Wednesday, June 30, 2010

1280 Freefer

On the one hand, it was kind of annoying. But on the other hand it was kind of cool.
First, let me say I almost never read the inserts companies choose to include in the envelopes with their bills. That type of advertising annoys me more than ads attached to GMail.
But one happened to catch my eye the other day that was an amazing idea. Puget Sound Energy is taking energy conservation seriously. So seriously, they’ll pick up your old refrigerator for free, deliver it to the appropriate recycling location, for free, and give you 30 dollars cash, for free.
Back in the old days, we used to call the old refrigerator in the back of the restaurant where I worked the “reefer.” I guess we could call this deal the “freefer.” Or since they’re doing all three things. The “three-fer free-fer.”
What a fantastic idea. And how annoying that I’d already, like a good conservation-minded conscientious citizen, disposed of my old refrigerator a couple of years ago. That sucks.
Then again, I’d have been stupidly paying for the power it sucked that long too. I’d been that shortsighted for a couple of years before that. Like many people, I’d bought an energy-saving new refrigerator, then put the old refrigerator in the garage and kept running it anyway. It was the back-up refrigerator for the five extra gallons of mayo that I’d get at Costco. Or the giant fruit pie that wouldn’t fit in the main energy-efficient reefer in the kitchen.
So I ended up using the same old power from the old fridge and the power from the new one too. Not too smart.
But thanks to PSE you can be smarter.
Do the three-fer freefer.
Talk about a cool idea...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

1279 Facebook Value

The results are in. If you’re a business and you’ve been wondering whether all that time you spent updating your Facebook page is worthwhile, here it is. The face value of Facebook, or possibly the Face book-value, is 137 bucks.
According to recent research, the average ROI of a Facebook fan is 137 dollars a year.
If you’re an ordinary Facebook fan and you’re wondering where they got this data about your buying habits, welcome to the world of Facebook privacy. They not only know everything about what you bought, and when you bought it, they’re going to keep that information forever in case it comes in handy in some way for them to turn a profit.
I’m guessing The average ROI per fan for Facebook itself is far higher.
But back to the suspect figures. “ROI” means “Return On Investment.” How did they calculate that, when you supposedly make no investment to post something on your Facebook page for your fans to see?
Is the investment zero? Because if it’s zero investment and $137 return, that’s pretty cool. But if you invest 30 minutes of your time each day to update your Facebook for your fans, that counts for something.
That is if your time is worth anything.
Let’s say as a business owner your time is worth 50 bucks an hour. But you’re on Facebook for a half hour. 25 bucks a day 5 days a week 50 weeks a year is $6250. Divide that by 137 and you need 45.62 fans to make your time worthwhile.
Okay. Now all you have to do is have a great product, excellent service, and pay for advertising to drive those potential fans to your Facebook site.
Then success is just a free click away...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

1278 His-dentity

Read one of those stories the other day that makes you shake your head. It’s good to have confidence I guess, bad to be so cocky you throw down a challenge.
Other people just can’t resist rubbing your nose in your own hubris.
The story was about Todd Davis, CEO of a company called LifeLock. He must have been raised on those commercials like the one where the Gillette guy pugnaciously challenges you to find a better razor.
Or possibly the one where Robert Conrad dares you to knock a battery off his shoulder. Your first thought is to wipe that smug look off his face by unlimbering a shotgun and shooting the damn thing off, shoulder and all.
So that’s kind of what happened. Mr. Davis actually listed his real Social Security number on TV to prove his company could prevent identity theft.
And then proceeded to have his identity stolen thirteen times.
The identity thieves ran up thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges and loans.
Poor Todd. There’s a lesson here. Don’t ask for trouble. And remember that the credit card companies are only too happy to charge stuff without thorough checking. They get to hold your money or show the charges on their books for as long as it takes to settle the dispute, so it’s actually in their interest to encourage less scrutiny.
Big money is all about the float, dude.
There are a couple of good sides to it all. By offering himself as a guinea pig for his own product, he was able to find where he went wrong. There’s at least thirteen holes he now knows to fill.
And bonus, he also has a great way to fool his wife when those gentleman’s club charges appear on his bankcard.
America, ya gotta love it

Friday, June 25, 2010

1277 Free-mains

Is there no morality left? Have we no decency, no taste? Two stories recently point out how low we can go. Somewhere along the line remains have become free-mains.
The first story is about the guards sent to guard the remains of the Polish dignitaries who crashed in Russia recently. The guards stole credit cards from the corpses and charged up a bunch of stuff. I guess figuring they needed to do it quickly before the banks caught on the purported chargers were dead.
Identity theft is bad enough. Identity theft while the identity is only freshly un-identitied is cold indeed. I hope the guards didn’t use the cards to buy something nice for their wives...
The next story is even weirder. The news services are calling it the story of the Grim Eater. Seems this guy in New Zealand went from wake to wake, funeral to funeral, and ate the free food.
Free-mains indeed.
He went up to four times a week. He wasn’t caught till one of the funeral directors dug out the secret and uncovered it to his fellows in the field.
I don’t know. Filching free food from a funeral. Poor taste? You bet. But dangerous too. Food like that rarely has an expiration date...
Which may explain why the guy also took food home in, as the news article put it, Tupperware containers. Or possibly generic plastic storage containers of some sort. As you can imagine, Tupperware is less than pleased their brand is being associated with memorial mooching.
Although I remember going to one Tupperware party during the Hungarian food fad days and being told it was great for storing goulash.
There’s certainly something ghoul-ash about the Grim Eater.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1276 VBS

I was driving home recently and I saw something off the road that sent me down memory lane. It was one of those places that really helped my working parents during the long summer break. Ultra cheap childcare. It was a Vacation Bible School.
I noticed the sign said it only lasted for one week. Not as much of the summer as I remembered. Then I drove a little further, and I saw another church offering vacation bible school, but this one was for a different week. Oh yeah. That’s what I remember.
Serial Vacation Bible Schools.
Maybe that’s why later on in college I did so well in comparative religious studies. If what you’re after is cheap childcare, and you don’t mind the possibility your child will emerge with religious confusion, I suggest it to you as well.
I met all kinds of different people. And got exposed to all kinds of religious doctrines.
Sure, it was a little mystifying to me why Methodists and Baptists argued over whether baptism should be full body dunking or light head-sprinkling. The Episcopalians got up and down a lot more than the Presbyterians. And the Catholics let us dance, which got me into trouble when I went to the Southern Baptists, but what the hey, my regular teachers in school called me a little devil too.
They also had many things in common. Did you know that most every church accepts the interpretation that you can use two Popsicle sticks and yarn to make a cross? Or the apparently universally-sanctioned method for illustrating biblical stories, is Elmer-gluing on beans?
Any beans too. Red beans, brown beans, white beans, black beans, and all the lentils of the world.
Multiple Vacation Bible Schools taught me tolerance.
Bean there, done that.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

1275 Essay Test

The other day, while my computer was updating itself, I had a moment to ponder what I do every morning. I write an essay question on some obscure topic. I compare and contrast something. I may even just take a thought and develop a thesis.
Like, say, what is it that cats and tats have in common?
Almost no one can stop at one. You almost never see a person with just one cat. And you almost never see a person with just one tattoo.
I reflected on this the other day when my good friend said he was going to get a second cat. “Cat two,” he said.
“Tattoo,” I said. Cat Two, Tattoo, and the lame idea was born.
I also wondered the other day, as someone whipped out his digital camera and said he was going to shoot some footage of a local parade, if it’s all digital electrons, is it still footage?
It’s like when we make an MP3 of something and we say we tape it. Footage? Tape? I got to go dial my phone and tell my friends.
So anyhow, I write little essays about such things for fun. And I do something else to pass the time from time to time. I do crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles seem like puzzles, but they’re really tests. Every time you sit down to do a crossword puzzle, you’re doing the equivalent of a mini-SAT, a general knowledge test.
You see where my reflections are going. Somehow or another, what I’ve started to do for fun in my life, writing and crosswording, are the two things I used to hate most in school.
Essay problems and Tests.
Getting old is weirder than I thought.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

1274 Tourile

While I was volunteering as a staff member at the State Visitor Center, I got a chance to meet some tourists. It was interesting to note what they were there to see.
All ten people I talked to were there to see the Capitol Dome, of course; two couples from Virginia, one couple from Germany, one couple from Brawley, California, and a couple of guys from England.
The English guys were funny. I at first complemented them on their Australian accent. They took great exception to that, and proclaimed they were from the U.K. and spoke the Queen’s English.
They were too modest. I’ve heard Elizabeth speak and they were a lot more understandable.
They too were there to see the Capitol, but they had also been out to Washington’s other current tourist destination.
Yep, they were drawn in by the “Twilight” phenomenon and had just made the trip all the way around the peninsula so they could stop in at the vampire stomping grounds of Forks.
According to them, they encountered no actual bloodsuckers. Unless by bloodsuckers you mean money-grubbers.
“What is it with this Forks,” they asked, in that upper-crusty British manner. “Not much there, eh?”
“Well,” I admitted, “before the Twilight thing, us natives used to call it the armpit of Washington.”
“Oh and that’s being nice,” they said.
One of the guys had gone there specifically at the request of his thirteen-year-old son back in England. I heard him on the phone with him later.
“Yes, we skipped Mt. St. Helens so we could go there. No, a bit of a let down. Hand-scrawled signs on old trucks and such, purporting to be vampire locations. No, no actual bloodsuckers... just a couple of suckers from England what...
Nevermind son...”
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

1273 State Symbol

Recently I had the pleasure of volunteering to staff the Visitor Information Center. It used to be the Capital Visitor Center but the state cut funding, so now it’s run by the Visitor Convention Bureau.
I was killing time looking through the pamphlets and I came upon one that had a listing of all our state symbols. You know, like our state flower is the Coast Rhododendron.
Our state fruit is the apple. Our state song is “Washington My Home” and our state “folk” song is “Roll On, Columbia, Roll on.”
As far as I could tell, we don’t have a state “rock” song, although “Smells Like Teen Spirit” oughta be a contender. Poor Aberdeen. They should qualify as “state city that made the most unfortunate business choices.”
First the dying fishing industry, then the dying lumber industry. Then Curt Cobain.
By the way, did you know we actually have state fossil? No, it’s not Ralph Munro, although with his great sense of humor he’d happily claim the title.
No, it’s the Columbia Mammoth. Interesting...the State Gem, which is petrified wood, also is best seen on the banks of the Columbia, at the Gingko Petrified Forest near Vantage.
All this Columbia stuff, it’s a surprise “Washington” actually won out over it as our state, um, name.
So is our state dance some Columbia river dance thing? No. The state dance is the square dance.
Apparently, the “mashed potato” was taken by Idaho.
It’s great we actually have a state dance, but I’m a little concerned. Do you have to do the state dance to the state song? Because trust me, square dancing to “Washington My Home” would be like a slow dance in a rest home.
Folks would be moving pokier than a petrified pachyderm.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

1272 Yum Yam

Everyone loves a tuber.
I read a couple of news stories lately about our tuberous friends. Seems China is moving in the direction of potato-hood. Potatoes yield a lot more calories per acre than rice. And they take a lot less water to grow.
With China facing a potential population of 1.5 billion in the next couple of decades, the authorities are pulling rice from the agricultural menu.
The Chinese public is not that warm to the idea. So far, the only potato offerings that have caught on are “chips” with flavors like cool cucumber and spicy prawn.
Yum, Spicy Prawn potato chips. Someone call Pringles.
I don’t know...I’m all for saving water, but I’m not sure I’m ready to have the Kung Pao chicken with mashed potatoes.
In other tuber news, the culinary fashion mavens are predicting that sweet potatoes are the next big food fad. Chefs from Maine to Minnesota are putting out sweet potato fries, chips, and heck, even yam on toast.
The only problem is they’re so gnarly and misshapen. So Con-Agra is taking a page from J.R. Simplot who McDonalds made a millionaire when he invented the brick-shaped regular potato.
A more beautiful and symmetrical sweet potato, and maybe even a well-proportioned yam, are in the offing. Ah, technology.
Mr. Potato-head, meet Michael Jackson.
Food nostalgiasts are always singing the praises of old-fashioned unaltered foods. And they prize things like heirloom tomatoes. So here’s the cool thing. For the first time we’ll be able to say something like “heirloom yams.”
Which actually sounds funny to me. Like a wannabe oxymoron. Two words that don’t belong together for some reason. Contradictory on some level, in spirit, if not fact.
Heirloom Yams?
Like saying orthotic flip-flops.
Or Beautiful Tuber...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1271 Man Friendly

For years men have had to endure the ministrations of the other Dr. DRE. DRE as in D-R-E-, as in Digital Rectal Exam. And not digital as in digital readout, but digital as in the original meaning of the word, with an actual manual digit.
The reason for this was to detect the abnormal swelling of a cancerous prostate. While the test helped develop a certain level of intimacy and trust between patient and physician, it was crude at best.
Performing Digital Rectal Exams is not unlike playing the didgeridoo, not every doctor has the touch.
So many people welcomed the “PSA test” with relief—a simple blood test detecting a chemical known as Prostate Specific Antigen.
Unfortunately, PSAs were notoriously unreliable, and negatively riddled with false positives. Suffice it to say there were, and are, many unnecessary surgeries thanks to PSAs.
So the newest thing on the medical horizon is heartening. In a recent test, this method was correct 64 out of 66 times. There were originally thought to be 3 false positives, but it turned out this method detected cancer in a guy who earlier tests had said was negative.
Now here’s the cool part. The test method used a sniffing dog. That’s right, man’s best friend to the rescue again.
“What’s that Lassie? Timmy’s in the well with a bad prostate?”
Yep, dogs can be trained to detect the cancer odor in a urine sample. And do it more accurately than current tests.
So next time that obnoxious neighbor’s dog comes up and starts sniffing you you-know-where, don’t get crotchety, maybe he’s trying to tell you something.
Medicine isn’t just about expensive equipment, and high tech cat scans.
A lowly dog scan can sniff out disease as well.
America, ya gotta love it.

1270 Free Troll

Recently, some Olympia City Council members voted down a paid parking plan that has been 26 years in the making—26 years, and countless committee and staff hours.
Not to mention enough hand-wringing to qualify as an alternative energy source.
A couple of the voter-downers did so in the laudable but mistaken belief they were listening to the public.
They weren’t.
They were listening (because it’s hard not to hear a squeaky wheel) to a small group of chronic complainers who make an avocation of complaining. Much like the commenters you see whiling away each day commenting on everything from soup to nuts in the newspapers.
Most of them are trolls. Most of them don’t park downtown anyway.
They park in their mom’s basement.
The worry expressed was that creating pay parking in the current free parking core would be an onerous burden on people coming downtown. The proposed rate, by the way, is a dollar an hour.
But the truth is, pay parking is really about equitable access.
Consider this: We all hate Wall Street insiders, don’t we? Those who use inside access or information to cut the rest of us out of our fair share?
That’s precisely what certain unscrupulous downtown employees are like. They’re also trolls¾the free-toll trollers.
These trollers work the system. They move their cars from free spot to free spot every 90 minutes. They take a troll break, troll for a free cup of coffee at one of the banks, have a troll cigarette, and move their troll car.
And they hog the parking places of people who’d like to shop downtown. And rob the city of not just parking revenue, but sales tax revenue as well.
Paid Parking stops that. It levels the field. It’s a blow for the common person, an implementation of democracy.
Paid Parking is, essentially, an act of freedom.
Let’s keep Olympia Troll Free.
America, ya gotta love it.

1269 I-Dea

Everyone is wondering what amazing miracle is next on the slate of successes for Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple. You can bet it will be about making information even more accessible, and more convenient as well.
Because more than anything else, Apple has been about easy interfaces. From the original icons that Windows stole, to the whole click and mouse thing, to the touchscreens of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, it has been about laborsaving convenience.
Our economy has also looked to Apple to keep us employed. Each new wave of software and hardware has put both innovators and manufacturing folks to work. Not to mention all the countless spin-off jobs created by and for people in the industry of “apps.”
So I predict the next product will save you labor and create a job for someone else at the same time. It’s not an iPod, It’s not an iPad.
It’s an iPal.
The P-A-L- in iPal stands for Personal Assistant Laborsaver. An iPal will do your computing for you. He’ll carry around your iPad and swipe your screen for you. And he’ll respond to voice commands.
Even if you mumble them.
“Look up an app for the transit service.” “Google me some free adult video content.” “Download the latest ‘America Ya Gotta Love It’, now available on iTunes.”
He’ll understand you because the iPal won’t be no creepy robot. The iPal will put someone to work¾a real flesh and blood human being, who’ll follow you around labor-saving your every computer interface whim.
He’ll carry it for you too, along with accessories and peripherals—printer, cables, WiFi extender antennae...
The iPal. It’ll put the unemployed back to work.
They don’t call Steve Jobs for nothing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1268 Acu-Tatter

Good news on the front of pain relief. Scientists have finally figured out how acupuncture works. It’s pretty simple really. None of that mystical qi stuff.
Acupunture tricks your body into thinking it hurts. Your body sends out pain-killing chemicals and, voila, other pain you felt in the area is dampened as well.
What a surprise. Who would have thought you could trick your body into feeling hurt—by sticking needles into it?!
This scientist stuck a needle into a rat’s paw and determined that the prick made the rat started secreting adenosine, which is a natural pain inhibitor.
The good part of the research, from scientists’ point of view, is that it now eliminates the prevalent notion that most of the benefits of acupuncture come from a placebo effect. The pain relief is real. And it’s increased when the needles are twisted once inserted.
Note to muggers and character assassins: Twisting the knife once you’ve stabbed someone in the back may actually help relieve their pain.
This also helps explain why acupuncture is good at lower back pain and headaches but not so great with broken arms or nosebleeds.
But it also opens up an understanding of why people with tattoos typically tatter repeatedly. Those thousands of tiny needle pricks give the tattooe-ee a definitely pain-relieving high.
Which opens up a new business possibility. Temporary tattoos for recreational pleasure. You do it for the buzz. When the old one fades, you just get a new one, and a new opportunity for gratification.
Plus, temp tattoos are good because fashions change. And we all get bored with old fashions. Who wants a bicep like an eight-ball leather jacket. Get a new look and a great buzz.
Tempo-tats. For when you needle-ittle high.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

1267 Star-Rocks

I was driving around on the Memorial Day holiday and I noticed some depressing things.
By the way, is it right to call Memorial Day a Holiday? I suppose if you go back to the original meaning of holiday, which was “holy day,” it’s perfectly appropriate. But if you take the current meaning of holiday—a day off to have some festive fun, not so much.
I can see Merry Christmas, but Merry Memorial Day?
Or a Memorial Day Sale. Seems inappropriate somehow. We are taking a special day off work to honor those who have fallen in the service of our country. And socks are 20% off too.
It reminds me of how much we do forget.
In any event, I drove by a convenience store and I noticed on their windows that they had a lot of posters from Rockstar, the Energy Drink. Seems like all soft drinks, Rockstar’s having to re-invent itself to get noticed. They now have a whole line of canned coffee drinks.
Now I’ve never really signed on to the idea of coffee from a can. The truth is, I’ve never liked cold or iced coffee. My mind just refuses to accept the notion of cold coffee as anything other than the dregs left in the cup.
It’s like cold soup. Or cold oatmeal. Perfectly edible, to be sure, but not what you’d call appetizing.
Rockstar has taken cold coffee to a whole new level. “Rockstar Roasted,” they say, has “coffee and energy.” It’s available in Mocha, Latte, and Light Vanilla Flavors.
Coffee and energy? Doesn’t most of the energy in Rockstar come from caffeine?
Things are worse than I thought. The world must be really depressing, if they’re adding caffeine to coffee.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

1266 Cows Birds

I like my bird feeder. It opens a window to the viciousness of nature.
It’s a dog eat dog world out there. By the way, have you ever seen a dog eat a dog? I think canines get a bad rap that way. There are more stories of human eat human. Canine cannibalism is pretty rare.
But that’s not to say animals aren’t capable of a range of human crimes. A bird I often see at my feeder is a great example. The cowbird.
It doesn’t look like a cow. It doesn’t group in herds. It’s a little finch-sized bird. The male is black with a brown head. The females are a dowdy dishwater beige. And apparently lazy in that whole mothering thing.
Because not only are cowbirds annoying. Not only don’t they feed well with other birds. They bully other birds into raising their eggs for them. And they do it using mafia-like methods.
Yep. The cowbirds are extortionists.
If you’re a finch, and you find a cowbird egg in your nest, you best go about sitting on the darn thing. If you don’t, your own little chickies are at risk.
The Finch hens aren’t confused. Cowbird eggs look entirely different from other eggs. They know it’s a cowbird egg. But they also know they better not remove the egg. Because the cowbird that laid it will come back and check. If the egg is gone, the cowbird will totally ransack the nest and wipe out all the other eggs in it.
So it’s a hatch my chick or else proposition. An ova they can’t refuse. The cowbird wiseguy. “If you don’t lay my egg, your egg...fuggetaboutit.”
That must be how they got their name. They don’t look like a cow, they cow other birds into submission.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

1265 Crusty Nozzle

So I was in a sandwich shop the other day. I won’t mention the name of the chain. Suffice it to say they’ve recently bullied small sandwich and hot dog purveyors for using the term footlong.
Forget for a moment that those other places have used the term footlong since before said sandwich shop stole their own name from an underground mass transit system.
I was taken by some of the changes when I went in and ordered a sandwich of the aforementioned footlong variety. They no longer slice a V into the top of the bread. They cut it in half. They offer pepper-jack cheese, and four different kinds of flavored bread.
One thing hasn’t changed much. Their hygiene. Their meat and vegetable products can only be accessed by moving aside lids. Which is time consuming, but good.
Perhaps that’s why they try to save some time by pre-slicing their meat. Time is money, and at a rate of 5 bucks a footlong how much money do you think they need to save?
Sounds like a story problem from math.
Still, when we got to the end of the sandwich line, I was a little dismayed. In the old days they put mustard and mayo on first. Now they squeeze on whatever sauce you want last. And they squeeze it from plastic bottles.
The bottoms of the bottles sit in a refrigerated well. The room temperature tops of the bottles have wide nozzles through which the sauce passes. Or doesn’t for a while and gets, um, crusty.
My advice? Ask first which sauce is most popular and order it. Then you won’t get a footlong of disgust like me.
Nothing dampens the appetite like a congealed clump from a crusty nozzle.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 07, 2010

1264 Shig Shag

I commented recently on the CDC study on the safety of American Pools. It wasn’t good. But as I was reading the article that prompted my commentary, an interesting sideline on today’s technology emerged.
The original article was on ABC News dot com. Like most news sites, the ads that appear near the article have been algorithm-ed in such a way that they have some relevance to the content of the article.
This is supposedly the wonderful new technology of target marketing. A computer decides what’s relevant in the article and places an ad that ties in somehow, tricking your brain into getting the equivalent of two advertising messages. Or at least one reinforced one.
Unfortunately, the ad they picked with “nasty-sicknesses-you-get-in-pools” was for a cruise ship company. And the deck of the massive cruise ship in the ad very obviously had swimming pools on it.
Worse, the stories of entire cruise ships coming down with massive infections were only too recent in my memory.
So the algorithm that decided this ad also displayed the thing that computers still lack—judgment.
Or possibly taste.
Then again, ABC wasn’t that good in the judgment department either. When referring to the disease shigella, they hyperlinked the word.
I know they were trying to be hip, modern, and helpful. But when I clicked the link, it went to Wikipedia. Um, how about a medical website? Wikipedia, though useful, is still riddled with inaccuracies. ABC News, of all people, should know it’s not the most reliable source.
I should hurry to Wikipedia right now and post that Shigella was a 60s dance, briefly popular between the Mashed Potato and the Watusi. See how long it takes before it’s taken down...
Technology’s fun, but technological practical jokes are funner.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

1263 Pool Logiene

The CDC recently came out with the results of their study on the safety of American swimming pools. It wasn’t good. Turns out one out of eight pools should be closed because of excessive nastiness. Microbugs and critters infest them, so if you accidentally drink the water or ingest it with an involuntary snort, you could get very sick.
One out of eight. Talk about dirty pool.
The infections you can get run the gamut, from fecal stuff like cryptosporidium, to the more interestingly named shigella and norovirus. Hmm. Shigella…sounds like a 70s dance craze. And why does norovirus sound like a birth control pill side effect?
But the really weird disease you can get is pseudomonas. It doesn’t make you sick, you just break out in pustules. Sure to affect that perfect summer tan. And make it tough to use the tanning parlor.
“Sorry sir, no pustules.”
Of the 112,000 places tested, the CDC found kiddie pools and interactive fountains to be the worst. No big surprise there. Who hasn’t seen that cute kid with a dirty sagging diaper at the fountain? You can be pretty sure when that water gets recycled to the next fountain nozzle, the one the kid used as a bidet had an effect.
The CDC says it’s hard to keep pools at the right PH and chlorination levels so the public should be more proactive. Take test strips to the pool and check before you soak. Wouldn’t it be easier, and cheaper, to ban kids in diapers?
Another thought: If US pools are so bad, what can we expect of those lovely jewels in Cabo and Cancun?
Forget about Montezuma’s revenge, who wants to come back from a tropical vacation with pustules?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

1262 Fleeced

When Polar Fleece came out it was hailed as the greatest thing since wool. An amazing example of fabric from the wonders of technology. You didn’t have to raise sheep to get it. You could just drill for oil.
Still, as polyester goes, it was a great insulator, and soft too. Sure, it didn’t insulate as well when wet as wool does, but it wasn’t scratchy either.
But what they didn’t predict, and is only now becoming apparent, is that its insulating qualities actually increase with time. It has an amazing attribute known as accumulative insulation. Just as a little lamb grows a fuller and fuller coat, so does a polar fleece.
I was at a party recently and observed this in astounding quantities. Lots of the folks at the party were wearing polar fleeces. And they looked like they were old favorites. Because it was absolutely incredible how much extraneous hair was accumulated on them.
Long hairs, short hairs, hair that was in between. Fat hairs, skinny hairs, even hairs that had some sheen. Hairs hairs everywhere, all stuck to their polar fleece.
I nearly had to yank out my own hair to stop my anal-retentive self from going out and buying an emergency lint roller.
Worried about balding? Hair today, gone tomorrow? If you ever want to keep tabs on, or just keep, how much you shed in an ordinary day, wear a polar fleece. Particularly a solid dark-colored one.
A CSI guy would have a field day. A simple polar fleece sampling would help him deduce your pets, your kids, your spouse, your affair...
Even the nose hairs of the guy who sneezed when he sat next to you on the bus.
Ah, the wonders of technology...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

1261 Boondoggle

Some people know things that we don’t. Take health care. To hear one side of the aisle describe the new bill, it’s all gloom and doom. An affront to our freedoms. A huge multi-paged complex boondoggle.
There’s an interesting word—boondoggle. A boon is something good isn’t it? I’m not sure what a doggle is, but it sounds like a toggle. Which is usually a switch-like thing, but not always connected to anything. You can have a fake toggle switch and it’s still a toggle.
Interestingly, the term boondoggle actually comes from the time of the New Deal. It was invented to contemptuously describe some of Roosevelt’s make-work projects.
Which, from what I can see from the economic news, is what the health care bill will do. Actually make work. At least Wall Street thinks so. Even though you’d assume Wall Streeters are mostly on that complaining side of the aisle, since the healthcare bill passed, healthcare-oriented stocks have really gone up.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently identified the 30 occupations most likely to grow in the next decade. Seventeen of the 30 are in health care. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that the baby boomer bulge is about to sag permanently over the age of 65.
Or that a huge part of health care is dedicated to the maladies associated with aging.
Once again, the great baby boomers fuel the economy. From household gadgets in the 60s and 70s. To bigger and bigger households in the 80s and 90s. To exploding 401ks and catfood in the noughts.
And now in sickness to the economy’s health.
Are aging baby boomers going to bring the economy out of the dumps, now that they’ll get more help purchasing eldercare services and products?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

1260 Bunny Wars

I was looking out at my bird feeder the other day. And I noticed, that instead of a bunch of birds underneath the feeder, where they usually congregate to feast on the seed spillage, there was a compact muscular brown mass.
It was a bunny-rabbit.
And he looked just about ready for the spit.
There was a time not long ago when rabbits were widely viewed as good eating. It hasn’t been till recent years that their cuteness factor has outweighed their calorie factor.
Now they’re “bunnies.”
The closest we come to consuming bunnies these days is at Easter, with either hollow chocolate ones or the bunny-shaped peep.
So it was with dismay the other day that I read of the misfortune of a couple that were fined $1000 because they’d killed a bunny.
The bunny in question had been ravaging their garden. It had been humanely trapped a number of times. Animal control had been involved and numerous attempts had been made to warn the owner of the bunny not to release it.
Yes owner. The bunny was said to be a pet. Unfortunately, responsible pet owners do not let their pets ravage neighbors’ gardens.
In any event, the bunny finally gnawed one carrot too many and was dispatched by the angry and frustrated farmer’s wife. Perhaps with a carving knife. Perhaps after she’d similarly dispatched three sight-impaired mice. Mice and bunnies both being part of the larger family of rats.
Edible rats to be sure.
I wonder if a similar fine would have been levied if the bunny killers had killed a pet python. Or if cuteness played a factor.
Personally, I’m not that swayed by cuteness.
There’s a free-range bunny out by my bird feeder...
America, ya gotta love it.

1259 Sesame Streetwise

Some conservatives once protested that children’s TV was a commie plot. Especially those programs for kids that were foisting liberal values like tolerance, acceptance and consensus-building on our youth.
Tolerance may be great on Sesame Street, but the real world of bully-ridden playgrounds calls for tougher techniques. Not Sesame Street but Sesame Streetwise.
When the conservatives said TV was damaging our youth they weren’t that far wrong. A recent study by researchers in Montreal and Michigan, conducted on toddlers to ten-year-olds, confirmed it.
The researchers first observed TV habits of 2 1/2 year-olds, then again when they were 4 ½, then again when they were 10. Every hour, beyond the average 9 hours a week, the kids spent in additional TV watching made them dumber. If by dumber you mean 7 percent less engaged in class and 6 percent worse at math.
If affected their physical skills too. They exercised less, had higher body fat, and snacked more. Talk about cookie monsters.
Social skills were also challenged. They were 10 percent more likely to be bullied. Apparently, no one wanted to tickle kids who emulated Elmo. They just wanted to beat the stuffing out of him.
The head researcher concluded that this was “a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood. Even when kids watch ‘educational’ programs, they are learning to be just a passive receptacle.”
It sounds to me like Sesame Street needs to reinvent itself for the real world. A Grand Theft Auto-like interactive video game perhaps, where a non-snack food eating kid wipes out playground bullies and throws the Cookie Monster into Grouchy Oscar’s trashcan.
Or better yet, a new Sesame Street Wii—“Exercise Me Elmo!”
Burn those kiddie calories when you shake like a puppet!
America, ya gotta love it.