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.