Friday, February 27, 2009

#956 Indebted Grandchildren

So I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the garden when it comes to economics but I have a question or two about the economic stimulus bill and the bailout. Now let me say that the concern of certain republicans, that it’s inappropriate to saddle our grandchildren with our debt load, is something I agree with.
In fact, I’ve been saying it for the last 8 years, as we’ve gone from a surplus to an incredibly large deficit. We have gone there because we have been engaged in the fiscally not-so-bright actions of waging two wars while simultaneously cutting taxes.
The don’t-tax-but-spend-anyway plan for national debt increase.
This was all way before the economic meltdown. So for the stimulus plan detractors and former debt perpetrators to now suddenly say, “Hey we can’t saddle our grandchildren with debt” is disingenuous to say the least.
But I have a further issue. Remember when the Detroit carmakers came for a piece of the bailout pie? These people were actually making real products, employing real workers and putting hard dollars back into the economy. But all of a sudden, they had to prove everything and be put on the hot seat—and I don’t mean the leather ones warming up pampered derrieres in luxury vehicles.
And yet, and here’s where I experience the feeling of disconnect, the powers that be handed over billions to the banks with no strings, no oversight and no idea that the banks were going to just say thanks, and then sit on it.
So now congress is arguing about a mere 787 billion of funds to put little Americans back to work and we’re still giving banks beaucoup bucks. The new bank bailout may cost up to 2.5 trillion dollars.
The point is, I don’t hear the “don’t indebt our grandchildren” advocators waxing histrionic about this plan. Why is it so easy for the banks to ask for and get money to sit on and such a tooth pulling process to give it to everyday Americans?
You can bet the little people will spend the darn stuff and get the economy flowing.
Hell, they may even spend it on their grandchildren.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

#955 Analytical Osculation

Science has weighed in again, this time on the subject of romance. We always seem to get these stories in and around February, the month of love and presidents.
The article I read recently was on kissing. Specifically, why we do it, and what it does while we’re doing it. Kissing takes place in 90% of human cultures. Usually, when you see something that popular it’s not just because it’s a fad inspired by the latest beanie baby chain letter.
Even way back in early Greek and Roman times, people did it. And in those days, hygiene being what it was, it was a sure way to spread facial skin diseases. Of course people have been known to get a lot more intimate and the spread of disease doesn’t stop them much either.
Scientifically, it turns out kissing unleashes and exchanges chemicals between partners in their saliva. Yum. That old chestnut about swapping spit turns out to be accurate after all.
On some instinctive level, we analyze that spit and we actually can get more or less attracted to our kissing partner as this chemical analysis gets underway. During kissing, men’s levels of oxytocin increase, indicating more interest in permanent bonding. Women’s levels went down. So kissing is an act of potential monogamy in men. And a desire to break free in women.
Hmm. No more mistletoe at the Christmas party.
The research indicated that men prefer sloppy kisses in which chemicals including testosterone can be passed on to the woman in saliva. Testosterone increases both male and female sex drive.
Researcher Dr. Helen Fisher noted, “The sex drive pushes individuals to assess a variety of partners, then romantic love causes them to focus on an individual. Attachment then allows them to tolerate this person long enough to raise a child.”
These scientists are so romantic. “Take this ring, my love, as a token of my intent to tolerate you long enough to raise a child.”
For me, the greatest thing about reading this particular scientific article was learning a new word. There is actually a name for the science of kissing. Philematology.
Wow. Go science. Philematology.
Sounds about as romantic as stamp collecting.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

#954 Word Stylin’

I like words. Words can become our friends. Sometimes they become so familiar we develop verbal habits. For writers, those habits can be a component of what forensic analysts call style.
It’s hard, for this reason, for an author to effectively write pseudonymously. His verbal tics keep flushing him out. I use the transition “in any event” a lot. In short essays, we sometimes need a transition that will dismiss the earlier subject and move on to the next.
In any event, are you the type of person who says “conversely” or on the other hand are you the type of person who says “on the other hand.” Conversely, maybe you’re the type of person who says “on the contrary.”
One of my favorite authors never says “because.” Not “Joe went to the store because he desired something.” He will write, “Joe went to the store on account of his desire for something.”
Choosing the exact word or phrase to convey a feeling is sometimes difficult, sometimes it’s a slam dunk. Notice I didn’t say base hit. Nor field goal. Of all the sports references “slam dunk” said what I wanted to say best.
People sometimes say, “it’s a dry heat.” Do they say, “it’s a wet cold”? No, but there’s an even better way. They can say it’s dank. Dank conjures up a wet, shivery cold perfectly. A dank dungeon on a dark dreary day.
Then there’s the question of food portion descriptions. Beef loins and pork butts are entirely too graphic for my tastes. Strips or nuggets are better. Perhaps because they sound mildly pornographic. Yum, chicken breast strips.
Balls or logs are problematic. Which would you prefer? A nut ball or a nut log?
Cheese balls just don’t sound that appetizing, or hygienic for that matter.
Cheese logs sound like an exceptionally unreliable building material, possibly used in the story of the four little pigs and the big bad wolf—brick, sticks, straw, and cheese logs.
Conversely, or in any event, when I had teenagers, cheese logs would have made it easier for them to eat me out of house and home.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#953 Wall Shriek

I think I may finally have a good piece of economic news. The stock market is going down. That’s right, down. Wall Street is upset with the economic recovery plan and you know what? That may actually be a good thing.
Bear with me on this as I bull through my reasoning.
For years, we’ve been told that what’s good for the stock market is good for America. But Wall Street is not Main Street. In the old days maybe. In the old days the Dow Jones industrials list was made up of, um, industries. If they were roaring along, so were American workers¾and consumers. Seems like a no brainer.
But somewhere along the way, Wall Street started figuring out ways to make money off money. It was a whole lot easier to trade credit default swaps and mortgage derivatives than it was to actually build factories. The return was faster and better. And made out of thin air.
You know, like the air on the inside of a bubble.
99 times out of a hundred, fast bull markets mean a bubble. Wall Street loves a bubble. Who wouldn’t? For a while, there’s free money. It’s the biggest Ponzi scheme of all, where all the stock marketers have made off with millions.
Wall Street isn’t much tied to the American worker anymore. Except where the American worker has a 401-K. Which most of them need these days because profit-driven CEOs stripped away pension funds.
I used to work in the investment industry. An investment analyst firm called Morningstar rates the stocks of companies. One of the negative comments they always make about a company’s health is that they have too big a pension fund burden.
Yep, that’s negative all right, taking care of your loyal workers so they’ll give you greater productivity.
You may have noticed during bull markets, if employment figures go up, stocks always go down. Funny, you’d think a fully employed productive America would be good news to Wall Street.
So all I’m saying is. Let’s not get all upset every time we hear that Wall Street is reacting negatively. Of course they are. They have had it deregulatory good for over a decade. Their swollen hand is stuck deep in the candy jar.
And it’s going to be painful pulling it out.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

#952 Human Signs

If you’ve read or heard many of my commentaries you know I have a fascination with the way we use words. Even more so that different words used in different contexts can so totally and drastically change the meaning, or the feeling.
Like yesterday when I wrote about candy corn. It wasn’t long before I remembered those times as kids when we tried to gross each other out. Usually it was around Halloween. And one of us came up with an idea for a snackfood for cannibals. Candied Corns.
Why it urps me still is why I never survived the OK Corral of that particular grossout shootout.
In any event, I recently heard a story about some shellfish issues along the South Sound. Seems this one company was growing oysters illegally. The story said that they had illegally “planted” the oysters.
And that just seems wrong for some reason. Don’t you plant plants? Can you plant an animal and then harvest it like a stalk of grain? It just seems to minimize the whole animal experience. Animals, by definition, move. You can deposit them somewhere, but they’ll get up and wander on. Motility, that’s the animal ethos.
Moving around is what animals do—and people. They hire those human beings to wave signs around because they move. They don’t just plant signs. They hire people to wave them.
I had a talk the other day with a temporary labor professional and we discussed those sign people. And how his organization trained them and made them more effective.
I’m not sure those sign shakers are great direct advertising, but I can see their usefulness when it comes to directing you the last 100 yards to your destination.
And perhaps that explains the new name they have. They’re not “sign shakers” anymore. They’re “Human Directionals.” I like it.
In a way, by giving them a name like “human directional” you’re sort of objectifying them. They’re a thing now. A type of sign. A human directional. And somehow less than human.
If you will, a sign of inhumanity.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

#951 Fruit Corn

I’m holding in my hand the nutrition panels from two foods. One of them would be considered healthy. One of them would be considered junk food. The healthy one says that it contains 0 grams of total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. So does the unhealthy one not contain those ingredients.
So does a rock.
The healthy one contains no salt. The unhealthy one has 75 milligrams or 3% of my adult daily allowance.
I never got an allowance as a kid. It’s kind of cool that my food gives it to me now.
The healthy food has 31 grams of carbohydrates, or 10% of my allowance and the unhealthy one has 36 grams of carbohydrates, or 12%. The healthy one also has 10% of my vitamin C and 2% of my calcium. That is all.
So the major mathematical dietary distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy is 5 grams of sugar and three-quarters of a gram of salt.
The healthy item is a pear. Nowadays, they actually ship boxed fancy pears with nutritional labels. It’s kind of scary. You’d think nutritious things like fruits and vegetables shouldn’t need nutritional labels. But it sure helps to directly compare junk food to good food.
The unhealthy food is candy corn—basically, bits of sugar. Interesting to note that turgid bits of sugar have only slightly more sugar than a piece of fruit. Seems like candy cuts out the middleman pretty good. Pure energy. Straight buzz, and none of the unsightly peels, seeds, and stems.
Unfortunately, candy corn isn’t straight sugar. It also includes gelatin, dextrose, artificial colors (titanium dioxide, yellow 6, yellow 5, red 3, and blue 1). Funny, I don’t remember seeing any blue candy corns.
Must be in the candy maize variety.
Candy corn also contains honey. The label on the bag says, “Made with Real Honey.” But on the ingredients list it’s listed fourth, behind sugar, corn syrup, and salt. So I’m guessing it’s not a lot of honey.
Anyhow, it’s nice to know that when I’m out of pears, candy corn has many of the same daily allowances as fruits and vegetables.
Corn’s a vegetable, right?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

#950 Economy Meal

There’s an interesting side to the economy melting down like hot cheese. Paradoxically, the one company to benefit for America’s belt tightening is the company most often accused of being responsible for lots of its belt loosening, McDonalds.
The originator of the happy meal is helping keep America happy about its food finances. As more and more people look for ways to save, or at least get a break on their busting budgets, the “you deserve a break today” people are definitely saying “I’m lovin’ it.”
Word on the street is that McDonalds intends to spend 2.1 billion dollars to open new locations worldwide and spruce up old ones this year. I’m guessing they might be able to pick up certain well-situated urban properties cheap.
Namely, those recently closed down by Starbucks.
Whether the economy did in Starbucks or people had already decided that 3 to 5 bucks was too much to pay for a cup of coffee, the premium coffee purveyor is losing profits like a leaky latte cup.
I like good coffee as much as the next person, but when times are tough I’ll feed my gut before I’ll treat my palate. And even with loading in the cream and vanilla sprinkles at the condiment area, there’s not enough calories in a macchiato to make my day.
Give me the 99 cent menu at McD’s and watch me macchiato my tummy grande vente with no room.
Still, this is bound to lead to all sorts of supersize me issues. Mickey D’s has never been the friend to benefit us most when it comes to health. Heart-busting fat and grease, diabetes-triggering white bread starch buns.
But it is nice to know one American company is still doing well. And an iconic one at that. As General Motors wallows in the pit of its own bad business decisions, it’s good to see a little bit of golden lining on the dark cloud of our economy.
And it appears to be in the shape of arches.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

#949 Pre-Language Syndrome

This texting thing is creating new and troubling problems—with communication and the law.
There’s people out there, right now, who are actually using PMS as a verb. “She was PMS-ing all over the place.” “I wanted to talk but she was PMS-ing.”
This can’t be right. Break it down. She was pre-menstrual syndroming? Can you be syndroming?
That’s like saying you’re going to go ATM some cash. “Yeah, I was ATM-ing some cash while my girlfriend was texting me.”
I just don’t think it’s right to go down the path of turning initials into verbs. No matter how much quicker they are to text.
But we face an even more insidious legal danger with texting. The other day a local law enforcement organization acted on a threatening text someone had sent to someone else, and used that probable cause to search the alleged sender’s home. In the process of the search, they discovered drugs and other things that led to an arrest and the taunting texter being charged with crimes.
So this, of course, leads to all sorts of legal issues. Is looking at a text on someone else’s phone the same as intercepting and surreptitiously reading someone’s mail, or the same as taping a phone call without the caller’s knowledge?
Where does a text fit legally? Is it written mail? Is it a phone message? It didn’t come over wires so can you wiretap it, legal or otherwise? Is that text-tapping?
How do you prove the owner of the phone was the person who sent the text? If he didn’t, was the search of his house and subsequent discovery of drugs legal?
My advice here is not to lend your phone to anyone who may be holding you a grudge. Prank texts could lead to all sorts of legal difficulties.
And my guess is, everything you text or cellphone is fair game for prosecution. Remember when Congressman Jim McDermott got in trouble for taping a cellphone message he had accidentally intercepted?
If that had something to do with it being a public transmission, then is a text a radio transmission and subject to FCC decency laws?
Are they going to start FCC-ing every cellphone call?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

#947 Little Shavers

If you’re too young to remember when young men were called little shavers, you’re probably also too young to remember a time when razors had only one blade.
Back then, guys would actually go into a barbershop and have someone else shave them. That someone else would take out a large and really, really sharp blade, strop it on a piece of leather and then scrape it over your face.
The times I watched a barber do it to my father seemed like a horror movie waiting to happen.
How could anyone place so much trust in another person for such a delicate operation, involving such a sharp instrument, next to his most vital neck arteries?
Perhaps that trust was what the makers of the first twin blade men’s razor were counting on. For years, home shavers had gotten along fine with single-bladed safety razors. Then came the Gillette Trac Two. They told us the first blade lifted the beard hair and stretched it so the second one could lop it off even closer.
No one asked why if the blade was so supposedly sharp it was doing any lifting and stretching when it should have been cutting. Numerous independent scientific tests confirmed there was no basis for the twin blade shaving efficiency claim. But trust isn’t about science.
Trust is about belief.
So instead of retreating from the field, Gillette brought out the Atra, that had two blades, a swivel head and a comfort strip, which slightly lubricated your face, and presumably your beard hair, possibly making it more flexible and even less stretchable.
The other day I saw an ad for the Fusion razor. It’s really high tech. It has a built-in flashlight. It vibrates when you shave. I suppose this is so your whiskers can dance when they’re done stretching. And it has five blades.
The commercial announced that it also has a new warning strip, telling you when to change your blade for maximum comfort. I’m sure the strip is accurate.
I trust them.
Just because changing the blade more often means more sales, and increases their market share, why would they lie?
For some reason the words cutthroat competition come to mind.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

#946 Save Our Sense

They say that human beings need to communicate somehow. We have the capacity for language and will find a way to use it. Some languages consist of melodious words; some of glottal clicks, pops, and whistles.
Imagine... a language based on the fundamentals of beatboxing.
So I suppose it’s not unusual kids have picked up on the whole texting phenomenon and taken it to new levels, using every typewriter symbol at their command.
Reading such a message composed of initials, numbers, and real words; one might think we had come back to the days of pidgin English or French patois favored by early Euro traders with indigenous populations.
Throw a bucket of alphabet soup at them and see what sticks.
Sometimes it gets a little absurd when thrown into ordinary speech. I had someone leave me an actual audio message on my phone the other day and she used the term BTW. As in, BTW, I’ll be at the restaurant about 6:00.
Funny, while BTW takes less long to text; it takes exactly the same amount of time to say as By The Way. I had to LOL.
It’s also interesting how little time it takes for something to become a convention. Like when telling someone about a website, it’s really not necessary to speak out the w-w-w- anymore. It’s pretty safely assumed. When I hear a commercial on the air saying www etcetera, I cringe. In radio we’re all about shortening the time of the message and increasing the meaning.
And the letter W happens to be the longest letter in the English language. In fact, the only letter with more than one syllable.
(I bet you’re singing the ABCs to yourself right now aren’t you? Ellemeno is not a letter.)
So to repeat doubleyou doubleyou doubleyou three times is a big waste of time.
Also in radio, the convention has been to type our scripts in all capital letters. Easier to read. Unfortunately, since the new convention of all capitals in blogs and emails settled in, all my scripts now make me want to read them in a shout.
To which I can only utter those time-honored initials of appeal for relief, S.O.S.
Or am I asking for scouring power...?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

#945 Simple Food Wings

Well the Superbowl has come and gone, and with it one of the great advertising and merchandising opportunities of the year. The biggest takeaway I had this year was that Kentucky Fried Chicken is the “Official Wing Sponsor of the NFL.”
I imagine the competition was fierce.
You wonder though, with their supposedly Famous KFC Bowls, that they didn’t try for the coveted Bowl Sponsor of the Super Bowl. You also have to wonder if there was an official thigh or breast competition. KFC, the official leg sponsor of the NFL.
Think they went head to head with McDonalds for the official nugget sponsorship?
By they way, if you read the fine print in their ads, they’re not really wings. The disclaimer says they’re wing pieces. How did the legal beagles arrive at that? All portions of chickens are pieces. Is there an official assemblage of parts known legally as a wing? Only from joint to overly cartilaginous chewy tip? Any sectioning or skinning due to inedibility, making the item ineligible for the designation wing?
Speaking of simple foods. There’s these guys who have a cooking show called Two Dudes One Pan. They teach simple, flavorful cooking and according to them, they do so by not spending a fortune and not using obscure ingredients. I just found one of their recipes for Sake-Soy skillet-seared sea bass.
Since I have a skillet I was interested.
Here’s the list of the supposedly non-obscure ingredients they call for in the marinade. By the way, a marinade just took it off my simple cooking list. Anything that has to soak for 4 hours already crossed my preparation time threshold.
Be that as it may, the ingredients are Mirin rice wine, sake, soy sauce, lemon grass, shallots, kosher salt, garlic, and grapeseed oil. Eight ingredients. I have two of them. Garlic and soy.
Grapeseed oil? Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of the word non-obscure.
Doesn’t matter anyway, I’ve never even seen sea bass in the simple convenience store where I often shop.
I’m guessing it doesn’t go good with jo’s and hot wings.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#944 Low Mercury, Feeling Chili?

I was contemplating a simple can of chili the other day. Chili with beans is a great dietary staple for economically challenging times. It can be purchased in generic form for as little as 79 cents a can. A can makes a relatively decent sized meal.
It’s also a fairly dangerous thing to eat. It contains copious amounts of high blood pressure causing salt and diabetes triggering sugar. It also contains lots of saturated fat, thought to contribute to heart and artery disease, and the questionable cuts of beef usually reserved for hot dogs.
In the old days, such beef was likely to have originated in a greasy blood-spattered meatpacking house which exercised limited efforts in the direction of hygiene.
Hey, safety-minded consumers could always turn to peanut butter.
But still, canned chili stayed on the shelves, and still it sold to and was consumed by the hearty American public. Well recently it developed that cans of chili had another secret sickener, the can itself. Many of them are now coated with BPA, a plastic known to interfere with the reproductive system.
Not content to kill the current generation, chili producers seemed bent on decimating the next. Still we ate on.
Now it seems we have one more item to fear. Most chili no longer contains sugar. In its place is high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup has recently been shown to contain trace amounts of mercury.
Rendering corn grain into corn sugar uses a process involving caustic soda, which is produced at certain chlorine plants, some of which use a method that involves mercury. So you get what is known as Mercury grade caustic soda. A recent study showed 9 in 20 high fructose corn syrup samples included trace amounts of mercury.
The mercury grade caustic soda comes from older plants and costs less. Although there is no way of knowing which high fructose corn syrup ends up where, tests of more expensive products like Coca Cola show no mercury traces.
Chili’s cheap.
Hmm. I feel a little sick. Maybe it’s a cold.
I wonder how much high fructose corn syrup is in chicken noodle soup?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

#943 Greedy Nuts

For years we’ve heard that the cure-all for our economy is deregulation. The evangelists of deregulation tell us the market is the ultimate arbiter of good and bad. The market will correct itself, laissez-faire, Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and all that stuff.
The sad truth is, regulation never would have arrived to be deregulated if it hadn’t been needed. Nobody likes to have to do it. Regulation is an annoying labor and time-intensive process. It’s not only expensive to the company being regulated, it’s expensive to the government and ultimately the taxpayer.
Much better if a company can do it itself. Companies do know themselves best. They are the best people to regulate their business.
Unless they capitulate to the other driving engine of capitalism— Greed. Alan Greenspan seemed so beaten recently when he admitted he’d discovered a fundamental flaw in the system. Companies should have acted in their own best interest, but they didn’t, because the heads of the companies acted in their own short term self interest.
Company and Public be damned.
The guts of the economy oozed out like the center of a fried peanut butter sandwich.
So we see it again with the recent salmonella outbreak. Peanut Corporation of America, the huge peanut butter and peanut paste factory in Georgia, not only shipped salmonella tainted product, they knew it was tainted. They tested batches, found salmonella, then found a lab to test the same batch and give them a negative result, then shipped the batches anyhow.
The heads of the company had to be nuts, and greedy nuts at that. 8 people have died at the time of this writing. Many more are sick. And because PCA ships to wholesale users who render their peanut paste into all manner of products from energy bars to dog biscuits to ice cream this may end up being one of the most massive and expensive recalls of history. Check for a full list. You’ll be amazed how many ways we gobble peanuts.
So there you have it; dead people and lots of money lost.
Sounds like a job for regulation.
Sorry, but if your sole moral motivator is self-interest, things like this are going to happen.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

#942 Obamanable

I was torn the other day when I watched the inauguration on streaming computer video. It was during the prayers.
Let me say first off that the term Obama Nation is being embraced by our young. It’s kind of like a play on Fast Food Nation or The Wired Nation of one of those things. A phrase denoting a vast change and a nation committed to a new beginning, symbolized by one figure of hope. Obama Nation.
It sounds so resounding, and yet somehow familiar. And it’s the familiar sounding way that Obama’s detractors are using. Some of them from the religious right. They use the term because it sound likes abomination. As in, an abomination before the Lord. As in, cast it out!
To them the Abomination Obama-Nation semi-homonym is a rallying cry for a different kind of change. A change in administrations.
This inspiration occurred to me while I was watching the inauguration invocation of Pastor Rick Warren. I was feeling mildly blasphemous because I was watching him deliver the prayer. I wanted to see what he said because I was on the phone, on hold, waiting for a customer. So I was watching the closed captioning of the prayer.
My Baptist upbringing reared its fiery brimstoned head. “Abomination!” it cried, “Bow your head and close your eyes when someone is praying.” But if I closed my eyes I wouldn’t be able to see the prayer. And since I couldn’t hear it, how would I know when it was over?
I’m not sure what the Bible says about closed captioning. I know it’s not strong on public praying to begin with, admonishing folks to pry privately in a closet. So maybe my streaming trespass will be forgiven.
And maybe the pastor reading what should be a spontaneous from-the-heart prayer from notes or a teleprompter is in the abomination category anyhow.
Speaking of TV, at least Obama acted quickly to halt some change—the changeover to digital TV. A lot of older Americans weren’t ready for the switch from analogue to digital. So Obama holding off the deadline means their TVs won’t have just a bunch of static on their screens.
And that means, dare I say it?
No Obamanable snow, man.
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

#941 Exjobulating

The blowback from the cratering of the United States economy is destroying jobs at an alarming rate. Twice as many people as are unemployed are under-employed, forced to take jobs paying less to avoid not working altogether.
It’s a painful, demoralizing, and dehumanizing experience. Giving your all to a company for years, only to find them bought out, then yourself sold out, to the vultures of the financial world. Even worse, when an entire industry collapses because of a period of unsustainable growth—the housing market, burning hot and bright like a young superstar, but also too fast, a blue giant consuming all its fuel and going supernova.
Unfortunately, that supernova is affecting all the steady yellow suns in the vicinity too. So it’s time we recognized the human side of this whole equation. The Attack Dogs of the Extreme Right are already yammering about Obama taking us into socialism. What they seem to forget is it was their way of deregulation and ultra-greed, coupled with too much pork barrel and not enough taxes, which ignited this economic supernova.
All right. The human side. Losing your job has always been dehumanizing as well. Partly because unemployment has always been minimized by the words politicians use. “Unemployment” is a euphemism of its own.
How about “out of work” or “jobless”?
Remember when workforces were being “restructured”? Or you weren’t fired, your position was “realigned”? Maybe your category was “outsourced.” Either way, you were “laid off.”
“Laid off” sounds so much gentler than “fired.” Or even cast off. Laid off. Hardly sounds like an action at all. More like setting a piece of clothing gently to the side when you’re done wearing it.
Not stuffing something in the trash.
The newest euphemism is even more troubling. Obama said it in his inaugural speech. Companies are “shedding jobs.” The financial news articles say the same thing. So-an-so Corporation had to shed 1800 jobs.
My God.
It makes labor sound so unimportant, and certainly not like suffering people.
Shedding. It makes human beings sound like a skin disease. They’re shedding jobs. What, they’re exfoliating employees? Is there a lotion for that?
Introducing the new Obamalotion, now with added FDR!
We can only hope.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

#940 E-Exhibitionism

I worry that many of us are starting to take this whole posting stuff online thing to dangerous levels. I mean, shouldn’t a diary be private?
Granted, the memory of one’s own computer may be compromised every time you go online. But that doesn’t mean you yourself should post your most intimate details on the internet.
Two websites I read about recently demonstrate my concern. The first one is It’s purportedly planned to help women keep track of their menstrual cycles. It’s designed to send out alerts, so you know when that time of the month is impending or to help if you plan to get pregnant.
You know, I’m no expert in Microsoft Works, but I’m pretty sure its basic calendar function is capable of sending you an alert every month or so. I mean, it manages Aunt Nessie’s birthday and my monthly bunco meeting so I’m thinking a little coded entry would suffice.
Why online? Is finding out from your iPhone that important? “What was that ploop noise?” “Oh, that was my ovulation ringtone.”
I’m sure its protected by a password and all, and it’s a fair bet hackers have better things to do than watch your menstrual show, but why bother?
It’s seems to be part of our larger tendency towards e-exhibitionism. This need to relentlessly post the minutiae of our empty lives. Connecting us, albeit anonymously, with the larger social organism of the World Wide Web.
The other website illustrates the point even further. It’s called For those, “wanting to quantify their bedroom life.” They offer categorization tools so you can catalogue your amorous activities. Using Excel or Sexcel?
You can even create charts and tables about your favorite acts and partners. Or if you’re a furniture fetishist, a table of the tables you’ve celebrated, um, Thanksgiving on.
Putting aside for a moment the vast quantity of folks who would not have enough entries for a valid statistical sample, why? And why online?
But the larger question is, who would create websites like this? And what for? Is there a secret government organization tracking all the bodily functions?
I’ll have to Google regularity dot com and find out...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

#939 Captain Caption

A while back I had the pleasure of witnessing the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.
But since I was at work, I couldn’t watch it on one of the regular TV or Cable channels.
We have no TVs at the radio station.
But we do have computers, and lots of them, and we have a relatively robust data pipe. So we were able to watch the inauguration via streaming. How far we’ve come at inaugurations—from just being there, to radio, to TV, and finally to desktops and WiFi and laptops across the land. The inauguration of a digital inauguration.
I just know there was one job at the inauguration I wouldn’t have wanted to have. The closed captioning guy. Talk about pressure. He was probably some naval communications officer pressed into service for the occasion—Captain Caption perhaps.
I salute him.
I can’t type anyhow, but to try to type what was happening as it was happening and know that millions of people were watching your letters flash up on the screen—I’da hada infarction for sure.
We were watching closed captioning as part of the stream and it was interesting some of the mistakes that cropped up. At one point in President Obama’s speech he very clearly said something about “America having a new spirit.” But instead of “spirit” the closed captioning guy accidentally typed in “snert.” I feel sorry for the deaf folks and people on the health club treadmills watching the broadcast.
There’s something both mystifying and troubling about America having a new snert.
Then Captain Caption had the challenging task of describing what was happening when people weren’t talking. Like the trumpet blasts announcing dignitaries. He wrote “Herald Trumpet followed by Ruffles and Flourishes.”
Ruffles and flourishes, what, is he describing The First Lady’s dress?
But my favorite was when he obviously was getting exhausted from the pressure. Instead of typing "Cheers and Applause," he typed "Cheese and Applause."
So to all the unsung Captain Captions out there. Thank you. You have our silent applause. And it’s not cheesy at all.
Because we’re with you in snert.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

#938 Spit Tune

So they say you shouldn’t tug on Superman’s Cape, pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, or spit into the wind. But recent science has indicated you may like to spit into the wound.
If you want it to heal faster, that is.
That’s right, all that stuff you hear about the human mouth having more germs than dog mouths and people getting bit by humans getting sicker than from snake bites, it’s all apparently an exaggeration.
At least if you bite yourself.
Ever notice how if you have a lesion of some sort inside your mouth it heals quicker than a cut on your finger? Doctors first thought that was because the wound was kept moist. So we have all sorts of greasy antibiotic balms you’re supposed to slather on and then cover with a bandage.
Then scientists thought mouth wounds healed quicker because of “growth factors” in the saliva. Turns out there weren’t enough of those to make a difference. So researchers recently isolated saliva compounds known as histatins. They promote the migration of skin cells to knit wounds together.
Histatins have nothing to do with hissy fits, which can actually cause wounds to occur.
But the old adage about retiring from the battlefield to lick your wounds actually has some medical merit. And not just for dogs and fighting elephants. Humans too can benefit from a salivary slathering.
Slobber on the shaving slice under your lip and see what happens. Next time a cop stops you for drunk driving, inform him that you’re not drooling per se, you’re healing that wound on your chin from when you tripped over a curb.
And if you have inflamed eyelids, you might try a little saliva. It’s wrong to spit in someone else’s eye, but it might help your own.
Researchers are even now isolating histatins to try to reproduce them, get them on the market and make pools of profit.
Talk about injecting liquidity.
Medical marketers singing the praises of saliva.
Accompanied, perhaps, by the music of a wet whistle playing a spit tune.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

#937 Simple Slime

There’s a more or less common current in our national culture stream to return to simplicity. A yearning for the less complex, the uncomplicated times of old. It may hark back to that simple beatitude uttered during the Sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Or maybe he said “sleek.” You know, it was hard to transcribe speeches in those days. No close-captioning or electronic typewriters, just a guy with a stick and a hunk of clay—or maybe a stylus and papyrus.
It could have been sleek, as in slick, as in slime, because our simple organic cousins are responsible for so much earthlike stuff. Take your bacteria. Couldn’t get much more simple could you? One-celled animals swimming around with odd appendages like cilia and flagellators.
We have learned to expect a couple of bacteria here and there. In our gut, in the cow pasture. Making our yogurt and cheese. But scientists have recently determined that we owe something even more important to bacteria. The rain.
That’s right; scientists have always assumed the microscopic particle that rain needs to coalesce around to precipitate moisture from the atmosphere is dust. Turns out in many cases it’s floating bacteria.
And it seems some of them do it on purpose. The bacterium pseudomonas syringae is a plant pathogen that promotes frost damage on crops. One of its proteins mimics ice’s crystalline structure and helps transform water into ice. Then it can do its damage. It lofts up into the air from one field and travels to another.
Bacteria hitchhiking on clouds.
Uh oh.
On purpose? Who knows?
Scientists have also recently discovered primitive intelligence in slime molds. The researchers subjected slime mold to freezing temperatures at periodic times and zones on a culture dish. The slime mold learned to anticipate the times and not grow towards that zone when a cold snap was due.
By the way, global warming is helping bacteria claim vast new territories. We may return to simplicity whether we like it or not. As we raised up, so shall we fall...
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Slime to slime.
America, ya gotta love it.