Tuesday, December 29, 2009

#1160 Soy-Ganic

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

#1159 Mention Hunger

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#1158 Wet Honey

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

#1157 Kramma’s Place

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

#1156 Dryer Coffee

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

#1155 Schenected

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

#1154 Mountain Cougar

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#1153 Soy Run

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

#1152 Do Dads

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

#1151 Ad Cents

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

#1150 Exclusion Claws

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

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

#1149 Horse Excluded

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

Monday, December 07, 2009

#1148 Road Hard

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

Friday, December 04, 2009

#1147 Bar Hands

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

Thursday, December 03, 2009

#1146 Um...‘Brella?

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

#1145 Windy Breezy

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

#1144 Weird Web Words

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