Friday, February 26, 2010

#1194 Validation Twicket

I wonder if some psychiatrist or psychology doctoral candidate has looked into the phenomenon of “followers” in our present culture. I wonder if there will be a drug for it soon.
Tweetsil perhaps, or Facesac.
You can go to various places, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace and observe the amazing trend of people and their peeps. The “followers” and their little pictures arrayed on one side of their main webpages.
I think it’s interesting that as our culture has become less and less physically interpersonal through the incessant technological intervention of text, tweeting and what not, that people feel even more impelled to proclaim that they have friends.
They never see the friends. They never go out with the friends. But they safely text and tweet them till they’re blue in the thumbs. Perhaps with this lack of social intimacy a need comes to assert that they really do have friends. So they need a list of followers to validate them as people.
So if that list is on Twitter, is it their validation twicket?
The “followers” are their way of saying, “Hey look everybody, I’ve got friends.” “And look how many. And look at all their cool thumbnail-sized pictures.”
Interesting. I have enemies. I have acquaintances. I even have a few friends. But I would never call my friends “followers.” They are independent people with independent lives and independent thoughts. I’m careful not to be friends with sheep or ditto heads. So I sure wouldn’t want any of my friends to be a “follower.”
Maybe the social networking people don’t know what being a follower means.
They obviously don’t know that “twitter” has another meaning too. In the dictionary, one definition of “twitter,” other than the noise brainless little birds make, is the meaning “one who twits.”
In this case the term “twit” means to taunt. To twit someone else is to taunt them. Or as the dictionary puts it: “To taunt, ridicule or tease, especially for embarrassing traits or faults.”
So does that mean if I were to taunt one of the twitter follower people for being embarrassingly in need of showing he has friends, I would be twitting a tweeter?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#1193 G(man)-Mail

Recently, with the talk of the Chinese government hacking into Google and the launch of Google’s new Buzz networking service, I’ve been reading more about them on the techy websites.
Two words: Privacy Piracy.
Google got into big trouble right away when they launched Buzz as a Gmail add-on. Seems Buzz automatically went through a subscriber’s email list and added those folks to the subscriber’s network. Then made that information public.
Worse, they did this by determining whom the subscriber had most often emailed and chatted with, and assumed automatically that these folks were the person’s network, and further, assumed the subscriber would want those people to be “friends.” And want their “friends” to know who their other “friends” were, automatically.
Forget about furious emails with ex-wives, communications with your boss, and psychiatrist, and etc.
Google Google Google. You say, “do no evil” but you sure can do dumb.
Another article chastised Google for delivering ads to users’ email pages that were relevant to the last emails the user exchanged. One user had a couple of emails about iPods and Valentines and up popped an ad for a different sort of handheld electronic device.
I think they called it an iMassager.
Does anyone see the problem with this? Google is scanning my emails!
I’m okay with Google placing ads on my blog based on relevant content. I made that public on purpose.
But my emails?
My emails, and the people I email them to, are private. I don’t want anyone or anything, even an algorithm, to mess with that. It’s like Gmail is being monitored by the G-Men. And if Google’s Chinese hacking episode is any indication, it’s not much of a step from a monitoring automatic algorithm to a monitoring government spy.
Reading someone else’s regular mail is a federal offense. Why not their email?
And the ads? I get enough junkmail anyhow. What would it be like if someone at the post office was opening all your envelopes and sticking ads inside before they delivered them?
Why does it suddenly sound so slimy to say I’ve been Googled?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#1192 Narcs and Sarcs

Two steps forward and one step back. It’s the march of technology. Here’s a couple of steps I’ve found interesting lately.
Seems the big flap over the Chinese government hacking into Google to find out what dissidents were doing has an even weirder side.
As you’ve no doubt heard, Google is making noise about pulling out of China in response to the incident. They think someone in the Chinese National Security department hacked into Google’s innards and stole or monitored information about what Chinese dissidents were up to. From the Chinese government’s point of view, dissidents who want democracy are terrorists. Because the dissidents would like to overthrow the Chinese status quo.
From our point of view, the dissidents are reacting to their totalitarian regime. From the Chinese government’s point of view, it’s no different than the Obama Administration keeping tabs on teabaggers. Or Nixon keeping tabs on protesting Vietnam Vets.
And personally I wouldn’t concede either tab-keeping behavior. Unfortunately, the hole the Chinese hacked into was a hole created by Google itself. And they created it so our own National Security people could keep tabs on “suspected” terrorists.
That’s why I’m always so paranoid about internet privacy piracy. From lefties to teabaggers, we’re all going to be “suspected” eventually.
In other technological steps, you may have noticed in that last sentence I put quote marks around the word “suspected” so I could indicate sarcasm. I may not have to soon. A wily entrepreneur has invented a new symbol. It’s available for $1.99 and you can download it to your computer or smartphone. The guy is making a mint.
It’s called a sarc-mark. S-a-r-c-m-a-r-k-. When you use it, it indicates the last sentence or word was meant to be sarcastic.
Great¾a further degeneration of our writing skills brought about by new “communication”. In Twitter nation where every character is counted, sarc-marks will eliminate the need for, quotation marks, italics, and, God forbid, quality writing...
First our privacy and now our ability to communicate with finely wrought wordsmithery.
Will someone please invent an emoticon for despair?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#1191 Follow-ups

A few follow-up observations today. Sometimes folks read my essays and contribute thoughts of their own. Yesterday’s commentary was about Comcast adding one more LED light to the hoard around our houses already contributing to the carbon footprint.
One person noted LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. So is saying “LED Light” a redundancy?
Another feedbacker reported that he went around his house counting LEDS. He has 38 of them, including his 3 lighted switches. That’s a lot of devices. But it’s probably about normal.
What got me, though, was him having lighted switches. They worry about GPS navigation devices robbing us of the ability to organically orient ourselves. Lighted switches? Whatever happened to knowing your way around in the dark in your own house? That whole body memory thing that’s your only advantage against burglars or chainsaw murderers in the dark?
I also did an essay about the bottom surfaces of things you pick up in the supermarket, and where they may have been sitting that makes it a bad idea to set those things down on your breadboard on your kitchen counter. One reader pointed out that one scary place they may have been sitting was in the shopping cart itself.
When was the last time you saw stores disinfecting those? Bird poop, baby poop, sneezers without a sneezegard galore. And we put our groceries in these things.
Those reusable shopping bags are getting pretty filthy too. And we set them all kinds of places before we set them on the counter at home.
Or how about that gym bag? After a few placements on foot fungus infested locker-room floors, you sure you want to set it on the kitchen counter for just a sec while you run to grab the phone?
And finally, about a year ago I mentioned my quandary about what to call the plural of the Toyota Prius. Was it Prius-es or Pree-aye? The recent recall reports have resolved it. All the news organizations have settled on the plural form “Prius.”
So you can have one Prius or a group of Prius. Like deer, fish, and moose.
Coincidentally, deer, fish, and moose go and stop when they want to too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#1190 Message to Comcast

Comcast is contributing to a new carbon footprint. And from my perspective it’s a 12-EEE. Or perhaps I should say a 12 LED. As in those LED Lights. Seems like every time I look at my Comcast cable box there’s an extra red light burning¾like the eyes of a vampire.
A vampire power-sucker that is.
All the energy saving tipsters are now telling us to do everything in our power to eliminate vampire power sources¾those LEDs that shine out from microwaves and TVs and cellphone chargers not in use. Every little bit helps. When you figure just about every household has at least 25 of them, the power that powers those status lights on electronics adds up to a lot of power coming off the grid.
So they recommend you plug as many as you can into a strip, and then turn off the strip.
I guess Comcast didn’t get the global warming memo. Because part of their new digital capability is to send us messages on our cable boxes. And a red light comes on when they do so. Which would be okay if it was an important message, not when we should watch an insipid piece of programming.
The really bad thing is, to get the light to turn off, I have to actually find and view the message. Like a voicemail you can’t erase until you’ve heard the entire five minutes of the fingernails-on-a-blackboard voice of your bitter Aunt Enid’s message.
But Comcast message light elimination forces you to use even more power because you have to turn on the TV, scroll through three menus and then finally click the damn thing off. Your TV is on the whole time. You’re also using up battery power in your remote the whole time. And the message is annoying and inconsequential to boot.
The Comcast Carbon Footprint dilemma. Endure the Vampire power of their red LED light, or burn even more power turning on the TV to turn it off.
Makes me want to save some personal energy to balance it out. I know, I’ll reduce the phrase “Not Brilliant Comcast” to initials.
Let’s see, that be N-B-...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

#1189 Crafted Profits

So as the recovery gets underway, I find it interesting to look back and see who did well last year.
Surprisingly, the beer industry was down. “Surprisingly,” because people usually turn to beer and crime when things get tough. But there was an interesting anomaly in the picture of beer. Only the big, cheap beer companies were off.
Beer nationally was down 2.2 percent, while “craft” beer makers saw a 1.7 percent increase. Why, do you think? It’s the same reason lots of small downtown merchants reported increases while the big chain discounters like Sam’s Club were laying people off.
People stick together in tough times. They support their local retailers, the people they perceive as closest to the edge. So, counterintuitively, when we should have been flocking to the discounters, we were paying a little bit more at our local establishments, getting better service and a feeling of pulling together while we were at it.
And a good mug of beer too. You got to admit, a beefy stout or porter just feels more substantial than a light industrial lager. It’s more like food. So we can also justify it and say it’s not just a beer.
It’s beer and lunch.
Archeologists say that beer was actually the original use for yeast. That whole bread thing came later. Beer was a safe and dysentery-free beverage and source of nourishment. And an efficient source of calories.
Beer, the original energy drink.
I felt like washing down my sorrows with some the other day when I read the latest figures from Goldman Sachs. Turns out they managed to withstand the economic downturn quite well too. In fact, they reported a 13.4 billion dollar profit for 2009, the largest in the firm’s history. Capitalism at it’s best, use every weapon at your disposal.
Some folks would say that GS was taking advantage. But you could say the government was very very smart to invest money in Goldman Sachs, and have them lead us into the recovery.
And we actually need to have Goldman Sachs get more cozy with the government. And populate the government’s crisis management team with even more Goldman Sachs alums.
Forget about beer, it’s Goldman Sachs that really understands the value of crafty.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#1188 Dirty Bottoms

Back when we had the freezing weather, I discovered something interesting. The water in those little water bottles doesn’t freeze. Brand doesn’t matter, they all appear to be the same.
Even though the weather got down to zero, the water in a case of little 16 ounce bottles I had didn’t freeze. Even after leaving them in the back of my truck all night.
Naturally, since I intended to drink that water, and since I know the freezing temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit is based on the freezing temperature of, um, water, I was concerned. What’s in the water to keep it from freezing?
The bottle’s ingredients list indicated that minerals are added to improve flavor. So is one of those minerals propylene glycol? Forget about BPA and phthalates, are we all slurping small quantities of antifreeze?
At least it kills the bugs.
But how about the bottoms of those bottles? And cans too. When you buy them at the store, they are often gathered together at the top with something, but the bottom is open to the world.
The other day I opened up a vitamin bottle. I did so on my breadboard in my kitchen, which I use to prepare cut raw vegetables and lettuce and stuff.
The vitamin bottle was very careful about its top. There was a safety seal I had to break on the outside of the twist cap. And when I had the cap off there was another seal I had to break through to get to the vitamins.
But when I picked it up, there was some gunk on the bottom of the bottle. And it was sticky. Someone at the store had obviously set it in something. Or some kid had used it for a snot depository.
Great. Another health thing to get paranoid about. The bottoms of bottles and cans. Don’t put them on your kitchen preparation surfaces. Don’t put them on your pantry shelves because you’ll move them from there to your preparation surfaces.
They could have been soaking in crow poop out on the loading dock for all you know.
Life was so much simpler back in the time of Howard Hughes.
I bet he didn’t have to worry about non-freezing water either.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#1187 Windbag Words

Recently I went to a conference conducted by younger representatives from the world of policy development. It was fun to hear the new types of bureaucratic speech.
And hey, this was an energy conference, so why not have some new examples of windbags.
We all know language evolves. The other day I was listening to an old song from the 70s and the singer sang, “and that’s a natural fact.” Nobody ever says something’s “a natural fact” any more.
So it’s no surprise the young presenters at the conference had a lingo of their own. When they talked about an emerging idea they’d say, “Well okay, now we can begin to see what this looks like.” “This is a good direction here, so let’s see what that looks like.”
Instead of just telling us the ideas, they kept warning us an idea was coming by telling us we were going to begin to see what it looked like. I, for one, would rather begin to understand it, but I don’t come from the PowerPoint era.
And by the way, next time I go to a presentation and watch the speaker read off a PowerPoint word for word, I think I’ll ask for the slides and leave. I can usually read it faster and better anyhow, and there is something really creepy about reading along with the presenter.
It’s like some horrifically distorted version of a hootenanny sing-along. Let’s all read together and look at pictures.
Back to the young folks. They also said, after we saw what something looked like, that we were going to create a conversation about it. “Now that we’ve begun to see what this looks like, we can start to create a conversation about it.”
I’d rather just talk. Creating a conversation seems so wordy.
In contrast, they also used a new word that was quite short. Instead of saying they were going to figure out a way to incentivize something, they said they were going to incent it. As in, “We are going to incent fuel-switching behaviors.”
Like a combination of incentivize and incite.
Personally, I would have liked to incent them to sharpen up their language skills.
And that’s a natural fact.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#1186 Hot Milk

I have this running battle with baristas and baristos. Female or male, many of them seem to think they know how I like my coffee more than I know how I like my coffee.
And I like my coffee hot.
The list of preferences about my coffee is always headed by the term hot. It is the prime directive in my coffee book. I don’t drink coffee for the flavor. My tongue has far too many bitter tastebuds and foods like Brussels sprouts, grapefruit and coffee overwhelm it.
The subtleties of a good cup of coffee from fresh-ground hand-roasted beans are lost on me. As in the difference between a perfect temperature latte and one hot enough for me to enjoy.
So I always order it hot. To ensure this, I specify, “scalding hot.” “Hot enough to curdle the milk,” I say. “Scorch it.” I want the milk to have blisters.
They still use their stupid thermometer. And they still don’t understand that good customer service is to give me what I want.
I had one tell me the other day that she would only make my coffee as hot as her personal morals would allow. I’m sorry, the temperature of coffee is not a moral thing. I’m not killing an animal. It doesn’t figure in the dietary restrictions of Leviticus. “Thou shalt not scald thy milk nor make a leaf pattern in thy latte.”
Such is the hold coffee making has taken on our serious youthful barista cult. They make the coffee their way, to hell with the customer.
Then again, there is a limit to customer service. One could argue that a southern sheriff witnessing a lynching without intervening is doing customer service too. He’s just bowing to the will of the majority and giving the customers what they want. Pity the fellow in the minority on the other end of the rope.
I’m not saying customer service is the be all and end all. But there’s a vast difference between a lynching and a hot cup of joe.
So make my latte too hot to hold, and if I bobble it as a result, let me cry over the spilt milk.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

#1185 W I Names

I sometimes wonder why we have the names for things we do. Like the other day. This story comes on the radio about two boxers. Not boxers as in the type of underwear that isn’t brief, but boxers as in the type of people who duke it out for large sums of money.
You can be a Duke and own lands or you can duke it out and land blows. These two boxers were coming to blows about not coming to blows. They weren’t having a match because they couldn’t agree on the size of the prize money. Except they used the boxing term for it.
And I had to think. Isn’t it cool that the most brutal and macho sport in the world involves men fighting over a “purse”? Isn’t it about time we thought up another name for it?
And speaking of names, I learned a new one the other day. That hard tip you have on your shoelace so it can fit through the shoelace holes in your shoe and so it doesn’t unravel? It has a name. (By the way, if something unravels does that mean we raveled it in the first place?) Anyhow, the name of the hard tip is aglet. A-g-l-e-t-
I suppose it makes sense. It fits through an eyelet so I get the “let” part. But why ag? Is there an agricultural origin? Shoelaces once dipped in pig lard for easy stringing? Perhaps it was invented by someone named Ag. Or Agatha Christie maybe...
Finally, the comedic world is all atwitter right now over Apple’s choice of names for its new slate device. If you’re living under a rock, the term is iPad. It makes a certain amount of sense. iPod was revolutionary, they hope iPad will be the same. But naturally, comedic types can’t ignore the feminine connotations of the word.
Although really, late night comedians—what would anyone would do with an iPad with wings?
Still, it’s conceivable Apple will come out with a stripped-down iPad. They did it with iPhone and the iTouch.
So will the marketing people hype it up by putting iPad Light days on the calendar?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#1184 Holy Friending

There used to be a song we would sing in Sunday school that went, “What a friend we have in Jesus...” I was reminded of it the other day when I read an article about the Pope being on Facebook.
That’s right, the ultimate product testimonial---Approved by the Pope.
Looks like Facebook’s Hail Mary marketing pass to the Vatican worked.
It’s part of the current Pope’s efforts to get the church more modern. Reach out to the younger folks. Let’s hope we don’t hear him do a “righteous rap” anytime soon. Although that blessing with a hand gesture thing is totally gangsta.
Modern hasn’t been easy for His Holyness. His trying to trade on the Obama campaign slogan of “Yes We Can” with the Church’s, “Yes We Vati-Can” was a little nerdy even by Papal standards.
But it’s tough. What makes you the Pope is your removal from earthly passions, so it’s not easy to engage on a worldly level. You don’t see the Dalai Lama in an alpaca sweater. You don’t want the Pope to be too hip.
But I worry a little about him moving heavily into the interweb. The Vatican has a website now. And the Pope sends out messages. And I hear he blogs. There’s two words that clash like green olives and chocolate milk. Pope and blog. Who conceived of that travesty? Not a very immaculate conception if you ask me.
And there’s that other internet thing, Twitter. I know sending messages by white doves was a little unreliable, but do we want the Pope “tweeting.” There is something almost blasphemous about the thought of getting a “tweet” from the Pope.
Still, I bet he’s used to having a lot of followers.
The Pope has said no twittering at this point, but he’s still doing the Facebook thing. Which brings up a whole new set of problems. Like how weird it would be to get one of those invitation emails. “The Pope would like to be your friend.”
Or how devastating it would be to be unfriended by the Pope. Forget about excommunicated, you’d be, like, Ex-co-friendicated.
What a friend we have in...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#1183 Plantman

The chief difference between plants and animals is that plants make their own energy from the sun. They do this with photosynthesis, using little cellular factories called chloroplasts filled with green chlorophyll. This is why plants are green. These workhorses convert sunlight into food for the plant. And ultimately into food for us.
Scientists recently discovered a plant/animal hybrid, a sea slug that can do the same thing. Apparently, all it needs to do is eat a few chloroplast-filled algae, swipe some of their DNA, and voila, the sea slug can now make its own energy for the rest of its life.
It need never eat again. Nor hunt for food. Which, you know, is a great idea when you move as slowly as a slug. There’s not that much prey you can bring down in a high speed chase.
But think of the possibilities. Genetically engineer this into people. How different the world would be if we no longer had to grow and kill food.
All the massive environment-killing agriculture that’s bleeding the soil of nutrients. All the colossal chemical factories spewing out noxious chemicals into the atmosphere as they make products to spread noxious poisons into the ground to either add fertilizer or kill insects.
All the trucks on the road burning fossil fuels to deliver pesticide- laced produce to the massive supermarkets where we drive our individual carbon-footprinting cars to pick them up in plastic bags that will stay in the landfills for the next 12 generations.
All the factory-farmed chicken and slaughterhouse cattle and squealing butchered pigs. All of that gone.
And all our youth, their moral values ruined as they’ve got one less chore to do around the house. Yes, no more dishes.
And the only price to pay is that we’d have to be careful to wear colors that go with our new green skin.
Manplant, Plantman, only one thing left for science to do. Since we still wouldn’t spend a lot of time outdoors, scientists would need to modify the chloroplasts to derive energy from not just the sun, but the radiation from our TVs. Then Plantman will find his true vegetile destiny.
Couch potato.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#1182 Scary Tech

There are things that scare me about modern technology. Like when you open up an email and a warning at the top says, “Some pictures have been blocked to protect your privacy. Click here to load pictures.”
I get this even when I get one of those “What’s New with Comcast” updates. Isn’t it a little unsettling that opening up a picture could make it easier for an outside person to identify your computer? What is it in the code that allows that kind of thing? When they create the picture are they putting in a cookie, which then deposits itself in your computer like an ingested roundworm?
Pictures and cookies are supposed to be innocuous and trouble-free things. Mild amusement. Pleasant pastimes. Simple joys. Not nefarious dark threats to your welfare. Isolate him! Interrogate him! Destroy his computer memory! Give him a cookie!
I don’t know how they do it. I suppose that’s why it scares me all the more. Ignorance can be scary. We are a nation with all kinds of clever computer destroyers and technically ignorant people like me.
Some even more ignorant. I saw a product the other day, which was obviously a generic iPod. The label on the product said it was a “Digital MP3 Player”. I’m no tech-whiz, but aren’t all MP3 players Digital? Is their an analog MP3?
Yeah, dude, you just gotta listen to my MP3 8-Track. It’s almost as good as the warm scratchy sound from my MP3 vinyl LP.
Or, Hey check out my visual TV!
Speaking of technologically scary, here’s something even more so. I was driving by an old radio station yesterday. It’s not “on the air,” but it still receives and transmits radio waves from and to other locations. The florescent light tubes on the outside of the station were glowing faintly.
I happen to know they were turned off.
But the radio waves swirling invisibly in and around the station are causing the molecules of gas in the florescent tubes to glow. I’m glad I never worked at that station. At least without my foil hat.
The consequences could have been ugly.
I think I’ll block that picture...from my mind.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

#1181 Senior Security

The other day I was driving down the road and I found myself behind an older person. He had gray hair, with a thin spot over the crown and those car-door ears sported by all septuagenarians. He was also driving the classic large senior sedan favored by only two groups of people. The Ford Crown Victoria.
Within seconds another Crown Victoria approached from the other direction. It too, was piloted by a superannuated individual. Except on the side of his Crown Victoria, it announced he was from the other group of people as well. He was a member of the Senior Patrol.
And I thought, how convenient it is for our senior patrollers. They don’t have to get used to driving a new car, they can just switch Crown Vics.
I’ve always wondered about the senior patrol thing though. Is there a sophomore patrol? Does the senior patrol make Christmas stops at all the rest homes like the regulars do for the schools? Do they use their tasers for de-fib paddles?
And are they more jaded with criminals because they’ve seen it all before? If so, I bet they’d make good security people at the airports.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the security fallout from the underwear bomber and how they’re talking about sending us through full body scanners. In one sense, that’s pretty creepy. They assure us the scanners don’t render an anatomically perfect image, it’s more like a soft focus sort of thing.
Great, so we’d all look like Vaseline-coated lens-adjusted Playboy Playmates?
One possible good thing is we’ll keep more prudes off the airplanes. And for any fanatics whose moral or religious compass points them towards full body covering, this could be a good thing.
If the rest of us still object, I suggest one or both of two things. Use seniors, or have the people manning or womanning the full-body scanners be Doctors. We’ve gotten used to stripping down at Group Health. They see naked people all the time and could care less.
Perfect! Seniors and MDs at the airport scanners.
Ho hum. Been there, done that.
Seen a million of ‘em, by crackey
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

#1180 Changing Chunks

It’s funny how what you’ve being thinking about recently can change the way you take new information in.
Like I was having a discussion recently with a friend about a news item. The news item talked about the quandary faced by many transgender people who are in transition sexually and yet still need to use the public restrooms.
Since the transgender people are neither fully one nor the other, it’s only natural that other patrons of the restrooms are indisposed to accept the presence of someone who is only somewhat the opposite sex.
Not long after that, I went by a public place that had three restrooms: one male, one female, and one that contained a “changing station.”
For some reason, that one seemed like a natural alternative.
Not long after that, I was at an energy conference, and the talk centered on buying smaller electric cars that, instead of recharging their batteries, could go to places where they would swap them out. Exchange a dead battery for a full one.
They called those places “changing stations” too. So when I went into the bathroom at the conference center and there was this fold-down bin on the wall that said “baby changing station” you can imagine what I thought.
And I also remembered how there were times when my babies were really small and whiny and colicky that the idea of a changeling was actually attractive.
I know, I’m not very nice. Still—a “baby changing station”? I think “diaper changing station” would be a more accurate name.
And speaking of weird names. At what point did the word “chunky” become good? I was looking at a can of “chunky style soup” and somehow it didn’t seem as appetizing as I would suppose the manufacturer had hoped.
Maybe because I had just read an article on the epidemic of obese children plaguing our great land. And how they used to say obese kids were a little “chunky.”
So chunks and food are not really a good combo. Especially when some people describe a certain event as “blowing chunks.”
Must be what you do when that soup is a little hot...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 05, 2010

#1179 Bottled Up

So here's the deal. The other night I was watching a musician do a show. He was like most good performers, in that he really threw himself into his work. That passion that propels a front man to stage-dive is only barely suppressed in even the mellowest performer.
You can bet there’s a roiling cauldron of emotion boiling even inside Mel Torme.
In any event, this performer occasionally went back to the amplifier area to have a drink of water. After about the fourth repetition of this behavior, I noticed something odd.
He was drinking his water out of one of those ubiquitous plastic bottles that are polluting and destroying the planet. Particularly ironic as this singer is known for his environmental and political activism.
But what I noticed was, the bottle had a screw-on cap. And instead of leaving the bottle open after he finished his drink, the musician screwed the cap back on tight again.
And I thought, I do that too. And I also thought, so does everyone else I know. Even if we fully intend to drink the whole bottle at one sitting, we almost always screw and unscrew the cap after every sip.
It’s become a national obsession.
Now I can understand the musician worried about a bottle of water spilling on his amplifier. But does he have to go through the elaborate screwing ritual between every two songs? Can he leave off the cap even once? Can I?
And here’s an interesting thought. Could he save the planet a little bit and use water in, um, a cup? Knowing full well he’s going to go through an entire performance, how about a thermos style carafe? It would keep his water cold, he could pour it into a cup, and save himself a lot of screwing.
Or if it’s the screwing he craves, he could get one of those insulated travel cups and mess with the lid on that.
Just a thought, but if we all used a few more cups and a few fewer water bottles, we’d do a lot less obsessive screwing around.
And a lot less screwing up of the planet while we’re at it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

#1178 Journally Pease

One of the coolest things about living in the 21st Century is the World Wide Web. And with it our favorite source for mostly right information.
No I’m not talking about Fox News. I’m talking about mostly right as in mostly correct.
That source would be Wikipedia. I find myself using it every now and then to check dubious artifacts from my youth.
Here’s why. I once had a very close relative who used the term “journally.” They used it consistently and confidently and in no way gave the indication that it was anything other than appropriate. The occasions when this person used it were when other people would use the term “generally” but I never consciously noticed that.
If I thought about it at all, it was that it sounded okay because you have journals. You put things in journals, often regular general things, and there are journalists who report on general news.
I heard it from such a young age; it was firmly ensconced in my lexicon. That is, until college, when for the first time I questioned it and looked it up.
There is no such word.
The word this person should have been using was indeed “generally.”
The “journally” debacle is now part of one of my journals.
But here’s what’s cool about Wikipedia. The other day I had a flashback on a chant we did as kids. We would say pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old.
So I wondered. Is there such a thing as pease? One word p-e-a-s-e- pease? Well, low and behold, thanks to our wiki friends, I found out there was indeed something called pease. Pease is a mass noun like oatmeal. Pease porridge is made of split yellow individual peas and spices and is similar to hummus.
It was often cooked with bacon or a ham joint so it’s not that different from today’s split pea soup, but it was baked, mushier, and thicker.
And apparently, at least according to the nursery rhyme, had a pull date journally exceeding 9 days.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

#1177 Mid Tan Match

A few different observations today. I’m always interested in how people market their businesses. And how in stressful business times a great strategy is to offer something new or different.
So the other day I’m driving around and I go by this Mid-wife place and it occurs to me: If you are a male practitioner of mid-wifery are you a mid-husband?
Does the wife in mid-wife refer to the person actually birthing the child or the person facilitating the enterprise?
Mid-husband…could be a new marketing opportunity.
Like the tanning place I went by not long after. They had this sign on the top of their main sign. It said, “UV Teeth Whitening.” What a great idea. I’ve seen dentists advertise UV Teeth Whitening. Why not do the same thing at a tanning parlor? You got all the UV tubes right there.
And you could do it two ways. You could have people who are tanning already open their mouth. Or people could lay down fully clothed and you could just tell them to smile.
Might get a little hot in the old bed but hey, maybe they could wear one of those nylon sweatsuits and cook off a pound or two. Tanning, teeth whitening, and water weight removal¾the trifecta of low-effort toning up for a cruise.
The other cool thing about tanning place teeth whitening is when you have whiter teeth you look like you have a deeper tan and vice versa. You’re gonna get double the results.
After I had gone by the tanning place, I heard an ad on the radio. Some place was trying to increase their market position by “matching” prices. “We will match the price of any competitor!”
So, really, if I’m at the competitor and I remember that this place will match the price, is it likely I’ll go all the way across town for a match? I may as well save the gas and just buy it where I am.
Like if I’m already lying in a tanning bed, I might as well save a trip to the dentist and just flash my soon-to-be pearly whites.
Now that’s something to grin about...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

#1176 Writestat

I got a new household item during the recent cold snap. It was a humidifier. Really cold air makes it really dry and really dry turns my skin to really easily-ripped parchment.
I figured I’d recover the costs of the humidifier in the savings on finger band-aids in no time.
As I was reading the instruction manual on the humidifier, I noticed an interesting phrase. It said the humidifier was equipped with a “technologically advanced digital humidistat.”
I love phrases like that, meant to invoke the power, the mystery, the majesty of technology. Say it in a big booming voice everyone—A Technologically Advanced Digital Humidistat!
But here’s what’s cool. I had only heard the word thermostat before to talk about a self-regulating device or thing. The thermostat on your heater turns it on and off automatically. Stops and starts it without your thinking about it. “Therm” means heat. “Stat” is short for stasis, which is a state of rest achieved through no effort of yours.
What the thermostat does for heat, the humidistat does for humidity.
Does that make your house’s roof a rain-i-stat?
But recently I heard another word about how your body’s automatic appetite control is called an appestat. I like it. They say that many obese people have appestat problems. They don’t lack control. Their body has a broken appestat. Makes perfect sense to me. A bag of Salsa Verde Doritos totally short-circuits my appestat.
What a great suffix to create cool new words. If you want to monitor TV viewing, get a video-stat. Same way with cutting down on excessive internet surfing. Get a web-i-stat. Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton and Warren Beatty? Their problem is they don’t have a sex-i-stat like the rest of us.
Teenager spending all day with his or her earbuds in? Maybe they need an ipod-i-stat. We all know they could use a text-i-stat.
Or how about for the person who obsessively and compulsively buys apps from the iPhone app store? The newest app for your iPhone, the technologically advanced digital app-i-stat.
Or since it’s an appestat for your appetite for buying apps maybe we should call it an appe-appestat...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

#1175 Cycling Fashion

I’m really impressed with everyday cyclists, except for one thing. I’ll get to that in a moment. I totally admire their commitment to getting out on the road come cold or high water.
Whether it’s raining or sweltering, snowing or blowing, hard-core bicyclists get out there. I’m amazed at how they dedicate themselves to their exercise no matter what.
And maybe it’s not just exercise. It’s highly likely most such cyclists are committed to lowering their carbon footprint as well. Some with carbon-based graphite cycle frames, but that’s okay. They’re burning far less fossil fuel than the rest of us, so no problem.
So since they have everything good going for them, social conscience, exercise ethic, and perseverance personality, I suppose it’s no surprise that one aspect of their character has to suffer along with their seat bone.
Yep, you guessed it, their fashion sense. What is it with some cyclists? I saw one the other day, dressed in tight leggings, a giant tent-like yellow tarp thing, a helmet, and a dental mirror.
I think it was the dental mirror that really scared me. Nothing more unsettling than seeing a guy driving down the road with a dental mirror attached to a helmet, looking for all the world like he has nothing better to do than careen along on a spindly and fragile bicycle, checking to see if he needs to floss.
Is that a poppy seed stuck in my teeth from when I carbed up with my morning muffin?
Add to this the tent-tarp thing itself. Perhaps it was meant to be a cyclist’s poncho. If so, it’s come along way for the dashing vaquero look of Pancho Villa. This yellow monstrosity looked billowing, voluminous, and distinctly northeastern.
Forget about Pancho Villa, he looked like Gordon of Gloucester. Hey Yankee flosser-checker, how about some fish sticks?
So maybe I was wrong after all. Maybe he wasn’t a dedicated cyclist. Maybe I was just witnessing a fun ride around the neighborhood from a visiting Cape Cod dentist...
America, ya gotta love it.