although I’m short of power-free pastimes, putting out a housefire is not on my bucket list.
Even if I could find the bucket.
I finally find the filter-holder in the basement laundry-room cabinet. I rush upstairs, wash the filter-holder, make the coffee and sit down to a big steaming mug.
Then I taste it. And I detect the taste of something odd. I’d washed the filter-holder so what gives? It’s not rat poop. I smell the old filter papers. It’s not them.
Finally I realize it. I’m tasting the taste of fresh. “Fresh scent” to be exact. The “Fresh Scent” of Bounce dryer sheets. Sheet, I think, a dryer sheet, the plastic filter-holder has been sharing a cabinet with a dryer sheet box for the last 4 years.
This is not the taste of “fresh” coffee I would recommend.
But hey, the whole search and throwing out the full pot of coffee did kill about an hour of being powerless.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

#1155 Schenected

I guess I’m probably like most people---I waste a lot of time on the internet. But I save a lot of time too. I can’t possibly keep track of all the time I’ve saved looking up useless and inconsequential information.
Are you saving time if you are making the process of wasting time more efficient?
Here’s what happened the other day. I was reading an interesting statistic. Seems some research firm or another had determined that 58% of people hate having their email address or phone number asked for at a checkout counter.
I wonder how those people felt about being asked about how they felt about being asked.
In any event, it got me to thinking. I hate that question at a checkout counter too. And what I really hate is being asked my zip code. I always say to the checker I’d rather not tell her but sometimes she’s stymied, as the computer program won’t let her go any further in the transaction without some number.
So I’ve started saying 12345.
Surprisingly, it works, but then the checker always gives me a dirty look. So I wondered, is there a zip code for 12345? I googled it and saved a huge amount of time on research because the answer came up instantly, without a laborious search through phone books and postal publications and libraries and stuff.
And guess where 12345 is? Schenectady, New York.
The good things is, now I can tell those skeptical checkout clerks that 12345 really is a place. And the better news is I have a new word to waste time and play with.
Sounds like an operation of some sort doesn’t it? I had a Schenectady. Yeah, my skin had a big gash in it. It was coming apart so I went in for a Schenectady. That’s where they connect it again without stitches. Something they invented in New York.
Or maybe it’s some sort of social networking site where people are connected to other skiers. They all love skiing.
And they’re ski-nected.
Or possibly Schenectady is a Yiddish word that means time waster. He’s such a Schenectady...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1154 Mountain Cougar

Never has a word got so quickly into the English language. I’m talking about that word we seem to hear nothing but these days. Cougar.
And I’m not talking the animal. Or maybe I am. I’m talking about the term cougar as used to describe older women on the prowl for younger men. No doubt its use became popular so quickly because there was a gap in our language just waiting to be filled.
A similar niche had been occupied by older men on the prowl for younger women. And like most ecological niches, it was well filled by a variety of evolved terms—lounge lizard, old wolf, lothario, sugar daddy, and the precisely descriptive dirty old man.
So it’s obvious the other side of the spectrum needed its own word. And it seemed to happen overnight. There is even a TV show dedicated to the phenomenon, “Cougar Town” starring none other than Springsteen groupie extra and ex-Friend Courteney Cox.
Unfortunately,“cougar” was a word already well established in use. So now every time I hear the term I get a dual meaning thing happening, especially here in the northwest, where we have the rich football heritage of the Washington State Cougars.
Put aside for a moment the whole notion of a bunch of cougars running on to the field. It’s the Apple Cup I’m worried about. Now when we hear about the Husky Cougar game it’s hard not to think some of the prowling women having a few extra pounds too.
And the other day I picked up a sample cookie from a company called Cougar Mountain. As I had just been to an Elks Lodge and they had a number or animals mounted on the wall, my thought immediately went from Cougar Mountain to Mounted Cougar, which immediately sent me in a taxidermy direction vis-à-vis the aforementioned cougar confusion.
I suppose Cougar Mountain is a place not unlike TV’s Cougar Town. And it shouldn’t be any different than Valley Cougars but the concept of Mountain Cougars seems more dangerous.
I’m just worried about Washington State University. Of whom will people think the Cougar Alumni association is composed? And am I going to be comfortable going to a Cougar fundraiser?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#1153 Soy Run

One of my many curses or blessings is that I’m an inveterate reader. Give me a package with an ingredients list, post a reader board sign alongside the road, you got me for at least a few seconds.
So it was that the other day I was reading an ingredients list on a tin of teriyaki oysters and had an astonishing revelation. The box for the oysters I was about to eat said they were Pacific Pearl oysters and, coming as I do from oyster land, I was curious if the pearls were from my part of the Pacific.
The other statement printed on the box, “Made in China” raised my doubts. As oysters grow in the bottom of bays and are sort of filter feeders, legendary Chinese environmental pollution sub-standards loomed in my brain.
But my discovery was of a different pearl of wisdom altogether. The teriyaki oysters were soaked in teriyaki sauce, which the ingredients list said contained soy sauce which they further broke down into saying contained soy and wheat.
I thought, soy sauce contains wheat? And then ran to my cupboard, grabbed the big Kikkoman bottle, and proceeded to confirm that the first ingredient in soy sauce after water is indeed wheat.
And frankly, it shook up my worldview. Somehow “amber waves of grain” in China or Japan just doesn’t conform to my image of the lands of soybean curds and tofu.
And really, I don’t call my calcium-laced orange juice “calcium juice,” so if the first ingredient is wheat, why don’t they call it wheat sauce?
I read another weird thing as I drove by this restaurant. They were advertising to harvest bikers off the big annual holiday toy run. The reader-board sign said. “Saturday, Free Biker Breakfast.” Then it said, “Bloody Marys $3.00.”
I’m concerned.
Do we really want a bunch of bikers jacked up on bloody marys for a kids toy run?
Just asking. Especially if they’re the kind of bikers than get mean and fight. “Here you go kid... sake the soy, I mean, stake the stoy, I mean, take the toy ‘fore I beat the crap outta ya.”
America, ya gotta love it.

#1152 Do Dads

We often hear of the vast advances of medical technology. The ability to do all kinds of things we’ve never seen before. Microsurgeries through tiny scopes they slip into various parts of your body, drugs that promote softness of one thing or firmness of another. And the big advance of the late 20th century, fertility.
A little ironic that when the world is suffering from the effects of overpopulation we make tremendous advances in fertility, but, you know, it’s science. They gave us the H-Bomb after all.
Not that I’m not thankful for all the good things science has given us. I’m just saying sometimes the family of science has a rotten sniveling kid or two that you’d rather not have sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving.
In any event, one of the fertility subjects we’ve heard so much about lately is Octomom—The person who supposedly wanted to either be like Angelina Jolie, or get a book deal, or maybe get the golden ring of today’s golden dreamers, a TV reality show.
As Octomom already had six kids, unforeseen public relations problems arose. The Spanish word for 14 is catorce and let’s face it, Catorce Mom sounds like some sort of contortionist. So her TV dreams withered and died along with the public’s initial outpouring of concern.
Still, it was triumph of science that fertility drugs and technology could help install eight healthy embryos and bring them to term.
Then again, nature has a few tricks up her sleeve too. Like the news story recently about the Texas woman who gave birth to non-identical twins. Not that special, until DNA tests proved they were so non-identical they came from different fathers.
That’s two dads did dat wild ting wit one mom mon.
Scientists call it heteropaternal superfecundation. Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious.
Cool, “Duo-Dads” sounds so much more interesting than “Octomom.” And hey, one mom, two dads and rival twins, this is a reality show that would really have possibilities.
Instead of “Two Men and a Baby” they could call it “Two Men and Two Babies and, oh yeah, the embarrassed mom.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

#1151 Ad Cents

Since I’m in the radio biz, I’m very interested in radio advertising. Which means I’m interested in advertising generally. And the relative effectiveness of different sorts of advertising.
We are exposed to about a kajillion advertising impressions in a lifetime and, as with anything you get a lot of, you develop defensive strategies to screen out some of it.
The things you screen out are usually those you have pre-judged as annoying. The ones you let in are often the ones you find entertaining.
Yes, people find ads entertaining. Which burns them into memory. The words “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce” are sufficient to get most people thinking about Burger King. “Two all beef patties special sauce...” sends you down a good brain rut into McDonalds.
But notice; these ads are essentially audio. Would they have been as effective as a print ad? Would they have dug as deeply into the inner emotional folds of your brain?
That’s why the Irish Government bans political ads in the electronic media. Talk about luck of the Irish. The government says it’s because of the “particular power of the broadcast medium.” They know that electronic ads go straight for the gut, where most people really do their thinking.
Brain schmain, motivation starts in the organs.
That’s why cigarette advertising was banned on the airwaves long before any thought was given to banning tobacco print ads. It’s easy to block out a print ad, just close your eyes or put the newspaper in the bottom of the bird cage.
Radio ads seep deep into your psyche on a wave of emotion.
I read an interesting story recently about the failing revenues of the post office. In it, they mentioned a startup company in Seattle that’s set up a service where they email you scanned images of unopened envelopes of your mail. You then have the choice to receive it or have it shredded. Customers request 90 percent of their mail shredded based on a look at the envelope alone.
Lesson to bill collectors. Don’t make your envelopes look like direct mail giveaways.
And lesson to direct mail companies.
Maybe it’s time to invest in a transmitter... or move to Ireland
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

#1150 Exclusion Claws

I wrote recently about a county commission deciding to exempt horses from pooper-scooper laws. They did it for a specific reason; it was easier for a horse owner not to have to get off her high horse and scoop poop. In a word, it was solely for the pet owner’s benefit.
So it was interesting that another pet benefit news article appeared at almost the same time. Seems the Berkeley, California, City Council has voted to ban the de-clawing of cats. According to one councilmember, “It’s a complex and painful procedure and solely for the benefit of the owner.”
We have one government body doing something solely for the benefit of the owner and another forbidding something because it’s solely for the benefit of the owner. Is this a great country or what?
So...If I really wanted to have my cat de-clawed would it be possible for me to smuggle it to San Francisco and find a willing vet there? Would the Berkeley City Council prosecute me for intercity transport for inhumane purposes? Would they ever know? Will they be sending out cats-paw inspection teams, dedicated to ferreting out clandestine cat de-clawers?
Now, I admit, de-clawing is something no self-respecting cat would want. I had a friend who used to joke that he saved all kinds of furniture destruction issues that leaving cats alone at home sometimes cause with their claws. He just had his cat’s rear claws de-clawed. Then when he left the house, he’d hang his cat by its front claws on the screen door...
Another thought; is not having a cat spayed or neutered a complex painful procedure solely for the benefit of the owner? Do you think any strutting tomcat likes the idea of losing his catnads to the clippers? Talk about cat nip.
It’s the nature of the pet/master relationship that some things have to give. Pet owners provide food and shelter. In return, a modicum of respect for furniture is desirable. And if the cat persists in clawing the antiques, well, surgical techniques are in order.
Unless you live in Berkeley. Where there are lots of scratched davenports.
And presumably, plenty of legally consistent stray kittens.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

#1149 Horse Excluded

My basic take on life? Fair is fair. If you have a law about something, rein in the impulse to make exceptions.
The story: The elected officials of Broward County Florida have waived their pooper-scooper law for horses. The commissioners apparently agreed with Horse Owner Wanetta Dyer when she told them: “To stop a 1000 pound animal, get off, and hold it while you try to put poop in a bag is just not a good idea.”
True. It must be really hard to pooper scoop a horse. But does that mean you are exempt from a sanitation and social law that applies to everyone else?
If I’m jogging down the public roadway, I’m more likely to be upset if I jog through five pounds of horse appledge than if I squinch my toes through a 2-ounce tootsie of shih-tzu poo.
But the shih-tzu and the horse owners are equally responsible in my eyes. Because it comes to this, if the owners are using the public roads they are responsible to the public for cleaning up after themselves. I’m not exempt from littering laws because I dumped an old refrigerator instead of a plastic cup, nor am I exempt because it’s harder to stop my old Chevy Biscayne than it is for you to stop your hybrid.
I once lived near an arena. It bothered me to no end when horse owners from out of town would park their trailers and take their horses for a stroll to distribute horse feces through our neighborhood.
I say nay to the horse getting rid of processed hay as they neigh through our neigh-borhood.
And what’s this largeness defense anyhow? Just because a horse is big you should be exempt from picking up their even larger amount of poo? So if I had an elephant and dumped a load of elephant dung near city hall would the commissioners be equally forgiving? You know... getting off an elephant and trying to hold it...
I suggest Broward County require those horse diapers like they have in New York City.
Or, hey, if the horse owners don’t want to scoop, they can always stay off the public roads.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

#1148 Road Hard

Have you noticed the Michelin Man lately? They’ve totally given him a makeover. I always thought he was a lot like the Stay Puft marshmallow man and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. The word roly-poly comes to mind.
Sure, he had more convolutions than the Pillsbury doughperson but he was essentially cut from the same cartoonish mold—a larger midsection and the apple-shaped physique physicians tell us is most likely headed for a cardiac infarction.
But now he’s starting to look more like the Marvel Comics character The Thing. Which is kind of funny in an automotive way. Because The Thing used to be a Volkswagen car model from Germany and Michelin tires are from Germany’s former arch-enemy France.
Anyhow, the Michelin Man’s spare tires have morphed from the gelatinous balloon-like fat rolls to the harder ridges of muscularity. The Michelin Man is cut. He looks like he’s been working out.
Maybe he’s even been doing some road work.
“All weather Michelins, road hard, and you can still put ‘em away wet.”
I saw one rendition of the Michelin Man with chains the other day and I thought, “Oh my goodness, they’re going for the biker crowd too.” And then I realized it was an ad for winter driving conditions. They were tire chains.
But I think it’s fun that advertisers are starting to be conscious of healthier role models when it comes to our brand name spokes-symbols. I imagine we’ll see similar trim downs from Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.
Personally, I think Uncle Ben should broaden his cultural perspective as well. Maybe a little Uncle Ben Kashi. Or if seven grains are too much, just a simple Uncle Ben’s Bismati.
And Aunt Jemini needs to come up with a nice steamed broccoli crepe.
But Mrs. Butterworth will be a tough one for the heart healthy makeover. She is the absolute icon of the consumption of sugar and butter. Slimming her down to even modest Betty Crocker proportions may cause an indulgence backlash.
That said, I see great things ahead for revamping all of our product culture representatives.
And I’ll never tire of saying that it was Michelin who got it all rolling...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 04, 2009

#1147 Bar Hands

I’ve had occasion in the last few weeks, in the pursuit of my occupation, to sit in a few bars.
I think bars must be for tough people. Why else would so many bars go for that western look? You see a lot of them set up with a long rustic slab of wood. So rustic, in fact, you wonder there aren’t sawdust shavings on the floor.
I don’t know about you, but I think sawdust shavings on the floor to absorb chaw spit really makes a place look purty.
Bars also usually feature barstools. I guess so the bartender doesn’t have to lean over to set your drinks in front of you. But barstools are inherently dangerous for the inebriated, as you have further to fall when you’re falling down drunk. I’m surprised no one has ever mounted a class action suit against unsafe barstool altitudes. Must be that western tough thing.
I’m also surprised, given bars’ western motif, that the bartenders are called that. Cattle tenders aren’t called cattle tenders. They’re called cowboys or cow hands. Or ranch hands. So why not bar hands?
And speaking of hands, here’s the thing I’ve noticed regarding bartenders. They never have those plastic food service gloves on. I take that back. I saw one bartender slip on a pair to cut a bar sandwich. But that same bartender scooped out a glassful of snack mix with his bare hand.
And later that evening he joined the ranks of other bartenders I’ve seen lately, who arrange edible drink garnish with their bare hands. You know what I mean, celery, olives, pickled green beans, pickles themselves.
One guy even squeezed a lime into my beer with his bare thumb and index finger and stuffed it into the neck of the bottle. The bottle whose now contaminated mouth I was about to put my mouth on.
Apparently drinking can be hazardous to your health in numerous ways. Who’d have thought pickled green beans in a Bloody Mary could be a swine flu vector.
Then again, dainty plastic gloves on the bartender don’t go well with sawdust on the floor, partner.
So tough it out and suck it up. And hand me another.
And while you’re at it, remember Purell has one key active ingredient. Alcohol.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

#1146 Um...‘Brella?

It was one of those blustery Northwest days, the wind making it rain sideways. I was driving down by the Capitol so I saw lots of state workers making their way from parking lots to buildings.
I noticed a surprisingly ragged selection of umbrellas. The tines were bent, the edges were tattered and worst of all, the umbrellas themselves seemed about ready to do an inside-outer, that umbrella inversion so popular in the northwest.
It’s amazing. We live with the rain for 9 months a year and yet we invest in the poorest of raingear. It’s as if 16-foot drifted Midwesterners were only to buy those thin plastic snow-shovels we use around here for our paltry 2 inches of annual snow.
Why is this? Better umbrellas are available. I saw one that day. It was about 4 feet in diameter. It was deep enough inside for your head and shoulders. It had heavy-duty tines so it resisted bending and breaking. And, most importantly, it had vent flaps, so the wind couldn’t catch it and invert it.
Then it occurred to me. I’d hate to leave that umbrella behind in a restaurant. And there’s the fudge factor. The more you pay for something, the more it hurts when you inadvertently leave it behind.
The kind of umbrella I saw most of the state workers sporting were ones you’d want to leave behind—tired, torn, tattered and bedraggled. Like a bum you’d like to kick out of town.
Please lose it at the lunch counter.
We don’t keep our umbrellas close like our coats. We don’t have hatcheck places at fast food joints. We stand our wet umbrellas against the wall and forget them. A spiffy hundred-dollar umbrella that really works gets lost as easily as a 6.99 jobbie from Walgreen’s.
The answer? Make the umbrella even more expensive. Install a proximity chip, with an alarm that goes off when your umbrella gets further than 10 feet away. Better yet. Have it call your cellphone so it doesn’t disturb people if you use the restaurant restroom.
Yeah that’s it. The smart-brella. Opposite of the dumb-brella.
Recommended by the navigation lady in your car...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

#1145 Windy Breezy

“Anyway the winds blows,” “The answer is blowing in the wind,” “Everyone calls her windy,” the wind courses through our daily lives. From the airwaves to the weather service, it’s wind, wind, wind.
Wind is also one of those unfortunate words that depends on context when we read it. Like read and read. Polish and polish. You can throw your watch in the wind when it stops or you can wind it when it stops. One way you’re obviously too wound up, the other way the watch is wound, but either way it’s still spelled w-i-n-d-.
There’s also the blowhard winds of opinion we hear from the various biased news services.
To look at news reports, you’d think all of America is either a Fox News or MSNBC mindslave. But no, these channels are really will o’ the wisps in the larger scheme of things.
As one commentator put it, “switch on Fox News and you’d think huge numbers of Americans think Obama is a Stalinist. Switch on MSNBC you’d think most people want Dick Cheney waterboarded at Guantanamo.” But guess what? Less than 1% of Americans tune in Fox on a typical night, 2.6 million, MSNBC a mere 831,000. The three regular broadcast stations ABC, NBC, and CBS, have a much more respectable 20 million.
It’s just that the extreme voices attract the most attention. Like squeezing the open neck of a balloon, they make the rest of the air seem louder than it is.
They don’t call them windbags for nothing.
But it’s nice to know that 98% of Americans don’t tune in to either Fox or MSNBC.
And speaking of blowhards and blowing hard, what does it take for the weather service to say “windy”? The other day there were sustained winds of 25 MPH and gusts of 45. The weather service said it was “breezy.”
Breezy? To me breezy is light. A gentle puff wafting through the trees, tickling the wind chimes into tinkling. Breezy is not gusty, and it sure as heck isn’t windy.
So at what point does the official weather service designation for “windy” kick in, 45, 50, Keith Oberman, Rush Limbaugh, gale force?
The answer my friend, is...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1144 Weird Web Words

The advent of the World Wide Web has brought about a situation where we have been forced to invent a whole new vocabulary. Some of the web words we’ve come up with are quite functional. Some are a little weird. The Weird Wide Webwords.
Those words that just added an “e” to the main words seem to work okay. You have “email” of course, no longer hyphenated and well into the mainstream of the American lexicon. Then you have e-commerce and e-correspondence and such like. Again perfectly serviceable, as they take the main word we all know and love and add an “e” to indicate it’s on the web.
The use of the word “net” as a prefix or suffix also suffices to indicate web affiliation. Internet, of course, intra-net, net-working.
Then there are the outlier word issues. Like people on Facebook voting whether the term unfriend or defriend is more popular as a substitution for the older term “ostracize.”
Ostracize always sounded to me like you were the size of an ostrich. Or possibly banned from polite company because the sound of your voice grated like a food processor. Ostracizer, Osterizer, it’s easy to be confused.
But the worst word I’ve heard in a while has got to be “webinar.” It refers to people taking classes on the web—apparently some bastardization of the words web and seminar.
But unlike email, which leaves the main word intact and understandable, webinar strips out the meaningful syllable, “sem” of “semin,” as in seminary and dissemination, and replaces it with web, only adding on the meaningless suffix “inar.”
You could as easily say I’m having a desk-i-nar or a house-i-nar.
Webinar is a weird word and I’m not sure I’m going to accept it. But I may as well give up and play along, my high-falutin word opinions have never mattered to the masses in the past.
So when one wants to make money from webinars, will that be called web-i-nue? Will educators suddenly see the light and have a web-a-lation?
“Eureka,” they’ll say, “untapped educational web-i-nue!” Webinars are a web-o-lution in learning!”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

#1143 Convenient Cakes

A mixed bag of mildly amusing musings today.
So, what price convenience? You hear in advertisements about a place being “conveniently located.” The Doorknob shop that tells us they’re, “Conveniently located for you’re your doorknobbing needs.” But you never really put a price on that.
Well, leave it to the Oil and Banking industries to set the bar. Arco is waiving its “Convenience Fee” on debit transactions if you get their special debit Mastercard card for buying gas there.
And the fee is 45 cents.
So, even though I’m not sure who the convenience fee is for, you for paying for the privilege to use something everyone else tells you is good as cash, or them because it’s more convenient to ream you this way than at the pump, the going price is 45 cents.
So if you make something convenient for someone, charge ‘em half a buck.
On an entirely different subject, I was driving behind a roundabout rookie the other day and almost crashed into her rear end when she hesitated when she should have motin-gated. It occurred to me that we need a word for this. Roundabout hesitation is often caused by the unknowing and indecisive...
How about roundadoubt?
On an entirely different subject, why do we pronounce the state pencil-vainia but abbreviate it Penn?
On an entirely different subject, I was listening to some folks discuss the upcoming holidays, and they were talking about the first Noel. I asked if that was that the first year after they changed the spelling from Clistmas...
And speaking of the holidays, ‘tis the season for all manner of decorations for the senses. Lights for the eyes, carols for the ears and candles and what not for the scent sense. But sometimes they go too far.
The other day I went into a restroom at the local college and the place smelled like pumpkin pie and cinnamon. At first, I thought it had wafted in from the kitchen not far away. But no, something far worse. I finally tracked it down.
The pumpkin pie scent was coming from the urinal cakes.
How convenient. This will really help the holidays whiz by...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

#1142 Slick Observation

People sometimes ask me where I get my ideas. My answer is, ideas are laying around ready for the pickin’. It just comes down to being observant. Noticing those things other folks don’t and then exploring their ramifications.
You need to be a little bit Groucho Marx and a little bit Sherlock Holmes. Like the other day. Using my Sherlock Holmes skills, I noticed this individual coming up to talk to me was both socially conscious and had a very bad cold or flu. How could I tell?
The inside of the elbow of his sport coat was slick and shiny. Yep, he was an elbow sneezer. From Ebenezer Scrooge to the Elbow Sneezer Gooze ‘tis the season for the flues.
He was socially conscious because health officials tell us not to sneeze into our hands, as we then use our hands to shake hands with others or to touch common surfaces. You transfer your bugs to your hands, your hands transfer them to someone else or something else that someone else touches and voila, someone else gets the bug.
This chain of events works even if you have a plastic glove on your hand. I noticed a restaurant cook sneezing in to his plastic-gloved hand the other day and then going right back to handling food. I’m not sure he understood which side of the plastic glove is protecting whom.
But the sneeze into your elbow thing is a good step, as most people don’t shake elbows or handle salad bar tongs with their elbows.
It’s killing the heck out of our square-dancers though.
Another thing I noticed the other day that concerned me, but defied my detection skills. This guy was walking along by a park with an empty poo bag.
But he had no dog with him.
I wondered what he was doing. Was he looking for a strange dog to then follow and pick up his poo? A proactive poo picker upper?
Did he have a dog and it got loose? Leaving him holding the bag, so to speak.
Or was he going off into the woods for personal reasons?
Sometimes it’s good to not get ideas...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1141 Doo the Right Thing

Social consciousness is a great thing. I tease about it because it sometimes leads to odd turns of behavior, but I really do respect it. When I see a social unconscious person throwing a pop can on the ground I hate it. Sure, it takes a little extra time to take it home to your recycling bin but it’s far better than just throwing everything willy-nilly.
The benefit of a large population is that we can have so much more with centralized resources. Living on a forty-acre farm in the 20s was fine if you didn’t mind 16-hour days of backbreaking labor. Putting you own trash in an appropriate container is a small price to pay for the ease of modern living.
But, as I say, sometimes it’s a little funny. Seeing full-grown humans following little poochies on leashes while the human daintily holds a packet of freshly steaming poo is interesting to say the least.
My friend Rick suggested that perhaps the issue is what to do with the issue. Little plastic bags are so obvious. Maybe a disguised designer bag of some sort would be a better alternative.
Something from Coach perhaps.
Shortly after he made this suggestion, he did some research and, load and behold, like all good ideas, someone else has already thought of it. In this case the Dicky Bag Company. As in, ain’t that just dicky. D-i-c-k-y- dicky, not the D-i-c-k-e-y- Dickey that specializes in uniforms and jeans.
You can go to their website at dickybag dot com and see what they put out. The bags look attractive enough to carry around the neighborhood and feature a zip-around lid that contains a dispenser for the regular black plastic poo bags. Which, when full, you deposit in the scent-sealed lower portion of the bag.
Unfortunately, the whole thing looks like one of those Thermos insulated lunch bag things people take to ball games.
“Hey Frank, gimme your bag, what you got for lunch today? What the....?”
Note to self, remember difference between poo-bag and lunch bag.
I’m waiting for the Gucci version myself. Forget this Dicky for the icky. I’m getting the Gucci Poo-Poochie...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#1140 Master Breed

The other day I wrote about the guy with his dogs that had blinking red lights on them. Some sort of harness that made strobe lights go over the front part of the dogs’ torsos. My friend Rick pointed out he was still trying to get used to dogs in sweaters.
Yeah, dogs in sweaters. It says so much about our relationship with dogs. No dog I’ve ever had would tolerate a sweater. The only dog I ever saw who appeared to enjoy a sweater had a really smug look on his pug face.
More on that later.
If the good Lord had meant dogs to wear sweaters, he wouldn’t have evolved them to have fur. You may notice the average sweater-wearing creatures on this earth are buck-naked. They have neither fur, nor feathers, nor a 4-inch thick layer of lard like the other members of their pod.
If a dog needs a sweater, then he’s not as doglike as nature intended.
That may be why, as I pointed out, I’ve never seen a happy dog in a sweater. Dogs wearing sweaters are a testimony to the humanity of the dog. Because the dog is being very humane in putting up with the human. The dog is enduring the human because the dog knows that by exercising that endurance and forbearance he will cement the co-dependency relationship of his human and be able to exploit that for his food, shelter, and occasional medical needs.
Some of which involve that he also wear a lampshade for a while.
The fun part of this practice is watching dogs and humans out for a walk, like the blinking light pair the other night. The dogs were romping merrily along, tails held high, while their human trudged grumpily behind, leashes in one hand and a bag of fresh doggie doo-doo in the other.
The dogs are going, “Dude I got this human in my power. He not only makes me sparkly, he takes me for walks in the rain when the smells are really cool, and, get this, he even carries my poop.”
I believe that was the source of the smug look on the besweatered pug.
He owned his, um, “master.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

#1139 Wonderings

Other people go on wanderings. I go on wonderings. Little byroads of curiosity about the many opportunities our culture offers for misunderstanding.
I subtitle my blog “Essays in Human Misunderstanding.” That’s because we so often have these little misfires of perception that lead to confusion. Or at least they do with me. I’m easily confused... and left with a sense of wonder.
Like my friend Rick pointed out the other day as he uttered that unconsciously redundant phrase, “hot water heater.” Why do we say hot water heater? If we heat it, of course the water’s hot. We certainly aren’t going to say cold water heater That sounds dumb.
But you know what? We should say cold water heater, because that’s what we do. We use a heater to heat cold water to make it hot.
“Water heater” is probably best, but it doesn’t sound right, does it? Hot water heater feels good to the tongue. Like “pouring down rain.” We know it will never pour up but we love to accentuate how it pours down by mentioning it.
Or tuna fish sandwich, my old favorite. Of course it’s fish. It’s a tuna. But we don’t say chicken-bird sandwich, do we?
Rick and I also talked about the new trainees they had at a health club for the position of personal trainer. Would that make you a trainer trainee? What if you train people to operate a train? And you’re learning how to do that job. A train trainer trainee?
It sends you off the rails.
Like the other day I was listening to an ad on the radio and the guy was offering to eliminate my debt and he told me to call 1-800-232-DEBT — that’s 1-800-232-D-E-B-T-.
He was very adamant about the spelling and it made me wonder; is his target audience deficient in the spelling department? Some of the folks in credit trouble also having trouble with silent letters?
Have they had a rash of calls to 1-800-232-D-E-T-T-. If so, how would they know? Did they reserve 1-800-232-D-E-T-T- too? Maybe they use that number for their con artist trainees too, before their amateur-ity gets them into hot water.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1138 Habitual Talent

One of my many positive, or possibly negative, traits is a mild case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD. (Although OCD always sounds like a computer program to me. An Optical Character Device or something.)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has its good side. Because, you know, one person’s disorder is another person’s talent. Think about it. If you have a talent for singing, people don’t say you have Acute Anti-Melodious Disorder. You have a talent—that ineffable combination of genes and gene expression that makes you different in a particular way.
So it is with OCD. I harness it for good. I know I have the trait and I can figure out ways to utilize it to benefit both others and me. People like that I get things done. Some would say I was a workaholic. Others would say I was a producer.
I started regular walking about 11 months ago. 3.1 miles a day. Every day. Day in and day out. Rain, snow, rain, sleet, sun, rain, and drenching downpour saturating rain. I’ve never missed a day and I’ve gone over 1000 miles. I’ve lost 15 pounds slowly and steadily and sustainably and I feel fit as a fiddle.
(And I still have no idea what fiddles have to do with fitness. Is it their narrow waist? Is it because they are tightly strung? Or is it because they are naturally inclined to a sense of harmony?)
So while I’m out on my walk last night this guy goes by me with 2 dogs. And I think his talent is acute froo-froo disorder. He needs to accessorize everything he does. He has on a reflective vest, and each of his dogs has on a shoulder harness with blinking red lights. I swear. The problem is, they are those blinky lights that strobe all randomly, so with the dogs moving and the harness stretching from neck to ribcage, it’s hard to tell exactly what not to run over.
So Mr. Froo-froo Accessory created more of a hazard than if he left his poor poochies alone. Idiot. I expected when the dogs backed up, they’d beep like a forklift.
Sorry, my talent for crankiness is kicking in.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

#1137 Man Handled

At the many public events I go to, I’m often besieged with men coming up to shake hands. As they are luncheon affairs, I’m a little reluctant, and what with H1N1 going around, even more so.
H1N1, what a stupid name. H1N1, it doesn’t sound like a disease, it sounds like a tire size.
In any event, it’s customary in events like this to move from the handshaking-schmoozing phase directly to the buffet line, where everyone then handles the same tongs so they don’t infect the food directly. Of course, they end up infecting each other with the shared tongs.
I’m beginning to see why Howard Hughes locked himself in a hotel room.
As I shook hands with all these guys, I hoped they were the kind of businessmen who were the one in three that actually do wash their hands after they do their business.
Because a recent study found that only one third of men adequately wash their hands after using the toilet. Many of them reported they had only urinated, so needed less washing.
The study also found that signs posted in the bathroom made some difference, but that men responded to more graphic messages. A sign in the women’s bathroom that said, “Water doesn’t kill germs, soap does.” was effective. The same sign in the men’s bathroom was poopooed. The sign that was effective said. “Soap it off or eat it later.”
But look at the messages. Men hate that namby-pamby stuff. “Water doesn’t kill germs, soap does” sounds like some Mrs. Marple aphorism your second grade teacher uttered as she tsk-tsked and waggled her finger at you.
“Soap it off or eat it later” is what your coach would have said in the locker room—that war zone of your emergence into manhood identity. The more brutal and gross the better. The lesson I learned from my coach when I got hit by a line drive to the thigh? “Shake it off and get back on the field.”
Words to live by.
The scary thing about this research? Someone was in the bathroom watching...and getting government grant money for it.
So at least us taxpayers got cleaned...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

#1136 Nourish-licious

I recently spent the night at the Great Wolf Lodge. It’s a fun place with lots of cool activities for the whole family. One of the things that sets them apart is a kids spa, where kid-themed things like ice cream pedicures are quite popular.
Every room also has hair and body product amenities for adults and kids.
You know how it is, you go to a fancy hotel and they have variously scented hand creams, shampoos and soap. A deluxe hand cream is so much more luxurious than enough coffee in their tiny little coffee pots to make two tiny little coffee pots worth of coffee. Nothing wakes me up more quickly in the morning than freshly hand-creamed skin.
The interesting thing about the tube of body wash they have for the kids is its scent—bubble gum. Something is desperately wrong with this picture. Bubble Gum hair and body wash.
The last time my skin and hair smelled like bubble gum my mom was cutting it out of said hair. In a massive bubble gum blowing competition with my old brother, he had popped my winning and enormous bubble and it had enveloped my face, head, and shoulders.
So at what point did we start believing we needed to slather our bodies with food scents? The adult body wash the hotel offered was just as bad; it was “warm vanilla.” Ice cream and bubble gum, we may as well take a dip in the pool at the Willy Wonka factory.
I think it comes down to our national obsession with nourishing our skin. As if our skin was something that could deliver actual nutrients to our body.
The kids tube, redolent of the sweet scent of bubble gum, says, “Warning, do not ingest.” Oddly, the warm vanilla adult bodywash tube has no such injunction.
And it doesn’t taste like vanilla, by the way.
So when you were a kid, did you know what “ingest” meant? Ingest is the word for the adult tubes. “Do not eat” would do fine for the kids.
Unless they feel the broader term will also prevent a kid from chugalugging or snorting it...?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#1135 Whether Curds

So I heard someone say “whether or not” the other day and it made me wonder whether or not we need to say whether or not or if it’s possible whether we can not say the not.
I could have said part of the last sentence, “I wonder whether we need to say not.” Rather than, “I wonder whether or not we need to say not.”
Because if we say whether we kind of imply that it’s possible that the reverse is true. We don’t say rather or not. Would you rather go to the ballpark? Would you rather or not go to the ballpark?
Would you rather or not I wasn’t talking about whether or not?
Rather is, of course, what you would prefer, where whether is what may happen. Or I suppose you could say, may or may not happen.
But we don’t say “if or not.” I wonder if the weather is going to change while this person is talking about whether or not. You don’t say I wonder if or not the weather is going to change.
Whether does set up an opposing choice however, so there are times where I can see the not as necessary. Whether I’m in the valley or on the mountain, I like the weather. Whether I’m in the valley or not, I like the weather.
But when I say, I wonder whether he wants to go out in the weather, I don’t really need to say not.
I was also wondering about the word curdle the other day. I had heard an individual use the term “blood-chilling scream.” And I thought “blood-curdling” is so much better. Curds just sound scarier.
And when even your blood curdles, there’s a lot of fear chemicals going through your system. I suppose your blood could curdle if it was sufficiently chilled. But I think of curds as a conglomeration that happens under warm circumstances—acid in the milk or something.
I picture Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey as more like warm cottage cheese, not a Dairy Queen Blizzard..
Which is how my blood feels when I watch a horror movie.
Whether I scream or not.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

#1134 Snout Variations

Today I’d like to sniff out the cultural and linguistic implications of the term Snausages. As you’ve no doubt heard, there has been a treat on the market for a while aimed at dogs, called Snausages.
One would presume the reason they named these things Snausages is because they are meant to resemble sausages. The insertion of the N to make it Snausages is, I guess, necessary so folks won’t accidentally prepare them for the family for meals.
“What’s for breakfast, Honey?”
“Snausages, you lazy-as-a-dog husband you, we’re also having neggs and tnoast.”
Or maybe Snausages and snauerkraut. Get all German with the things.
But you got to wonder, what is the s-n- meant to imply? I’m guessing it’s the term snout. Because dogs have snouts and people have noses. A good way to imply a person’s nose is as big as an animal’s in proportion to the rest of his face is to say he has a snout-like protuberance.
Proboscis, trunk, snout, these are words that are never complimentary when applied to a human. Therefore Snausages is indisputably and intuitively an animal food.
There’s another term that describes intimate facial contact, which often includes kissing and nuzzling. That word is snogging. And, since it’s meant as term of endearment, it’s unfortunate that the word snogging invokes that snout-like s-n- sound.
Another example on that continuum is that great Yiddish word for nose, schnozzle. A schnozzle is not a good nose. It’s a nose that is either large and red, or one that’s used in the pursuit of things that some people don’t like.
Often, overly inquisitive people have schnozzles—busybodies, nosy parkers. It is sometimes shortened to schnoz. Not to be confused with schnook, which is a stupid person. As in, “I popped the schnook in the schnoz when he came in here trying to schmooze with me and ask his nosy questions.
It’s obvious schnozzle and Snausages come from the same snout-like roots. And that’s probably what the manufacturer of Snausages revealed when he responded to critics who disagreed with his name.
“Keep your schnozzle out of my business.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

#1133 As the Urn Turns

Ah modern times. On the one hand so great, as technology continues to make things easy, liking shopping for the formerly unshoppable online, on the other hand so scary, as each new advance opens up an entirely different set of issues.
Speaking of modern, I learned an interesting modern term the other day. It’s for people who show up at staged rallies. To pretend they are part of fake or artificial grass roots campaigns. They are called astroturfers.
Had an idea for the modern salad folks not long ago. A drink for those who really, really, like the crisp and healthy heartiness of a salad and are sick of all the sickly sweet fruity drinks out there. I call it the bleu cheese smoothie. I’m still trying to work out a way to get just the right size cheese chunks so you can use a straw.
Gross you say? Hey, it’s no worse than what Wal-Mart dot com offers. You can now order online for coffins and urns. Funeral urns, not coffee urns. Nobody uses coffee urns any more. Percolated coffee at a gathering is in such bad taste.
No, you can get funeral urns straight from Wal-Mart dot com. “When you care enough to get the very cheapest. This Asian crafted sweatshop urn is just the thing to haul the ashes of your not-so-loved one. Why pay for expensive domestic urns when you’re just going to use it as a doorstop for the back screen door anyhow.
And if you plant it in the backyard behind the mobile, well who’s to know or care how perty it is. Although this rugged one-hundred percent recycled scrap metal urn is just the thing to use as an extra block to put under that car you’re still working on in the front yard.
When we say we’re where America shops for value, we don’t just mean in this life. Here or hereafter, you can still get a good deal.
With the modern convenience of Wal-Mart dot com, even if you don’t earn a living, we can still help you urn your dead.”
America, ya gotta love it.

#1132 Fugitive Mound

When I do these essays, I often just start with a word. And then I riff on it. So it is with a word I heard the other day. Or I should say a phrase.
A friend of mine is doing an environmental assessment and in the process came across the designation “fugitive refrigerants.” These are gasses used in the process of cooling or refrigerating things which escape from their appointed tubes and stuff. At which point they emerge into the atmosphere and reek environmental havoc.
Watch out kids, it’s the fugitive refrigerant...
It’s one of those kooky terms that has such possibilities.
“Tune in on Wednesday nights for the case of ‘The Fugitive Refrigerant.’ Pursued by a one-armed refrigerator repairman, the Fugitive Refrigerant seek to clear his name and his tubes. It’s a dramatic tale of gas on the lamb. (And it doesn’t involve feeding a lamb beans.) Yes, it’s Freon that really shouldn’t be free. The Fugitive Refrigerant.
So… I’m steering clear of a brutal segue as I’m driving south of here the other day, and I happened to drive through the grand town of Grand Mound. Which naturally made me wonder a couple of things. Is there actually a large heap nestled somewhere in town, the eponymous grand mound for which the town is named?
I know it has something to do with the Mima Mounds nearby. Was this “Grand Mound” the largest of them? I hope. Because really, it’s not a very inspiring name for a town. Naming it after what is essentially a pile of dirt. “Yeah I was driving through Littlerock and the next town was Grand Mound. Just a bump in the road actually...”
No worse than the town of Little Rock I suppose.
But still, Mound? It just doesn’t lead one to aspire to greatness. And if it’s grand, it sort of implies there are lesser mounds about. Is anyone from “Ordinary Mound?”
And do they have a radio station? I could suggest one. On the Southside it’s the great sound of Grand Mound.
The South Mound’s Station. 94.5 Roxy
America, ya gotta love it.

#1131 Cowlicker

Sometimes we get into talks around the station and wonder about certain things. A subject that came up the other day was the term “cowlick”. The character Alfalfa in the “Spanky and Our Gang” series had a cowlick. His particular demonstration of it was an erect tuft of hair sprouting rigidly from the top-rear of his head.
I personally have an unruly bump of hair in the back of my head that my mom called a cowlick. So we wondered: How is it that hairbumps came to be called cowlicks?
I’ve never noticed such a thing on a cow. Nor do I particularly remember any of the calves I’ve seen, who presumably were licked by their mothers, having any notable tufts of hair sticking up willy-nilly.
I confess, my experience with cows is minimal, and my experience with calves even less so, restricted mainly to cutlets of veal found at the meat counter.
One also wonders that if one were to have a particularly aggressive and egregious example of a cowlick, it might be called a bull–lick. So bad, it’s snorting, stamping, and ready to gore someone.
“Oh is was ugly, Madge, that kid came out of the barber shop, charged that elderly woman and impaled her on his bull-lick!”
Well I may have the answer. If you look at what people call cowlicks, they are often the terminus of a spiral growth of hair. Hair doesn’t just sprout up in straight lines. It’s like a big fingerprint on your head, swirling in a mostly circular spiral. The cowlick is part of that pattern. The final annoying part.
A friend pointed out that if I had ever seen the way a cow licks a salt lick I may see why they call a cowlick a cowlick. Because a cow’s tongue attacks the saltlick in a circular pattern. Slurping the salt and leaving behind the distinct impression of a spiral.
So maybe that’s why. At least it sounds good. And folk wisdom doesn’t always have to be factual to sound good.
Besides, it does explain the triumphant tuft on the “Spanky and Our Gang” kid. Everyone knows cows lick what they love.
And cows love alfalfa.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#1130 Initiatoor

I was thinking about initiatives and Tim Eyman the other day. And my conclusion was that Tim Eyman is like the Ronco of Politics. Like every Ronco product you ever saw hawked on television, Tim’s offerings are just too good to be true.
It’s too bad his first initiative passed. Oh sure, my car license fees went down. But it’s pretty obvious by the state of most of the state’s roads that there was a price.
Like the supposedly never-need-sharpening blades of a set of Ronco ginsu knives, running a government without any taxes at all is a pipe dream. Who would volunteer?
I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to not pay taxes. I’m the world’s original skinflint, and I hate waste. But I also know that legislation is impossible with initiatives. Reality is too complex. Tim’s approach is to suck in the gullible public with a sharp catchy concept, then use that ax to chop through an apparent bureaucratic Gordian knot. Unfortunately, that knot is composed of the intermeshing arteries of government. And now we got blood spurting everywhere.
So I wonder what got Tim on the path to being a professional initiatoor. Because, you know, he makes a living, and a good one, at mounting these initiative drives. The funny thing is, he hardly ever wins. If he were a legitimate business, depending on the success of a regular product, he’d be out of business by now.
My other question is, if he’s such a good independent lawmaker, why hasn’t he ever won an election? For the same reason you’d never see Rush Limbaugh elected to anything. Sniping gadflies always garner a lot of attention, much like annoying mosquitoes, but in the end they can only suck a tiny amount of blood.
So Tim may be able to send his Gordian tax-knot cutters statewide and collect enough disaffected and undiscerning voters. But he’d never be able to get enough votes in his own district to get elected.
Here’s an idea, let’s create a statewide lawmaker position specifically for the susceptible disaffected. Tim would have a voice, and we’d get him off the streets.
Hey Tim, if you write that initiative, I’ll sign it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#1129 Muci-terranean

Cue the scary music. Something like the up-from-under, menacing, impending-doom sounds of Jaws.
Dunh-dunh duhn-dunh...
Now hold on to your icky reactors. Plug your ears if you don’t want to hear gross. And plug your nose if you don’t want to cause even more of... the Blob.
That’s right, the blob, creepy creature from 1950’s bad sci-fi movies. Evil mindless alien from outer space. Growing and growing, and absorbing everything in its path.
Well guess what? It turns out we don’t have to turn very far to find a homegrown variety of our own. And more than one. All over the oceans, festering waste matter and warming temperatures have caused the formation of giants globs of mucus-like concretions.
We thought we had it bad with a fecal-infested Capitol Lake. And we’re scared of estuaries because, you know, the word estuary does sound like it could involve mucus. “Yeah, I have a bad estuary in my sinuses.” Sounds like something you need to snort to the back of your throat.
But one thing’s certain. Someone needs to invent a giant tissue for the Mediterranean. They have it the worst. One blob there stretches 100 miles. You heard right, a one hundred mile loogie on the loose.
National Geographic News says these mucilaginous masses are “exploding in number and size” They are teeming with harmful viruses and bacteria. They can gum up the gills of fish. They can sink to the sea floor and smother everything underneath.
There’s a slimy death tailor-made for a horror flick. Pulled down to the seafloor, struggling in a gummy mass of goo, smothered under the blob.
Scientists call them sea-mucus blobs or mucilage. They are clumps of living and dead organic matter. If you swim through the blob, you can get a nasty rash.
Not to mention a severe case of the heebie-jeebies.
Cue the music.
Dunh-dunh duhn-dunh...
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.
It’s snot...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

#1128 Est Word

As fall comes to the great Northwest it’s time to steel up our nerves for another run at nine months of gray. They say they get more rain in a year in Atlanta than we do here. But Atlantians get their rain over with, we just get stuck in a constant lingering unrelenting season of gray.
So it was odd the other day when I was stopped at a stoplight and the first 20 cars going by were all gray. You’d think to counter the oppressiveness of that dreary color we’d all buy cars that were bright and perky.
But no, we in the Northwest are both liberal and practical. We are not black and white thinkers, we prefer shades of gray. We also know gray cars don’t show the Northwest dinginess of sodden soil and road grit like the other colors.
Still, speaking of political choices, I’d be willing to bet we are mostly one-issue voters. Voters tend to be one-issued because it’s easier. There are so many complex reasons out there for things, and so many facts and opinions to balance, it’s simply easier to fixate on one thing and make that the hinge upon which all the rest of our decisions swing.
On the national level, those one-issue items tend to be taxes, abortion and gay marriage. Here in Olympia, the issues tend to be the isthmus and the estuary.
Yep, I said it. The Est word. Estuary. Those dad-blamed scientists want to drain our beautiful dome-reflective Capitol cesspool and change it into a swamp.
So what will happen to the isthmus that the other people are fighting over?
It will probably become a collection station for West Nile infected mosquitoes.
Seriously, it’s pretty certain in the next few elections that how a candidate feels about the Capitol Lake versus Estuary issue will be a deal maker or deal breaker for them.
The estuary is a hard sell. The lake, on the surface, continues to look beautiful. And “estuary” is one of those scary indeterminate words. We know what a river and a lake is. An estuary sounds dingy and swampy and filled with shadows.
An estuary sounds, well, gray...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

#1122 Market Taco

So not long ago I was at a Mexican restaurant in Tacoma with my son. He decided he wanted to try the fish tacos. But there was no price on them. The menu said, “market rate.”
“Market rate,” of course, is the menu designation for often wild items that fluctuate wildly in price. So restaurants don’t have to go out and print new menus every time there’s an escargot shortage.
It also conveys the subtle message that the item you are about to eat is as fresh as fresh can be. So fresh, they are telling you, that they haven’t even had time to price it like the regular stuff.
What made it odd is that fish tacos are usually not that hoity-toity. Chunks of halibut or white fish, sometimes breaded and fried, nearly always frozen because what the hey, you’re smothering them in numerous spicy ingredients anyhow.
Nonetheless, my intrepid son told the waiter he’d have the fish tacos.
“Halibut or Salmon?” the waiter asked.
“Halibut,” said my son.
“Well, I should tell you then,” the waiter said, “they are $26.99. The salmon is just as good and it’s ten dollars less.”
I’m not sure how he picked up the vibe that I’m a cheapskate but I’m glad he did. Neither my son nor I could come up with the right value equation for fish tacos with Halibut at 26.99.
And isn’t halibut usually less than salmon? Unless they’re halibut cheeks. A name you always have to be careful how you inflect in delicate company. Halibut cheeks or Hali-buttcheeks.
I’m glad we opted for the salmon and paid less. Seems the market from which they derived the market price must have had a Frigidaire sign on it. The flavor wasn’t so bad but the chunks of imbedded frost were a dead giveaway.
Ah well, it’s important to try new things and places. When he delivered the check, the waiter gave us each a piece of candy. I’m not sure if it’s a Mexican tradition or what. Maybe they just reserve this candy for those who tried the market-rate fish tacos.
The candy was a dum-dum sucker.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

#1126 The Sanctity of Henry

One of my favorite windows for viewing us humans is religious history. Because, you know, times change. Sometimes it just takes a long time...
Take the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has, ever since it gelled in the first 1000 years, held more or less solidly to a certain set of principles. One of those principles is that women cannot hold higher positions in the church.
It’s odd how many people condemn Muslims who subjugate their women, what with forcing them to wear burqas and generally not affording them full status and rights, and yet those same people ignore how the Catholic Church does some of the same things.
Must be genetic. Somehow tied to their proclivity for black robes.
Anyhow, way back in 1534, that would be 475 years, a guy named Henry the 8th was having problems with the Catholic Church. (This wasn’t the Henry the 8th from the Herman’s Hermits song by the way.) Seems Hank was having problems with his wife and wanted to respectfully divorce her instead of chopping off her head. Or better yet, have the marriage annulled.
Since Henry was a Catholic, he couldn’t get a divorce. The Catholics believed in the sanctity of marriage, one man and one woman and no divorces.
The pope refused poor Hank, who had a powerful hankering for Anne Boleyn, so that really fired up his ire. With the Pope’s refusal, Henry 8, who I may have failed to mention was king of England at the time, broke off from the Catholic Church and started the Anglican Church.
He was also excommunicated, which was the 16th century Catholic version of unfriending him.
Much war and bloodshed ensued.
Well, lo and behold, a mere four and three-quarters centuries later, the Catholic Church has changed its mind. It’s now creating a special section for Anglicans, and inviting back in those who are angered that the Anglican church now accepts women and gays as bishops in the Anglican Hierarchy.
Imagine that, women as bishops. The chessboard will never be the same.
But never fear women. Just be patient. In 475 years, it’s your turn.
Sing along with me, "...In the year 2484, if man is still a bore..."
America, ya gotta love it.

#1125 Fresh Phones

It’s funny. We get into the habit of saying certain things and never really questioning them. And sometimes an old habit reaches across to a whole different technology.
In the habit of saying something dumb, my friend Rick pointed out to me that he was in the grocery store the other day. The sign that caught Rick’s attention was one that said “Fresh Produce.”
“Fresh Produce” begs the question. Do they have a stale produce section? Wouldn’t we naturally assume it was fresh? We say frozen vegetable but we don’t often say frozen produce.
Maybe there’s a little known section of the grocery we haven’t heard about, tucked away behind the lentils and bulk hominy. Cheaper blotched potatoes that, with a little whittling, are still suitable for stew. Maybe a bin of blemished apples, perfectly acceptable for cider or applesauce, but not teacher presenting material. Maybe there’s a whole section of blackened bananas, just waiting for someone to bake up a big batch of banana bread or banana porridge.
All produce doesn’t have to be fresh and still be usable. Like our concepts. An old concept can migrate from one object to another.
The other day for instance, I was visiting my girlfriend. And I had occasion to remove my phone from my pocket and have her hold it while I did something at her place. She put it in her coat pocket and we both forgot about it until I got back to my house. I called her using my landline and asked her to bring it to me the next day.
Then I had an inspiration for a humorous remark, and I said she could feel free to look through all my texts and call records.
“I wouldn’t do that,” she said.
“That’s okay,” I said, “My life’s an open phone.”
See what I mean? The open honesty is the same, only the technology has changed. And our phones really are the equivalent of a book of our life.
So I’m thinking, it might be a good idea to delete those stale texts and data and keep them fresh. You may have some black bananas in there ready to trip you up.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1124 Harvesters

Not long ago I was at a trade show. One of those events where lots of businesses show each other and the public the things they do. One-on-one advertising.
At such events businesses offer giveaways. Little doodads with the company’s logo on them, meant to occupy space in the recipients’ life, on a desktop perhaps, or in a coffee cabinet. That company logo will find its way to the intimate corners of the doodad holder’s existence and the doodad holder will be subtly and continually reminded what a great company the doodad giver is.
But trade shows are also a microcosm of the spectrum of greed in humanity. Because some doodad takers see the trade show as a field of unharvested wheat, and they’re there to make hay while the sun shines.
As one of the doodads given away by companies is often a reusable shopping bag, the whole event soon turns into trick-or-treat for adults. Except the adults aren’t even reduced to the simple slightly semi-polite request of actually saying trick or treat.
They just take. And take. And take. Some of them are so bold they’d actually sweep the offering company’s table clean of doodads if an attendant wasn’t present. I guess they justify it in their minds as, “Well, the company is offering, I should take.”
But here’s the thing they don’t seem to get. I could offer you a free baptism too, that doesn’t mean I expect you to bathe at the church every Sunday. There are 20 items on the table for 20 different people. Not 20 items for one greedy grandma doodad taker who wants to fill up all her grandkid’s Christmas stockings.
The same person who no doubt has forty grandkids because she and her children—who she trained to be like her—probably never exercised any restraint in the reproductive aspects of their lives either. Sex is free—take all you want and damn the consequences.
I’ve even had the harvesters pilfer non-doodad stuff from my table when I’m not looking, pens, notepads¾notepads with actual notes on them...
Harvesters is probably too kind a word. What’s the animal that steals eggs from henhouses? Oh yeah. Weasels.
A new human sub-species. Doodad weasels.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

#1123 Bubble Dum

Recently my son and I went to a Mexican restaurant. They gave us little Dum-Dum suckers as a treat when they delivered the bill.
Using things named “dum” and “sucker” when you deliver a bill is perhaps not the best message you want to send to customers.
Let me say first off that it was one of the most frustrating candies I’ve ever eaten. Because the Dum-Dum I got was bubble gum flavor. And my genetic code is hard-wired to only expect bubble gum flavor when you are about to chew.
Chewing a sucker is a contradiction in terms. You don’t chew a sucker and you don’t suck a chewer. My mouth memory doesn’t react to a chunk of bubble gum with a gentle sucking motion, roiling it around in my mouth and not biting down.
But with the flavor of bubble gum on the sucker, that’s what I was asking it to do. Suffice it to say, I was down to the Dum Dum stick in about 10 seconds flat. Which really sucked.
My son’s sucker sucked less, as it was “Cream Soda” flavor. Which made me curious about how they were determining flavor, so I looked at the wrappers for a clue. They had pictures on them. The Bubble Gum one had pictures of pink bubbles.
Must be the pink bubble fruit from which bubble gum flavor is derived.
But the cream soda Dum Dum wrapper had a picture that appeared to include, oranges, lemons, pineapples and bananas. Somehow, I don’t remember my A&W Cream Soda tasting of pineapples. And when my barista makes an Italian cream soda at the coffee stand, it’s vanilla, sugar, cream, and soda water.
I looked desperately for pictures of a vanilla pod or a cow on the Dum Dum wrapper, but to no avail. I then looked at the ingredients list. No help there. It just said it was made with artificial flavor. Oh hoh. Artificial banana, pineapple, lemon, orange, non-cream and non-vanilla.
Which brought me back to the bubble gum Dum Dum wrapper. You won’t believe this, but they used artificial bubble gum flavor in it.
Cause, you know, it’s so expensive to use organic natural bubble gum flavor.
That would be really dumb.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1127 Harvesting Pagans

Halloween¾it’s like the frustration of orthodontia, a person’s original bite reasserting and realigning itself years after braces. Or the former color of wall bleeding through the new paint.
Halloween is just relentlessly pagan.
I remember when I was in grade school, the local Baptists objected to the school having a Halloween celebration. I’m not sure if it was because it was perceived as devil worship or if the Baptists knew the origin of the name Halloween was from the Catholic All Hallows Eve and they hated all things Catholic.
Years later, similar protests happened and the schools caved and started calling it a “Harvest Festival.” Which is funny, because that’s what it always was to the pagans.
Maybe the whole problem is the pagans were into that whole calendar changing thing. What goes around comes around. And the seasons continue to change.
Easter was originally a pagan celebration about spring and rebirth and fertility. That’s why you got your eggs and rabbits. Halloween was originally about harvesting and plants dying and death and stuff as the days shortened and winter was approaching. So pumpkins and turnips were carved into representations of the dead. Spirits and skeletons were imagined and depicted. And the cycle of life and death was honored.
Then along came the Christians, who, knowing it was easier to borrow than repress, rebranded and co-opted the pagan festivals. Easter-time now celebrated Christ’s rebirth.
But there was no convenient biblical crossover event for the time of Halloween so they created All Saints Day. And then called the night before All Hallows Eve, which was then shortened to Hallows Evening or Hallowe’en.
Flash forward to modern times, Halloween has lost its hallows again and instead is populated with haunts. The church rebels against its own name, Halloween, and insists we all celebrate harvest festivals.
Or like this one local church, a “Pumpkin Bash.” As a result, they’ve actually got right back to the festival’s pagan roots. Harvesting dead squash and carving them up to look like spirits.
They may have made a lantern after him but they don’t know Jack.
The devil is, that pagan thing is strong.
What goes around comes around...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

#1121 Farve Dynasty

English words are hard enough, and when you get to given names they get even harder. Like the surprise you first felt when you saw Wor-ces-ter-shire spelled out and realized it’s nowhere near woostershir. Similarly the words boat-swain, pronounced bo’sun, and the word victuals, pronounced vittles.
So I guess I should understand why they pronounce Brett Favre’s name farve even though it’s spelled fav-re. The R- is very clearly after the V in his name yet all and sundry pronounce the R first. Farrrrrrrve. Even more confusing as his first name is Brett and he’d probably deck you if you called him Bert. Bert Farve is way more consistent.
Like his 3-day growth of beard. Every time I see a picture of Brett Favre he has a 3-day growth of beard. Do you think it’s just as hard to maintain a consistent 3-day growth of beard as it is to shave every day? Maybe he sponge-paints it on...
Speaking of names, the other day I was discussing with a Mormon friend the name of the founder of their religion. He may have been a great man, even a prophet, but what an unfortunate name. Joseph Smith. With all due apologies, “Joseph Smith” just sounds like an alias. Like John Doe or John Smith.
It sounds like a name you use when you’re coming into town on the down-low. Which, due to the early persecution of Mormons, because of beliefs they had like polygamy, he sometimes had to do.
It’s like a name you use when you’re checking into a hotel. “Hi, I’m, um, Joe Smith, and this is my, uh, wife, Mrs. Smith and this is my wife, Mrs. Smith, and this is my wife, Mrs. Smith...”
Names are funny that way, they lead you to all kinds of weird assumptions. Like the new Warren Miller film that’s out this year. It’s called Warren Miller—Dynasty.
I imagine this trailer. Big music. Long shot of a female figure shredding this nearly vertical slope. The figure catches monster air as the announcer intones “Warren Miller— Dynasty.” The camera zooms in and it’s... Joan Collins.
Big Air and Big Hair, It’s Joan Collins in Warren Miller’s Dynasty...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1120 Dumb-ability

So my friend Rick, always the observer when it comes to society’s foibles, made an observation the other day about toilet paper.
Toilet paper has recently been in the enviro-news. Turns out toilet paper not only is white, it isn’t green. The super-plush quilted toilet paper can only achieve its buttockial luxuriance by virtue of the long fibers of old growth trees.
That’s right, some 400-year-old tree gave its all so you could have a comfortable rump rub. The majesty of this great and stately living thing, whose sprout was alive when Jamestown was founded, is reduced to pampering your backend.
I have no position on this issue yet, but I’m certainly inclined to look down on the tissue.
The observation my friend made was that there is now a “triple-ply” toilet tissue. One ply is never enough, and apparently two-ply just wasn’t cutting it. So now, it’s three-ply.
What, are they taking a page from the Gillette Track Two people? (I think they’re up to about fifteen overlapping blades by now.)
But, there’s a limit. You would assume at a certain point adding plies would add stiffness as well, like cardboard, or at least a thickness that brings up another tissue issue altogether.
If you have such thick paper, why not just use reusable cloth? It works for table napkins. Cloth napkins have totally cut down my paper towel use. Can butt-cloths and a bathroom diaper pail arrangement be far behind?
But my friend also pointed out something else on the toilet paper package. It said it was flushable. Well I hope so. Flush-ability is a given when it comes to toilet paper. This is not the thing to be cluttering up the bathroom ash can.
It reminds me of a sign I just saw on the front of a bar. It was advertising some brand of beer and the beer claimed it had “drinkability.”
Well yeah. That would be something you would pretty much expect for a beverage.
I mean, I can’t remember the last time I thought my enjoyment of a beer would be better if I used a fork.
Flushablilty, drinkability, advertisers have such dumbassabilty to point out the obvious.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#1119 Clackety Towns

So I was driving along the road and this truck went by me and it had one of those license plate frames on it from a car dealer. And the frame said it was from Clackamas Oregon.
And I thought, we have such cool and bizarre names for towns in the northwest. Clackamas. It sounds so spooky somehow. Like the noise a skeleton makes at Halloween. Or a weird fifties song—Clackety clack, don’t talk back.
Or maybe it’s some weird percussion instrument. Somewhere between the claves and the maracas. “All right, drum section, on this next tune we need someone who can really play the Clackamas. Then George, I want you on the temple blocks and Jimmy you get the ridged fish thingy.
Of course Clackamas also sounds like a devastating social disease. An STI that that gives you crusty sores and creaky bones. Did you hear, he got a bad case of the Clackamas. They’re trying antibiotics and percussive therapy.
But a place like Clackamas is what you’d expect in these parts. After all, we have towns like Humptulips and Tulalip. Both places that sound like some sort of strange horticultural practices. Tu-lay-lip... so is this a place where all the tulips grow laying down? And how about Humptulips? Obviously tulips they only plant at places like the Mima Mounds. A tulip species engineered for optimum growth in hummocks.
Worse, we have a town named Sequim. Put aside for a moment that it’s spelled SEE-quee-im, like the sequins on your disco outfit. It’s pronounced squim. Like squirm but without the R.
And there are no pleasant words the start with the skwih sound. You got the aforementioned squirm. But then you got squiggle, which brings to mind slimy snakes. You got squid, one of the least attractive of animals, a chewy snotball with suckers. Again far from pleasant.
And finally, you got squishy, which sounds for all the world like shoes after you’ve stepped in a puddle.
There’s a civic motto for you. Sequim, we remind you of your shoes after you’ve stepped in a puddle.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

#1118 Ah-moon

Not long ago NASA fired a missile at the moon. They were going to run a spectral analysis of the debris ejected and determine if there was any water in it, and, oh yeah, put the fear of god into Iran.
That last part wasn’t its stated mission but you got to wonder. A couple of weeks before the moon shot, Iran had been flexing its missile muscles by firing off some that had the range to make it all the way to Israel, a daunting distance of about 1250 miles.
Scary. They have a missile that can go 1250 miles. We have one that can go 240,000 miles. I think we may have shown them who has a bigger, um, stick.
Because not only that, but we managed to fire the missile right where we wanted to, you know, not blow off any attractive ridges or craters or whatever.
Think it’s possible Ahmadinejad is an Iranian word that means “oops, I screwed up.”
Speaking of which, the recent news story about Ahmadinejad’s origins is certainly a grandfather’s nightmare come true. Turns out that the single biggest and most powerful spokesman for holocaust denial is, surprise surprise, of Jewish blood.
I have an uncle who is that way. Try as I might I can’t shake him from his entrenched bigotry. It’s one of those things he was raised with and never shook. But recently, in the course of genealogical research, it was revealed that he is part Jewish.
By extension so am I. 1/16th Jewish to be exact. Which actually satisfies my tendency towards being economical. At 1/16th Jewish, I only have to burn half a candle at Hanukkah. Plus I don’t have to buy a whole menorah. One candlestick will do just fine.
But I’m guessing Ahmadinejad was not as happy to find out about his Jewish heritage as I was. Actually, since it was his Jewish parents who converted to Islam, he no doubt knew already. He’s not happy that now the world does too. Combined with the NASA missile thing, he’s been caught with his pants down from two directions.
Now that he’s been exposed and, um, em-bare-assed, maybe the world should call him Ah-moon-dinejad...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#1117 Food Violence

I’m not entirely sure what I saw yesterday as I drove by the feed store, but I plan to find out. The sign just caught my attention. It said simply “Beet Pulp Pellets”
It was a feed store so I assume beet pulp pellets are animal food, but I thought, what a violent sounding thing. I guess I should have seen it coming. I mean after all, we have the Angry Whopper as one of our current fast food acts of violence.
And for years we’ve had battered chicken. Which to me has always sounded like a domestic poultry relationship gone terribly wrong. But “beet pulp pellets” take you to a new level. Every word in it speaks of violence.
You got “beet” of course. I know, I know, the violent beat, as in beating on somebody, is spelled b-e-a-t- and the beet you eat is spelled b-e-e-t- but still. It sounds like the violent kind of beat and since I’m talking about it in my mind and on the radio, “sounds like” is all we have.
Then you got “pulp.” When you pulp something you’ve whacked on it fairly good. When a cooking instruction in a recipe tells you to pulp an ingredient you darn well better be applying some form of violence to it. And to precede pulp with beet... The phrase “beat to a pulp” comes naturally to mind.
He was beat to a pulp with a sack of beet pulp. You see what I mean.
Then you got pellet. As in pellet gun. Or as in hail pelleting your windshield. Or pelleting the opposing team with hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes.
Pellet as an item, like a pellet of fuel, no problem, pellet as an action, not so peaceful.
There you have it, “beet pulp pellet”—one of the most violent foods on the planet.
Either that or it’s some strange form of horse borscht. So, to solve the mystery, I Googled it. It appears that among other things, beet pulp pellets are used as a horse laxative. Which means my theory is correct.
I have been behind many horses in many parades.
I can envision nothing more potentially and explosively violent than a horse laxative. America, ya gotta love it.

#1116 California Drivers

The other day I turned onto this newly remodeled freeway onramp. They’d put in a dedicated lane for the people who were turning left off the road onto the ramp.
Used to be, if you were about to turn right onto the onramp, the person facing you on the other side of the road had the right of way because you had a yield sign. Now you can both end up on the onramp at the same time and you’ll each have your own lane.
For a while.
The two lanes eventually merge to one before you make it to the freeway. But instead of giving you about half a mile like some major combined onramps this one did it in a quarter mile.
And a quarter mile is, you guessed it, dragstrip length.
I found this out on my first outing on the dragstrip, I mean onramp. The left turner and I arrived side by side at the same moment and he stomped on it. I naturally felt it was appropriate to test his mettle by putting my pedal to the metal as well. We stayed neck and neck, fender to fender, hood ornament to hood ornament. As the onramp narrowed to merge there came a moment where it was crash side to side, dive into the ditch, or say chicken.
Cluck cluck.
But it got me thinking, what a great innovation. For years we’ve been telling people not to dragrace and now they go ahead and build a track for us.
It’s kind of like the roundabouts. The other day I was at a regular intersection drifting through a right turn without stopping at the stop sign, no one was coming and I was, um, practicing fuel economy. This action was what we once called a “California stop.”
But that’s all a roundabout is—an extended California stop, the traffic engineers are telling you to use good judgment and they won’t force you to stop with a sign.
Pretty cool, dragstrip onramps, California stop roundabouts, it’s like the California teenagers I grew up with infiltrated the ranks of traffic engineers.
Next up, you won’t come back from dead man’s curve...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1115 Yoga Bomber

Every now and then, I get blindsided by something that defies expectations.
Here are three examples.
First, the other day I was listening to a radio station from Seattle. On it was a presumably professional newsperson, as the main announcer said, “and here’s the news with so-and-so.”
The so-and-so in question then proceeded to tell a news story, in the course of which she used the term “nuke-ya-lar.” That’s right, a professional newsperson mispronounced the word nuclear as nuke-ya-lar, just as badly as our ex-president.
The newsperson sounded like she was a 20-something, so it’s possible her formative news listening years were during the Bush administration, but still. One of the things they used to teach you in newscasting classes was eliminating your regional accents.
While Bush may have been able to claim that nuke-ya-lar was a Texas colloquialism this gal could not.
Second, the story she was actually reporting on was an expectation violator as well. At the time, Iran had just agreed to ship all the enriched nuclear fuel resulting from its new reactors to, of all places, Russia. And the world appeared to see this as a breakthrough. And further, that the world community saw this as a good thing.
I, of course, thought about how much the world as changed since the cold war. For anybody to be happy about anyone giving Russia enriched bomb-makeable nuclear material shows we have come along way down the path of either peace or total nuclear annihilation.
And it’s not even like Putin is putin’ us on. He’s more belligerent than ever.
The third example, speaking of peace, is the meditation class at my club. Seems they meet upstairs every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10:30 to 11:30. Our racquetball court down below has been closed during that time. They’re worried the ball will come over the open balcony and disrupt the meditation.
When did meditators get to be such wussies? Isn’t this the art that teaches people how to walk over hot coals? You’d think they could handle an occasional surprise ball in their laps. Test their concentration for gosh sake.
It’s not like a nuke-ya–lar bomb.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#1114 Graham Kilos

I heard a story the other day that was disturbing on so many levels. Seems this guy in Graham was caught with a bunch of pit bulls probably used in a dog-fighting ring.
No Michael Vic is not from Graham.
Graham, Washington, true or not, has the image of a place where this sort of thing might occur. Once a backwoods rural sort of place, some now think of it as a West Coast Appalachia.
The sort of place where you might find a Graham Cracker.
And that Cracker would most likely be on the wrong side of the meth wars. As the economic opportunities in his little neck of the backwoods dwindled as the woods themselves were cut for fuel, the Graham cracker would naturally turn to brewing up batches of meth to keep warm on cold northern nights.
And perhaps turn to fighting pit bulls as well.
But the story revealed some other things I’m still trying to sort out. Like the guy had a bunch of marijuana plants on his property. And he was dealing kilos.
I have been out of the loop for so long. Whatever happened to the peace-love-dope-spare-change days of the sixties? Hippie peaceniks would never fight pitbulls, dude. Marijuana was the great mellower. It supposedly made you want to chant your way to Nirvana.
Not headbang to Nirvana while you’re jacked up on pot and crank. Marijuana-toking dogfighters were not in the 12 ways to enlightenment.
Ah, the innocence of youth. We never fully appreciate what humans are capable of.
And what is humane. Because that’s the other disturbing side of the story. The humane society plans to have the pit bulls destroyed. Because they are vicious and a danger to humans. So it seems a little odd when they say they “rescued” them from the dogfighter. Since now they’re going to “destroy” them.
Some rescue.
The dogs themselves would probably say, um, we can go on fighting other dogs. It would be a lot more cruel to kill us...
Druggies listening to this story right now are trying to figure out the math. Did he say we can get a kilo in Graham?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

#1113 Chuckin’

So in the course of a recent commentary I mentioned the word “chuckhole.” I had a friend ask me what it meant. Why, pothole, I answered. And it occurred to me that it’s one of those regional words. Like tullies and dingleberry. They either mean nothing at all or something entirely different in different places.
But, you know, it makes you wonder. Who is Chuck and why did they name a hole after him? Was he some forgotten, except in infamy, civil engineer who always cut corners? Would the roads he built always develop potholes, which soon bore his dastardly name?
Or possibly it was a woodchuck thing. When they aren’t chucking wood and making people wonder how much and if they could, they’re gnawing holes in the roadway.
Which reminds me, I need to go another way. Which way are you headed Funny Guy? Into this segue.
Why is it you notice chuckholes most of all when you’re already in frustrating, emotion-roiling, rush hour traffic? And why do we still call it rush “hour”, when the radio traffic reports start at 4 o’clock and end at 6:30? In my book that’s rush 2 and a half hours. It ain’t no hour.
Likewise the bars that say happy hour is from 2 to 7 pm. Even a drunk could figure out that it’s five hours from 2 to 7pm. So it’s Happy Five Hours. It’s not Happy Hour.
When people tell me they are going to do something in a second or a minute I expect they won’t take five of either. And if someone tells me he’s going to be here in a day, I sure as heck don’t expect to not see him ‘til the end of the week.
So let’s not play fast and furious with the concept of an hour. Time flies fast enough when you’re older, let’s not meld one hour into five.
Not least because that’s a lot of drinking. And if I drink that much I’m gonna encounter that Chuck guy in a different way.
But this time before I hit the road he’ll be getting rid of my cookies.
America, ya gotta love it.