Friday, January 29, 2010

#1174 Adapt a Lot

One of the cool things about life is its amazing adaptability. You see it all the time. One moment you have a field, the next you have a big rainstorm and the field turns into a giant pond.
Then here come the geese and ducks. It’s like they were just waiting for a chance to eat all those good insects struggling for air.
Recently I witnessed a similar phenomenon, except it was with people and parking lots. Some folks hate how other folks keep paving the world with parking lots.
Don’t it always seem to go that way?
But the truth is, empty parking lots can be used for a variety of things. And new parking lots are the best. Like this one I saw the other day.
It was dusk. There was no one in the parking lot yet because it was relatively undiscovered. And a young man in a big vehicle was out in the middle of it doing brodies. Taking his vehicle up to high speeds and yanking the steering wheel around so he went into a skid.
The brand new surface of the parking lot was helping him do some serious drifting. He must have burned up a couple hundred bucks worth of tires enjoying himself.
Do smoking tires count as a carbon footprint? I’m pretty sure skidmarks do. Funny, every time I slide on the road like this guy was doing in the parking lot, I get skidmarks too.
But think about the value here. This young man was learning how to pilot his vehicle in adverse driving conditions. I took my son out when it snowed one time and did the same lessons on ice. I did it in an empty parking lot.
Yesterday I saw another good and adaptive use to this new environment. A young woman was teaching her little girl how to ride a bicycle. It looked like one of those “first time without training wheels” experiences. And the new and unobstructed lot was perfect for it. They sure looked like they were having a lot of fun...
Every cloud has a silver lining. And sometimes parking lots can be used for more than just big yellow taxis.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

#1173 Click Thru Wait

I recently watched a “webinar” on online advertising. It was, I suppose, intended to show how companies could use web advertising to get “web-inue.”
But to me it also showed how bad the web can be. Because, thanks to the computerized analytics available with web ads, you can actually tell who acted on the ad.
This was supposed to be the promise of web advertising. It wouldn’t just be a display ad, it would provoke the ad viewer to actually act, by clicking on the ad and going to another website or offer. Direct confirmation that advertising works.
Unfortunately, that’s not how advertising works. Most of the time the goal of advertising is served well by a suggestion on the radio or a display. You’ll act when you get around to it. And you’ll act with an impulse that is subconsciously directed by a good ad.
That’s the “incumbent theory” of advertising: You’re more likely to vote for the name on the ballot you find most familiar, and that is likely to be the incumbent because you’ve heard about him or her more.
In any event, the magic acronym of web advertising is CTR. It stands for Click Through Rate—the rate at which viewers of the ad actually click it to explore further. That rate is .03%. That’s right, .03%. 3% is 3 out of a 100, .3% is 3 out of a 1000, .03% is 3 out of 10,000. Or one out of 3300. Not very good when you get down to it.
Why is that? Because of that other acronym I just now created, FOV—Fear Of Viruses. Most folks don’t click ads on the web because they are afraid doing so will open up their computers to examination and exploitation by some nefarious unscrupulous company.
FOV is a derivative of the basic human emotion summed up by the acronym, FOBS—Fear Of Being Screwed.
When someone fobs off a dirty job on you, you’re screwed. And when a web advertiser fobs off a bad deal on you, you’re screwed too.
Web advertising’s next challenge? How to increase CTR by minimizing FOBS.
My suggestion? Click the link on my trusted blog for more on how...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#1172 Pumping Crater

The other day I heard a commentator going on about his theory of the economic collapse and it got me thinking. It’s fashionable these days to blame the evil mortgage holder for everything.
It was that dang mortgage holder who shouldn’t have borrowed the money that led to the economic cratering. If he hadn’t borrowed off more than he could chew we’d all be safely back in the housing bubble right now.
With far more homes than there were people who couldn’t afford to buy them. With people buying two and three houses on the speculation that they could flip them over and make a killing before the balloon payment came due. With “too big too fail” financial institutions insuring the “never-gonna-happen” of defaults with little things called credit default swaps that no one would ever have to redeem.
“What credit would default?” all the Wall Street and financial experts on the business Cable TV stations would say. “This is a different paradigm, all the old rules we were taught in MBA school no longer apply. Trust us. We’re the experts.”
“Sign here.”
Yep, those evil mortgage holders really caused a big problem.
Nasty borrowers.
But as I was listening to a hindsight is 20/20 expert intone on this interesting take on history, I happened to drive by a gas station and notice the price of a gallon of gas is creeping up again. And I remembered hearing another news story about the same thing. Gas is going up.
And my mind flashed back to that time right before the economic collapse when gas prices tripled and quadrupled. When families on the edge financially suddenly found themselves over the edge. When bloated, predatory, budget-busting gas prices suddenly pushed our nation off that teetering delicate balance we had with mortgages, lenders, and credit default swap issuers.
We were on the edge sure. The housing and credit bubble was eventually due for a change. But it was gas prices exploding that burst the bubble. Prices at the pump were the tipping point.
And then, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the economic pump didn’t work ‘cause the oil baron vandals took the handle.
But hey, I’m no expert...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#1171 Coffee Requiem

The big tragedies are bad enough in life. The poverty and hunger and mass murders. So we all take refuge in the relative placidity invoked by day-to-day things going mostly right. Which makes the mini-tragedies disproportionately upsetting.
What happened was simple enough. The tragedy was I was unable to communicate with the person it was happening to. And that was because we were each in our separate cars. And we have no such thing as car-to-car communication between strangers.
So to the person who lost his or her coffee cup the other morning, and who is even now wracked with doubt and worry, here’s what happened.
I saw you driving well in front of me down State Street headed downtown. Your car was a Honda Civic. On top of it was your coffee cup. It was one of those travel cups, it looked like stainless steel, but it was hard to tell as it was a little foggy and you were a block ahead.
Too far for me to speed up and try to tell you with my limited command of mime that your coffee cup was on the roof of your car.
What was amazing was that it stayed there for so long. After a few blocks, and speeding up and braking and such, I was half convinced it was a joke coffee cup. That it had a magnetic bottom and was meant to look like you had forgotten it as you got into your car and drove blithely off.
Still, I wished I could warn you in some way. But such is the other tragedy of our private enclosed vehicle cocoons. Had we been in horse drawn wagons I could have shouted. But I didn’t know your cell and my Morse Code is little rusty.
Using my car horn to tap out that Morse Code would certainly draw unwanted attention from other quarters in any event.
So I watched helplessly. Knowing what was going to happen but unable to prevent it. You finally turned a corner somewhere around Eastside or Quince. Your coffee cup flew off and smashed on the ground.
And so I composed this requiem for a wrecked coffee cup.
I hope you’re reading this…
Now you know.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

re-run #235 F-Series

As I was almost run over by a monster truck the other day, I chanced to look at its brand marker on the lower right tailgate. It said F-something.
Something pricked my mind. I remember a guy, whose advice and counsel I value very much, declaiming one day on the F-Series mentality. Or any truck series really. Seems the more powerful the truck, the bigger disdain these folks have for the rest of us poor sedan drivers.
They’ll rumble up beside you, cut you off in traffic on a sudden lane switch, and sneer at you through their chaw-stained teeth, daring you to assert your right of way. Or they won’t look at you at all—as if you’re some kind of bug—while they shout into their cellphone and juggle their coffee cup full of tobaccy juice.
I read an article in the Seattle PI the other day about a scientific study done with bats. Apparently, bats with bigger testicles have smaller brains than bats with normal ones.
According to FCC regulations, in any 2-minute essay I’m allowed one scientific use of the word testicle so from this point on I’ll use a euphemism to describe the, um, boys.
Let’s call them, oh, I don’t know, “trucks.”
Seems that bat males with bigger “trucks” have them because on an evolutionary scale it gives them a better chance to reproduce and pass on their genes.
Not pass out while they’re in their jeans, pass on their genes.
As in chromosomes. The enquiring scientist who wanted to know said that it turns out size does matter. Bats with larger, um, “trucks,” had smaller brains, and showed less aptitude for complex reasoning skills, ability to multitask, and capacity to negotiate through bat traffic while out on the nightly bug hunt.
(They also expressed a blatant disregard for the subtleties of a fine Washington merlot.)
In order to achieve such prodigious “truck” size, scientists explain there has to be a trade off. Both big brains and big “trucks” require an enormous physiological investment. That body energy has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches.
The interesting thing is that the bat males who have developed larger “trucks” have done so as a result of evolutionary pressure engendered by loose bat females. Turns out that in bat species where the females are promiscuous, the male bats have bigger “trucks.” In bat species where the females are monogamous, males have smaller “trucks” and bigger brains.
Perhaps so they can figure out how to keep their bat-wife happy when her bat clothes make her look bat fat. The big-trucked males have to have big “trucks” because in mating competition, evolutionary survival becomes a matter of who can deliver the most cargo to the manufacturers of future bats.
The bat with the “trucks” that can move the most genetic cargo into the factory stands the best chance of having it be manufactured into another one in the, um, series.
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

#1170 Truckerizing

So I was out driving. And I looked to my left at a big fancy wheel. It was one of those giant rim jobbies and it was attached to an even taller jacked-up truck.
As I drive a small plain four-door sedan with factory wheels and suspension, I felt rather low to the ground by comparison. You know you’re next to a tall truck when it makes a factory family sedan feel like low-rider.
I felt I should have had dingle balls draping from my visors.
As the truck and I headed downtown, I had a chance to view some of its other features. It had fancy chrome running boards. It had even fancier chrome side pipes. And it appeared to have a red, deep lacquered, sparkly underneath paint job. It also had one of those bug shields on the front of its hood.
All of these accouterments can have a case made for them defending their practical nature. But I think it’s something far more basic to the human psyche being expressed here.
It’s the gene for accessorizing.
Yep, the same impulse that drives some women to buy matching handbags for their shoes, and a nice scarf to set off that new frock, this is the gene at work in truck adornment. Sorry guys, "truckerizing" is no different than accessorizing.
It’s just a sort of redirection of the impulse for certain males. Instead of putting the plumage on display on themselves, they put it on their vehicle.
I wasn’t surprised when, as the truck got ahead of me and pulled into a parking lot, out stepped a man dressed in an old t-shirt and sweatpants.
He would never accessorize himself. Fashion is a thing he’d say he never pays attention to. That’s a woman thing. Well-tailored suits and coordinating dress shirts and ties? Too foofy for this fellow.
The only thing he plays dress up with is his trusty truck.
It’s a rich tradition. The cowboy may have dressed all in dusty black. But his horse was tricked out in silver buckles and woven bridles and hand-carved saddles with all the regalia. His tack was anything but tacky.
So here’s an idea, let’s not say he’s tricking out his truck. Let’s say the legend continues, with “truck tack.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

#1169 Gee Whiz

I was looking something up in the dictionary the other day, and I happened to stop at the spelled out version of the letter G: G-e-e-.
And there was a ton of different definitions. I was amazed. I’m not sure other letters in the alphabet can do as well. H and K for instance, only a couple apiece. The letter H, and H as in, “What the H?” Or “Kay” as in the letter K and “Kay” as in a truncated version of the word Okay. ‘Kay?
But Gee, Gee is a veritable goldmine of definitions. You have G as in Gravity. The Space station is under zero gee. And G as in a euphemistic substitute for Jesus. As in “Oh Gee!” or the great combo “Gee Whiz.” When I learned that Gee was a substitute for taking Jesus’ name in vain, the phrase “Gee whiz” sounded even weirder.
Jesus Whiz? Sounds like he’s a mathlete of something.
There’s also an archaic and recently revised form of Gee. Used to say it fits or goes with. “That gees with what I figured Falletti, now go tell the G-Man we’re giving up.”
There’s also Gee as in a thousand dollars. “Yeah, he’s dumping a cool gee into the program.”
Equestrians among you will recognize Gee as a command you give to your animal. Non-equestrians may like to know that Gee is a command to horses or oxen to tell them to go right. Haw tells them to go left. Supposedly, “gee haw” evolved into the characteristic cowboy shout “YeeHaw!”
But if I was a cowboy riding a skittish horse I’m pretty sure shouting out geehaw loudly and suddenly would confuse said animal. Right Left! Right Left!
It’d be liable to buck and bolt and stuff.
Maybe that’s why yeehaw evolved into yahoo.
I can also see, I suppose, gee-haw evolving into Hee Haw for funny farm people. But what I don’t get is it suddenly getting a hard G and becoming a synonym for knickknack. GeeGaw.
And now, I don’t know whether I mean Right Willikers, Jesus Willikers or a thousand Willikers but all I can say is, “Gee Willikers English is fun.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

#1168 Rats, Wasps, and Cars

In my last essay, I wrote about how we always seem to call people representing our worst traits “rats.” Interesting, since rats are not only intelligent, they're adaptable, persistent and family oriented.
And bonus, they share so many other human traits, they make good lab animals.
In any event, my friend Rick, who gets me into trouble with people who expertly pilot small Italian motorcycles, suggested after I had used the word “ratfink” that perhaps there should be a Chinese “Year of the Ratfink.” He then went on to tell me that this is the Year of the Tiger, which means we can all get multiple mistresses. about a rat.
His mentioning things Chinese got me to rooting around my desk for a fortune I acquired in one of those clairvoyant cookies the other day. My cookie had rendered up the psychic prediction that “Someone will give me a compliment”. Obviously they haven’t read the comments on my blog from certain expert and extremely brave and intelligent Italian motorcycle riders.
But doesn’t it seem like fortune cookie fortunes are playing it mighty safe lately? They’re so, well, white bread. One I got the other day said, “Don’t give up, your problem gets better next month.”
They obviously haven’t seen my hairline.
Or this other one was good. It said, “You will be traveling and coming into a fortune.” I’m guessing they’re predicting my next trip to the teriyaki place, where I will get another of these cookies and it will contain a, yep, fortune.
Maybe it will say something even more accurate like, “You’ll be hungry again in an hour.” Or, “You are about to having a splitting MSG-induced headache.”
And by the way, I am really impressed with automobiles that come from our Asian trading partners. (Not as impressed as I am with Italian motorcycles of course.)
But what was Hyundai thinking with naming two vehicle models after two rival southwest cities—The Santa Fe and The Tucson.
Which model is better? Which is more luxurious and offers more amenities?
The Chamber of Commerce in one of those cities has got to be angrier than a wasp stinging a rat...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

#1167 Ratting Out

I was listening to the radio the other day and the news was on. The newscaster was talking about some criminal who attacked another criminal in prison because the first one thought the second one had provided evidence against him.
The newscaster didn’t put it that way, as you would expect a newscaster to do. He said the first criminal thought the guy who he beat up had “ratted him out.”
Ratted him out. As in “ratted on him.” It always seems to come back to rats when we talk betrayal.
It's not like we don't have other interesting language for people that turn other people in. The first negative word we learn for this is tattletale.
It’s funny in a way. The supposed beneficiaries of tattletales are you and I. Society gains when one person exposes another person’s crime. And yet it is far more natural for all of us to fall into the sneering lingo of the compromised criminal who’s caught by that information. They are ratted out by rats.
And we look down our own whiskered noses at the tattletale.
Perhaps it’s because we also fear getting caught for the little wrongdoings we ourselves do. Or worse, we have this picture of people turning in Jews in Nazi Germany or democratic dreamers in oppressive regimes like Iran. Strange, since the ordinary anti-criminal rat is actually helping our democratic society prosper.
Still, we’ve come up with some cool names. There was and is “stool pigeon” or “stoolie.” There’s “squealer” and “informer” and the once useful “snitch,” which now has degenerated to a ball-like thing in a game played by non-muggles.
My favorite, and one we haven’t heard for a while, is “fink.” For a while fink was synonymous with “narc,” even for non-drug related snitching. But narc never really caught on. Fink resonated. It could be used as both a noun and a verb, a true mark of cultural depth. People would fink on someone else. “Man, he finked on me to the teacher.” Or just be one. “That guy is such a fink...”
There was even a song I remember. “He was a fink. He was a ratfink...”
When it comes to betrayal, we can always depend on the rat part.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

#1166 Mass Cots

One of the interesting things about small schools getting bigger is that we’re seeing new team mascots in the national mass spotlight.
And some of the animals they choose for mascots are weird. I suppose there can only be so many bears, bulldogs, and tigers. But still, you look for a mascot to have some attribute of vigor or tenacity that makes them an inspiring example.
I’ve always questioned certain mascots. The Oregon teams, the Ducks and the Beavers, are a little too aquatic for my taste. Plus, yelling out “go beavers” evokes an image I’m not sure I’m comfortable with—a herd of big-toothed rodents leveling a forest.
The Evergreen College Geoducks are even worse. No one should ever pick anything from the snail and slug family as a mascot.
Aberdeen has a Community College whose mascot is the Chokers. Loggers think that’s fine. The general public can see why they never seem to win a close game.
Lately it seems things have been getting worse. The recent Fiesta Bowl offered us an even weirder mascot. The TCU Horned Frogs. At first I thought the announcer said Texas Christian University Horn Dogs.
Definitely time for a hearing aid.
But Horned Frogs? Is it good to have a mascot that’s a cold-blooded amphibian? Even if they are large enough to eat a rat? I Wikipediad “Horned Frogs” and found out one of their most unusual traits is a row of teeth that prevents them from letting go of whatever they chomp.
So they can actually choke to death trying to eat something. They can truly bite off more than they can chew. Which is what they apparently did with the Broncos in the Fiesta Bowl.
Now there’s a mascot. The Broncos. That’s inspiring. No wonder they stomped the frogs.
But it’s the University of Minnesota that doesn’t seem to get the whole picture. Their mascot is a pest: the gopher.
Go go gophers.
I guess it’s no surprise they’re the only school with the graduate degree of “Office Intern.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#1165 Ad Hominy

Don't you think it’s about time for a big explosion of E-Country?
Country is always the last to come around to some things in fashion, and the longest to hold on to some things that should be forgotten. Billy Ray Cyrus had long hair way after the hippies. Unfortunately, he also had the world’s most persistent mullet.
Bellbottoms hit country long after they’d done the hustle away from disco. Actually good, since they looked so much better over boots in a line dance.
So I think we’re about due for a cultural shift in the direction of the internet for our fine country folks. I’d like to propose a couple of ideas.
First, we need a social networking site. I’m pretty sure macho country types are not going to be all that comfortable with “twitter.” Nor are pistol-packing paladins going to be happy sending one another a “tweet.”
So I propose a better name for the new country social networking site—“Tater.” And folks can send each other “tots.” Tater tots are the ultimate redneck comfort food so why shouldn’t they also provide the ultimate country network social grease.
We could send each other a “tot” and bring the kinfolk up to date on our latest truck purchase. Whether Ford will still be putting out a model with duellies. Or one with a tailgate BBQ hookup. Heck, we can even remind each other when happy hour is.
The other thing we need is a dating site specifically for country folks. So I suggest we steer clear of e-Harmony and instead head on over to e-Hominy dot com.
E-Hominy is perfect, as we all know country dating has lots of ups and downs and dogs dieing and trucks being stolen and what not. “E-Hominy, cuz dating takes grits.”
And when we go to “Tater” we can “tot” each other about the sweet gal we met on e-Hominy and how she’s got us all corn-fused inside with mushy feelings and stuff.
And when we start dating someone, the head of e-Hominy, Ty Cobb, will send us a letter of corn-gratulations.
And then, sounding like an embarrassed strong and silent cowpoke, we’ll send him back a “tot” that says, “aw shucks...”
America, ya’ll gotta love it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

#1164 Not O-Que

So one of my friends got a new car recently. And it’s pretty cool what some of the new ones have. Like the navigation systems.
There’s some talk around that perhaps having navigation systems is robbing us of our sense of place. Our skills at establishing orientation. Our ability to find our way back from whence we’ve been.
The research indicates that by paying attention to the thing on the dashboard instead of environmental clues we lose all those landmark cues which our hunter-gatherer brain spent eons evolving to recognize.
Take a left at the big nut-bush and head forty steps to the beaver dam then right two skips and a jump to the snake hole. Those kinds of things.
I suppose it’s possible. But the sad truth is, so many of us were already directionally impaired it’s probably a good idea to have some computerized help. Certainly cut down of the inherent stereotypical male/female friction over asking directions.
One of the other bad things though, is there are far fewer trips to the gas station to ask for directions than in the old days. Nothing more fun back then than to interrupt some guy lubing something under the lift with a query about the closest telegraph office.
Then again, most of today’s gas stations don’t have hydraulic lifts and the convenient store clerk ensconced inside has no idea where anything is in his store, much less in the neighborhood.
But according to my friend, the navigation system does have limitations. His has voice recognition so he can actually talk to it. Pretty cool, except it’s voice recognition system only has a vocabulary of 300 words. Which sounds great until one of the words you say it doesn’t know. Can you say, lost in the desert, cause you took a wrong turn at Arapahoe Arroyo?
Which brings up its other drawback—it doesn’t recognize Spanish. Which raises all sorts of interesting dilemmas.
What if you ask it, do you know the way to San Jose?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

#1163 Biscottage

We all value things differently. That’s why for every golfer there’s a bowler.
The other day I was at a coffee shop. I was a little hungry so I was looking at the giant glass jars full of pastries. I think it’s cool that many coffee shops eschew the use of plastic in displaying their chewables. Old-fashioned big glass jars work great.
And bonus, they’re vaguely reminiscent of the pickled egg jars you find in seedy bars.
In any event, one of these jars held biscotti; that dried toast with the delicate flavor so popular with the coffee set. By delicate I mean bland.
The biscotti were priced at a value-packed $1.67 each. Sounds good I suppose, until later that day I drove by McDonalds and saw that they were offering a sausage egg McMuffin for only a dollar. That’s right, a sandwich that humans prepared on the spot, which included an egg, a slice of cheese, a slab of ground-up, formed, spiced, and fried meat, and a factory-baked muffin. For a buck.
67 cents less than a piece of old toast.
Value is in the eye of the beholder.
As was my thought when the Associated Press recently announced its “Athlete of the Decade.” Not just the year, mind you, the Athlete of the Decade.
That athlete was Tiger Woods. The decision was made before, or in spite of, his recent marital troubles and the revelations that he’s athletic in more than one endeavor.
The second and third places for top Athlete of the Decade were Lance Armstrong and Roger Fedderer-er-er.
But what got me was the top three sports the winning athletes were practicing—Golf, Bicycling, and Tennis. Times, and values, have changed. Those were the wuss sports in high school. The kids that turned out for the golf team didn’t have a chance with the girls, much less 14 of them.
Cycling was and is the most grueling sport of the three. So you got to wonder how driving round a golf course, and occasionally getting out and swinging, compares to riding 2200 miles across steep mountains and stuff.
Different values I guess.
You won’t find biscotti in a bowling alley.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1162 ‘Versary

So the other day I was thinking about something. It was the anniversary of an occasion that had happened exactly 4 months previous. And I was going to commemorate it with someone who was involved in the event. But as I started to write “Happy Four-month Anniversary” I suddenly froze up.
Can an anniversary happen in any other time increment than a year? Isn’t the “ann” in anniversary from the same “ann” that appears in annual?
You can have the first anniversary of someone’s birth. Or the third anniversary of someone’s marriage. But can you have any anniversary after only four mouths?
And if not, what word would you use?
The thesaurus in my Word program only has longer periods to suggest—centenary and bicentenary. I’m look for a month-sary or quatro-month-sary.
I looked up “monthly” in my big thesaurus and it gave me the word menstrual. Sorry, not appropriate for the occasion I had in mind. Happy quarto-menstrual. Just not very festive sounding.
But they also gave the word catamenial. It means “by the month” or monthly. Cata is Greek for by. Mēn, with a long E sound as in mean, means month in Greek. The mēn comes from moon. The Latins took the mēn and changed it to “mensis” from which we get menses, menstrual and presumably Mensa, don’t ask me why. Monthly cycles having to do with the moon make perfect sense. An organization of smart people having to do with the moon? What kind of lunatics are they?
In any event, I’m satisfied. I can now wish my loved one a happy quatrocatamenial or, since it’s taken me so long to get around to researching this, a quintocatamenial. Better yet, since catamenial is derived from Greek and not Latin I should call it a pentecatamenial.
Pentecatamenial sounds cool. Almost like the menial labor of petting a cat. But also like some upper position in the Masonic order. He’s a Pentecatamenial of the first degree.
But here’s another possibility If the ann in anniversary means year, and mēn means month. How about a menaversary? Perfect. Happy fifth menaversary!
Then again maybe not. Fifth Menaversary also sounds like your fifth month in the anger management group...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

#1161 100% Adult Proof

The other day I was having a very hard time doing something some would consider simple. That’s not unusual for me. I, like most Americans, carry suspect genes.
We're a weird populace, and I constantly have to remind myself to be tolerant. Because, after all, we are descended from people who even the people in Eastern Europe didn’t want. Or like me, also descended from a group of paranoid, impulsive people who couldn’t even manage to grow potatoes.
So it’s no surprise I was having problems. But there was also another nefarious plot at hand. The systematic marginalization of the old when it comes to music.
My problem stemmed from my inability to open the wrapping on a CD case. You wonder why old folks don’t keep up on current music? CD cases are why.
It’s not just CDs of course, MP3 players are bad too. But with them it’s because the buttons are so tiny and the digital display is so miniscule. Who can read which Johnny Mathis hit is on the readout? Or which Engelbert Humperdinck ballad is on the playlist?
But as an old folk you get used to vision issues. It’s the small motor skills that are truly frustrating. And CD cases challenge them to the max.
First, you have the outer cellophane sleeve. It has an actual tiny tab you can grasp, if you can see it, and if you can overcome your arthritis long enough to pinch it. One tug and the cellophane comes off.
In principle.
In fact, much follow-up ripping is involved. But after that, it’s worse. Then you have to contend with the adhesive strip on the top. It too has a tab you are supposed to be able to lift and pull to remove the strip.
I recently bought five CDs. Not one strip came off in a continuous pull. I was left with bleeding fingernails from all the scraping and scratching. The industry calls it anti-theft technology.
I call it “adult proof packaging.”
I can’t read the writing on the wall. Now I can’t hear for whom the bell tolls. But I’m pretty sure the young people are out to get us.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

rerun #936 Beetle Mania

Not long ago I was talking with a coffee snob. You know, one of those guys who would never deign to foul his palate with the likes of Yuban and Folgers. He was waxing rhapsodic about the delicate nuances of the particular coffee he loves, and he went over into that "blah blah blah" section of my brain I reserve for the pompous and the adolescent.
People who know everything are handy to have around sometimes, other times you’d rather dwell on the sweetness of the phrase “silence is golden.”
This guy was a barista or, since he was male, possibly a baristo, so I guess I should forgive him his enthusiasm. But not his attempt to belittle those of us who find it economically appropriate to buy and use a big can of Folgers.
So to shut him up I said, “Oh, I don’t know, I kinda like Folgers. Nothing like the occasional acrid taste-burst of an accidentally ground up beetle.
I affected everyone’s palate at that point.
But you know what? If you eat the red food coloring carmine, you’re eating ground-up beetles. The cochineal beetle to be exact. It’s legal to use in American food products. It’s also used to blend the colors pink, orange, and purple. Ground-up beetles, a pallet for your palate.
Since some people are deathly allergic to carmine, food activists are pressuring the FDA to include ground-up beetles on food labeling. As of this writing, the FDA only requires that companies use the designation “artificial coloring” to describe it.
And frankly I’m outraged.
It’s driving me crazy. A little beetle mania if you will. Because there’s nothing artificial about a beetle. It was a living thing. If anything does, it deserves the honor of being described as a natural food color.
It gave its all for you. Unable to skitter away from the grinding blades, it ended up in your purple skittles.
So let’s not demean it any further by including it with unfeeling, uncaring, chemical dies.
These guys died to be a dye.
And if you’re allergic, a dye that can make you die too.
BTW, Folgers uses no artificial colors.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

#687 Underball

There are trailer hitches. And there are trailer hitch balls.
And then there are the things some guys hang from the trailer hitch balls on their trucks.
These things are fairly recognizable representations of the gamete-producing organs most males have slung from there own hitching area.
The area they, um, hope to use more when they get hitched.
While the display of actual living male organs is forbidden, in most states the display of representations thereof is not—if one is sure not to include the entire set of genitalia.
Usually, when a gentleman displays these things from his trailer ball, he uses a pair that are fairly large. An expert in animal husbandry would surely conclude that these freudio-pseudo prairie oysters originated on a bull.
Perhaps that is the purpose of the male truck owner’s display and wanton disregard for the niceties of civilization. This cowpoke is broadcasting to all and many that he defies convention. He’s a tough nut to crack. A bull. An hombre. The strong and silent ubermensch of the wild wild west.
These freud-icles dangling from his truck are his male plumage, designed to attract a special type of mate.
But there’s a Legislator in the state of Virginia that’s trying to make them illegal. Display of such hitching ball ornamentation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $250 fine. It would be a crime because they distract other drivers.
The lawmaker was responding to one of his angry constituents, who was testy because he’d had a hard time explaining the not-so-delicate danglers to his daughter.
I hope he tells his daughter to consider them a warning sign. Here’s the deal Sally, don’t go out with a guy who’s nuts enough to display such things from his trailer balls.
Because it’s likely this young feller has issues.
He feels a little inadequate perhaps. He feels by flaunting his maleness he can get the attention he apparently isn’t getting any other way.
Or maybe he’s just desperately offering them to a potential mate. “Please, please, take me. You can have these. I’m not using them.
See, I even hung them from the back of my truck.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

rerun #1015 Kerfuffling

A while back I was reading a news article and the writer used an intriguing word. Kerfuffle. As in, “after the kerfuffle was over about Biden’s remarks...”
And I finally asked myself, is this a word that just sprang full blown from some commentator’s head? Because it sounds suspiciously Snoop Doggy, like “For Shizzle.” But I seemed to remember it from some old English mystery book I’d read a long time ago. And I’ve noticed it since with increasing regularity. An old word become new, as fashions in words do.
Cool, maybe we’ll be saying “keen” again real soon, hep cats.
Kerfuffle can mean a dust-up or a mild fracas. Or possibly a to-do, as in much to-do over nothing. Some folks spell it kerfluffle. The online etymology dictionary says it was first used in Canada around 1930, so it’s a relatively recent coinage, but it actually comes from an older Scottish word “curfuffle” which means disorder. Today it usually means a fuss or a disturbance.
I just think it’s a fun word to say. Partly because it sounds like so many other things. Like perhaps a waffle restaurant of some sort. “Oh Daddy, can we go to the kerfuffle house?”
“You bet honey, I love their Belgian kerfuffles.”
Or maybe it’s more like those things they decorate cakes with. Like roses made out of frosting. “Did you see the kerfuffles on that cake? They were incredibly realistic.”
Then again, it sounds like something someone might name their cat. “Here Kerfuffle...where’s my snoogie-woogie Kerfuffle hiding?”
Or possibly a clown. “Ladies and Gentleman in a death-defying feat, being shot out of a giant t-shirt cannon, it’s Kerfuffle the Clown!”
Or maybe it’s those things that are kind of pleated and foofy at the bottom of curtains. “What lovely drapes Mrs. Robinson. And they have such delicate kerfuffles.”
Or some sort of iPod feature for the Twitter crowd to randomly sort their messages. “I set my iPod to kerfuffle.”
But my first thought, of course, was that it was a euphemism for passing you know what.
“All right...who kerfuffled?”
A disturbance indeed...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

rerun #999 Double-Edged Axe

One of the coolest things about getting older is watching things that try to appeal to the young. Young people are great. Full of Hormones and enthusiasm. They take life in big gulps, burn the candle at both ends and swing their double-edged axes of personality without a care for collateral damage.
The band U-2, now older and wiser, continues to produce good music. But you got to wonder if the decisions they made when they were young haunt them.
Like their names. Specifically The Edge. At what time in your life do you say I’m tired of being called The Edge. At a fancy restaurant? “Table for two—Mister and Missus The Edge.”
At the rental car pick-up counter? I’m sorry Mr. The Edge, it’s company policy to automatically add the insurance to cars rented to people with names that suggest sharp instruments.”
At your Zen class? “I know you are The Edge sir, but we are still here to find our center.”
And young peoples products.... One of the newest in a line of powerfully fragrant products is Axe. The big problem is, young men are never very subtle. And the ad campaigns are encouraging them to spray and slather on Axe products like stage blood in a slasher flick.
They have this one commercial out now that shows a guy doing a motorcycle backflip from a distance. Then it does a replay slomo close-up and the guy is shown to be also ripping off his shirt and spraying Axe on both his armpits and his chest.
They call the move a “double pits to chesty,” as if it’s a real acrobatic move, like a triple salchow or a double axel. But of course this isn’t a refined sport like ice skating. This is a balls out, no holds barred, ultimate smackdown, double axe swinging motocross thing.
They then direct the young viewer to a website called double pits to chesty dot com. I must admit Axe ads are clever—and edgy.
I have only one suggestion. Please tell the young men not to spray it on like a dog marking a tree. Too much Axe reeks. And they’ll lose their edge with the gals.
America, ya gotta love it.