Thursday, December 30, 2010

1405 OMG-Willikers

The whole God thing comes with a few assumptions. One of them is that God is omniscient. All knowing. He’s knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad, so be good for goodness sake.
So that’s why when it comes to communicating with him, it’s okay to say a silent prayer in your head. You don’t have to write a letter to the North Pole. God hears you 24/7. If you need to, it’s even okay to mumble quietly. God doesn’t insist on the silent part, although there is some mention in the New Testament about God preferring you to pray silently in a closet to shouting from the pulpit. But that was a hypocrisy thing.
God, being all-knowing and all-powerful could certainly take advantage of today’s technology if he needed to. But few people have called him on the phone. Even fewer, I suppose, have wasted valuable minutes trying to ring him on their smartphones. Still no app for that.
So when I read about Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson’s recent Twitter outburst I was frankly amazed. Apparently, Steve blamed God for letting him drop a pass that could have won a game.
Steve then tweeted, “I praise you 24/7!!!!!! And this is how you do me!!!!! You expect me to learn from this??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!!!”
His tweet had a total of 14 exclamation points thrown in. God loves exclamation points. Cause you know, it’s hard to detect emphasis when someone’s just praying from his heart.
I gotta say, though. I was surprised. There’s something so full of awe and reverence sending the creator of the universe a, um, tweet.
And OMG-Willikers, I didn’t even know God was on Twitter. I wonder how many followers he has...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1404 Antique Migratory Snuggies

Sometimes you can look at something one way and then have this mental flip and, voila, it all looks different.
Like the other day, I was in this antique store. At first it looked normal. Smelled a little musty, bunch of old stuff stacked on shelves. Then I noticed the customers. Everybody in there was over 65. And I thought, what’s the point? Why are they here? Flip¾This isn’t an antique store, it’s a secondhand store for old folks.
The weird thing was some of the objects in there were younger than the patrons. I mean what’s a 70-year-old going to do with a Disco Ball from the 70’s?
Not long after that, I was talking with a friend who was going into the hospital. The subject of hospital attire came up. All the nurses in their crisp new multi-colored scrubs, like camo for medical workers. And all the patients in the lovely one-size-fits-all backless gowns.
My friend pointed out that on him the huge gowns actually made backside wraparound possible, but the neckline hung down like some grotesque décolletage. The thought of a wraparound in the back led me to think of a robe worn backwards and then I thought of a Snuggie. You know, the blanket with sleeves as seen on TV.
Flip¾The design a Snuggie is nothing more than a repurposed hospital gown.
Lastly, I was talking with this woman at a conference. She said her son had hooked up this deal to see Europe. He would travel from organic farm to organic farm and work free in exchange for a cheap place to stay. She thought it was cool and said we should have something like that over here.
I said we do. It’s called migrant labor.
Mental flips are fun.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1403 Plane Effects

Ever wonder why you hear so much about horrible weather conditions at airports? I always thought it was two reasons. One, because that’s where the weather measuring devices were. And two, because weather upsetting air traffic was a much bigger news story that snow falling in a deserted forest.
Now there’s a third reason. The airplanes cause it. Yep, those freakishly frequent snowstorms at airports are caused by the airplanes themselves.
Last year a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado showed that planes can punch holes in clouds and change the weather below. This is because cold air can actually hold a lot of moisture. Ice crystals do not form easily even at temperatures well below freezing.
That’s in stable cold air. When an airplane takes off or lands through these super-cooled clouds the disruption causes the water droplets to instantaneously freeze. The flash frozen water forms ice crystals that then descend as snow as we know it.
The main effect is locally-induced precipitation. As the researcher put it, “Around airports, especially during wintertime, more snow is generated.” Scientists are so smart sometimes. And so dumb. As opposed to? “Around airports, especially during summertime, less snow is generated.” I think we can assume wintertime is a factor.
It is interesting to note though, that part of the problem with snowy airports is caused by the planes themselves. “We can’t land because it’s too snowy because while we’re circling around here we’re causing it to snow. Let’s go into a holding pattern over that deserted forest 20 miles away and give it a chance to clear up.”
That’s another good question for the scientist: Does snow really fall in the forest if nobody’s there to see it?
There's no way of knowing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

1402 Sweating Terms

You hear a lot about how the internet has transformed society. And one place it’s done so is in the area of research. It’s rare anyone actually goes to the library anymore to look up a book on the civil war or something. It’s even rarer a high school student reads such a book and gleans from it the necessary facts to string together sentences to establish a thesis to make a term paper.
Nowadays it’s go to the “thesis template” in a word processing program, Google the relevant search items, copy and paste from your search results, and voila, individual paper.
Plagiarized in many ways to be sure, but is that really any different than paraphrasing bulk passages from books? Well yes, because in the grueling paraphrasing process, you are assimilating that information into your brain. When you copy and paste blocks of barely read text you aren’t learning anything.
So I guess it was inevitable the next easy step would arrive at the doors of our technologically-coddled children. Pre-done homework. And cheap too. Why? Because it’s been outsourced.
That’s right, we’re outsourcing our homework. Is this the height of world-dominating luxury or what? According to the London Sunday Telegraph, there are now homework “sweatshops” in India, Pakistan, and Egypt that provide high school and college level essays, math homework, and other school assignments to students around the world for as low as $2 a paper.
Hmmm, judging by the command of English of some of the technical support people I’ve had with computer issues, I’m not sure I’d want a $2 composition essay.
But hey, it’s good we’re paying all those sweatshop workers to learn American educational stuff. They’ll need it.
One of these days they’ll have to run the world for us, too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

1401 Grope On

We all know times have gotten tough for the lower 90% of our populace. So it’s nice we’re pulling together in the social acceptance department. No longer looking down our noses at those not dressed in the trendiest jeans. Tolerant of those just drinking ordinary coffee. And far more forgiving when it comes the use of coupons.
In fact, a recent study concluded that in 2009 American Shoppers used 27 percent more in-store coupons than in 2008. The use of online coupons jumped 360 percent. And here’s the real kicker—41 percent of Americans now believe it’s okay to use a coupon to help pay the tab on a first date.
A first date coupon. What does that show your potential mate? Will she think you’re thrifty, or you’re cheap? You’re an anal-retentive coupon clipper? Or one discount short of destitute. And do you as the coupon user mean to imply your companion is a cheap date? Are you using a group-on and hoping it’s a grope-on. A discount ticket to the land of heavy petting.
That, by the way, may be why online coupon use went up 360 percent. Giant discount offers like groupon. $3 for a $20 bottle of wine is hard to pass up, even if you don’t drink. Or maybe more online sellers are more desperate to sell so are offering coupons for the first time.
But I worry about the college set. Is some Nietzsche studying nihilistic nerd really going to impress his history major date using a coupon? Is she going to think it’s not for nothing he’s into nihilism. He won’t impress her with his tortured soul. He’s not a cool superman, he’s an dorky super-savings man.
Is she going to think, not ubermensch but goobermensch?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

1400 GPS Baby Jesus

If you love Baby Jesus, you’ll be happy to know that science is on the job. That’s right, churches across the country have decided to render unto Caesar what is Caesars and the Lord the Lords when it comes to the salvation offered by GPS science and technology.
Although I’d be perfectly happy, and I’m sure they would too, if they could use HGPS—Holy Ghost Positioning System—in this case lowly terrestrial GPS is the godsend.
Here’s the problem. Seems Baby Jesuses were being stolen from nativity displays in churches across the country. Some new teenage prank perhaps. Or anti-religious vandalism. Or heck, maybe even poor families harvesting dolls for their daughters. It was not so good, Baby Jesus being the main character in most nativity scenes. His lack does not go unnoticed.
So churches are affixing a GPS device to their statues. And it appears to be working. One church took the trouble of announcing their GPS adornment in the media, and have reported absolutely no attempts.
So the Magi bring gold, myrrh and frankincense. The drummer boy brings his drum. And the village geek brings his GPS? I love it when we combine the mystical/spiritual with the technological. This is better than NORAD tracking Santa Claus.
To those cynics who might assert that if science is good enough to design a GPS to hang on a Nativity statue why isn’t it good enough to be right about evolution, I say relax. Where do you think GPS satellites send their signals from? That’s right, the heavens.
I just say Happy Christmas to all. And peace and goodwill towards humanity. And to you scientific folks, thanks for offering a way to avoid the annual frantic news story of a kidnapped Baby Jesus.
Every little miracle helps…
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

1399 Tight Ass

A couple of random observations today.
First observation. I was in a coffee shop with a friend recently and this woman came in. She was wearing those highly fashionable extremely tight jeans. She also appeared to be carrying a cellphone in her back pocket. I’m not saying her jeans were too tight, but I could make out the icons on her touch screen.
Second observation. I was talking to a guy in an interview. As he left, he picked up a paperback book he had brought with him. I recognized the author so we chatted for a bit about it. He said his mom was in one of those book clubs where they all passed an author around and then discussed it. And I thought: This was an example of early file-sharing.
So next question: What about the intellectual property rights of the author? If you’re passing around books you’re not buying books. Why aren’t the book publishers suing folks for that? It’s not much different from trading music. If anything it’s more of a rip-off. Books cost a lot to print. A lot more than pressing a record or burning a CD.
The answer, of course, is we are headed that direction. As soon as the ebook revolution is complete, all book files will have hidden code that insures every user must pay. The only way we’ll be able to have book clubs in the future will be if we all sit around one kindle or one computer monitor.
Reading will bring us closer. Really closer. We’ll be crammed together tighter than buttocks in new blue jeans.
And the donkeys at the publishing companies can be the tight asses they’ve always wanted to be. America, ya gotta love it.

1398 Husking

Recently the University of Washington Huskies made it to the post-season Holiday Bowl. Holiday Bowl¾sounds like it’s filled with chestnuts or something doesn’t it? Freshly roasted from the fire.
I remember when I first heard the term chestnuts. I was in first grade, listening to a Christmas carol about Jack Frost nipping at the air, and my older and more worldly brother shared with me the slang term for certain physiological accouterments that males have in a lower area. Chestnuts suddenly sounded very strange. Especially roasting ones.
I had nightmares for a week.
In any event, the Huskies are going to play a really tough team at the Holiday bowl, The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Now there’s a name to inspire terror.
A mild Midwest cornhusker against a vicious Husky sled-dog? Mascot-wise, the one sounds much more animalistic than the other. But that’s only to folks who don’t understand the grueling muscle-straining labor associated with the practice of husking.
Our few little exposures a year at the shank of summer ill inform us about what it takes to husk ears of corn over and over and over again. That kind of persistence can pay off in a football game. It is interesting, however, that both the Huskies and the Cornhuskers have the syllable “husk” figure so prominently in their names.
I like the word husk. Like dusk, but handier somehow. Husky voices are dark and sultry. Husky-sized clothing was what my brother got to buy. I was always stuck with slim. Neither one of us was fat or skinny.
Still, I think it’s great the Cornhuskers can take a food-oriented profession and make a football mascot out of it. I just hope there’s never a team called the Chestnut-Roasters.
I still have holiday nightmares.
America, ya gotta love it.

1397 Hinky Dinky

Funny how a word form can lead to so many slang words. Like the words hinky, hanky, honky, and hunky. The H-vowel-N- K- Y- thing works so good it’s led to all sorts of fun fake words.
Hunky is pretty straightforward. A guy is a hunk. He’s hunky. Like chunky, but without the negative connotations. The Pillsbury doughboy is chunky, especially if he’s the tollhouse version. The Michelin Man is hunky. Hunky has been a successful candidate for real worddom. It’s in the Microsoft spellchecker as an actual synonym for brawny.
Then there’s honky. Origins uncertain. Used as a pejorative by some people of color to describe folks the color pink. Not from the way dirty white boys play that funky music but from the way they appear to honk when they talk. Or perhaps because they have all the grace of a goose on the ground. Not used often with hunky. “Man, he’s a hunky honky” is rarely heard.
Then there’s hinky. Means not so correct. Suspicious. That deal was a little hinky. It raised eyebrows. Or raised alarm. Something about it didn’t ring kosher. A fine word. Shouldn’t be slang. I nominate it for official recognition. If and only if we can purge from our collective memory the phrase “hinky dinky parlez-vous.”
And last there’s hanky. We’re all pretty sure what it means, short for handkerchief. Give me a hanky. But what about when it’s partnered with the word panky? What is a panky? And why does it need a hanky? And when it has a hanky, why is it naughty somehow? When people are up to hanky panky are handkerchiefs involved? If so, how?
Question: If a person’s smallest finger is suspicious and naughty, is it a hinky pinky?
Different question: Has anyone ever encountered a hinky hunky honky up to some hanky panky?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

1396 Catarrh

I ran across an old word the other day and I think it’s a shame we don’t use it more. It’s kind of spelled funny and in a way it looks like it comes from the days of Morocco hashish parlors or Indian opium dens. Like some British Colonial spelling somehow.
You don’t see too many words ending in H. Unless they’re like “with” or “pith.” Come to think of it, pith helmets come from that British colonial stuff too.
In any event, the word is catarrh, pronounced and inflected like guitar. And it can mean congestion. Or at least a lot of phlegm. It harks back to those words we hardly hear any more, like chilblains and consumption.
Not consumption like it’s time to go shopping, but consumption like some wasting disease of the lungs. What they once used to name tuberculosis or lung cancer.
People, would say they had a catarrh when they were full of snot. It means “inflammation of the mucus membranes in your air passages.” “I’ve got a catarrh” was roughly synonymous with “I’ve got a cold” or “I’ve got a bug.”
Alas, all good words must pass. You don’t hear it much today. Perhaps because so many people own guitars and for someone to say “I’ve got a catarrh” would cause confusion.
“What’s new?”
“I’ve got a catarrh.”
“Really...Gibson or Fender?”
“Neither—in my nose.”
“You’ve got a guitar in your nose? No wonder it’s so red and swollen.”
On the other hand, it could be confused with the Arab country Qatar too. Which would actually make a fine little poem.
Wetness dripped on my guitar
from my nose, from my catarrh,
for a cure searched near and far,
and finally dried it in Qatar.
America, ya gotta love it.

1395 Boyled

Recently the amazing Susan Boyle released an album that immediately went to the top of the charts. Seems the “Britain’s Got Talent” phenom still has a devoted following worldwide. One of the few truly ordinary people with extraordinary talent that made it to the top. More power to her.
But I’m afraid she won’t fully escape the hands of marketers as she moves through here surprising career. Her name’s just too big a temptation.
Her first album “I dreamed a dream” was a success too. Her current album, known simply as “The Gift” is loaded with Christmas songs. So far, Susan seems to have taken the road of singing standards and favorites. Kind of like the schmaltzy crooners and folk singers from the late fifties and early sixties. You remember the ones. Where their album titles traded on their names. The Kingsman had “Kingsize Hits” and the Monkeys were “just monkeying around.”
I fear that will be the fate of Susan Boyle unless she starts to define herself more with her own materiel. So we can expect album titles like “Susan Boyle—Boyled Hits.” Or maybe she’ll do a soft version of hard rock hits like Pat Boone once did. She can call it Hard-Boyled Susan.
When she stirs it up for her third album, she can call it “Just Boylin.” Or how about, “Boylin Hot.” Better yet, a moody album filled with more tender songs, “Soft Boylin. 3-minute songs to cook your eggs by.” Or a seasonal theme of beach and tropical tunes. “Simmerin’ Summer with Susan Boyle.”
Or an album full of Yiddish standards. “Goy and Boyle.”
All I can hope is the tabloids don’t find she has an illegitimate son lurking around. Especially if his name is Lance.
America, ya gotta love it.

1394 Frittering

Not long ago, on December 2nd, it was “National Fritter Day.” My first thought was; Great, just what we need, another day to waste time. Because of course, that’s one meaning of the word. The verb “to fritter”—as in, I frittered, she fritters, and he is frittering—is a word that means to waste stuff aimlessly.
He frittered away is time. She spent the whole afternoon frittering away her inheritance at the shopping mall. He was twittering to his friend about how many cell minutes he was frittering away.
Turns out I was wrong. I apparently frittered away too many brain cells at one time and in the process lost some of my sense of the obvious. Because actually, the day was about the food.
Yep, a holiday promoting a full faceful of fat-encrusted fritters.
The food known as a fritter is usually some sort of deep-fried dough, within which is embedded something healthy. The embedding process does not include injecting. So a jelly doughnut, even though a case could be made for the relative healthiness of grape jelly vs. maple syrup or Twinkie Cream, does not qualify as a fritter.
Think apple fritter. You take something with obvious health benefits, an apple, and mix it through sugary dough and then deep-fry it in fat. One might say you are frittering away the health benefits of said apple. Likewise peach fritters, apricot fritters and the exotic pineapple fritter.
There is no intrinsic prohibition to using vegetables in the frittering process but it is rarely done. I suppose that’s why other cultures invented pakora and tempura. You’ll need to get your deep-fried veggies at the teriyaki place.
You probably won’t encounter either a broccoli or an asparagus fritter at the doughnut shop.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1393 Cold Walk

Caught a cold lately? Take a walk. Forget about that stay in bed, feed a cold, starve a fever, don’t go outside you’ll catch pneumonia nonsense your mom used to spout.
Activity is what minimizes the effects of a cold.
At least according to a recent study. Researchers at the Appalachian State University in North Carolina, formerly only known for studies exploring the effects of inbreeding on banjo performance, have concluded the best way to minimize the effects of a cold is to exercise.
Subtracting out all other factors like age, weight, smoking, and excessive barbecue consumption, the North Carolina researchers found that the people who exercised at least five times a week had the fewest and least severe colds. Their cold symptoms ended 43% to 46% sooner than those who worked out once a week or not at all. And the symptoms themselves felt 41% less severe.
Really? Forty-one percent. That’s a tough number to believe. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt 41% less or more of anything. My feelings just aren’t that finely calibrated. “Yeah, this divorce felt 41% worse than my last one. My heart was broken 21% more and I had 13% more anger and 7.5% more resentment.”
In any event, the most powerful antidote to a cold is to go out once a day for a 30-minute brisk walk. They theorize more frequent exercise gets immune cells circulating and puts them on alert.
I think it’s just getting outside away from the sick relatives during holiday-slash-cold season.
So what about all those maternal maxims? Stay in bed, rest, etc.? Some old time stuff is great. But not all. It’s important to remember that when a lot of those old time sayings were created, life expectancy was in the forties.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1392 Fly Ideas

I have the blessing, or the curse, of a restless mind. Flitting from notion to notion, some of which turn out to be good ideas, some of which just don’t fly. I like to see it as the secret power of ADHD harnessed for good, but that judgment rests with others.
So when I saw a video of a guy jumping out of a plane with a surfboard and turning the first freefall minutes of his skydive into a surfing adventure I was inspired.
Why stop at sky surfing? I know some heli-snowboarders also do sky-snowboarding and end up on backcountry ski slopes for a big finish. So how about sky kayaking? Get pushed out of plane in a kayak, paddle air, and twirl and roll and stuff, then parasail into some rapids.
Remember Sky Kayaking, you heard it here first.
I was similarly inspired recently when I heard of hotels facing the problem of bedbugs. It’s got to the point where they scrutinize incoming guests more than they used to for inferior signs of hygiene. Couple that with the fact that hotels are encouraging repeat linen use from guests who stay longer and bedbugs have an even greater chance of settling in the inn.
My solution? Couple the fix for this problem to one of our other traveling problems—terrorist detection. Why not use an airport full-body scanner to also kill bedbugs? Surely there’s some radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum that would do both.
Bedbug-killing Body Scanners—the travel industry would breathe a sigh of relief.
Especially if you’re coming back from Europe. And by the way, even though Europe is a very popular continent right now, don’t call it the In-continent.
That’s one of my ideas that flew right into the toilet.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

1391 Blowup Booths

It’s an idea so beautiful in its simplicity it’s captured the imagination of the perturbed public. It’s all over the internet—The terrorist blowup booth.
We’ve known for a long time that the public is frustrated by this whole airport TSA intrusive security thing. X-Ray chromosome damaging scanners that detail your genitalia and enhanced patdowns that over-encourage security person intimacy are just the latest indignities indirectly foisted on us by the terrorists.
And it’s all security theatre anyhow. The 9-11 Terrorists didn’t have bombs. And hey, what’s to stop a terrorist from blowing up a train or a bus or an Oklahoma Courthouse? What about a sporting event? Terrorists look for maximum bang for their buck so are we going to have to be stripped-searched for every public gathering? Will the greeter at Wal-Mart also give me a patdown?
I hope not. I may get hit by a meteorite too, but I’ll be damned if I wear a hardhat all the time.
So that’s why this guy’s terrorist booth idea struck a chord. The Concept is this: Instead of a scanner, everyone goes through a little enclosed bombproof booth. Once inside, an electromagnetic pulse of some sort detonates any explosives you happen to be carrying on your person—underwear bombs, shoe bombs, rectal bombs, even a post-turkey gutbomb.
If you’re not carrying a bomb, no problem. If you are, you get blown up. Simple effective justice.
No cost for a trial.
Easy clean up.
Is it scientifically possible you say? Who cares? The terrorists only need to believe it’s possible. Stage a couple of high profile events at airports. Have the actors entering the booths use a secret magician trapdoor. Then blow them up. Lots of noise. Lots of Hollywood special effects. Blood, gore, and carnage.
Now that’s security theater.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

1390 Tasket

A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket, that’s what I was reminded of the other day. At least that sensibility. Let me back up. I was in the grocery store. And I saw something new.
There’s long been a basket gap in supermarkets across our great nation. Because sometimes it’s not a good idea to get one of the regular-sized pushcarts. You always feel like such a jerk pushing around a giant cart with one can of olives and a packet of floss.
Then again, sometimes the handheld smaller basket isn’t enough. A five-pound bag of birdseed, an unwieldy gallon of milk, and a giant bag of Doritos and suddenly you feel like some combination of balancing juggler and weight lifter.
Damn! I threw out my ACL with a shopping injury.
So I have to hand it to the grocery store planners on one hand. But I have a little apprehension as well. After all, these are presumably the people who designed the car-shaped shin barkers that children insist their moms push them around in.
I love it when two of those clumsy automobile-inspired baskets collide in the cereal department. “Cart collision in aisle 3...generic fruit loop airbags deployed.”
So the in-between basket I saw has a questionable provenance. Still, it fills the size gap perfectly. The tweener cart is about half the length of a full cart, and has two shallow baskets instead of one deep one.
Unfortunately, you look like a prim little priss pushing one. I don’t like it. The position of its handle seems to promote prissy posture too. Folks using them look for all the world like nannies pushing prams.
Tsk-tsk, I only need a spoonful of sugar. Why, this task calls for a tasket.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

1389 Re-al-i-TV

Not long ago there was this story in the news about a guy who shot his TV. In and of itself no big deal, people have been shooting TVs ever since both technologies emerged. Or at least as long as Elvis and alcohol proved it as a potent possibility.
But what was interesting about this particular TV executioner was why he did it. He was convinced that someone wasn’t playing fair. Namely the folks at Dancing With the Stars. Or more accurately the folks voting for their favorite star—The Bristol Palin Tea Party conspiracy.
Seems some folks were accusing the Tea Partiers of gaming the system. Mounting a text and pressure campaign to keep getting Bristol to the top of the voters’ choice aspect of the competition, even though the talent judges keep rejecting her.
Darned elitist talent judges. What do they know about dancing? Real Americans are clumsy. Real Americans stumble. They ain’t no bicoastal blueblood snoots playing gotcha choreography every time someone takes a natural God-given patriotic misstep. You want to see a natural dance? Mamma Grizzly will show you how to dance. You’ll dance like a decapitated turkey when she bites off your head.
Anyhow, conspiracy aside, the whole thing just seems like reality TV has become reality period. The distinctions between news and Info-tainment and News-o-tainment have become so blurred simple folk don’t know what’s real anymore. The Palin Circus and the Palin candidacy are indistinguishable.
American psychos are shooting their TVs like they’re shooting their neighbors. Because that box in the living room is their world. America is caught up in its theatre, except all the world’s not a play, it’s a reality TV show.
And re-al-i-TV is all they have.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

1388 Kvetchup

The good news for the economy continues to come in. Recently GM started offering shares to the public again. Let’s hope the public responds better to GM offering stock than they did to GM offering automobiles. Then again, with stock you don’t have to worry about looks and mileage. Look at your average “stock” car....
But one of the most surprising economic surges was the Heinz Ketchup Company. They are oozing with pride. So you don’t want to kvetch about ketchup. Turns out they had incredible growth in the last quarter. Domestic production held it’s own, I guess because in tough times people were making old-fashioned depression culinary choices like white beans and ketchup.
But the real story was Heinz dominance of emerging markets. And by emerging I don’t mean they had to stick a knife in the bottle neck. Their success flowed naturally. Particularly in the Asian rim. And guess what? Malaysia was a big part of it.
Which has a certain irony. Because ketchup, or catsup, originated there. It was a concoction that was vinegar based, with relatively toned down spices, which British sailors picked up in the colonial era. They, having come from a place that was known for bland food the world over, brought it back to the British Isles to flavor their otherwise exceptionally boring boiled foods.
Ketchup and kidneys, yum.
There it was discovered to be the prefect condiment for fried potatoes—French-fried potatoes, although the British called them chips—and a new international, multi-ethnic, flavor sensation was born.
Americans then invented the quintessential burger and fries combination. And now they’ve exported it, McDonalds, fast food culture, and fast food condiments to the world.
Thank goodness Heinz is doing well.
Now if only the rest of our economy would catch up.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

1387 Close Shave

I was reading a magazine the other day and came across one of those class settlement ads. You know the ones. Some group of lawyers has won a class action suit against a major company and they are soliciting for customers that may have been wronged by that company and so are in the class for which the settlement provides. I’m not sure how many people ever actually apply for these things, as the amount to be recovered is usually pretty pitiful.
In any event, this ad was for misused users of the Gillette M3Power Razor. Apparently the Gillette folks maintained that the razor raises or stimulates the hairs away from the skin and makes them easier to cut. As I recall the “power” razor in question vibrated.
The general beneficial effects of vibrating notwithstanding, it was never proved that the device in question actually performed as promised.
You may note the similarity to Gillette’s manual multi-blade razor, whose first blade putatively stretched your beard hair while the second, third, or fifth blades then lopped it off.
The Gillette Company has denied all claims but mysteriously agreed anyhow to pay 7.5 million into a settlement fund. Those affected by the suit may claim up to a 13-dollar refund or 10 dollars in coupons. I love it when a company that screws you offers you coupons for more of their products in compensation.
The interesting thing is this ad was in the National Geographic—paradoxically read by people who may actually respond to the intricacies of a class action lawsuit, but unlikely to admit being duped by a nonsensical ad for a preposterous product.
Vibrating vulnerable whiskers indeed.
Bottom line? At only 7.5 million in settlement, Gillette got off with a mighty close shave themselves.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1386 Lip Hoisting

I heard a radio ad for the Chapstick Company recently and it got me wondering. They were talking about the cool stuff their product does for your lips. Then they said find them of Facebook. I think they definitely were trying to tie in the lip and the face thing. Then they said you should go on Facebook to “get even more lip service from Chapstick.”
I get it.
They’re giving you service tips for your lips, so they are calling it “lip service.” They seem to know full well that the phrase “lip service” is out there. And they seem to be playing on it. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to know what “lip service” means.
Lip service means, essentially, fibbing. Blowing smoke. Lying through your teeth. A person giving lip service is often doing so with a forked tongue. You’re recognizing an idea with words but not with your heart. “He paid lip service to the ideals of democracy,” means he spoke all the right words, but was still talking out of both sides of his mouth
Which, come to think of it, probably does cause chapped lips.
Another phrase I’ve heard has a similar confusing meaning. “Hoist on his own petard.” The dictionary says it means, “undone by one’s own cleverness.”
But not literally. “Hoist” means raised up, like a car on a hoist. “Petard” sounds like a flag. So you sort of get run up your own flagpole?
But no. A petard is a bomb. So it actually means, “blown up by your own bomb.” No word on whether 40 virgins await after being hoist on your own petard.
So if you don’t want to be undone by your own cleverness, watch out how you use lip service.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

1385 Powerless

Recently, when the power went out, it was interesting to see all the little cultural things revealed while we were in the dark. The unusual thing about this power outage was it wasn’t universal. You could drive around town and there would be pockets of full-powered America, and then in a couple of blocks you’d be in the third world again.
People were pretty conscientious about driving cautiously. And intersections with dead traffic lights were treated as four-way stops on a fairly consistent basis. Only a few oblivioids screwed up, and when they did, they were treated to a chorus of honks from feisty frustrated motorists.
But still, it was amazingly civil, only complicated by the aforementioned sometimes on/sometimes off power blocks. You couldn’t settle in to one traffic pattern or another, and would occasionally forget.
I hate it when people honk at my car even when I don’t have a “Honk if you love Jesus” sticker on it.
The other thing I noticed was that where there was power, the drive-through latte stands had cars lined up for half a block. Power outages bring on major coffee crises. Living without all our power crutches is difficult anyhow, add being deprived of you daily coffee fix and watch out.
But there were technological compensations—sort of. One good thing was I didn’t need to grope for a rarely-used flashlight. I had the LED on my cellphone.
Still, when the power first went out at my house, all went blissfully silent. Then this really annoying beeping started. I finally traced it down. It was the backup battery powerstrip thingy on my computer. I’m glad it beeped to tell me the power was out. I may not have noticed otherwise—what with the pitch-blackness and all.
I’m just glad it didn’t honk.
America, ya gotta love it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1384 Dogsense

There’s been a lot of controversy lately about the new full body scanners the Transportation Safety Administration is putting in airports. Complaints range from pilots worried that repeated exposures would lead to unsafe doses of radiation, to consumers worried about distribution of the pictures and invasion of dignity and privacy.
I agree with all of them. Particularly when you know that this isn’t really security. It’s security theater. Why? Because they don’t do a real internal x-ray. Even if you opt the genital-massaging pat-down they offer as an alternative, they still don’t do a full cavity search.
Which means a sufficiently motivated suicide bomber has the option of going beyond his underwear or shoes and actually installing a bomb in his rectal cavity.
Talk about blowing it out know.
The only answer is bomb-sniffing dogs. That’s right. Dogs have been proven to be far more accurate than any of the above described methods. Trained pooches could be stationed at all the check-in points. Instead of getting a cat scan, travelers would get a dog scan.
That’s what makes the next story so scary. And it shows how one-step-ahead-of-us clever al Qaida can be. They surgically implanted bombs in stray dogs, put them in kennel carriers, and tried to ship them to the US on planes. If the dogs hadn’t died from the bad surgery the very good bomb in them would have exploded.
Problem is, if a bomb-sniffing dog had sniffed the bomb on the bomb-carrying dog it would have just looked like what dogs do already.
“Look at that dumb dog sniffing the other dog’s butt. Get back over here Rover...Bad dog! Get to work. Can’t you see we got tourists to embarrass...”
America, ya gotta love it.

1383 Where’s Your Money

We’ve all heard how the last couple of decades have resulted in the largest concentration of wealth in the hands of the top 1% since the 1920s. So the big question is, where’s your money? That whole trickle down thing doesn’t seem to be working.
There’s trillions in cash sitting on the sidelines. But things aren’t getting better for most of us. A couple of interesting facts: GM is now profitable. The Obama Administration took a hit from the TeaPartiers for government bailouts, but GM is now going public again because last year it showed a profit. And the nefarious TARP funds are all paid back, at a profit to the feds. The government, and by extension the people, stand to make a profit.
Still, the people are underwhelmed. We won’t see much of it. Our middle class tax cut last year saved us a whopping total of $400. Not even enough for a big screen plasma TV.
Meantime, major corporations and industry groups that used to give money primarily to Republicans, gave 53% of their donations to Democrats in the mid-term elections. Maybe they’re looking for even more profit-inspiring government action or regulatory undersight.
You got to wonder. Here’s an interesting fact. From January of 2009, when President Obama took office, through June of 2010, corporate profits rose 62 percent. That was the strongest 18-month rise since the 1920s.
Ah yes, the 20s. The gilded age. Conspicuous consumption by Fat Cats—those people they made the drawings on the Monopoly board to represent.
“Perhaps I could interest you in a hotel on Park Place. What, you can’t afford it? Where’s your money? You lost it when you lost your 401k in my stock market? Naughty ordinary person.
“Do not pass go. Do not collect 400 dollars.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1382 Brazilian Blowouting

“Brazilian Blowouts Endanger Lives!” the headline screamed. The possible meanings were manifold. Was there some recent influx of defective Brazilian tires in the US? Brazilians have been buying up all sorts of companies with their newfound oil wealth. Their oil comes from deep offshore wells. Was one of them gushing like a BP Blowout? Endangering wild and tame life.
The worst explanation was the most terrifying. Maybe it was a bikini-waxing gone horribly, desperately wrong. Larry from the Three Stooges came unbidden to my mind.
But no, the truth was more scary. My dear sister had led me to the headline and the story. Turns out a Brazilian Blowout is a hair treatment, all the rage with fashion forward folks everywhere. It’s essentially a hair straightener. It supposedly contains keratin, which is the natural protein that makes up your hair and fingernails. It’s very expensive. The makers of the product claim it’s perfectly safe.
One Portland beautician worried. After applying it to numerous women, she felt dizzy, brain-addled, and drugged. She called in a state chemist; some research was done, and guess what? The product contains massive amounts of formaldehyde—8 to 10% or more, far more than the point 2% considered safe.
If you ever leaned over a frog you were dissecting in biology class, you know what formaldehyde is and does. Like huffing some serious brain-damaging chemical.
My sister pointed out how this may explain the mental aberrations of Hollywood types that have had this treatment. OMG! Could Lindsey be a Brazilian Abuser?
Hey, it’s the logical next step. They’ve had facelifts, collagen and Botox, why not the ultimate preservative, Formaldehyde? No wonder they look like walking corpses.
Forget Lindsay, it’s time for a Joan Rivers intervention...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1381 Toughin’ It

In some ways it just doesn’t seem like the world is as tough as it used to be.
Like recently¾a Nepali Telecom firm put up a 3G tower on Mt Everest. This will allow climbers to make cell calls, send videos and access the internet all the way to the top. And, oh yeah, text.
There was something glorious about Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary scaling the world’s highest mountain¾and doing so with limited equipment and little contact from other humans. The fear factor increases tenfold when you’re on your own. They had to overcome the mountain and the isolation. There is something about going off into the unknown and being cut off from all help that is a psychological mountain to climb in and of itself. I’m not ready for a tweet from the top of Mt Everest.
“Really cold, gut-busting cramps, broken crampons, Tenzing cranky.”
Then there’s this story about the Hells Angels, prototypical tough guys. The folks you expect to instill the fear of God into all and sundry. The original modern outlaws, their resounding motorcycle pipes a death knell for any who dare challenge their supremacy.
Guess what? Turns out the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is suing Saks Fifth Avenue and Alexander McQueen Fashion House for using the Angel’s winged “death head” logo. You heard me. The Hells Angels are suing someone for copyright infringement. How far we’ve come.
I can see it now: You hear the roaring in the distance. You know it’s coming for you. Twenty motorcycles pull up to the curb, their riders clad in torn denim, leather, and chains. Their leader raises his hairy tattooed arm and shakes his fist. Out of his sidecar steps the toughest guy in the group...
Their, um, lawyer.
And he hands you some papers...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

1380 I Slide

The more we get technology the more we stay the same. Things like Twitter and I-pads and Facebook supposedly connect us more, but we’re the same dysfunctional people wielding these devices.
The recent story about 1.2 Billion Tweets sent and only 71% responded to shows there’s still more who want others to care than those who care. And useless, pathetic Tweets and Facebook updates don’t help. I mean really, do I actually care if you’re deciding on Mac and Cheese or a Big Mac for dinner? There ought to be a one-key response emoticon that stands for “Get a Life!”
Speaking of Big Macs, I understand Apple is coming up with a new MacIntosh slate device for Gaelic folk. They’re calling it the I-Plaid.
I-Pads and smartphones have also brought back a briefly forgotten side of human nature. Or at least made it more portable. The other day this person showed me pictures of her family’s last trip to Walla Walla. She did it with her I-pad. Not long after, this guy showed me a very long video on his smartphone of a trip he took. Amazing that all that data could be packed into a little phone.
Unfortunately I felt trapped. Watching his video at a party with a lot of other stuff going on. Me and about three other guys looking over his shoulder as he held up his phone. And I thought, dude, this experience is familiar.
It’s like being invited over to the neighbors to watch this excruciatingly long slide show of his most recent family vacation. Except now, you can’t just be trapped in his family room. You can be trapped anywhere.
Technology rises, or sinks, to the level of humanity. Smartphones don’t bore people. People bore people.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

#1379 Electioneers

The recent all mail election offered a sad side note. Displaced election volunteers. If you’re like me, most of the times you’ve gone to vote in the past, you’ve gone to your polling place, at a church.
I loved the smell of Church polling places¾that combo of perfume, pledge on the pews, and damp mold on the hymnals. The semi-annual duty of democracy never changed it much, no matter who came in reeking of what in their endeavor to exercise the franchise. Maybe because no one has ever had the gall to pass gas in these hallowed halls, and it is the absence of residual odor rather than its presence that lends a church its unique angelic aroma.
I miss the election volunteers, the old ladies and gents that helped us when we voted. Who peeled off the “I Voted” sticker. Who checked my signature against the one in the book. Who ripped off my ballot stub. What do those people do now to replace that wonderful senior diversion?
I have this vision of elderly ladies not getting the memo and showing up to a deserted church on that first time in November after we converted to Vote-by-mail. They sat there and sat there, their lavender cachets and scented blue hair emanating an odor that mingled effortlessly with the aforementioned atmosphere of the church, like a soul ascending into heaven. With nothing to do, they chattered about great-grandchildren, broke out crochet hooks, and traded yarns about elections passed. One of them mentioned souvenirs and another, inspired, dug into her voluminous purse, and among the discarded tissues and cellophane butterscotch candy wrappers, she found and revealed, to the oohs and ahhs of her cronies, a bag of old chads, dimpled, bulging, and yes, hanging.
Like the sad head of a displaced volunteer…
America ya gotta love it.

1378 Beggar Cleaner

People do interesting things with their dogs. You see them training them to do all sorts of tricks. When I see a dog jump through a hoop of fire or swim a river to save a child, it’s awfully impressive. I’ve had some pretty dumb dogs, so I’m amazed if you can even get one to roll over.
What I don’t like though, is the owners who take great pleasure in making their dogs beg. It’s so demeaning somehow. Here’s this poor innocent animal. All it wants to do is: A, please its master and B, get a treat. And the master derives cruel pleasure from making it beg. And beg in front of friends, neighbors, even the family cat.
It just seems wrong somehow. An abuse of power. If you love your animal, allow it some self-respect. “Here Rover, come on...beg.” “You really want the treat don’t you? So beg.”
I guess some folks just want to be king or something. Power-tripping on their pets. Look everyone; I turned my noble Irish setter into a mewling beggar. Aren’t I great?
No¾self-respecting dogs like to work for their treats. So I had an interesting idea the other day. Shih tzu Duct Cleaning. Or possibly Lhasa Apso. Any small hairy dog would do. You could even use one of those curly haired ones. Nothing like a cockapoo for the really caked-on grime.
You could call your company Doggone Duct Cleaning. Put a treat at one end of the ductwork in question and turn your shih tzu loose at the other. Voila, out the treat end emerges a giant friendly dirt ball.
Kind of like a retriever, except in this case they’re fetching dust bunnies.
And cheap too. People would be begging for your service.
America, ya gotta love it.

1377 Pet Pictures

I read a fair amount of books. Which means I get to look at a fair amount of “Author Portraits.” You know the ones. They’re the pictures on the back cover of a book. Or possibly on the inside back flap of a hardback book sleeve.
I find it interesting to read an entire book then save my view of the author till the last. I’m often surprised by the visage thereon. You read this bold and muscular story and then the author looks like Casper Milquetoast.
I’m also amazed by how many author types seem to feel it’s necessary to pose with their pets.
I wonder about the psychology behind the practice. Are they trying to establish something? Perhaps their generosity to all living things? Could be, these are often authors who write in gruesome detail about murders, mayhem, and suchlike. Maybe they are just trying to show us their humanity by contrasting themselves to their pets’ animalosity.
Cats seem to be more the norm than dogs in these pictures. Often, the author seems to be clutching the cat rather desperately— either the cat is trying to escape or the socially-challenged author is petrified of the photographer and the cat is more crutch than prop. Even worse is the author who poses in such a way as to have a cat-like expression on his or her face.
I don’t get it. What is it they are trying to say? “You’ll be sure to like my book because I am liked by my cat.” Or, “Even if you don’t like my book, my cat still loves me.” Or, “Look. I not only can write, I can hold a cat against its will, and sort of look like a cat too.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

1376 Young Vote

As the talk winds down about the meaning of the last election, I think a couple of points are worthy of mention.
Midterm elections generally do what this one did—give the sitting president a thumping. It happened with Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes. The only one in recent memory it didn’t happen with was Carter. And all that pent-up desire for change did him in in one term.
Sitting presidents get blamed for stuff. But presidents can also work with the other party to effect change. There’s nothing like an electoral drubbing to help you reset your mandate.
The job numbers are improving. The last five quarters have shown slow but steady growth. The stock market is back to the stratosphere. The signs are positive. They were just a little slow to help the Dems in time for the election.
Midterm elections—the laggiest lagging economic indicator.
And hey, with the surge in employment numbers generated by all the new Republicans being employed, things are sure to perk up.
Still. You have to be concerned. We were in a pretty deep pit. And it’s only been two years. Was Obama a victim of the voter base that vaulted him into power in the first place? Did the younger voters bow out? Was the instant gratification generation absent without leave?
Politicians are always wary of the younger vote. Historically, it’s not been as reliable as oldsters. Shake the Social Security sword and the rattling will wake a septuagenarian. And with vote by mail, he can do so from his Depends dispenser. The rattle this time was from the fear the new socialist health care bill would take away their socialist Medicare.
But the young? Who knows?
Maybe if they’d been allowed to text in their vote...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

1375 Crooner

I was listening to a radio commercial not long ago for a guy performing at one of the local casinos. The commercial said the entertainer was one of America’s celebrated icons, whatever that means, and also that he was a legendary crooner.
I’m not sure which I’d rather be, an icon or a crooner. An icon sounds like a little picture on my computer desktop. But crooner...what the heck is a crooner?
It certainly implies that at some point one is engaged in the act of crooning. Which sounds, for some reason, not unlike the act of mooning.
If you play with the conjugation of the verb to croon, you don’t get too much help. I croon. He croons. We once crooned. They will be crooning. It all sounds so painful. Like a lounge lizard mating ritual.
Where did this word creep into our language?
Did it have something to do with sooners, those folks that were early settlers of Oklahoma? Did one of those sooners start caterwauling and get a cramp? So they called the sounds emerging from his cramped caterwauling sooner lips “crooning”? Or did he have a crumpet at noon and call it a croon and sing till he rattled his spoon and a cow jumped over the moon?
The etymology dictionary says “croon” comes from a Scottish word that originally meant, “to bellow like a bull,” and then for some reason evolved to mean “to lament” and eventually “to sing softly and sadly.”
Perhaps the cow had a crumpet at noon. Or the bull was in the process of becoming a steer. And a soft and tender steak was on the way.
That explains the German phrase, “When the bull bellows in pain, say danke schoen.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1374 Eek Lips

So I was in the grocery store the other day. And I decided I needed some gum. I chew the sugarless variety, as I have discovered that grinding raw sucrose into one’s teeth with the sugared variety is perhaps not a good idea cavity-wise.
Sucrose might more aptly be pronounced su-gross vis-à-vis the tooth-destroying effects of said acid-producing and bacteria-feeding sugars. One’s teeth may as well be whittled down to fangs.
Which, oddly, seemed to be promoted by the sugarless variety I picked. It was the Wrigley’s brand Eclipse. Now I have used Eclipse gum before, and like its longlastiness and bright flavor. My particular favorite flavor is spearmint, which, for some reason, always sounds like an after-dinner treat at a violent cannibal party.
In any event, Eclipse, the gum, has decided to trade on the popularity of Eclipse, the movie, and so has a promotional thing going on its packets. That’s right, a sugar-free breath-sweetening gum has a co-branding promotion going with a vampire movie.
Hmmm. Vampire gum... Why does that sound like a previously overlooked marketing opportunity? Of course. Vampires must have exceptionally bad breath. I have a devil of a time freshening my mouth after a glass of milk. Imagine what a carafe of blood would do to one’s breath. Especially if you suck the blood of a guy named Hal who eats lots of garlic. Man. Talk about halitosis.
“Dude, floss your clots or something, your breath could wake the dead.”
So Eclipse is the perfect solution to vampire breath. And I suppose it sums up the reaction of folks to a vampire’s bloody lips. Especially if the sight of those lips makes someone go “eek.”
Get it? Eek-lips...
You’re killing me here...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1373 Care Package

Sometimes I think our problem is we don’t care. We’ve become blasé about everything. Or maybe we’re so assaulted and pummeled by the 24-hour news cycle we’re just crawling back into our holes and quivering like a neurotic Chihuahua.
A couple of recent news stories seem to bare me out. First on the don’t-care front, or possibly on the bare-me-out front, the story of a man getting damages from an incompetent stripper. A Florida man was awarded 650,000 dollars after being hit in the face by a dancer’s shoe at a strip club. Apparently the guy was sitting at the bar when a bar-dancing stripper clonked him with her clog.
Since then he’s experienced double vision and dizziness. Isn’t that what you usually experience in a strip bar? I thought that’s what you were paying for.
The bar’s name was Cheetah by the way, like the fast animal, even though it sounds like what the roofer was intending on being—a cheetah.
But my point is, shouldn’t the stripper have cared more? At what point in the stripper’s desire to do her job better would she come up with the idea of kicking some guy in the head.
Not the playful teasing you’d expect from her repertoire. Man, you gotta see that stripper at the Cheetah, she’s a kick.
Another example: A recent study by a social media analytics company found that 71% of the 1.2 billion tweets posted in the last two months generated no reaction whatsoever. So much for reaching out and touching someone. 852 million people sharing, and hoping for a response—a connection, however electronic, from another human being. And nothing.
Digital silence essentially saying, who cares?
Talk about being kicked in the head...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

1372 Dis-Claimer

I hate political attack ads. But the interesting thing is, they work. Most people don’t respond to nuanced gentile arguments about policy. But everybody seems to love a vicious attack. And usually an attack that with a little thought and a few un-lazy checks of the facts would be easy to dispute.
I had an election ad epiphany the other day. I was listening to the radio. An automobile ad came on first. It was extolling the virtues and low prices of some vehicle. The first 15 seconds of the ad were about the car. The next 15 seconds were the legal disclaimer that it was actually 2 cars on that particular lot that with approval-of-credit may qualify for the discount offered.
Right after that, a political attack ad came on. The perpetrator, excuse me candidate, proceeded to make a bunch of buzzword-laden innuendos and negative assertions, and then report purported support for those assertions. Then guess what? No disclaimer.
Isn’t it weird that we force someone doing something as innocuous as selling a car to jump through elaborate regulatory loops, and we allow folks running for the highest offices in the land to lie? Or at least omit the full truth.
Maybe the ad should read, “Polls show my opponent has been disapproved by a majority of voters, (non-random polls actually conducted by my private polling firm using people who always vote my way)” Or, “The Seattle Times says (not the actual Seattle Times, quote originates from paid ad from my election committee in the Seattle Times).”
I like it. They’d have to lie less since it would take up too much space to un-lie.
Because if you’re gonna be dissing on someone you should have to use the dis-claimer.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

1371 Out Wedding

One of the big items in the gossip news recently was the wedding of Russell Brand and Katy Perry. I wish them the best. Marriages are hard enough; in the pressure cooker of pop culture, even more so.
But what was interesting about their marriage was they chose to have the actual ceremony in India. Amazing, I thought. Are we outsourcing our celebrity weddings now too?
Why there? Are the paparazzi here that much fiercer than India? Did they both have a Maharishi Yogi Beatles fetish? Wasn’t there a local place they could have spent all that money?
Or maybe it was a language issue. He was from England, she was from the United States. Maybe they wanted a neutral English speaking country.
But the whole thing did bring the outsourcing thing back to mind. We are used to outsourcing our manufactured goods. Even our computer troubleshooting services. But our major life experiences?
Here’s some outsourcing maybe we should consider. I was reading an article the other day about communities bidding to get federal prisons. Heads in beds for motels as visitors came. Construction and maintenance jobs for the facility. And most importantly steady high-paid employment for the local folks.
All at taxpayer expense.
Maybe we could cut that cost down. Outsource our federal prisons. The CIA already apparently has a network of secret interview facilities. Perhaps bring those out in the open.
It’s gotta be a lot cheaper to ship a three-times-you’re-outer all the way out. And feed and clothe him or her where our current local prisoner standard of living would be considered the height of luxury.
I hate shipping jobs overseas. But when the overseers work so cheap...
And we do have such a big deficit...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

1370 Taxing Forms

I got this notice in the mail recently that disturbed me. It was a little three-by-five, cheap, postcard-sized form. It looked almost exactly like those invitations you get to watch free condo presentations.
The kind of thing that usually takes an instantaneous unlooked-at trip to my recycle bin.
Fortunately, for some reason I looked at it and saw the words Internal Revenue Service. That got my attention. Turned out it was a notice from the feds that they’re no longer going to send the paper tax packet they’ve been sending me since I first went to work at age 16. Documented non-under-the-table non-migrant farmwork that is.
The IRS notice said that in order to save costs, they’ll no longer be shipping the tax forms. They’re still printing them, as I can stop by a local taxpayer assistance center and pick them up.
But the big thrust of the feds’ notice was a pitch to do e-filing. “It’s so easy,” they said. “And popular. Everyone is doing it.” Sounded more like a pitch for reefer madness.
Not me. I’m still too e-paranoid to have sensitive financial data on my computer—much less electronically send it out.
I know. Everyone does it. Everyone does Facebook too. And the feds hacked into Iran’s computers and sent a worm directly to a nuclear plant to disable it. What could go wrong? We all know the internet is perfectly secure.
The feds did give me one more option. I can download and print my own forms. Great. As if taxes aren’t enough, now I have to stand the cost of paper and ink. Oh well, we all need to do our part.
That 1.5 trillion deficit will probably be recovered pretty quick if we all print our own tax forms.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

1369 Dummy Dums

Ya gotta wonder about candymakers sometimes. What are they thinkin’ when it comes to names? I’ve mentioned before how odd it is they named a candy Milk “Dud.” It implies total failure. Why wasn’t the idea of naming a candy “dud” deemed a dud?
So it is with a little sucker I ran across recently. I always forget they make these candies until I see a bowl of them for customers at some office or shop. They are called Dum Dums.
The implications are many. First, it’s a sucker. So I question the wisdom of giving one to one of your customers anyhow. Not only might your patron interpret some hidden meaning to being offered a sucker. It could be a lot worse if you offer them a sucker named Dum Dums.
And what about the manufacturer? Are they implying we would have to be stupid to buy these things? Maybe so. The label I saw on one of them recently seems to confirm this suspicion.
Dum Dums have flavors—strawberry, lemon, lime, etc. Each of them labeled on their little wax paper wrapper accordingly. This Dum Dum was marked “Mystery Flavor.”
That’s pretty scary. Is it a bottom of the batch sort of thing? All the flavors mixed in the dregs of the pot? What does that say about the hygiene of the factory?
Or are they just testing us? Are the tepid flavors of Dum Dums not unlike M&Ms? It doesn’t really matter what color it is, it tastes the same. Watermelon, Mystery Flavor, who cares?
Or are they challenging us? Hey, we dared you to eat something called Dum Dums, and you did. Try this, um, mystery flavor.
Surprise! A liver flavored sucker!
I think I’m sticking to Smarties.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

1368 Free-Standing BTUs

Sometimes the ol’ brain just wanders off in weird directions.
Like the other day, I was emceeing some public event. As I was engaged in my antics up on stage, I noticed a 2-year old in the audience laughing and enjoying himself. Then I looked at the other side of the crowd and there was this really old guy from one of the retirement homes. Excuse me, assisted senior living facilities. Anyhow, he was smiling too. And I thought, I should put that on my resume. Diapers to Diapers, All Ages Entertainer.
Not long after that, I got this notice in the mail from a new birthing center that was having a grand opening. It’s a really nice place run by really nice people. The flyer was pretty nice too. It noted it’s a state-licensed facility. But it also said something odd. It said the place was the area’s only free-standing birth center.
Free-standing? For some reason a Native American birthing method from the movie Jeremiah Johnson popped into my mind. Or was it Dances with Wolves?
And lastly, I was at the LOTT treatment facility. You know, where they treat sewage. They have this new power generation plant there. Basically, they make methane from solid waste, then use the heat from burning that methane to make power.
So every time you engage in your morning, um, constitutional you’re making a contribution to the power grid. Maybe we should call it a morning contributional. Talk about personal power.
I just think it’s so cool our whole community can generate energy. I’ve heard of the power of coming together. We’ve got the power of going together.
So I was wondering, do they measure it in BTUs? Or BUTs?
America, ya gotta love it.

1367 Scam-genuity

Seems like not a day goes by that we don’t hear of some privacy invasion or security breach from Facebook. And yet people continue to use it without concern. Perhaps proving the Facebook founder’s assertion that privacy is dead.
There’s a new Facebook thing that lets other people add you to their group without asking you. Some electronic wag added the Facebook founder to the National Association of Man Boy Love just to show him what a good idea that was.
A privacy foundation recently found that apps on Facebook, like Farmville and others, were harvesting private data—actual names and addresses—and sending them to third parties and advertisers.
They know your buying habits, they know your friends. Facebook forces you to turn the other cheek and bend over too.
A security expert recently pointed out there are millions of pictures of children and moms on Facebook. With names. When those kids grow up and think their mother’s maiden name is a great secret password, look out.
So it’s refreshing to get an old-fashioned scam once in a while. The other day I came home to a hand-placed “Delivery Notice” sticker stuck on my door. It said there was a package waiting to be delivered to me. The notice had the attractive murky yellow and brown colors of UPS. And an 888 number. I almost called.
Then I read a little closer. The sticker was actually telling me they wanted to deliver a “promotional package.” And it wasn’t from UPS. It was from Coastal Aire Concepts. A condo presentation deal.
Ah, scam-genuity.
Still, it was refreshing. In this day of wholesale electronic spam laziness, they actually went to the physical work of putting a sticker on my door… to stick it to me.
America, ya gotta love it.

1366 Sign Off

I was driving from point A to point B the other day and I noticed something that has been staring me in the face for a long time. There are signs everywhere.
And not just ordinary signs. Semi-illegal signs.
Have you noticed lately how cheesy banners are proliferating on sides of buildings? They’re worse than the little illegal stick-em up signs stapled into the side of the road.
And it’s because they are legal—sort of. For years, cities, in an attempt to beautify the cityscape, have enacted sign ordinances. They do this because businesses, ever after the cheapest way to advertise, would put up all manner of not-so-tasteful signs in front of their buildings.
This in a bow to the notion that we are a drive-by economy and all that traffic driving by the front of their businesses needs to be apprised of the prizes said business owners have for them inside.
The ordinances sought to contain the negative visual effects of that urge. Citizens were treated, for a while, to a modicum of relief from the often-tacky evidences of that entrepreneur enthusiasm.
Then the businesses found the loophole. “Temporary” signs on the actual walls of their buildings were exempt. Enter the permanent “sale” sign. And something else. Businesses began to rent out their walls to other businesses for the banner space. So now a business doesn’t just have a “temporary” sign proclaiming his killer prices on Bud Light, he also has semi-permanent signs for a hot tub company, and maybe a bail bond company with no frontage and a cheap back-alley location.
So is this just another example of business thumbing its nose at intrusive government regulation?
Or a bad example to our graffiti-spraying youth that laws are meant to be ignored? America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

1365 High Time

If you’re interested in extending your life, Albert Einstein may be able to help.
Physicists have long known that one of the peculiar aspects of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity—that time changes with the position of the observer—is true. For example, the perception of time nearly stops for an observer on a rocket ship going the speed of light, relative to an outside observer
Or if you’re in a black hole, or the bottom of a mine or something. Boy does time seem to drag then.
Here on earth, or not too far above it, the same thing happens. Time ticks slightly slower on a fast-moving satellite than a stationary one.
Great if you happen to be living on a satellite. But recently, using ultra-sensitive atomic clocks, scientists have determined that clocks run slower and faster on a smaller scale too. A clock put just one foot above the floor ticks slower than one actually on the floor. And a clock put in a car going just 20 mph ticks ever so slightly slower than a non-moving clock.
Hey hey. That means living in the city makes you live longer. Assuming traffic is moving relatively quickly. Another reason for good transportation planning. Slower moving traffic, not to mention gridlock, is now scientifically proven to shorten your lifespan.
Add that to where you live. If you live on the top floor of a skyscraper, you’ll live longer than the folks on the ground floor. That’s right. Over a lifetime, people who live on top age 100-millionths of a second more slowly than folks on the bottom.
There you have it. Science tells us indisputably that it’s high time we embraced high living.
Hey, every 100-millionth of a second counts...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1363 Star Warped

There’s been lots of talk recently about the new update of Star Wars. It’s partially because 3-D technology has got to the point where it may be worthwhile.
But I think it’s also possibly because George Lucas can’t find anything else to do. Aside from his participation in the Indiana Jones thing, Star Wars and related technology has pretty much been George’s oeuvre. Could have been worse I suppose. He could have only done the Twilight series and it would have been his horror d’oeuvre.
Some of the talk about Star Wars has been about updating some of the cultural tie-ins and references for a new audience. Things like having handheld communications devices also feature texting and touch-screens. Or have the people on the planet of Tatooine actually have multiple tattoos.
But most important, fix everyone’s hair. What Carrie Fisher wouldn’t give for a digitally remastered bob. Goodbye cinnamon roll head, hello hirsute self-respect.
I hope they keep R2-D2 and C3PO essentially as is though. Having a robot that looked like a fireplug was quite attractive to my dog. And being inside gave Mary Lou Retton a nice job after gymnastics.
How’s that for an obscure cultural reference in need of updating?
I did like C3PO’s cheesy trophy-brass finish. It contrasted so nicely with every other color in the entire saga. But maybe they should think about toning it down. It made little sense when everyone else was in camo for C3PO to be a gleaming beacon of brass. “Yo, we got a battle going here, someone put a lampshade on that guy.”
What I really hope though, is they’ll update the Millennium Falcon. They’ll have to call it the Windows 7 Falcon.
I’m guessing it will still break down and have to be restarted frequently.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1362 Camo Kids

I heard an interesting ad on the radio recently. It was for a gun and knife show. What was interesting was how at the end the announcer in the commercial shouted out, “Kid’s under 12 free!”
How lucky for the single dad looking for something to do on his child custody Saturday. A nice low budget outing. “Hey kids, let’s go to the gun and knife show!”
I suppose with the populist revolution brewing and all, it’s a good idea. And it’s long been a tradition in our country for kids, especially boys, to emulate fighting and war and suchlike with their toys. I say boys because I don’t remember seeing a Desert Camo Barbie.
But that has problems. The other day I saw two young fellows on bicycles racing around a fairly congested street. They were ignoring the bike lanes and darting across traffic, obviously engaged in a heedless game of chase, dodging obstacles and so on.
They were wearing bike helmets. Sort of. Now I know it’s important to have a helmet a kid will actually wear. So plastering a bright orange daisy decal on it is probably not the answer.
Still, I think it’s a bad idea to have a bicycle helmet done up in camo. I mean, the basic point on a bicycle is to be seen. The problem is exacerbated because most of the boys also wear camo clothes. And that, while making for a good game of guerilla warfare, increases the risk when they start biking around blind corners in neighborhoods.
Maybe skip the camo clothes and the problem disappears. Along with their camouflaged head. It would definitely get a motorist’s attention to apparently be seeing a headless bicyclist.
On his new Ichabod Crane BMX, perhaps?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

1361 Imm-security

There are three big reasons we had a deep recession rather than a full-blown depression this time around: Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. None was in place during the great Depression. Consequently, liquid money completely evaporated from circulating through our economy.
Can you say clot?
Now one of them is in serious trouble. Social Security ain’t so secure, and it’s partly because neither are our borders.
Here’s why. Social Security was founded on a couple of shaky assumptions. First off, the government trusted the life insurance industry to give them accurate mortality tables. Little did they know the life insurance industry was at the time gouging the public by basing those tables on figures from WWI and The Civil War.
Great for them, it meant higher premiums, but bad for the Feds, as it meant they expected people to die quicker. So if you pay Social Security tax all your life, your actual amount paid in, plus interest, would carry you to about age 75.
Um, most retired Americans live to 85 or longer.
That’s actually okay if the other assumption was better. That there would always be lots more younger folk paying in than older folk drawing out. Bad assumption.
Can you say baby boom bulge?
Add to that the last problem the naïve Feds never counted on— outsourcing. Remember all those profit-enhancing jobs American companies sent overseas? That cheap labor isn’t paying into Social Security.
Nor are illegal immigrants in the US.
So here’s the controversial solution. Especially to all the cranky anti-immigrant oldsters currently living past their contribution and actually on the government dole. The only way to save Social Security is to give illegals amnesty.
And get a huge windfall as they start paying in.
Call it immigrant in-sourcing. Or imm-sourcing.
Or imm-security...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1360 Red and Blue Tarp

I read an interesting headline the other day. It said, “Stock Market Up as Wall Street Expects More Government Spending.”
Interesting, because I think it’s fair to assume Wall Street has more Republicans than Democrats. And the current run-up to the election has the Republicans devoting a lot of lip service to the evils of government spending.
How interesting that as business people they actually like the idea.
The enthusiasm was caused by, of all things, a poor job report. Wall Street expects the government to spend more stimulus bucks, and that means more bucks for them. Notably, the job report also showed many private sector jobs being created. The only thing that continued to hold the job report down was all the state and federal government jobs that had been lost due to budget cuts.
So, let me get this straight, the government is shrinking as it spends more money on the private sector to create jobs.
Sounds like a Republican campaign promise to me. And a good time for a celebratory party. Tea, anyone?
Also, the most recent news about the supposedly horrible TARP program is good—it worked. Of the 700 billion dollars spent—I should say lent—to stave off both the total collapse of our economy and the worst depression ever as too-big-to-fail financial institutions failed, almost all of it has been paid back. The government stands to lose a maximum of 50 billion dollars and may not even lose that if AIG comes through as promised.
The TARP program, by the way, was one of the last bipartisan things congress has done. And gee-whiz it worked. Government managed to save business from its own excesses, save the economy, and may actually turn a profit.
Bipartisanship can work.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1359 Licked Chicken

Once upon a time, there were a bunch of chickens. Chickens are pretty good at producing things, like eggs and stuff, but they’re not known for their depth of intellect. And they scare easy.
So when word came down about some hawks coming to kill and eat them the chickens were in dire straits. Fortunately for them, a nice fox came along and they very happily handed over the henhouse to him. Little did they suspect he was the one who started the hawk rumor, but hey, they were chickens.
The fox built up the henhouse pretty good. There were certainly more places to lay eggs. And more comfortable too. Funny, they seemed to lose an egg now and then, but after all it was now a pretty big henhouse, even if the walls seemed a little flimsy, more like a house of cards, so it was pretty easy to misplace an egg.
The fox had a solution for that too. Let him hold their nest-eggs so they wouldn’t lose them anymore. He had a special nest-egg holder that he had built on the bank near the street wall.
As I said, it was a pretty big henhouse.
Everybody was pretty happy with this arrangement. Until one day, Chicken Little went into the wall street area and took a peak at the nest egg holder. Lo and behold all the eggs were gone. Nothing there but empty shells.
Chicken Little told the other chickens, the sky fell, the flimsy henhouse collapsed, and the fox ran away.
The chickens tried to rebuild the henhouse for two years and then gave up in fear and frustration. So they had a tea party and invited the fox back.
Henhouse building was hard. What they really liked was watching the fox’s TV.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1358 Tax-cutting Labor

Let me say first off, I am totally against fiscal irresponsibility and government waste. As a businessperson, I am often exhausted by regulatory rigamorole. But I also realize there’s a place for government. I especially realize it when I try to get my fellow homeowners in my homeowners’ association to pool our resources to pull scotch-broom or something.
That’s why I’m pretty sure without government I wouldn’t be driving on a very nice road to get into my business every day.
So when I heard one of my fellow businessmen say something to another at a trade show the other day I had to take notice. He said, “We all know government never did anything right.”
One might point to the massive deregulated economic crater that took place in the fall of 2008 and be comfortable in asserting, “We all know private industry never did anything right.” The truth is, there’s good and bad, and it’s up to everyone to improve both sides.
It’s like the whole illegal immigrant thing. We hear how both Republican and Democrat politicians are getting caught with their pants down about it. Possibly because their illegal Salvadoran house helper was in the back room pressing and cleaning those formerly lily-white pants.
Sure, our borders are porous, and government should do something about that. But someone in private industry is paying these folks. And a group of those someones is paying off the lobbyists that are making sure the immigration crackdowns usually don’t happen till after harvest season.
The private agricultural industrialists are also contributing to the decline in our Social Security revenue base. When was the last time a strawberry farmer paid and deducted social security tax from an undocumented worker?
Then again, when was the last time you enjoyed that cheap strawberry?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1357 Poor-cent

The other day I picked up one of those power-bar breakfast bar thingies and read on it that it now had “20% more nuts per bar.” Wow, I thought, that’s cool, how did they do that in these strained economic times?
When I took it home, I compared it to an old one I had in my cupboard and found the answer. The new bar itself was about 20% smaller. A simple formula for profit. Reduce the size of the bar, keep the same amount of nuts, charge the same amount, say there are 20% more nuts per bar.
That’s the magic and the peril of using percentages. And also why I say percentages are why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Poor-centages as it were.
Here’s why. Inflation hits. Your breakfast bar goes up 5%. Let’s say it was a dollar, now it’s $1.05. You and everybody you work with gets a 4% raise. You were making $1.00 an hour, now you’re making $1.04. Your boss was making $10 an hour. He’s gets $10.40. After he buys the new breakfast bar, he’s still got 35 cents. Each time you buy one, you lose a penny. That the trap.
It’s okay to base inflation on percentages. But not the Cost Of Living Adjustments. COLAs don’t factor in the difference in real cost of goods to real amounts of earning. If we all made the same amount, no problem. But we don’t.
This becomes particularly worrisome when the economy as a whole shrinks drastically. It can bring about a little crazy revolutionary behavior. Because the bar is getting smaller and the nuts that are still in it are starting to get cramped.
And cramped nuts can get a little testy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

1356 Toasted Skin

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Wifi-enabled coffee shop. Watch out for your laptop.
There have been all sorts of aliments we’ve had to endure from computer technology, but never anything quite like this. TSS. Toasted Skin Syndrome. That’s right. Your laptop may make you a s’more.
It used to be eyestrain from sitting too close to the CRT. Then it was carpal tunnel syndrome from un-ergonomic keyboards and too much mouse clicking. Then it was neck and back strain from bad posture. A host of medical ailments unleashed on the ever computer dependent public.
Computers fueled a veritable surge in the economy from eye doctor, orthopedist, chiropractor, and massage therapist fees. And now dermatologists are about to cash in too, with Toasted Skin Syndrome.
TSS can happen to people who actually use a laptop—on their laptop. The low-level heat eventually affects the dermis and causes a darkening discoloration. Some people get an overall darkening. Some people get streaks or a criss-cross pattern. One doctor reported a net-like pattern.
Or possibly web-like.
TSS is technically called “erythema ab igne,” from the Latin “redness from fire.” It’s been documented in bakers, glass blowers, and even people who gather often at a central heating source for warmth. I just think it’s another unexpected consequence of our overdependence on technology.
What an interesting thing. First computers gave us spam, then bacn. Now we’re getting toast. I was just going for the information super-highway, who would have expected breakfast.
But I think the coolest thing about toasted skin syndrome is that now I bet we’ll get one of those weird consumer warnings to fend off lawsuits.
“Caution: Do not use laptop on laptop.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1355 Pay to Party

I read this article the other day about a Tea Party convention in Kentucky. The speaker at the rally railed about cutting big government down and lowering taxes.
But the reporter noticed a lot of folks cheering in the audience were on those little motorized scooters. Turns out they’re pretty easy to get—from Medicare. It also turns out many of the folks may have been better off walking.
Some folks really need them to be sure. But there’s others who should take a hike.
Another example of government ineptitude and personal greed combining for excess spending. The cheerers were right. We do need to cut spending. But they probably wouldn’t want the spending cut on their scooters.
That seems to be the refrain. Cut my taxes, and cut spending, but make sure you cut spending on someone else.
Well maybe it’s time the Tea Party put its money where its mouth is. I read another statistic. Last year the Bureau of Public Debt received $3.1 Million in voluntary gifts from Americans wanting to help retire the 13.4 trillion dollar debt. Cool! Let’s follow their inspiration.
Tea Partiers unite! Let’s voluntarily give up our Social Security. And our Medicare. Those are just socialist things anyhow. And while we’re at it, let’s stop the two wars and cut the defense budget back to the size of the education budget. There’s another big chunk of big government spending right there.
Crazy, you say? Of course it is. Just like pretending solving our problems and cutting the budget is as easy as cutting crumpets at a tea party.
Still, I do like the idea of giving up Social Security on purpose.
But somehow I don’t think your average tea partier would embrace the term “voluntary submission”...
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, October 14, 2010

1354 Handlin’ Pans

Sometimes the meanings and origins of words are obscure. The other day I used the term “blue” to describe a bit of literature that was a tad raunchy. I said it was a “little blue.” The person I said it to had never heard that description.
Maybe it’s falling out of favor. “Cursing a blue streak” has been replaced by people from blue states. Or feeling the blues. So to clarify: At one time, “blue” humor was what you’d expect from late-night comics in Las Vegas.
I recently had someone ask me where the word “panhandler” comes from. So I looked it up in the online etymology dictionary. It said the word “panhandle,” as a geographic description, goes back to 1856, to describe part of Virginia. Funny, I’ve never heard of the Virginia panhandle.
Most of us unimaginative folks, looking at states that supposedly have panhandles, including West Virginia, Florida, Alaska, Idaho, Texas and Oklahoma, would agree Oklahoma is the most panhandly of them all.
Interestingly, the term “panhandler,” meaning beggar, goes even further back, to 1849, perhaps, as the etymology dictionary speculates, “from the act of holding out ones arm like the handle of a pan.”
I don’t know. I don’t think the term “panhandler” really caught on until a bunch of them came west after the dust bowl. It was the Grapes-of-Wrath folks escaping the drought and depression that really brought begging up to national proportions. And they were from where? The Oklahoma “panhandle.” Ergo, they were “panhandlers.” Dumb hicks were known as okeys and poor beggars without a social safety net were called panhandlers.
Panhandlers also used blue language.
Funny…Oklahoma isn’t a blue state.
But many Oklahomans have dogs named Blue.
I wonder what that means...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1353 Non-Segway

The other day we were standing around the studio talking and one of the guys said, “Speaking of baseball, did you hear the guy who owns Segway a Segway accident?”
I said, “Man, that was a bad Segway.”
The story was he was at the seashore on a trail close to a cliff and somehow lost control. Segway was a landmark transportation device and now it’s causing a landmark legal issue. When the owner of a company dies from one of his own products, whom does his family sue?
Another bad segue: I was looking at the new Ford Flex the other day and I said to myself, “What does that remind me of?” That’s when a Mini-Cooper drove by. Aha. The Ford Flex looks amazingly like an overgrown Mini-Cooper. A Maxi-Cooper. Maybe they’ll bring one out with wings.
Another bad segue: Or lack thereof. I was watching a biopic the other day and the actor looked a lot like the guy he was playing, and they were both pretty famous—Joaquin Phoenix playing Johnny Cash or something.
And I thought, I like that. I have some other ideas. How about original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood, playing the title role in the Stevie Nicks story? Or Ken Berry in the Bill Bixby story.
No segue to this thought either: I had a friend tell me he was getting a shingles shot. He said older folks who had chickenpox when they were kids were susceptible to shingles. He couldn’t get his shot that day because they were out of shingles shot serum. He told me the closest they had any was in Westport.
So how much shingle serum should someone shoot down by the seashore?
Too much, and shortly afterwards you might shiver on a shaky Segway.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

1352 R2-D3

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new 3-D TV. Some folks are ready for it. Some aren’t. From those who have actually seen it in action the reports are that its realism really depends a lot on your position in the room. You have to be sitting in the sweet spot.
Otherwise your 3-D experience is like Princess Leia from a broken R2-D2.
The big question is, will they make 3-D better or have they reached the limits of physics? If so, in order to have group 3-D we may have to change the positioning of furniture in our family room. The confluence of 3-D and Feng Shui, is this a great country or what?
A regular melting pot; 3-D technology dreamed up by the West, Feng Shui energy positioning from the East. Plop down Barcolounger enjoyment from the West and all the technology actually manufactured in the East.
So now it opens up the question of what you’d like to see cavorting around in the center of your sweet spot.
Some folks are anxiously awaiting 3-D renditions of movies from the sexy sixties, when lots of nudity and swearing abounded.
I don’t know. I don’t think I’m ready for Bob Carol Ted and Alice fussing and cussing on my coffee table. Or having someone drop in for a surprise visit while Midnight Cowboy is playing. Everybody’s talking indeed.
But I can visualize a whole new emergence of appreciation for Monty Python. The Black Knight scene would certainly encourage me to clean up the family room afterwards.
And they’ll redo Star Wars of course. Can’t wait for that.
So will the 3-D shot of Princess Leia projecting out of R2-D2 now be in 6-D?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

1351 Wonderful Words

Words are so cool. I love the way they can convey so much, and often on so many different levels than what you get on the surface.
Take the word workaholic. It’s a made up word. Derived from alcoholic. On the surface, it means someone who is addicted to work. How can they tell? Maybe the person is addicted to the money he or she gets from work. But we don’t hear of coinoholics or dollaholics.
Still, “workaholic” has a nice ring and cadence to it. And it makes it easy to say that when you have a vacation for a workaholic it’s a workaholiday.
Or take the word dud. Dud is almost onomatopoetic. One of those words that sound like what it describes, like sssssnake or buzz, or yogurt. A dud is a disappointment. Or something that fails to ignite. Or something that just plain fails. So why would you name a candy you wanted to have succeed and make lots of money off of, “milk duds”?
Yeah, I’m eating a dud.
Sounds so appetizing.
Some words raise expectations. “3-D” is like that. I don’t even know if 3-D is properly a word. But since it conveys meaning I suppose we’ll have to let it in. When you hear 3-D you expect some new technology that jumps out at you.
And like the colorizing binge of the 80s, when Ted Turner said he was going to use technology to remake all the old black and white pictures, you hear now that they’re thinking of doing the same thing with the 2-D back log.
I don’t know. I’m not really ready for Bridges of Madison County 3-D. Somehow the story of a horny cornhusker and a rutting shutterbug is better described with the word “two-dimensional.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

1350 Rational Ratios

There’s this big political movement starting. The moderation movement. The 70% of us people in the middle of modern political discourse are fighting for a voice.
Comic newscasters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are holding “Restore Sanity” and “Keep the Fear Alive” rallies in Washington DC. Even more importantly, independent figures like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg are throwing weight—and money—behind centrist candidates across the US.
Good luck. Moderation doesn’t sell newspapers or generate passionate blogs. In this day of vituperation and bloviation, quiet, reasoned arguments have no place. Which would you rather watch, gladiators coming at each other with flaming swords—or the college debate team?
Statistics show how conflicted we are. The big Tea Party mantra is for less government and less taxes. I’d like that too. And perhaps a magic carpet ride and an end to any conflict in Afghanistan.
But the figures on the ground show different. Nearly 50% of our population receives some form of government assistance—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps. About 45% of adults pay no income taxes at all. But you hear people on Medicare railing against the new healthcare law. You see old Tea Partiers on Social Security with nothing better to do manning rallies decrying big government. The same one that’s paying their check.
So where’s the reason? Can we think this through? It’s mighty complex, and we’ll probably have to pay higher taxes. Everyone.
Even the not-so-rational 25% of our population that still believes the world literally started 6014 years ago.
Which it did in a way. The world as we know it. Because that’s actually about the time the first villagers quite reasonably pooled their resources and taxed themselves to fix the first pothole.
And civil-ization was born.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

1349 Sim-i-luck

So did you ever wonder? What happened to Oral-A? We hear a lot about the Oral-B toothbrush, but I never remember hearing about Oral-A. And I’ve seen a ton of different Oral-Bs, so I don’t think we’re going to be hearing from Oral-C any time soon.
But it still makes you wonder. We get used to products improving with time and getting different higher designations. Windows 95, 98, and, um, 7. Oh sure, we get an occasional Millennium debacle but things usually get better.
So one would assume an Oral-A existed. And for some reason was scrapped. An industrial accident perhaps. The plastic chemistry messed up so they had millions of toothbrushes breaking into shards in unsuspecting cheeks. Or brushes contaminated with salmonella, or possibly rat hairs. Yum, nothing like a vigorous gum massage with rat hair.
It could happen. Look at poor Similac. Talk about a lack of sim-i-luck. Having to recall millions of portions of baby formula because they’re contaminated with beetles and beetle larvae. (Glad the contamination process caught the beetles in the middle of their reproductive cycle.)
But hey, why the panic? Babies will eat anything. They crawl over some pretty messy territory and they’re always putting stuff in their mouths. I’m sure they’ve ingested more than one beetle leg.
Besides, insect eating has a long and storied tradition. Lots of cultures eat crickets and grasshoppers and beetles. And you don’t want to miss a big plate of African grubworm larvae.
Yum...just like gnocchi.
And when was the last time you compared the anatomical similarities of a lobster and a cockroach? We eat insects of the sea on a regular basis¾crabs, shrimp, lobster.
So don’t recall, re-label.
How about Similac of the Sea?
America, ya gotta love it.

1348 Sign Age

I love going around the area and looking at real weird stuff. It makes you wonder why other weird stuff has never actually happened. It’s so thin a line...
Like I was driving on the recently redone Boulevard Road. Always a weird place anyhow...
“I live on Boulevard Road.”
“Oh yeah, I live on Street Avenue.”
In any event, they have this public art on the recently constructed roundabout. And the art looks not unlike something you would expect to see on Easter Island, or some Polynesian atoll. Like the stuff they once used to decorate 60s beachcomber lounges. Tiki torches and such like.
With all the Native Salish art in the region, you had to kind of wonder. What’s with this Tiki Tacky roundabout?
Not long after that, I was on a tour of the new LOTT sewage treatment plant. LOTT has been renamed “LOTT Clean Water Alliance.” Much better visual than solid waste filtering. But while I was on the tour, up on the fourth floor I noticed one of those emergency signs telling you which way to go in case of fire or earthquake. And it was titled “Evacuation Route.”
Seemed appropriate somehow. Hope they don’t get hit by an asteroid.
Or how about the health club grand opening sign. It offered free coffee and donuts. Now that’s a good idea. Free doughnuts at a health club. Talk about job security.
Or the town of Forks. Their claim to fame is they have more gray and rainy days than just about anyone else does. That’s why vampires can live there. So I suggest a new sign on the way into town, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll have to agree.
Forks, Where the Sun Don’t Shine.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

1347 E-Secure

Things are tough in the world of e-security these days. And there’s no easy cure. Hackers are just too dang smart. I mean heck, the other day they even hacked into Twitter.
The world is a pretty scary place when someone starts stealing stuff from something called Twitter. I hope it’s not the means to send viciously short messages. It puts the fear of God into you to imagine the havoc one could wreak sending out false tweets.
I suppose on the one hand, it’s comforting to know our youngsters aren’t bound by the bonds of propriety and are exercising the creativity to take the computer age to the next level. But it’s even more discomfiting to realize the same vandalism and lack of respect that leads to graffiti tagging underlays the amoral urge to hack.
And it’s not just regular hacking. It’s proactive phishing too. The other day a friend of mine got a call from what was apparently a woman from India. At least that’s what she sounded like. She proceeded to try to find out about my friend’s computer.
“What operating system of Microsoft do you have on your computer? Is it currently running? Then you better catch it...”
That last part was a joke. It wasn’t the old is-your-refrigerator-running do-you-have-Prince-Albert-in-the-can prank. It was a real attempt to take over someone’s computer using a fake technical diagnostic interview.
Man, the economy really has gotten bad. Now they’re outsourcing our phishing.
Things are getting crazy on the personal front too. Thank goodness I’m lucky. I had my identity stolen. But fortunately for me the guy pays his bills on time. My credit rating has actually improved.
And, bonus, he gets all my hate email.
America, ya gotta love it.