Thursday, August 27, 2009

#1082 Current Words

We all know that it’s hard to keep current with our changing language. But we expect certain institutions, like, um, newspapers, to follow the rules we learned in school. Particularly when it comes to tenses.
You remember—present tense, past tense, and the always annoying perfect tenses, past, present and future. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost my grasp of which is named what, but I’ve been able to maintain my usage intact.
So I’m pretty sure about how things go with the verb “go.”
You go. You went. You have gone. He goes. He went. He has gone.
But our esteemed local newspaper, in the headline of an editorial, actually went off the deep end grammatically. They were applauding our local transit organization, which went far in their dedication to service. The headline read: “Intercity Transit Has Went A Long Way To Encourage Mass Transit.”
Now maybe they know something I don’t, like where to hire a headline writer with little regard for convention. And truth be told, my grammar-checker in my Word program has went and ignored putting a squiggly green line under it. But I’m still sure it is, was, and will be wrong.
It’s certainly not elegant. Like the speaker I heard the other day. She was talking about water rights, and how difficult it is to build consensus among conflicting players, and used the phrase: “As you might imagine, there’s misalignment between multiple interests.” What a lovely and delicate way to describe disagreement.
Later I asked if the sale of water rights was viewed as transferring a liquid asset. An example of how slippery words can be.
Like when I was talking with Roxy DJ Kris Marshall, and he was telling me about this new current checker his dad had. “You don’t even have to stick a wire in,” he said. “You can hold it close to what you’re checking and an LED light will come on, and it’ll make a little buzzing sound.”
I said, “Wow, my current checker is really out of date.”
Has this pun went too far?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#1081 Audio Peeking

Not long ago, we were standing around the studio and one of the guys said, “I took a peek at your audio and it’ll most likely work.”
I said, “Is it possible to take a peek at something you’re listening to?”
Well in this case it was, because he was referring to the way audio looks on a computer screen in a sound-editing program—all the squiggly lines and stuff.
But it got me to thinking. Is there a word for listening that’s equivalent to the word “peek” for seeing—a short, quick, impression? You take a peek at something if you are either being quick or sneaky. You glance at something if you want to give it a quick look too. But is there a similar word for a quick listen? Other than, I took a quick listen?
For the sneaky peek, there’s eavesdrop. But somehow I don’t get the same implied quick duration for eavesdrop that I do for peek. You can lend someone an ear, but again, it’s usually a relatively long-term lease.
They say a person can perceive visual images at 6 times the speed of audio impressions like the spoken word. That’s why sales and informational presentations often have visual aids. It helps to keep people’s minds from straying.
But it certainly doesn’t help that even the language we speak doesn’t have a word for quickly listening. We can talk in sound-bites and snippets and sharp rejoinders. But we always seem to listen to them passively and with undefined duration.
When you cut someone off audio-wise, it usually involves some help, with either action or technology. You walk away from the conversation. You hang up on some one.
Maybe it’s because we can close our eyes and mouth, but we can’t close our ears. Not unless we stick our fingers in them and start singing a series of nonsensical syllables so we won’t hear someone telling us the spoiler ending of a movie.
Na na na na na na na na na na...
So as one of the great pioneers of short bursts of audio, Samuel Morse, put it, “That’s the long and short of it.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

#1080 And the Beat Goes On & Off

It’s the law of unintended consequences.
I was at a theatre and they had a live band. The drum set was on a raised area of the stage. My first thought was, “Gee are drummers particularly susceptible to swine flu?” Because this guy’s entire drum set was encased in a sneeze guard.
Then I looked a little closer and noticed that each drum had a little microphone on it. About then I hear the sound guy at his board behind me talking into his microphone saying, “...okay now the floor tom, okay, now the bass...” and so on.
So it all made sense. They have ripped the throats and guts out of the wild abandon of drumming and civilized the sound so it can be perfectly mixed in with other instruments. They want the control of syntho-drums but the visual effect of a real guy playing real ones. So they have to amplify the drums with microphones so they can turn the microphones down.
The beat goes on...and off.
And they enclose the drummer in Plexiglas panels like he’s the Pope on tour. Or with a giant a sneeze guard because being a drummer is like having a disease of wild sound that could infect all the other players.
Another unintended consequence I saw recently. My neighborhood has a homeowners’ association with covenants. It’s also near a river. To get to the river people trespass across a certain area. They also leave tons of trash and start fires. So the homeowners’ association finally erected a nice wrought-iron fence across the area where the people were trespassing.
But they didn’t extend the fence into the yard of the person that was next to that area. So once the fence was up, the trespassers went around it—through the guy’s yard. The guy put up a chicken wire fence to stop them.
The homeowners’ association made him take it down. It wasn’t consistent with the architectural control parts of the covenants.
Of course, if the homeowners’ association hadn’t put up the first fence the second fence wouldn’t have been necessary.
For some reason I thought of the drummer and his sneeze guard.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

#1079 Ant-i-Healthy

Another bugaboo thrown out by those who favor the status quo, is that Health Care reform will be socialized medicine. I don’t know, does government involvement necessarily mean socialism? Anymore than the interstate highway system is socialized roads, or the Center for Disease Control, the highly respected CDC, is socialized science?
Some of the interesting features of the status quo, by the way, are that the US has higher infant mortality than Europe and an immunization rate worse than Botswana’s. As a nation, we currently spend more on health care than anywhere else, and yet we’re unhealthier.
How did we get there?
We acted like ants. Ever seen an ant trail in the early stages? Ants don’t go from their nest directly to the food—from point A to point B. They wander. Forager ants meander this way and that until they finally end up at the food. Others follow the scent left by the first ants until eventually there’s a path to the food, but it’s pretty crooked and inefficient. There may be places along the way that are hazardous and a few ants in the nest die, but most of the ants back at the nest get fed. The ant trail improves incrementally as some ants take shortcuts and the trail gets marginally straighter. But it takes a long time to happen.
Now a smart observer looking at the ant trail would see the straight way from point A to B, and solve the problem quickly. Here’s why our ant trail healthcare system needs such an outsider.
A poor person has no insurance—say he lost his job or doesn’t work for the government or a union, or a high-paying job like congress, where they subsidize his insurance. He needs medical care so he goes to the emergency room—the most expensive care there is. The hospital can’t get any money from him, so they raise the prices they charge to everybody else. The insurance companies, who pay the prices, raise their rates to pay for the increased costs, and maybe add in an extra buck or two of profit—hey, they’re insurance companies. The unions and employers pass on those costs to workers and employees. If you work for the government, they pass on the costs to guess who? You the taxpayer.
So we already have taxpayer-supported health care, it’s just as inefficient as an ant trail.
Is it possible to take a wider perspective and save money? And maybe get our infant mortality rate down while we’re at it?
Or should we keep acting like mindless ants?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

#1078 Healthy Reforms

In all the flap about health care reform, the big issue seems to be that the idea of government-run health care makes some people sick. The bugaboo they always trot out is, “who ever heard of government running anything good?”
Remember that old statistic about 9 out of 10 new businesses failing. It’s true. Business doesn’t always know how to do stuff either. The government has bailed a lot of them out. In fact, our nation has a long and storied history of corporate welfare.
From the Louisiana Purchase and the eventual Homestead Act, to The Transcontinental Railroad and the US Interstate Highway system, we have all benefited from massive injections of federal money into the hands of businesses, which then trickles down into the hands of the taxpayers who put up the money to begin with.
I like to think both private enterprise and government are at least trying to do good. I like my private homeowners’ association. They’re pretty good at planning picnics. But I call the county when there’s a pothole in the street, because no one wants to raise our dues enough to fix roads.
It’s funny how people get up in arms when the government proposes giving people a benefit directly, like health care. It’s okay to bail out a giant insurance and investment company like AIG, but all of a sudden we’re afraid that government administration necessarily means government rationing. Aren’t we being rationed already when we lose our healthcare because we lose our job because the business we worked for cratered after paying all their profits out in golden parachutes?
And why should businesses have to pay for their employees’ health care anyhow? Wouldn’t it be easier to be profitable if workers had their health insurance deducted, as they do their social security and unemployment insurance? If everyone’s in the pool, insurance costs go down.
But hey, I’m no expert. I just think every time people say government shouldn’t get involved in business they should remember corporate welfare schemes like sports stadiums and the aircraft industry after World War II.
And the next time they say government can’t run something, maybe they should look at the most successful military in the world.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

#1077 Trust Knot

One of the knottiest problems we have these days is, whom do you trust? The internet is littered with misinformation, crooks send you phishy emails about your bank accounts, everywhere you turn it seems more and more people are trying to misinform you.
So it’s no surprise a lot of America trusts its comedians and artists more than anyone else. A recent poll indicated that America’s most trusted newscaster is Jon Stewart—an admitted promulgator of a fake newscast.
44% of those polled considered him “most trusted.” The next figures were Brian Williams at 29%, Charles Gibson at 19% and Katie Couric at 7%.
Wow, only 7% for a woman who once let us watch her colonoscopy. So much for revealing your inner self.
I pick up some of my most trusted information from detective novels—from authors framing their fiction in real contexts. Like I learned the other day that ironworkers, the epitome of blue-collar America, use the term “Joe” to describe a newbie, a novice, or a complete idiot. I wonder what ironworkers thought of Joe the Plumber.
Some stuff you almost expect. Recently there was a lobbying flap in Washington. Lobbying firms have always been fast and furious with skewing the facts, but this reached a new low. Seems Bonner and Associates, whose clients include a number of coal companies, sent letters to lawmakers. But they were forged letters, supposedly from the NAACP and a Latino lobbying group. The fake letters asked the lawmakers to oppose climate change legislation to, quote, “protect minorities.”
Funny, you wouldn’t expect the coal companies to oppose climate legalization, anymore than you’d expect the insurance companies to oppose health care reform.
What could possibly be in it for them?
A worse indication of the lying roads we’re traveling is the New Brunswick newspaper whose editors inserted a rumor that an Evangelical Prime Minister palmed a communion wafer rather than eating it at a Catholic state funeral.
The editor and publisher have been fired. But it’s interesting that they lied that the prime minister was deceptive.
That’s the most insidious knot of truth to untangle—when the other person lies by accusing you of lying.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

#1076 Bing Things

It’s funny how new things take hold so quickly and become the norm from which we all draw comparisons. Like the 3-R’s. It’s a fairly new idea. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, some marketer’s creation that summed up the actions we all might take to save the planet.
Reduce what we put into the waste stream by steering clear of over-packaging. Reuse the stuff we have already, like empty water bottles made of over-packaging that we can fill back up at the water faucet, and Recycle that plastic container in the recycle bin to be ground up to make another one.
I had a friend the other day point out another ‘R’ that we’ve been neglecting. We were at an event and she pointed out that a gift that someone had just gotten was a gift she had seen before.
“Oh,” she said, “That’s the 4th ‘R’. Re-gifting.” The cool thing was, I and the people around her got it instantly. The 3-Rs are already so embedded in our culture that they’re a humorous reference.
Then I said, “...and I’m going to take advantage of the fifth ‘R’” and went to the tap to Refill my beer.
By the way, I wanted to be sure I had the 3-R’s right so I Googled them. Instant recognition there too. And another example of something we didn’t have 20 years ago that’s commonplace today.
Like we say we Xerox something when we make a copy, and like we call most brown colas Coke, Google has transformed into the preferred verb and synonym for “search”.
So much so that another friend the other day was telling me about the new search engine “Bing,” and when I said, “What’s Bing?” he said, “It’s Microsoft’s Google.”
Now that’s product saturation. When even the great Microsoft takes a second seat in the comparison game. But my favorite ironic thing was when my friend stumbled about how I could access Bing’s website and find out about it, I said, “That’s okay, I’ll just Google it.”
And I did. I got to Bing through Google. So now I can Google Bing or Bing Google.
I’m worried though. Google, Bing, Twitter, Tweet. Why does our greatest technology sound like baby talk?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

#1075 3-D 3-Rs

I think the next green revolution has to take place in our movie theatres. No, I’m not talking about the movie industry generally, although I could. Think of the huge carbon footprint involved in filming a blockbuster movie. All the car chases, all the explosions and assorted pyrotechnics, all the electricity burned from lighting massive outdoor sound stages.
Imagine if you had 20 million dollars to spend on fireworks at your Fourth of July party. Think there’d be a touch of smoke in the air afterwards?
The only answer? More whimsical English parlor comedies. Yeah, I know, it probably won’t happen soon. Not least because it would be pointless to film it in 3-D. Did you see the wart on Dame Judy Dench’s chin? It jumped out of the screen.
But that’s where I think we can make a small difference, greening the 3-D retail process. As it stands now, most movie theatres charge you an extra couple of bucks for a 3-D movie. They say it’s for the glasses that you get at the beginning of every movie. They have bins to collect them afterwards at some places, but most are done in souvenir style and you are encouraged to take them with you.
But not to bring them back.
Putting aside for a moment the fashion faux pas of wearing a pair of Batman glasses to the animated presentation of Up, there is the economic motivator of requiring you to pony up extra for each and every movie.
Meantime, because we can’t recycle the 3-D glasses, the planet is suffering. They’re individually wrapped, so there’s the footprint of all that excess packaging right there. The glasses are plastic, which is made of petroleum, so there’s the footprint of transporting the oil and drilling for it and all associated costs. And of course all the road miles involving gas, oil, and truck tires to ship the darn things to every theatre in the US.
In short, 3-D glasses need the 3 R’s. Remember? Reduce Reuse Recycle. So next time they come out with the 3-D version of Star Wars you should demand they replace R-2 D-2 with of 3-R 3-D.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

#1074 Teem Thank

The English language is a funny thing indeed. The other day I was listening to a commercial on the radio and the announcer said that one group was teaming up with another to do something good.
And I thought, is there any other way to team? We don’t team down. We certainly don’t team around, but we do team up. And the reason for this is, if we just team, it sounds like we’re saying team spelled t-e-e-m- and not t-e-a-m-.
When you t-e-e-m- teem you are swarming. The gnats teemed in a cloud over the cesspool. They didn’t team up, even though they were floating upwards in the air. They just teemed.
When things teem, it sounds so much more scary. Locusts teeming over the crops. The enemy teeming on the opposite shore, ready to attack.
It’s confusing, but our language is teeming with weird words that deal with plurals. For example, greater minds than mine have wondered why pants only appear in pairs. I suppose a pair of pants makes some sense, as there are two legs on it. But we also say a pair of panties. And you can have a singular panty, but almost never can you have a singular pant.
“Give me my pant,” is not an acceptable phrase.
A similar confusion reigns with thanks. Thanks are always plural. Even the stingiest appreciator can not give one thank. You can be thankful. You can shower a person with thanks. But you cannot dole out a carefully measured single thank.
No matter how many pants you are wearing.
Funny too, since a similar word, bank, which can be both verb and noun, has no such restriction. If I was rich enough, I can give someone banks. I can use one of those banks when I go to the bank and bank my money for a later withdrawal.
I can be banking money at the bank but I can’t be thanking someone with a thank.
Even if I team up in a teeming swarm of thankful bankers.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

#1073 Retread Lightly

So there I was, minding my own business. It was morning, my brain still a little foggy. I was driving down the road going over my mental calendar, planning my day. Something caught my eye. It was the flashing lights of a state patrol car off to the left.
Blinking, flashing, spinning, attention-getting. As a well-trained driver, my first thought was to check my speedometer. I am so Pavlovian when it comes to flashing lights. Stater means ticket. My speedometer showed I was speeding by about five mph so I backed off a little bit, at the same time chastising myself for being paranoid.
And stupid, it’s flashing lights in the rearview mirror I should be worried about, not flashing lights up ahead.
But now I was curious. Why was the cop off to the left, parked against the jersey barrier in the breakdown lane? There must be someone he’s pulled over, but who could it be? There appeared to be no one in front of him. Was it a tiny Smart Car? A Motorcycle?
I was in the middle lane, and just as a car passed by the policeman so I could see, another car started to pass to my left. In the gap I was surprised to see that there was no one in front of the state patrol car!
A bigger surprise awaited. As I turned back to look down my lane, right smack dab in the middle of it was a huge chunk of ripped off tire retread.
In the split second of panic I had to enjoy the tableau, I determined that it was just narrow enough to pass between my wheels and under my car if I nudged to the left.
With a big ka-chunk ka-chunk and a garble-y noise that sounded like my undercarriage was being ripped out, I passed over the offending rubber mass.
Now I was very full of adrenaline, and very mad at the Stater. In order to warn me he had actually distracted me. Had he not been there my eyes would have been where they were supposed to be, on the road ahead.
Instead, I ended up in a stater confusion...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

#1072 Unexpected Aspect

The scary thing is how something takes over and you’re not even aware of it. Suddenly it becomes the status quo while your cultural back is turned. Steadily, stealthily, the thing creeps into the everyday, slowly donning the attributes of familiarity. Then you wake up and go, “Hey, wait a minute. When did that happen?”
By then, of course, it’s too late. I remember the movie Total Recall, back in 1990, when the Arnold wasn’t the governator. They had these really cool TVs that were totally futuristic. They could show aquariums or outdoor vistas and you could hang them flat on the wall.
It all seemed so farfetched. The panels were cool, but it turns out they weren’t the shape of things to come after all.
The other day I was thinking of getting a now ordinary flat panel TV. I almost bought it, but I stopped and said to myself, “I better measure my hole first.”
I went home and looked at the hole I’d once had constructed into my wall over the fireplace when I built my house, and the first thing I noticed? The hole is square. Its aspect ratio is wrong for the new TV. The new TV is a short wide rectangle.
But what really got me was that the first thought in my mind was the “aspect ratio” is all wrong. I never heard the term aspect ratio a few years ago. Certainly not at the time of the Total Recall movie. The ratio of height to width was a concern completely unheard of. Oh sure, we had to deal with letterboxing fairly early, as movies from the big screen had to be converted to home viewing on VHS. But again, we never heard the term aspect ratio. Now we use it all the time as we touch and flip our touch and flip phones every which way to change the configuration of our virtual keyboards.
But it was certainly never discussed by my builder 10 years ago. No, he was caught up in bull-nose corners and orange peel texturing.
And I was the one left with a square hole and nothing around to stick in it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

#1071 Garlicking

If you see a cloud wafting up the I-5 corridor and when that cloud reaches you it’s redolent of a certain pungent root, then you know it’s that time of year again.
Yep, it’s time for the annual Chehalis Garlic Fest. Over 65 strains of organically grown garlic!
I was looking at their circular, and the interesting thing is, they appear to have no major corporate sponsors. You’d think they’d be able to get some major soft drink or beer. Who doesn’t like washing down a plate of garlicked pasta with a cold mug of hefeweizen? Or a giant garlic pizza and a Pepsi?
At the very least, you’d expect this would be a natural place for a big corporate endorsement by Listerine. Listerine, the company with one of the weirdest advertising slogans of all time: “If it’s burning you know its working”.
Sounds like an advertisement for a social disease.
In any event, you’d think Listerine would have sent spies down to scope out that action faster than you can say dragonbreath.
Hey, there’s an idea, Olympia has the dragonboat competition. Chehalis could have the dragonbreath competition. And it’s a natural too. Because what is the other place Chehalis is famous for? The Chehalis Mint factory.
Hmm...Garlic Fest and Mint factory. Coincidence, or very clever marketing?
But the best part is Garlic Fest’s famous garlic cuisine. I loved looking at the list of garlic offerings on the circular. The problem is they mixed in the regular food with the garlic stuff and so your mind just naturally assumes that it’s garlic-infested too.
They got “garlic corn on the cob,” “garlic fries,” “garlic rosemary funnel cakes,” and then they list “fudge.” Yum. Garlic fudge.
They then list “waffle cones and sundaes” and you think aha, no garlic there, and then they list “garlic ice cream.” Eeyew.
Tongue cramp.
I especially like it when they list “garlic kettle corn” and “garlic donuts” and then list “shaved ice.” Mmm Mmm, that’s got to be a treat. Garlic shaved ice.
Shaved ice. I always wonder about that. Was the ice hairy to begin with?
Maybe adding garlic is an improvement.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1070 Renal Rabbinical

Our world just seems to be getting crazier every day. Partly it’s people being what they’ve always been, corrupt, greedy, and immoral, and partly its people using those traits with new technology.
Communications technology has improved so drastically since a few decades ago, that the world’s most elusive terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, continues to be able to issue taped missives from remote hideouts. “It’s the newest Bin Laden tape,” the media will crow, and out will come his most recent hits against Satan America.
The same Satan who invented all the technology Osama gets his message across with. Go internet.
His messages are treated like new releases from pop stars. I’m surprised his latest MP3s aren’t downloadable on iTunes.
And now it seems refrigeration technology has made it possible for corrupt physicians, mayors and rabbis to be involved in a kidney black market. Whether you checked your organ donor box on your license or not, your body parts may end up being acquired by someone else, for a price. A recent corruption probe in New Jersey netted a number of mayors and a whole bunch of rabbis who were making both money laundering and an illegal organ donor scam work. Is this what they mean by organ-ized crime?
And the rabbis who facilitated the process—how? Had they counseled a crooked physician? Did they talk some poor schmuck into donating one of his kidneys for a low price and then turn around and sell it really high?
Or were they there just to make sure the rendering was kosher, in case one of the recipients down the line asked.
It presents a religious dilemma. Do the injunctions of Leviticus have anything to say about transplants? You’re not eating the organ, but it’s certainly going into your body.
I just figure if I were a rabbi, my first thought would be, is it legal? Render unto Caesar what is Caesar, only then can you make salad.
And in New Jersey of all places. Wow. You knew from their license plates that they were the Garden State. But I bet you didn’t know one of things they were harvesting was human organs.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

#1069 Slider Fashion

Recently I saw an ad for a cooking device known as a “slider station.” It was captioned with the captivating “As Seen On TV” and had a little picture of the late Billy Mays.
He would be proud. Here he is dead for a while and he’s still selling product. Billy Mays, the Posthumous Pitchman.
But what got me was how behind I am on food fashions. What the heck is a slider? Answer: a small burger or burger-like sandwich. Tiny buns like BK Burger Bundles.
So why is it called a slider? I have no idea. Because they slide down easy with brewskis at happy hour? Because they cook quickly and slide right off the grill? Because they slide right through you?
Reminds me of the California fast food hamburger chain with the unfortunate name, “In and Out Burgers.” Is it popular with bulimics in trendy Southern California? Or does their product do a quick pass through, like picnic egg salad on a hot summer day?
Sliders. It just doesn’t sound that appetizing.
But hey, we are a nation of food fashion. Like the recent craze for flatbread. It looks like we’ll never tire of folding our food. It’s such a cross-cultural thing. You got your taco, the Mexican foldover food. Deep fry the tortilla and you have a chalupa.
Which for my money is about the funniest word in the world to say. Chalupa. Cha-looooop-ah.
And then there’s the Greek foldover with their gyro, whose name looks like a spinning top but is pronounced like European currency. “Dude, we’re in Greece, let’s spend our euros on gyros.
And now a travesty I can’t even begin to contemplate. Subway is introducing a submarine sandwich made with fold-over flatbread. So really¾does it even qualify as a submarine sandwich any more? A submarine sandwich is supposed to have a submarine sandwich roll shaped like a submarine. Even with the roll, it’s hard to keep all the fillings in. So now we want them to slide out the ends like a taco?
Hmm, filling sliding out. I got it. Let’s not call it a sub.
Let’s call it a slider.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

#1068 Battle Loins

Yesterday I dove into the mystery of the “tuna loin” I had seen on a restaurant menu. I was confused. I thought loins had to do with the inner thighs and the area between them, and to my recollection fish possess neither of these, being totally devoid of the legs whose nexus creates the crotch.
Further study led me to the discovery that in butcher’s terms, the loin comes from the side and back between the ribs and the pelvis. The pelvis is the hip in cows. Fish must have a similar structure.
But here’s the thing. At first, I thought I had been wrong all these years. I had been going off that old phrase some famous general told his warriors in the Trojan War: “Gird your loins for battle!”
I thought he meant to secure their reproductive organs. Because I had also been exposed to another primitive garment in various historical depictions, namely, the loincloth.
As the loincloth never appeared to cover the side and back between the ribs and the pelvis, it didn’t occur to me that that’s where a loin was. I had been going along merrily for years, eating sirloin, sirloin tip, top loin, loin roasts and tenderloin, and assuming they all originated from the inner thighs of cows.
Since meat is essentially muscle, it made sense. And since thighs and legs on chickens are relatively tender, compared to the stringy back meat, it was a logical conclusion.
Who would have thought all those tender cuts actually came from the area on a cow that on humans we call the love handles.
But thank goodness I researched further. It turns out that loin has two meanings. On meat animals, it is the rib and pelvis deal. On humans, it is the area of the inner thighs and groin.
So I’m not a total idiot. And next time I hear the phrase “gird his loins for battle” I don’t have to reconstruct my mental image from a guy putting on the primitive equivalent of a jock strap to a guy putting on the equivalent of a Home Depot support belt.
Then again, where does the word girdle fit in...?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

#1067 Tuna Loin

So I’m riffling through one of the jillion phone books the other day looking for something and as is always the case with compendium type books, I start paying attention to everything but the thing I’m looking for.
I save so much time using an online dictionary. I can just look up one word without being caught by all the other words on the way to it, as I do in a physical dictionary.
So I noticed in passing through the many lawyer ads that some lawyers listed as a qualification that they were former judges. I wonder about that. Why aren’t they a judge now? Did they stop judging for a reason, and if so, was it voluntary or involuntary? Are they telling us they used to be a judge so we’ll think they have an inside track with the current judges? “I know people... we used to hang our robes in the same room...”
There’s no good reason they can give. “Not enough money in judging.” Makes you seem greedy. “I got tired of deciding all the time.” “I hated it when people said I was judgmental.” “I just want to be uncertain for a change.”
It’s a dilemma. I think I’d have the judgment to leave it out of my phone book resume.
Then I went further in the phone book and got stuck in the restaurant menus. This is not a place to go when you’re hungry at 3 am. All of them are closed then, but they still have these great mouth-watering descriptions. I saw one thing odd. This one restaurant serves yellow fin tuna loin.
Now I’m no ichthyologist. I skipped it in college because I thought it was an icky theology class. But in order to have a loin don’t you need to have a leg? I’ve always thought of loins as being crotch related. Inner thighs. As in gird your loins for battle.
Well thanks to phonebook tuna I found out I’m wrong. Curious about tuna loins, I went to an internet beef chart. It showed the loin as being on the lower back.
And in my judgment, fishes do have backs.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

#1066 Paid Market

I recently came across one of those “instant polls” on a website. You know the ones I’m talking about; they ask you to choose from three really simplistic answers to a complex question. Two of the answers are absolutely ludicrous, or phrased in such a way that to choose them would make you seem like you were either exceptionally cruel or a total idiot.
The last choice always seems mild, comforting, reasonable, and familiar. In this case the question was, “What do you think is a best solution to the healthcare reform issue?” And the mildest, most comforting, and simple answer was, “Let the free market do its thing.”
Now I’m a big advocate of the free market, I think it’s one of the most natural and responsive economic systems there is. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s far from free, as the manipulations of the Madoff’s and the AIGs of the cratered economy have pointed out.
There are all kinds of un-free forces at work in healthcare and every other enterprise, as various groups roll out the dough to capture their biggest slice of the un-free pie.
In any event, about the time I saw the survey I saw an interesting statistic. The insurance industry and some medical groups have hired more than 350 ex-government staff people and retired congress-folks to help them lobby about aspects of new healthcare legislation. It is a record-breaking influence campaign by those in the health-care industry who stand to lose the most profits.
And here’s the most sobering statistic in these near-depression times. They are spending 1.4 million dollars a day on lobbying. That’s right, 1.4 million dollars a day. Talk about economic stimulus.
Now 511 million a year is a pig in the poke compared to the billions in bailouts AIG and their ilk got, but still, that whole 511 million is being spent on only 535 congressmen and senators. That’s nearly a million a piece. These are the same congress people, by the way, who already have the best personal healthcare plan on the planet.
It may not be a free market, but it looks like a certain group might get what it paid for.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

#1065 Twitter Twaddle

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard how everyone is all-atwitter over Twitter. But now the horror stories are starting to emerge.
Twitter is essentially a gossip network. You can only send out messages of 140 characters. You can send your messages from your phone, if you like, to your Twitter page, which then can be automatically accessed by the computers or phones of your “followers.”
You send, and they get, “tweets.”
I suppose I’ve avoided twittering for primarily that reason. I’m almost okay with sending a short status message to all and sundry. I’m not comfortable with sending a tweet.
But my Luddite tendencies and dignity sensibilities notwithstanding, Twitter has caught on in the world of gossip like a profane union of People Magazine and the National Enquirer on Octomom fertility drugs.
Actors, particularly, are jumping in with both thumbs, managing their publicity (or having it managed for them by paid tweeter minions) and garnering thousands of followers. Which they then compete with each other to compare. Kevin Spacey has 800,000 followers, Ashton Kutcher has a million.
But like all gossip, it can go terribly bad. There are no controls. Jeff Goldblum was reported dead by the New Zealand media on the basis of what turned out to be a bunch of Twitter Tweet twaddle. Jonah Hill has someone impersonating him, sending bogus tweets and getting him in trouble with various friends and movie directors.
Some folk on Twitter briefly fulminated a Tweet storm of gossip, urging people to visit not Sarah Palin’s Twitter page but her Qwitter page.
Corporations are hiring Twitter fishers, monitoring the webwaves for bad PR.
But I saw something the other day that really worried me. A young lady had her flip-phone open and she was texting something. But she was resting her phone on the shelf of her bulging extremely pregnant belly. Don’t they tell people that phone waves are dangerous to your brain? And tell guys not to keep their cellphones in their front pants pockets?
I know it sounds like a cutesy-pie harmless thing to do. But is tweeting over your fetus a good idea?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

#1064 Mooning

In the light of the silvery moon-talk about the anniversary of our first trip there, it’s interesting to note some of the cultural effects of that technological endeavor.
For one thing, we compare it to almost every human challenge. “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make soft toilet paper.” “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make a good-tasting decaffeinated coffee?” Stuff like that. Not a day goes by that someone somewhere doesn’t utter that whiny gripe-by-comparison.
And why is it that someone can be mooning over someone else and its love, where one feels exposed and vulnerable, but when that person moons someone else it’s a different type of exposure altogether?
But there really have been amazing strides in technology thanks to the nationwide effort to get us to the moon. And I’m not just talking Tang. Today’s recapture water and filtering technology would never have received such an impetus if the problem of recycling personal waste hadn’t been dealt with in cramped Apollo capsules.
In fact, I saw something in a public restroom the other day that may be moon related. I was in one of those giant warehouse stores. The place was huge and the restroom was so far away, by the time I got back to where I started, I had to go again.
But in the restroom, I used this incredible space age hand dryer.
They called it the “air knife” and it used a focused and honed blast of air to squeegee the water from my hands—like those giant focused air blasters in carwashes, but tiny. Scary though, as you have to stick your hands deep into these openings that have the words “air knife” on them.
Since it was next to a diaper changing table I wasn’t sure if it was a pamper shredder or a hand dryer. But I used it anyhow because I was in a hurry. I’d left my dessert on a table back at the eating area.
All I can say is, thanks Apollo people.
My hands were clean and dry, so I could enjoy my Moon Pie.
America, ya gotta love it.