Friday, December 30, 2011

1651 Second Language

Our language is certainly difficult for foreigners. Words like "your" and "you're" spelled different and sounding the same. They're called homophones. And words like "refuse" and "refuse" spelled the same and pronounced different. They're called homographs.
Speaking of graphs, I was at an economic symposium recently. The speaker shared some graphs. And it reminded me that sometimes just the sounds of language can convey meaning too. I'm not sure what the name for that is.
The graph the speaker showed was how business had gone precipitously down and then leveled off. The down part looked like a laid-back pole. The levelish part looked like an almost horizontal slash. The speaker said, "The recent economy can be represented by this graph shaped like an L." And I thought, yeah, and it feels like L too.
I made a syllaballic homo-pun.
Another homophone that always gets me is dye, as in your hair, and die, as in your performance on a comedy stage. Or possibly the finish of your performance in life. Actually it's the present continuous conjugation of the past particle "having died" that gets me.
When you're actually dying, it's spelled d-Y-i-n-g-. Why the Y? Doesn't it make it look like the dy in hair dye? Makes you wonder if hair dye's called that because it kills your hair.
Or how about the homophones bridal, as in wedding stuff, and bridle, as in a device you put on a horse? Odd that the homophone almost turns it into a synonym.
Or you could say, not living in sin makes a synonym of bridle the harness and bridal the putting you in harness.
Welcome to American English foreign folks, to understand it, you got to be quick. That's why they call it a second language.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1650 iChop

Another icon of American industry has past. An innovator, a trendsetter, a person who had his finger on the pulse of Americans' desire for new and interesting things, and most of all a person who understood the value of packaging and presentation.
No not Steve Jobs, someone far more important to the American masses. And the mass of Americans.
Jeno Paulucci.
Dude! The guy who invented Jeno's Frozen Pizza Rolls!
What is more innovative, more beautifully packaged, more certain to increase one's mass, than a pizza roll? Elegant in composition and presentation. Convenient, bite-sized and easy to cook. It's every bit the technological marvel an iPhone is.
And educational too, in college I burned more tastebuds on Pizza Rolls than any other dish. I learned all about "once bitten twice shy," "biting the hand that feeds you," "making the same stupid mistake over and over," and all sorts of school of hard knocks wisdom.
Thank you Jeno. Son of Italian immigrants, raised in dire poverty, Jeno got his start when he noticed all the Chinese take-out places making money. Convinced there was a market, he invented a canned version of chow mein, which included bits of celery, pimientos and Italian herbs, cause you know, what Chinese food doesn't need Italian-izing. Chun-King was born.
Which he eventfully sold for mega profits and then started the early frozen pizza industry. One day he was sitting around looking at all his unused egg roll machines and thought, "Pizza in an egg roll!"
That my friend, is genius every bit as intuitive as an iPad.
President Gerald Ford, in presenting him an award, said it best. "What could be more American than a business built on a good Italian recipe for chop suey?"
I have only one thing to add.
Resta ina pizza, Jeno
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1649 Naked Homonyms

I've always been fascinated with the sound of words. I like playing with them. Like telling folks I always wear a bow tie when I do tae bo. Or that it's important for me to have a chai tea before I do my tai chi.
But what really amazes me is how our brains seem capable of accepting the same words for different things. A synonym is a different word that means the same thing. A homonym is a word that's spelled the same but means something different. Like "skate" the fish and "skate" the roller thing. They're also, in the strict sense, words that are pronounced the same.
Then there's the naked homonyms—the homographs. Homographs share the same spelling but mean something different because they are pronounced different. These are the ones that usually trip up foreign language learners.
Homographs are also a big challenge and energy drain for writers, as context determines pronunciation. When the Mariners had the popular slogan, "Refuse to Lose" it was easy for naysayers to pronounce it like the trash—refuse to lose.
Also important with foods to distinguish between local as in where it was grown and lo-cal as in what its effect on your diet will be.
Then there's résumé and resume. As in, it's time to resume writing my résumé.
Or resent and resent. I resent that you resent the rejection letter. I got it the first time!
Or resign and resign. I was resigned to resigning but later they may ask me to resign my contract. As in, sign it over again. So the same spelling can mean you're quitting or re-upping.
Those kind of language gymnastics make me hungry.
I think I'll go polish off a Polish dog.
America, ya gotta love it.

1648 Hot Buns

I haven't been in Taco Bell for a while, so what's the deal with this new “flatbread” thing? For years I've admired Taco Bell as the great fast food alternative. Their basic bean burrito pretty much got me through college. Living off campus, minuscule food budget, bean burrito, the three legs of my college-going economic stool.
So I've always held a special fondness for the Bell, equating it with the esoteric atmosphere of the study of the great philosophers Wittgenstein, Kant, and Hegel, and a digested burrito atmosphere not unlike the smell of a warm bagel.
I still stop in at Taco Bell when I see a sufficiently cheap special posted in their window, but lately all I've seen are offerings of things made with flatbread. So what's with flatbread?
When I think flatbread, I think Mediterranean—gyro type stuff. I don’t think I'm ready for Taco Bell to start featuring concoctions with lamb, mint, and yogurt. True, tortillas are like the original flatbread. They are the ultimate in flatness, second only to the crepe.
But flatbread still doesn't seem Mexican to me. Is that the problem? Is Mexican getting to non-competitive? Are all the roving taco trucks finally taking their toll? I gotta admit, buying a five dollar giant burrito at a taco truck and splitting it into two meals beats the heck out of the calories per buck spent at Taco Bell.
But I really worry about their branding message. For years now Taco Bell has been exhorting us to "Think Out of The Bun." Break the fast food habit. Now here they are heading into bun territory.
Flat bread is a lot more bunlike than a tortilla. It's a little puffy. It's a little yeasty. It's made with white flour. It's not out of the bun.
It's a squashed bun.
America, ya gotta love it.

1647 Animal Sex

You gotta wonder why science researchers study some things in the first place. Animal sex is one of those interesting avenues of research.
For instance, scientists have determined that the earliest incidence of sexual reproduction was 565 million years ago. They found this out from fossils that appear to be clustered together like today's sexually reproducing corals, barnacles, and sponges.
Earliest sex evidence from a cluster fossil.
One of which turns out to be a sponge. I would think that would be the earliest evidence of a divorce.
And apparently animal marriage, at least for procreation purposes, need not be between a man and a woman. The single-celled organism Tetra-hymena thermophila, found in pond water, has seven different sexes. It's possible for reproduction to result from any of 21 different couplings. Wow. Bob, Carol, Ted, Alice, Herman, Bill, and Eunice are going to need a big bed in the old pond.
Just so you know, scientists have also determined that seven's not the record. The slime mold Physarum polycephalum exists in 7 hundred mating types. Slime mold's the stuff you get in your refrigerator.
And you wondered why it grew so quickly.
And lastly, on the subject of masculinity. Humans like to obsess about the size and quality of a man's reproductive equipment. Lots of research money is spent developing concoctions to prolong and increase aspects of same to make even more money.
The lowly barnacle humbles us all.
The ratio of a barnacle's phallus to the rest of its body is 8:1. Eight times the size of its body. Barnacles in turbulent waters have slightly shorter and stouter organs. As one scientist put it, "a trade off between length and maneuverability."
Oh yeah, at 8 to 1, you can't undervalue that maneuverability.
Welcome to the cluster.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

1646 Naked Greed

Open letter to Capitalism.
Dear Capitalism,
I believe in you. I think you are the best system to come down the pike in, like, forever. But every now and then you get taken over by capitalists who don't know their backside from a crater in the ground. Or the economy.
You get overtaken by naked greed. People making money off derivatives of money rather than production of goods. People stripping companies of the kinds of things that make for loyal workers producing quality goods.
So to those shortsighted capitalists reaping the rewards of slash and burn capitalism, a word of warning: Capitalism was once headed for a similar fall. Back in the days of a grouchy guy named Marx, capitalism wrung extra money out by bleeding their laborers dry. It got so bad that the 99% nearly rose in a universal revolt that destroyed capitalism for a long time...
Its replacement was even worse. Communism.
But a funny thing happened. The revolt didn't occur as predicted. Why? Because capitalism got smart. It discovered consumerism. Turns out the top 1% couldn't possibly buy enough goods to make truly huge profits.
Solution? Pay the workers more. Create a middle class. Expand the middle class. Expand the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the middle class. Bring the lower class up to the middle class. Expand your markets for goods. Make even more profit.
Are you listening 1%? You've been going the wrong way too long again. The pendulum needs to swingtoward steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs, generous benefits, and yes, pensions that you actually pay.
Not just because it’s the right thing to do to reward your loyal workers for decades of service. But because pension funds can be the capital from which your fellow capitalists borrow to build even more profit-making engines of wealth.
And get an even greater percentage of money for you.
America, ya gotta love it.

1645 Skinny Dipped

Read an interesting statistic the other day. Americans last year filled 254 million prescriptions for pain-killing opiod drugs like OxyContin and Percocet. That would be enough to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.
On the face of it, that sounds pretty bad. But really, if you were in chronic pain, wouldn't you want to be medicated around the clock for a month? Maybe 2 months, or 3 or 4? If your pain doesn't go away, it doesn't go away. OxyContin isn't like taking an antibiotic. It doesn't cure anything.
It's like a payday cash place, it just masks the underlying issue and kicks it down the road. Don't cure the problem—medicate. That's the American way.
Speaking of the American way, I read another statistic. It may be one reason why the top 1% stays tippy-toppiest. American Airlines is filing for bankruptcy. American says rising labor and fuel costs have left them with an "uncompetitive cost structure." Bankruptcy proceedings will allow it to rewrite its labor contracts and shed some of its $29.6 billion debt.
So hey, putting aside for a moment the whole outdated moral notion of honoring a contract, I think we've found the answer to our upside-down mortgage crisis—Chapter 11.
Rising food and fuel costs have led to an uncompetitive position in my personal housing market. How about I rewrite my labor contracts with my builders and sub-contactors and shed some of my debt with my bank?
Sorry bank, no offense. I'm not lowering the monthly payment I promised to pay you. I'm shedding some debt.
Shedding debt. Like my loans are so many extra layers of clothing. I’ll skinny dip my way to financial freedom.
Or maybe just refill that prescription for OxyContin to mask the economic agony.
America, ya gotta love it.

1644 Naked Words

Naked words can be fun. But more so if you clothe them in a pun. Or see their alternate interpretations. Like with my friend Rick. He's at it again. Yesterday's essay about The Company Store got his brain clicking. Or perhaps his mouse.
He said, "I went to the Company Store. They have Company Kids. I didn’t want one so I didn’t click."
I don't blame him. I went to the same website. They had a big tab that said, "Company Kids." Hmm. Maybe some corporation could get a young lad and he could grow up to be a company man.
Rick continued, "I also found an Apple Company Store. Apparently, they sell high-priced cell phonesand also take credit cards. When you can't afford to pay, maybe they'll take your first born, which ironically, you can get at the company kids section of the other Company Store."
Personally, I never liked kids around company.
Then I thought about it. Forget the kid thing. Maybe that's what they should sell—Company. "Feeling all alone? Want some company? Come to the Company Store. Your premier escort service."
Word of warning though: You got to watch those blind dates. I had one and it didn't work out. Apparently she didn't like puns. It started out at a bakery. They had a construction permit on the wall saying they were going to be expanding. "Huh," I said, "I guess they got too big for their brioches."
She gave me a very negative look.
Later, we were at a museum and they had displays of native remedies. One showed how the fronds of a certain fern could be used as a very strong laxative. I said, "Wow, with fronds like that, who needs enemas?"
There wasn't a second date.
I'm guessing I wasn't very good company.
America, ya gotta love it.

1643 Naked Body of Knowledge

I've talked about how certain words can get you to the top of internet rankings. "Nude," "Naked," and "XXX" can make a huge difference. Rankings, apparently, depend on how rank you are.
Such is the power of words. Words help clothe our naked body of knowledge. But sometimes they seem to fit bad.
Like a friend told me he was taking his cat in for neutering. Neuter is such a neutral word. My friend pointed out you really should just call a spade a spade. Which, in this instance, since the cat was male, would be a castration.
Or possible a cat-stration.
Speaking of odd animal operations, I purchased a "turkey breast" for Thanksgiving. It was essentially a turkey with the wings, legs, and thighs cut off. Which meant it was still stuffable. Intact was the entire rib structure and the opening where you normally put stuffing.
So looking at it, you could say it came with a cavity. A confusing negative word thing—it comes with a cavity. Extra nothingness. Zero space for all your stuffing needs.
Then the other day, I heard a positive ad for a place called "The Company Store." Wow. How far we’ve come. I know the 18th, 19th and early 20th century were a long time ago, but doesn’t anyone even remember those words from that folk song, "I sold my soul to the company store."?
Company stores were what early mining and industrial companies used to exploit and enslave their workers. They rented them overpriced shoddy housing, paid only in scrip and overcharged them at the company store to keep them in virtual indentured servitude.
It was called debt bondage. Workers were economically neutered and naked to fate.
I went to the website for the new Company Store. They take credit cards.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1642 XXX Factor

I've talked a lot recently about how headline writers write extremely provocative headlines to get to the top of internet rankings. Heck, there are even companies devoted to just that, optimizing your web presence by getting lots of hits.
A funny thing happened to me in this regard. One of the things that drives this hit parade is the presence of web analytics. Google in particular, if you have a blog on their system, can supply all kinds of neat stuff.
So, as I have such a blog, I was checking that stuff the other day. And I noticed a spike on November 18th. A very large spike, throbbing with data. I'd had a huge amount of hits on that day. What, I wondered, could have caused this inordinately large market penetration?
So I went through my blog archives to the day in question and read it. Not such a special blog. Mildly humorous. Moderately insightful. It dealt with how iPhones could be stolen from people and criminally mined for all sorts of personal information. So that the victim was essentially iNaked to the world.
And there's the triple X in the crux of the issue. Because I had also used the word "iNaked" as the title of my piece, which search engines subsequently picked up in the apparent gutter of internet trolling. The mere presence of the word "naked" in my title sent six times the normal web traffic to my blog's door. It's like my door had the red light of serious optimization.
Did those hits encourage people to read the entire article? Did I gain any new followers? No. Seems the Naked-curious weren't interested in social commentary.
Still, I'm having fun sticking the words "nude" and "naked" into my titles.
Optimize your internet math...with the XXX Factor.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1641 Naked News

I've talked a lot about how news stories seem to have more and more salacious headlines to bring them to the top of aggregator hit lists. But once the headlines suck you in, news folks also find it necessary to be negative.
Like the unemployment figures recently. A CNN story I read started out by saying "The U.S. unemployment fell sharply in November to 8.6%, the lowest level since March of 2009. Employers added 120,000 jobs."
Cause for celebration right? Especially during the Christmas shopping season, when every little bit of consumer confidence can fuel spending. And when spending's up, we can finally turn the corner and get American factories fired up and even more people employed again!
But no. The next line said, "Despite the improvement, the American labor market has a long way to go. Fewer than a third of all the 8.8 million jobs shed in the economic downturn have since been recovered."
Thank you CNN. I know you have a guy named Wolf. When did you hire that ass Eeyore?
Because really. That third’s about 3 million jobs. If we started out flat, and added 3 million jobs, we'd be in a boom. But because we started out in a 9 million job crater, adding 3 million jobs is supposedly bad.
The ever-exploding field of presidential candidates jumped on the apparently tepid figures and said, "not enough." Ironically, 2.9 million of the new jobs are in private industry and .5 million that were lost—that held the positive figures back—were in the public sector. A sector the big government-department-closing candidates would like to unemploy further.
So is the glass half-empty or half-full?
It's half-empty of people willing to be confidence-inspiring optimists that can get our country back on track.
And half-full of pessimistic asses.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1640 Nude Horses

It's a sad commentary on our times, and our apparent need for the sensational or salacious, that headline writing has reached its current level. Especially with "hit-rating" being so important. Like the Google News Page. On it are grouped the big stories, of course, but they're also ranked by how many other people have read the stories.
So recently, this provocative headline stood out. "Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption." Naturally, it got my attention.
So I read it too.
But here's the deal. Obama didn't do anything. Well, he signed something. But he didn't propose the legislation. He didn't ramrod it though the House and twist arms in the Senate. He just placidly signed one of the few bi-partisan non-controversial bills to come out of congress for a long time—the not-so-provocatively named Omnibus Spending Bill HR 2112.
A bill which, among other things, provided money for trains, extended FHA and VA home loan limits, and restored funding to the United States Department of Agriculture, taken away about 5 years ago.
With that previous funding cut, the USDA lost its ability to inspect horse slaughter. By slaughter, they mean killing horses for whatever reason—sickness, old age, neglect from owners. The basic euthanasia rights we extend to any pet.
So for the last 5 years, infirm horses have had to be shipped long and painful miles to Canada or Mexico to be killed. Or just left to suffer and die in the field. Horse owners and organizations across the land—even PETA—were in favor of restoring the USDA's role, and yes, in favor of “Horse Slaughter.”
By the way, properly killed horses have always been allowed for human consumption. Not to mention dog food. But that admittedly distressful fact doesn't have headline hit potential.
But it could. How about, "Dog Eats Horse!"
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1639 CyberRich

In response to my article about Cyber Monday and Cyber-Spying I got some interesting information from a reader. To protect his online privacy from online piracy let's just call him "Rick."
Strangely, his observations were cyber-rich.
He had read that, partly because of things like Cyber Monday, 60% of information officers say their companies block access to online shopping sites. Gotta love working for an institution large enough to employ an "information officer."
Or not. Somehow the very fact you have an information officer implies information ain't flowing all that well. And we all know how important it is, when your organization is inefficient, to add an additional layer of bureaucracy to fix it.
Rick also wondered about information "officers." Does an information officer carry a gun? Or perhaps pepper spray? Or worse if that doesn't work? "Don't taze me bro, I was just shopping on Amazon for some stain remover..."
That pepper spray leaves such a laundry challenge
Another question for companies employing telecommuters: What happens if you work from home? Would they know? Do companies who encourage telecommuting also have spyber-software to monitor you at home?
That's another buzzword for the computer age. No one watches you anymore. They "monitor" you.
Speaking of monitors, in a totally off-the-wall aside, I was in a restaurant/bar the other day and I could tell they'd been open a while. The TV monitor they had hanging for the ceiling was 14 inches thick. "This place is so retro dude, they don't even have flatscreens."
Lastly, cyber-monitor Rick got an email from some store that said, “Extended Cyber Monday ends Thursday.” He guessed that if Monday ended on Thursday that it would, in fact, be extended.
I've had Monday's like that. Usually when I tried to communicate with an information officer.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1638 Spyber

So much of our lives seems to be online. It's interesting to note how much it affects the workplace. You hear stories of people getting fired for posting stuff on their Facebook's their employers found offensive.
So you gotta wonder about things like Cyber Monday. Supposedly one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Cyber Monday evolved in the day when most people still had telephone modems. So they'd come to work after the long Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend and use their bosses' high-speed internet connections to get themselves further in debt. The bosses didn't seem to mind, as the further in debt they were, the more they needed to keep their jobs.
I'm not sure that's so true anymore. There are a lot of potential employees on the job market. An employer looking to upgrade to a more productive employee may just feel one who spends company time shopping is not the optimum one he wants to keep.
On the other hand, shopping will boost our economy. So the people shopping at work may actually help put other people to work making products the shopping workers order. Maybe even those who were fired last year for shopping at work.
On another online note, industrial espionage is now happening on a big scale by cyber spies stalking competitors' social media. Linked In may give clues an employer is expanding and looking for employees. Bankruptcy rumblings may emerge from stressed employees' tweets. One cyberspy got access to sensitive competitor's data by posing as an attractive woman on Facebook.
Employers have so much to worry about. Is my social media smartphone-using employee using company time talking to his sick kid, shopping, or divulging secrets to my spyber competitor?
And I still have to contribute to his social security?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

1637 Chicken Spam

Computer technology keeps things changing fast. It makes it hard to catch up. Interesting to note that most people who can actually work with MS-DOS are over 60 now.
Kinda makes you feel old doesn't it? Nostalgic for the blackish screen with green letters on it. Knowing that the word cursor came from a slide rule. Messing with endless five-and-a-half inch floppies to load basic programs.
We're going to have some fun swapping stories at the old folks home.
And I'm sure we'll get confused too—arguing over what was when like old folks do. I wouldn't be a bit surprised when talk comes up about Steve Jobs that someone will claim he invented that tennis shirt with a crocodile on it. The iZod.
Mark my words.
And speaking of words and technology, has anyone come up with a word for tweet spam yet? We know that spam is unwanted email. And we know the term bac'n refers to spam you sort of want—from people who got you on your mailing list because you asked, organizational e-letters and so on—that you just don't have time to get around to reading. But what about unwanted or annoying tweets? Should we call them Speets? Or Twam?
I suppose it would be nice to honor the convention of rendered pork products. Although…we could head in the bird direction, what with twitter and tweets and all. So would an appropriate term be the rendered bird product McNugget? Or maybe we should follow the mysterious meat rule. How about gizzard?
Nah, I'm still in favor of pork. Bacon Bits is possible, but I think a little long. Or Pork Rinds. Better yet, how about an origin-uncertain food rendering that could incorporate bird or pigSalami.
Wait a minute. I got itTwalami
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

1636 Nanny Goat

We tend to go beyond politics when we come to conclusions. Beliefs seem based more on personal experiences. So the subject of school lunches means something different to me than it does to some of my more conservative friends.
At least politically conservative. I'm more conservative personally.
At issue is the recent ruling by Congress to keep Federal hands off the nutrition status quo in our schools. They felt it was not the role of government to step in, and as a result bowed to the $5.6 million lobbying of private industry in that regard.
Namely, that the tomato sauce on pizza can count as a vegetable. And French fries, since they are also derived from vegetable matter, should count as well.
Really? My conservative approach to food tells me pizza sauce is a somewhat liberal interpretation of the word vegetable.
And my personal experience as a single parent tells me I could have sure used more help from the schools in getting my peer-pressured child in line with better nutritional goals. In a world glutted with happy meals and sweetened cereals, the advertising messages from junk food conglomerates have me way out-gunned to start with.
This is precisely an area where government can help. Fears of Nanny Statehood aside…
Back when I was growing up, President Kennedy launched the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Oddly, no one called him a nanny. First Lady Obama hasn't enjoyed similar bi-partisan buy in.
She is roundly vilified as the prime example of the Nanny State. I'm surprised Rush Limbaugh doesn't call her the femi-nanny.
Funny…those who scream "nanny state" the loudest are often those who can actually afford nannies to help them raise their children.
Poor old goats like me could have just used more help in the cafeteria.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

1635 Get It

I think one of the worst problems with getting older isn't the feeling of crankiness that seems to permeate every brain cell like arthritis penetrates your joints. It's the sense that young people don't "get it."
Put aside for a moment the unconscious ageism of our language. I was agilely ascending a stairway the other day and I heard a younger couple whisper, "Wow, he's really spry."
So, why not the word nimble?
I know—nimble, like Trix, is for youth. Along with words like "lithe." My joints swell like they were formed on a badly-turned lathe. Their limbs are lithe. When you're young you're nimble, when you're old you're spry.
Then you see an article about there being the most jobs available since Lehman's bottom, and you wonder why all the nimble young folks from the Occupy movement can't find any.
By the way, I tried to sit in on the Occupy Bucoda movement and I was totally shut out. At least I thought so. After a day my not-so-nimble brain figured out it wasn't a bunch of blue tents filled with protestors. What I thought was Occupy Bucoda was just a bunch of tarp-covered woodpiles.
Anyhow, if the Occupy Movement is after jobs, there appear to be jobs available. 3.38 million to be exact. Now with approximately 300 million people in the US and nearly 9 percent unemployment that translates to 30 million folks out of jobs. Those 3.38 million, if taken, could lower unemployment to 8%. That success could get Obama reelected and Occupiers out of the cold for the winter. So maybe they should "get it."
I know I'm an old codger, and cynical too, but they might want to think of that as a longer term strategy than camping with smartphones.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

1634 Tpyos

With the preponderance of words which is our culture comes the inevitable concurrent preponderance of typos. Mistakes. Screw-ups in print.
And now electronics.
They used to say, "Never hire a dyslexic typesetter." Now it's "...electronic editor." Error's been with us for a long time, we just have more opportunities now.
How long? I was reading an article in National Geographic recently about the original King James Bible. And how even though it was inspired, it still had typos. Seems one of the first editions was riddled with errors—among them one of the Ten Commandments itself. Like Moses got a rock chip in an inopportune place on the tablet. The phrase "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" left out the "Not."
"Sorry you're upset Maebelle, but the Bible told me so..."
The other phrase they messed up said people should celebrate God's "Greatnesse." Except the N was missing and the E was rendered as an A and so pious people were enjoined to celebrate God's Great Asse.
But come to think of it, when you sit in judgment on the universe, it's not a bad idea to have a great foundation.
Flash forward a few hundred years and head to the biblical information equivalent of our age, the internet. People are still making mistakes. Except now in a classic entrepreneurial 21st Century way, there are other people ready to reap the reward for it.
It’s estimated the 250 most trafficked websites miss about $285 million in revenue a year in lost sales to typosquatters. Yep typosquatters, like and f-a-e-c-book instead of f-a-c-e-book. received about 835,000 unique visitors in September alone.
Seems there's money in them there typos, whether you're religious or not. Maybe fun too.
Just ask the dyslexic atheist who believed there was no dog.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, December 02, 2011

1633 Foxy Reverses

You sometimes wonder why the Wall Street Financiers appear to dislike the Obama Administration. Because it sure seems like they've done well by him. Maybe it's because in his move to be a compromiser he's acceding all sorts of concessions.
Or has he conceded all sorts of accessions?
In any event, the news seems full of reverses sometimes. Like I'm not sure which side anyone is on. They say they're one thing but then another thing happens, and I wonder if they're really all just foxes in the henhouse, working together to confuse us while they're stealing our nest eggs.
Like Rick Perry's miracle in Texas. Turns out about 80 percent of the new jobs created since 2007 went to newly-arrived immigrants. Half of those were in the country illegally. The employment of native-born Texans actually declined over that period.
Wait a minute. Isn't he supposed to be a Republican?
On the flip side, in the supposedly business unfriendly Democratic administration, Wall Street Securities firms made $83 billion in profit during the last two and a half years under Obama.
Those same firms only made $77 billion in profit during the entire eight years of the Bush Administration
And it wasn't just Wall Streeters. In 2010 members of Congress had a collective net worth of $2 billion, a 25% hike over 2008, and that doesn't even include home values. To be fair and balanced, as in account balances, the median net worth of congressfolks is a mere $513,000.
The 50 richest lawmakers account for 80 percent of the wealth—probably just a few folks innocently padding their retirement before they have to go off to work in the not-nearly-as-lucrative wasteland of Wall Street consulting firms.
Anyone seen my 401K recently?
I think I left it in the henhouse.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

1632 Key Ingredient

I was listening to a couple of old guys talking the other day. One said something to his friend about his grandson doing something with a keyboard. As I heard the word "keyboard" flow out in the old guy's voice, it occurred to me it isn't that old a word used in that context.
Before the 80s, people didn't even refer to organs as keyboards. You had keys, to be sure, but the entire key arrangement really had no name. The key interface on a typewriter was just referred to by such statements as "...put your fingers on the keys."
Although the etymology dictionary says the word first came into use in 1819, I sure as heck don't remember people using it that much until the computer age, when the "keyboard" developed as an autonomous unit that you could plug in.
All of which leads me to an interesting story I read recently about a great modern innovation, developed by a guy who hates furniture that can't be fixed when a piece breaks. His product is called the rev-->table. It includes a digital blueprint that will allow any shop with computer-controlled tools to craft a replica part.
It's key innovation is having a design code etched on an aluminum plate embedded in the furniture that can then be read by any smartphone. This way, the inventor says, "...your furniture could last forever."
Because if you lose a piece of furniture because its replacements went out of style, your smartphone will be able to read and recreate the plan.
And your smartphone? Is that going to last forever? Cause I got a great plan for my kitchen table already.
It's stored on a 5 1/2 inch floppy.
Right next to my typewriter.
America, ya gotta love it.

1631 i-Maculate

Recently I heard a guy on the radio say "e-maculate" and really stressed the E. My first thought was it was some sort of new product from Apple or whoever. Some kind of app that keeps your software clean.
Or maybe one of those little handi-wipe swiffer-like things for the faceplate of your phone. Where your face and your fingerprints and the greasy ejecta of a dirty world coagulate on the screen so thick it's hard to read your icons.
E-maculate will get it clean.
But no, he was just pronouncing immaculate wrong. Still, it did get me thinking. You hear about immaculate as in conception and immaculate as in clean, what gives?
Is there an opposite word, maculate, that means dirty?
The answer is yes. Kind of.
Maculate actually means spotted. That’s why immaculate means spotless or flawless. If you have a sunspot on your skin, it's called a macula. Which is the original Latin root of the word, and means, simply, spot or stain. That’s also why macular degeneration leads to spotted and eventually blotted-out vision.
Interestingly, the word "mackle" has similar origins. Yes mackle. I never heard of it either before this research tangent started. Sounds like something Cape Cod Fishermen wear in bad weather doesn't it?
"There's a big nor'easter blowing Jonathan, be sure to strap on your mackle."
But no, a mackle is a screw-up in printing when a wrinkle in the paper or a laser deja vu causes a doubled or blurred impression.
Finally, guess what? Maculation was also a Middle English word, since retired, which had the meaning of being sexually soiled or defiled.
So immaculate as in conception and immaculate as in your clean countertop or iPhone screen are actually pretty close.
I'm glad I spotted the connection.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1630 Top One

I was reading some articles about distribution of wealth the other day and found several interesting factoids. One was that the wealth gap between young and old has never been so humongous.
Households headed by those 65 or older have 47 times the net worth of those headed up by folks under 35. I guess that's no surprise. It's hard to find the extra cash to buy a Learjet on minimum wage.
And really, judging by Keith Richards and his ilk, the rock star factor alone has moved megabucks along the baby boomer bulge. Not only that, compiling wealth is tougher generally when you're trying to pay back massive student loans to institutions paying tenured professors and obscenely over-compensated football coaches.
A word of caution. Don't let it get too extreme. Young people are a lot better at protesting and rioting than arthritic oldsters.
Another article bemoaned the fact that 21% of total taxes (not just income taxes) are paid by the top 1% of Americans. Sounds pretty bad doesn't it? But coincidentally, the top 1% of Americans, those same poor, poor millionaires, also earn 21% of the total income in the US.
Hmm, sounds about right. This without a 999 or flat tax.
Funny how that old complicated tax code shakes out.
To bad it's not that great at trickling.
You'd never guess who some of those top 1% are. The ones who decided the best business is government. The most successful personal small entrepreneurs are...legislators.
The guys who are in charge of whether the top 1% of taxpayers pay more taxes? Top one-percenters themselves. More than half of the members of the Senate and the House make over $516,000 a year.
But good news, a couple of 'em are actually under 65.
America, ya gotta love it.

1629 Job One

We hear a lot of talk about how small business is the great job creator. And I agree it's vital. But one commentator I read recently pointed out that the countries with the biggest per capita of small businesses, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy, actually have the worst economies. And the ones with the lowest number of workers in small businesses, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and the US, have the best economies.
If you can call our economy best. Everything is relative I guess.
But don't hire relatives.
The commentator pointed out that small businesses are, on the whole, less productive than large businesses. And though they create more jobs, we shouldn't forget they also destroy more jobs. Starting a business is easy, keeping it going is hard.
I don’t disagree. Keeping a small business going is really hard. Especially when you have to do the same paperwork for a small business as you do for large one. Of course, Wal-Mart can hire a paperwork specialist. The little guy has to stay up even later to do his own books.
Funny thing the commentator forgot though. All large businesses started as small businesses. The major manufacturers had to start somewhere.
The guys who started Boeing didn't spring into the air with a full production 767. By the way, you got to admire them for overcoming a name that sounds like a cartoon sound effect.
And apparently despite their weird name, the folks at Caterpillar are incredibly successful, and they started with nothing more than a hopped up shovel.
So when the next small businessperson comes along with a plan for, oh, I don't know, a personal computing device named after a fruit, let's give him or her a chance to get a slice of the pie.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

1628 Chopsticks and Porsches

If someone had asked me, "Funny Guy, do you think it's ever possible that you may be able to work Porsches and chopsticks into the same essay?" I probably wouldn't have been able to answer in the affirmative.
Unless I constructed some James Bond-like commentary in which a Dr. No-like figure entertained James over a meal of shark sushi while a auto-piloted fast car tried to get to him through a torturously curving escape tunnel in a volcano.
Then again, it probably would have been an Aston Martin.
Let's see if I can do so anyhow. Recent research found that Greece's economic woes are weirder than thought. This is the country dragging down the euro and threatening to topple the economy. Turns out there are more Porsche Cayennes in Greece than taxpayers reporting more than $68,000 a year.
Sounds pretty bad. But it could be the Aristotle Onassis/Blofield type rich Greek shipping tycoons own a whole fleet of Porsches apiece. It is ironic that the country loudest in their condemnation of bad Greek debt and calling for the most austerity is Germany. The country that benefited most from selling these apparently financed Porsches. Like bad mortgage getters in the US, someone should have told them no. Maybe a doctor.
Instead, all investors got were bonds, bad bonds.
On to chopsticks. We in the US are often criticized for cutting down trees to make toilet paper. The Chinese kill trees for a different end. 3.8 million trees to be exact. They do so to make disposable chopsticks. 57 billion pairs. A lot of which go to the US. So your last enlightened trip to the tofu place contributed to an environmental travesty, possible global warming, and the end of the world.
From China with love.
Shark sushi anyone?
America, ya gotta love it.

1627 Food for Meditation

Sometimes life serves up some interesting new things. Like when the airlines started charging for meals. I wonder if they had an onslaught of people trying to bring picnic lunches on board. Kind of like smuggling your own popcorn into the theatre. Or other snacks. There's nothing weirder sounding than contraband Goobers and Raisinets.
In a way, the airlines were assisted in their larceny by the TSA. What warm tunafish sandwich is going to survive the full body-scan without looking like so much plastique?
"Sure buddy, tunafish, until we get it back from the lab you're under arrest."
Woe to any foreign-looking thrifty types who are packing an extra packet of tofu. Or a hunk of hummus.
Worse, for those on liquid diets, you're restricted to 3-ounce bottles. Not even a very satisfying latte.
On the subject of weird sounding food, I've heard a new term bandied about on the schmoozing circuit lately—"Heavy hors d'oeuvres." Yep, sounds a little off putting doesn't it? As if consuming said hors d'oeuvres would leave one chunkier in the thigh. Perhaps a lumpy chicken thigh, wrapped in bacon, skewered on a stick and wet with glistening fat.
You got to admit, there's a very different sounding impression between "appetizers" and "heavy hors d'oeuvres." Heavy hors d'oeuvres almost seem to cry out for a trip to the health club.
Which, by the way, gave me food for meditation at this new exercise program I tried recently—"Speed Yoga." Lots of fun, you can do like three contorted positions in less than 30 seconds. Talk about power stretching. Good for untwisting you mind in a jiffy too.
Except I think I may have sprained my chakra.
As soon as I heal, I'm upping the program. Next level—full contact cage yoga.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

1626 New View

I admit I get confused. Maybe it's part of my childlike mind. Newness isn't always threatening to me. It's more like a challenge to puzzle it out, rather than recoil in fear.
But it does mean I perceive things from the wrong view sometimes. Like recently, I heard an ad for a sporting event that said they were going to give everyone a forged medal. And I thought, is this a direct result of illegal downloading and pirate CDs? Has that stuff made everyone really want a forgery?
On another note, I drove by our local Occupy Wallstreet camp in the park the other day. Man, my twisted mind thought, I haven't seen that many blue tarps since my trip through Appalachia.
And then I thought, Hooverville. Yep, Hooverville.
Hoovervilles were camps of actual poor people set up in various places during the Great Depression. Less protester-ate and more just plain desperate. Not that the unemployed aren't under real stress, but thanks to the Hooverville folks, there are now a few more safety nets, like unemployment insurance, food stamps and such.
Anyhow, history proves the campout concept has worked in the past. And hopefully today's youth will know that Hooverville isn't a vacuum cleaner section in Wal-Mart.
Not that having safety nets is any excuse for not finding a way to get all of the unemployed, including the 20 somethings back to work. I just hope some bright State Parks official doesn't light on the simple expedient of turning on the sprinklers.
Finally, there's the road sign my friend Rick was concerned about. "Shoulder Closed Ahead." Is illegal driving on the shoulder so common we have to warn people?
And if the shoulder is closed, how are we going to connect to the elbow in the road?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1625 i-Dentify

I know I harp a lot about privacy, but I'm truly amazed about how much we are willing to give away in personal information and how huge an industry there seems to be developing apps to do just that.
It's not so much that we're so stupid, it's that entrepreneurs recognize how endemically stupid we are. To the phrase, "We won't have our freedom taken away from us, we'll give it away...for a discount," needs to be stapled the other hoary adage, "There's a sucker born every minute."
And he's ready to use his iPhone to be i-Dentified by all and sundry.
Take the app "Magic Plan," supposedly to help you remodel your house. It creates a floor plan of your house using photos you take on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Gee, a complete floor plan of your home, including placement of valuables, stored on the same iPod you dangle from your neck when you jog. What could go wrong?
Let's just hope the person who finds it on the side of the road has no burgling iDeas.
Or want a discount on your car insurance? Progressive's Snapshot program, now available in 37 states, provides a palm-size tool that plugs into your car's diagnostic computer and logs the time of day you drive, mileage, breaking rates, and acceleration.
Cool. Nice to know your insurance can go up if you brake to avoid a deer, or speed up to swerve from a lane-changing semi. AllState has a similar program. And they give you a discount just to sign up. If that worries you, there are other snoopy alternatives. You could sign up for actual GPS tracking from other insurance companies.
This is America, we still have some choices about how and who we allow to violate our privacy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

1624 Go Wondering

I like how new terms sort of insinuate themselves into our language. Stuff you never thought you'd hear maybe, or new ways of saying old things.
Like people don’t disappear anymore. They "go missing." Or they "went missing." Really? Do we need all the extra verbiage? Going missing sounds like they had some choice in the circumstances. I went to the store. I go to the store. I'm active about the matter. Or he goes to the store. But he goes missing?
Or when people die these days, they don't just die. Nor, apparently, in these fairly agnostic times do they go to meet their maker. Always seemed like that would be a great final dis to a prominent atheist. A eulogy he couldn't do anything about. "He went to meet his maker."
Or I suppose they could say his soul went missing to meet his maker.
Anyhow, people used to pass away. Now they just pass.
"Heard from you dad lately?"
"He passed last Monday night."
"Really, is he a football player?"
To me, the "away" in "pass away" makes it more deathlike. Saying someone passed makes it sound more like the soul is some noxious smelling bodily gas.
I heard another odd word the other day in the news reports about Andy Rooney's passing. They said he was pre-deceased by his wife in 2004. Pre-deceased as a verb. What will they think of next?
How about "Mr. Rooney's wife of 50 years died in 2004." Knowing it's 2011, we'll figure out the pre-deceased part.
And if the people who have died before have pre-deceased me will the people who survive me post-decease me?
I'm just hoping that when I'm actually dead they'll say I went passing.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

1623 i-Naked

I was reading a book in which one of the main characters was exploited in nefarious ways, thanks to her phone. Yep, she was one of those compulsive application people who had every bit of her life stored on her personal communication device.
And as a result, was naked to the world. Access to her bank accounts, pictures of her friends. Not just pictures, geo-tagged pictures, so the evildoers who highjacked her and her phone knew where to find her friends and family.
It was a scenario not too far from the truth. Private investigators know that finding out all about someone these days is totally easy. Just steal their smartphone. A couple of swipes of the finger and, voila, you've got your finger on the pulse of someone's life.
I read an interesting true story about how we do this to ourselves. A guy named Max Strems of Austria used a European law to compel Facebook to provide him with a record of all the personal data it had on him. A while later he received a CD in the mail.
It had 1,222 pages of information, including chats and "pokes". They dated all the way back to 2008. Max, it appears, was an early Facebook adopter. Loyal as it were. What we used to call a trusted client. Too bad he wasn't treated to trustworthy behavior in return.
And there's no doubt old Max used his phone to use Facebook to the max too. What's that old saying? "They won't take our freedom away, we'll give it to them." It used to be with the tag line, "...for a discount." Now it's, "...for a free app."
It also used to be, "My life's an open book."
Now it's, "My life's an open phone."
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

1622 i-Navel

I read an article the other day about new advances in self-tracking. Data collection apps that let you know how you're getting along in life. Some pretty big brains from Google and others are working on them right now.
You can go beyond logging your daily miles jogging or burning off fat. And do things like ask yourself when was the last time you called your mother. Or did you floss last night. These personal data points can then, of course, be shared, and all your personal info securely stored in the cloud. Supposedly securely—I mean, can you imagine why anyone would want to know about your floss buying habits?
All this navel gazing can't be good in the long run. If only because such self-absorption is time consuming. The article cited one app that called workers 8 times a day and asked if they were mind wandering. The responses were overwhelmingly yes. Mind wandering at work? Shades of lost productivity.
Um, answering your smartphone 8 times at work?
Lost productivity.
And really, aren't you happiest when you're not obsessing about whether you're happy or not? I know I am. It's when I've lost myself, in service or in fun, that I'm most engaged and happy in life. Not when I'm compulsively watching myself do something.
One little example really got me. They've figured out that if a person is getting sick, they call and text less often. The writer was saying how it would be great if software on your phone monitoring that could help you figure out you're sick before you're even aware of it.
Really? Runny nose and sore throat aren't clues? You need an alert from your phone?
Maybe it can also tell you extreme navel gazing is bad for your brain.
America, ya gotta love it.

1621 Double Trust

I was listening to a radio ad the other day for a company that touted their website, where you could download stuff to double your computer speed by getting all the malware off it. That same malware that got on it because people went to websites they knew nothing about.
And it occurred to me—nefarious behavior is now so common on the web, and it's so easy to fake positive reviews cheaply, that reputable companies have no alternative. They have to spend real money advertising in traditional media.
Using radio, cable, TV, and print reduces the scam factor because it's more expensive and therefore more trustworthy. Not that scams don't occasionally appear in traditional media, they're just more expensive to pull off, and require the scammer to take more of a financial risk than constructing an elaborate and nearly free website littered with fake free testimonials.
Not only that, other free approaches, like becoming your friend on Facebook or following you on Twitter, are cheap and easy ways to feed you bogus information. Beware of friends of a friend. Or mysterious tweets.
Facebook and Twitter users who over-post are now finding when they come home from well-tweeted vacations that their homes have been robbed. These same folks take the precautions of having their mail held at the post office and stopping the paper, but then tweet to all and sundry that they're lolling away the days in Cabo.
And when they send pictures with GPS Geo-tags on them it's even easier for burglars to time their return.
As a great man, I believe his name was Bobby, once said, "Where there's a human endeavor or technology, there’s a criminal mind to exploit it."
You wonder if Mark Zuckerburg has a fencing operation on the side...
America, ya gotta love it.

1620 It Takes a Pillage

It seems like folks are reaching the end of their patience. Like in the Great Depression, we kind of hung on for a while. Facing the adversity stoically, stubbornly holding on to hope, because that's what people do.
But it's beginning to wear thin. The first folks it wore thin for were the Tea Party. Having identified what they thought was the culprit, they rallied around an anti-big government cry.
Now it’s the Occupy Wall Street Folks. They've identified the culprit as big business, so they're taking to tactics not unlike the Tea Partiers.
They're both reacting to the times.
And there will be collateral damage. Anarchists and vandals within the OWs will cause owies to any business large or small. Tea Party inspired extremists will continue to threaten politicians.
Violence gets attention.
Seems like it takes a pillage to raise a concern.
Interestingly, a recent poll found that 54% of Americans have a positive view of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, 23% a negative view. On the other hand, only 27% have a positive view of the Tea Party and 65% say it's had a negative impact on politics.
Since the Occupy Wallstreet people are obviously from the Starbucks Generation, the poll proves indisputably that Americans prefer coffee to tea.
But you know things are getting pretty bad when even the Amish are affected. Recently five men from an Amish splinter group were arrested for forcibly cutting the hair of their enemies. No word whether they forced mousse or gel on their victims too. Since their religion bans hair cutting, cutting a fellow Amish's hair is the most degrading act you can commit.
Depilation humiliation, what the heck is wrong with this nation.
Talk about a bad hair day.
I guess it takes a depilage to raise a concern too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

1619 Short Shots

My life is a series of short shots. Like the lawyer who submitted his briefs to the laundry, I get a little twisted some times.
Like the other day, I was at a restaurant that serves fancy burgers. Always up for something different, I ordered this Wasabi-Q one they were offering.
It sounded cool, kind of an east/west sort of thing. Occident meets orient meets grill. I didn't look too close at the menu description so when they brought the burger I was a little surprised. There were bean sprouts on it, and wasabi of course, but there was also something that may have been more appropriate at a state fair.
Tempura fried bacon.
Yep, they had taken a bacon strip, coated it in tempura batter, and deep-fried it. I have only one thing to say. Sayonara heart health—it was goooood.
On an entirely different note, I was listening to a couple of politicians the other day. They were droning on and on and on about something and it just turned into a blah blah blah thing. Kind of like the parents in a Peanuts cartoon. Wah wah wah wah.
And I thought, wouldn't it be cool to get one of the initiateurs to pass around a petition to make politicians just talk with sign language and gestures.
The guy who passes around the initiative could be Tim Mime-in.
And on another note. I haven't watched TV in a while and the other day I accidentally found myself tuned in to the X-Factor. Man has that changed. What ever happened to Scully and Mulder?
Finally, my friend Rick told me about a sign he saw that had us both wondering. It said "No Semi Parking."
I guess they want you to be sure to park completely.
America, ya gotta love it.

1619 Short Shots

My life is a series of short shots. Like the lawyer who submitted his briefs to the laundry, I get a little twisted some times.
Like the other day, I was at a restaurant that serves fancy burgers. Always up for something different, I ordered this Wasabi-Q one they were offering.
It sounded cool, kind of an east/west sort of thing. Occident meets orient meets grill. I didn't look too close at the menu description so when they brought the burger I was a little surprised. There were bean sprouts on it, and wasabi of course, but there was also something that may have been more appropriate at a state fair.
Tempura fried bacon.
Yep, they had taken a bacon strip, coated it in tempura batter, and deep-fried it. I have only one thing to say. Sayonara heart health—it was goooood.
On an entirely different note, I was listening to a couple of politicians the other day. They were droning on and on and on about something and it just turned into a blah blah blah thing. Kind of like the parents in a Peanuts cartoon. Wah wah wah wah.
And I thought, wouldn't it be cool to get one of the initiateurs to pass around a petition to make politicians just talk with sign language and gestures.
The guy who passes around the initiative could be Tim Mime-in.
And on another note. I haven't watched TV in a while and the other day I accidentally found myself tuned in to the X-Factor. Man has that changed. What ever happened to Scully and Mulder?
Finally, my friend Rick told me about a sign he saw that had us both wondering. It said "No Semi Parking." I guess they want you to be sure to park completely.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1618 McSlow

I sometimes get the feeling Ronald McDonald is showing his age. Or perhaps the parent company is realizing its most important demographic is still the baby boomer generation.
Then again, maybe they're focusing on Gen Wired. Recent changes in their menu and outlets seem to make both cases. Like the whole McCafe thing, obviously an attempt to woo the espresso generation with cheaper expensive coffee offerings. And they do it well too. It's like the four C's of a diamond quality, except in this case its coffee, cream, chocolate, and caramel.
McCafe, a high-calorie alternative for mom while she's watching the youngins pack down the happy meals.
But now McDonalds is doing something else. Adding TV screens and its own TV network in some stores. They're rolling the idea out in 800 outlets in California. They'll have customized programming for different locations, including news about local sports and such like, and profiles of local unsung heroes.
I'm guessing there will also be room for commercials featuring national and in house specials. According to their brand consultant, this is supposedly part of a corporate strategy to convince consumers that they’re not "just a place to grab a quick bite," but instead, "more of a destination."
Say what?
Isn't McDonalds the place that pioneered being a "place to grab a quick bite"? You know, what with the hard benches and the bright lighting, it was that whole "eat it and beat it" thing.
The walk-in equivalent of a drive-thru.
So now they want us to sit down and relax for a bit? Or do they realize us oldsters are slowing down already, and it's time to cater to and/or exploit the early bird special demographic.
What's next? McCafe Stewed Prune Lattes? McMetamucil smoothies?
Make mine with extra McFiber.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1617 Please Be Mime

Read an interesting article about curbing bad road habits the other day. Seems the city of Caracas Venezuela has come up with a novel solution that kills too social birds with one silent stone—Mimes for Traffic Control.
Yep. The Capital City of Venezuela has deployed, and simultaneously employed, a squadron of mimes to encourage politeness on the road. So now, mimes are no longer totally useless.
And if one gets hit, well... one less mime.
In any event, more than 100 of them have been stationed at intersections in the capital to remind people to be nicer. They silently rebuke folks by waving admonishing fingers or pointing to red lights or speed limit signs.
Sorry, that last part is considered bad form for mimes. Mimes aren't just silent. They're supposed to adhere to a strict regimen of not using words. It's all about the acting out. Pointing to a sign is like a setting up a huge fan and walking towards it to simulate walking into the wind.
Or using an escalator rather than pretending to climb up stairs.
The experiment seems to be working. People are slowing down, if only to ruefully enjoy the spectacle. No word whether they're slowing done too much and causing a different sort of traffic problem—a traffic jam.
Although I'm not a big fan of mimes generally, I'm impressed that they've finally found a socially positive use for them. Just hanging around blocking sidewalks actually causes pedestrian traffic issues in cities in the US.
I certainly understand the efficacy of silent communication when it comes to traffic happenstance. So the cool thing is, next time I upset someone by using a certain one-fingered silent gesture, I can say I'm training to be a traffic mime.
America, ya gotta love it.

1616 Correct Shun

Sometimes things aren't as correct as they seem. Like the other day, I was standing by the road and this truck goes by. It was a big white box truck and there was a painting on its side. The painting was of three individuals busily engaged in manufacturing type labor of some sort.
The people in the painting were arranged so that two of them were in the background and one was in the center foreground. He had a pleasant look to him and a big comforting smile on his face. Altogether a wholesome tableau. Then I saw the lettering on the truck. It said, "State Correctional Industries."
Well how do you like that? Correctional industries, filled with nice-looking pleasant productive people doing good work repaying their debt to society—
One license plate at a time...
Speaking of productivity, I was in a hurry yesterday morning. And it helped correct my inefficient behavior. I'm always looking for more efficient ways to cram more productivity into my day. So instead of microwaving my coffee and microwaving my oatmeal in water separately, I did them together. Yep, microwaved oatmeal and coffee.
The oatmeal really cuts the bitterness. And I'm cutting down of water use.
One cup at a time.
Not to mention one less minute of standing close to a microwave frying my brain cells. Who knows what sort of kooky ideas those fractured cells could hatch.
Lastly, a quote from our local paper. They printed a sentence recently that started out, "With the exodus of Mayor Doug Mah..."
Um, sorry newspaper editor. "Exodus" is used when referring to a mass of people. Not just one. That would be "exit." You're failing in your secondary mission of educating young people.
You should have used some correctional ink.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

1615 iDate

I was sitting outside a restaurant not long ago and looking through the window. A couple was sitting across from each other at a table and they were each fiddling with their phones.
Looks like a great date, I thought to myself. Let's go out to eat and phone other people.
What must they be thinking about each other? If this is their first date are they thinking, "I'm going to keep pretending I'm getting calls 'cause this dweeb is lame. Look at him/her. He/she spends all his/her time on the phone."
Finally, the female put her phone away and stared at the guy, who was still busily engaged texting with his. Aha, I thought, phone imbalance. Two people, one phone, something's gonna break.
Then the guy pulls out a second phone. I kid you not, he kept texting on his first and put the second phone to his ear. In the meantime grinning and shrugging at the girl.
She actually smiled back.
You're so romantic... Wow... Two phones at the same time. Like a hunky juggler or a really macho dude involved in phone combat. Or a manly NASCAR driver switching from phone to phone like swerving through tight curves.
You could almost smell the estrogen as it burst through the building. This date was going to work out after all! With his powerful shoulder muscles pinning the phone to his cheek and his enlarged thumbs from 24/7 texting, this man was a master of technology.
Next stop, the crazy interpersonal world of the bedroom. Light his iPhone candle feature and share his iTunes on intimate earbuds. He sticks one in his ear, gently slides the other one into her aural orifice and says, "Babe, this bud's for you."
21st Century dating—there's an app for that.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

1614 Diet French

Read an interesting article about France recently. And about how they are imposing dietary guidelines in their schools. Namely, they are forbidding the use of ketchup except one time a week in school lunches.
No child left behind on condiments.
Ketchup, when it's served that once a week, will be on the day the school serves French Fries. The change is supposedly being made as part of the fight against obesity. And to be fair, they are also rationing mayonnaise, a far more caloric accouterment.
But kids will be able to eat as many baguettes as they want, because, as one official put it, "Cafeterias have a public health mission but also an educative mission. We have to insure children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generations."
The plan, it seems, is to make sure French schoolchildren don't drown their meals in the quintessentially American condiment ketchup.
But I think it's kind of funny. At least because of some things about food origins. Take French fries. They are made from potatoes. Potatoes came from the Americas. So if there's a quintessentially American dish, it's potatoes.
And while the French may claim to have been the first to Frenchifry them, American fast food brought French fries to the world.
Ketchup, actually, originated in Malaysia, and was brought over to England, where it was toned down. In the early 1800s, somewhere between England and the US, it was mixed with tomato sauce and started to evolve to its current form.
So if the French wish their school cafeterias to be educative, perhaps they can educate their children about the inherent internationalism of the French fried potato and ketchup meal.
World peace and understanding...through condiments.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

1613 Bank On It

I'm always fascinated by all the wrangling that goes on with financial crises and the financial sector. They seem very Marie Antoinette-ish. Wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Maybe even wash it down with obscene bonus champagne.
I read this article recently on the European debt crisis. The one that's threatening to topple the Euro and send the world into another financial meltdown. This meltdown was oozing thanks to Greece.
Now the bankers who loaned Greece money want the government to do something. Sound familiar? Yep, the private sector of bankers made some bad bets. And now they want the government to come up with a plan to bail them out.
As one commentator put it, no one forced the bankers to buy Greek bonds. But now it's the bankers who are whining the loudest to France's President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel and Sarkozy, sounds like a Catskill Vaudeville act don't it? "And now for your enjoyment, the amazing juggling acts of Merkel and Sarkozy. Watch as they dance around the inevitable and build suspense. They'll have you, and the bankers, screaming!"
The bankers are screaming now. And what's funniest to me, they're screaming for government intervention. The same government they're always telling to stay out of business. "Leave us alone. Don't regulate us. Let the market work. Unless we ask you to bail us out. Then we'll sit on the cash and not lend it to anyone and raise fees and pay ourselves big bonuses. So there. Neener neener. We are, like, totally worth saving."
Some governments, namely Belgium, Luxembourg and France, did come up with a plan to bail out Belgium's largest bank Dexia from Greek debt problems.
They nationalized it.
Funny, that's not what the bankers banked on.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

1612 Night Mare

I read about “sleep paralysis” recently, and how in certain cultures with a rich spiritual tradition it can sometimes lead to death.
Sleep paralysis is what happens when you have an out-of-sequence dream state. Your brain normally disconnects from your muscles when you dream so you don't run out of bed or jump off the balcony or something. Sleep paralysis is what happens when you sort of wake up while you're still dreaming and can't move your body.
It's the origin of our word nightmare. Mare is from the German mahr, which denotes a female supernatural being who lies on your chest and suffocates you.
Two possible solutions come to mindlarger beds, or divorces.
The article cited people from the Southeast Asian Hmong culture, who actually died from nightmares when they first immigrated here and didn't have a spiritual infrastructure in place to help.
Oddly, our spiritual infrastructure doesn't seem to help things much for us. Especially westerners raised with the two bedtime items guaranteed to make sleep feel safe and wholesome: Rock-a-bye baby, the lullaby that describes babies falling out of trees, and my favorite, the bedtime prayer I was forced to recite as a child.
Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake. I pray the lord my soul to take.
Um, I remember thinking, I can die when I sleep? Is there a big chance of this? 'Cause, you know, I may not want to close my eyes and go over into that whole unconsciousness thing, which is kind of weird anyhow.
"Pleasant dreams," my mom would say.
"And say your prayers," (with that unspoken subtext) just in case...
Can't imagine why I might have a nightmare...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

1611 Back Alley

I love our English language. Because every now and then the sound of a word sends me into interesting mental back alleys.
Like the other day. I picked up a package someone had handed me at a trade show. The package was a sample vitamin. Not an ordinary vitamin though. Not even a liquid vitamin, supposedly more absorbable by your body than dry vitamins mixed with your own spit.
No, this vitamin was a "gummy" vitamin. Gummy, I assume, as in gummy bear. And apparently the company that manufactured them thought I would think that too since in smaller letters it said, "Gummy Vitamins for Adults."
Of course, the big letters said "Daily Immune Antioxidant Complex" so, you know, not your basic kid's vitamin right there. Hey kids, here's your immune complex antioxidant Flintstone.
But the rest of the package did leave me wondering how adult. As in denizens of adult care facilities. Because really, gummy could also refer to the type of food toothless oldsters have to masticate. Or at least how they have to masticate it. Gumming it as it were.
Even more of a hint in that direction was the fruit flavor they used—Elderberry.
Nope. Another back alley. Probably not. The Elderberry Gummy vitamins contained no fiber.
Which is hard to say for the Premier of Russia. Or perhaps he's President again. How much of his ambition was compensation behavior for his name?
Putin. Really? We have a powerful leader whose name sounds like an act of biological gas propulsion. That's got to have caused him some teasing in 4th grade.
"Where's Vladimir?"
"He's Putin."
There's a rumor floating around that way back his family changed their name to conceal Polish origins.
Their real name was Flatulentski.
Mental back alleys are fun.
America, ya gotta love it.

1610 Insightettes

I have these little epiphanies from time to time, minor realizations, tiny inspirations. I like to call them insightettes.
Like the other day, I was filmed by someone at a public event. Actually, I was phoned. Because there was no film, and no photographing in the old sense. There was video and audio, so I could say I was videoed and audioed, but that's too cumbersome.
So since I was captured on a smartphone, I was phoned.
I wasn't under any illusions about my privacy as the phoning took place at a public event. Still, it brings up an interesting wrinkle in modern culture. If you're not comfortable with having something repeated endlessly on the web, don't do it.
The social electronic conscience. In the old days, you had that invisible angel guy sitting on your shoulder acting as your conscience. You still have him, it's just that now he's holding an iPhone.
On another note, I saw an odd thing on the road recently. A crusty old guy was driving an equally crusty old pick-up truck. And it had two, count 'em two, of those "Stop Thurston County from taking our property" bumper stickers on the tailgate. Then I saw what he was carrying in the back of his truck. A big pile of soil. And I thought, "Wow, looks like he's taking some of his property back."
Lastly, I was having a discussion with a friend about the failure of "open source" operating systems compared to Windows and Mac and such. And it occurred to me, the dream of open source is good but really... would you be comfortable going to a restaurant and ordering an open source burrito?
"Um, this tastes different than last week."
"Yeah, we had a new cook wander through and add something..."
"Did you phone him doing it? Because it tastes like soil from the back of a pickup..."
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

1609 Thought Burritos

How does that cliché go? Think out of the box? I like Taco Bell's approach better, "Think out of the bun."
Because when you think out of the bun, you get a burrito. So here's some suggestions to solve two social ills with my special deluxe thought burritos.
Burrito Solution 1: Bicyclists are better than buskers and bums. One problem that’s been plaguing the City of Olympia is urban campers crowding the sidewalks. The courts say it's public domain on the sidewalk as long as people are six feet from the edge of the buildings.
There they can camp out, sit down, busk or whatever. Busking, in case you're wondering, is playing music for money—or even attempting to play music for money. Unfortunately, the courts have failed to come up with an acceptable standard for musical proficiency.
The solution is obvious. Chop the sidewalks down to 4 feet in width. They'll seem less crowded because the buskers will be gone. They'll be quieter and much more pleasant too. And bonus, widening the road will allow for the creation of pollution-free bike lanes.
Burrito Solution 2: Save the economy by going on a crazy spending spree. The biggest problem with our economy right now is fear-engendered paralysis. As a great man once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Now that the credit card companies have had their cheating wings clipped, it's time to unlimber them and go shopping. Thrift was nice for a while, but it's time to be spendthrift again.
Companies won't hire because they're not selling stuff. People aren’t buying stuff because they're afraid they might lose their jobs soon. This game of economic chicken has to stop. Consumer fearlessness is key.
So go out and buy! Even if it’s just a bunch of burritos.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

1608 Crank Case

As I age, I have to be careful to avoid going from merely being a commentator on things around me to being a cranky old curmudgeon to being a certifiable crank case.
I saw one of those the other day at a trade show. Like most times when I have a booth at a trade show, I was offering a game for attendees to play.
Trade shows can rapidly devolve into grabfests for some attendees—there to harvest whatever geegaws and giveaways businesses have to offer. Pencils, pens, lint removers, you name it, the tradeshow harvesters glean the giveaways from every booth, packing away booty for the next three year's Christmas stocking stuffers.
As this particular tradeshow happens in October, it always reminds me of adults trick-or-treating. So I always make the harvesters do a trick. In this case, I had a little cardboard game enclosure set up where a player had to blow up a balloon, then use the air splatting out from the balloon to moistly chase a ping-pong ball through a goal hole. Most people thought it was fun.
Then this guy came by with a sour look on his face.
"Giving anything away?" he sneered, as he eyed the pile of candy just out of reach on my table.
"If you play the game," I responded brightly.
"What do I have to do?" he asked.
"Blow up a balloon and use the air to chase a ping-pong ball into this hole," I said.
"What do I win?"
"A nice piece of candy!" I smiled.
He shook his head and snarled, "Too much work."
"You get to keep the balloon..." I called after him.
Yeah, that whole free thing just ain't that much fun when there's work involved.
Talk about a crank case.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1607 Stye Sore

Not long ago I had the misfortune to develop a stye in my eye.
As if one could get a stye anywhere else.
Like most people, I've always taken styes for granted, bathing them with warm compresses like my mother recommended and suffering through the alteration to my looks a red swollen eye-thing engenders.
Would that a Halloween pirate patch have been appropriate.
Be that as it may, thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia and Google I now have the luxury to penetrate the mysteries of the stye.
One of those mysteries was why we don't just call it an eye zit. Apparently because it’s a zit caused by an infection of the sebaceous glands on the eyelid. These glands service the eyelashes. And usually secrete an oily substance. When they get blocked by foreign matter, overworked from lack of sleep, etc., styes can form.
Regular zits form around hair follicles too. So really, not a whole lot of difference. Maybe it's a regional dialect thing. You say po-tah-to I say po-tay-to, you say stye I say eye zit.
Interestingly, there are all sorts of glands in the old eyelid. Meibomian glands secrete a substance that helps seal the eye borders in such a way that your tears don't spill down onto your cheeks during regular eyebathing.
And the stye itself affects the sebaceous Glands of Zeis. But can also affect, or infect, the Glands of Moll. Sounds Star Warsy. The Glands of Moll—Darth had them removed so he wouldn't ever cry.
Reminds me, for some reason, of the Islets of Langerhans. Zeis, Moll, Langerhans. You ever get the idea the big ambition of Germanic physicians was to get a gland named after them?
We all gotta have our eye on a dream...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1606 CoffZac

A recent medical report may save Americans both a ton of anxiety and a ton of money. And it will also make us happier because it's so fun when medical science reinforces a bad habit. Turns out coffee relieves depression.
Yep, science says it's so. Actually—lots of coffee. The study showed that the more coffee you drink the less likely you are to become depressed.
Well duh.
Non-medical folk have known for years that coffee is the great pick me up. But it's cool the science is finally catching up. After surveying 51,000 women over 14 years, researchers concluded those who guzzled four or more cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to develop depression than those who drank a cup or less.
Caffeine had long been associated with anxiety and other psychiatric illness but apparently higher doses cause lower rates of suicide and deep depression. Scientists said they knew about the short-term mood bump after a cup of joe. Now research shows the long-term benefit.
I just think it's great because coffee is a whole lot cheaper than Prozac. And a lot easier to get. Even a triple soy macchiato is cheaper than a Zoloft. This discovery will save Americans billions. And that’s a good way to lift depression right there. Especially when the economy is in a depression.
What I wonder is—Now can we get some help with the high cost of espresso drinks? If coffee is such an effective drug, and it saves the government so many Medicare dollars, can I get a prescription for it? Get a reduced cost for a coffee shop visit?
Change the name of the coffee bars—like the Batdorf and Bronson Psychiatric Disorder Mitigation Clinic. Or the Starbucks Therapeutic Center.
How about a latte co-pay?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1605 Old Transit

I was in a planning meeting the other day and the subject was reducing trip miles. Actually, the subject was climate change. But the real subject underneath it all was reducing the use of fossil fuels.
The biggest reason for that, for me, is reducing our nation's dependence on foreign fossil fuels. It's totally dumb to have our economy hostage to the whims of politicos and winds of politics in the middle east. So if using less oil means US Security and that incidentally benefits the climate, I'm all for it.
That said, the horizon the meeting folks were talking about for reducing consumption by 50% was 2040. Now, assuming the Mayan apocalypse doesn't kick in next year, 30 years is a long time to change fossil fuel habits. But given the magnitude of the baby boomer bulge, the problem may just take care of itself.
Because by 2040 most of us will be in nursing homes. And our trip miles will be pretty much cut in half right there. Heck, they'll be cut 100% for lots of us. And we won't just be confined to beds either. We'll be active adults, able to sit up, go to casinos, and city parks and rec concerts and events.
And we'll be riding to them on Mass Transit. Sure the mass will be a little bit wrinklier but hey. Me and my elder peeps will be piling on the Sequoia bus and rolling down to the early bird special. We'll look more like peeps then too—with our yellow and saggy marshmallow-like skin.
Or better, planned senior communities can be built right next to magnet shopping centers. Us old coots will be in assisted living facilities ringing the Wal-Mart's. And picking up our essentials with greenhouse-friendly gas-free propulsion as we hop on our electric scooters.
And do the coot scooting boogie.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

1604 My Dis

I recently read an article about Marc Jacobs, a fellow who's done quite well in the fashion world. Marc has been able to take on some pretty big fashion houses, going from his original grunge-inspired self-named line to creative director at Louis Vuitton.
Now it looks like he may be tapped to take over Christian Dior.
Unfortunately, the article writer decided to wax rhapsodic, and describe Marc as having the "Midas touch." Putting aside for a moment whether rhapsodies can actually be waxed, do you think the folks who say "Midas touch" read the entire Greek Midas myth? Because it didn't turn out so good. In fact, it was a riff on that whole "be careful what you wish for" theme.
Midas, great Greek king, is given a wish. He loves gold. Obsessively. Midas is the OCD gold fanatic. He wishes that everything he touches would turn to gold.
I think that's the point where most people stop reading. But the story gets worse. Soon Midas is touching children and loved ones. Whatever and whoever he touches turns to cold, lifeless (although attractive) gold. His entire family turned to statuary. His boogers to nuggets of exotic jewelry. Finally, he starves to death because he can't eat food without touching it and turning it to gold.
Talk about heavy metal poisoning.
So it's probably not a good idea to say someone has a Midas Touch. You're sort of dooming them to eventual starvation. But hey, gold is this year's black.
And I suppose a grunge designer could make the transition to heavy metal.
Then again, maybe I got the wrong metaphor. Maybe they were saying Marc would be as successful as the Midas muffler chain.
When the cold winter comes what could be more fashionable than a Christian Dior muffler?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1603 Bad Words

For a language that has so many options when it comes to minting new words, it sure seems like it's creators settle on some lulus. Like the word "mint" itself. What do a fresh-tasting flavor and a new coin have in common? Peppermint has nothing to do with minting new coins or minting new words.
I remember when I was a child and my dad, avid coin collector, showed me a new quarter and talked about it being mint quality.
Funny, it didn't taste that good.
So you gotta wonder, we had lots of other sounds available. Why couldn't the place where coins were made be called a munt, or even a mant? Words that are totally untaken.
And how about things like rump roast, flank steak, and pork butt. Couldn't we have chosen something else? I heard a guy on the cooking channel recently talking about his special pork butt rub. "Yeah," he drawled, "everyone needs a good butt rub."
I thought it was disgusting. So I've sworn of pork butt, ham, flank steak, and especially rump roast. I'm on a gluteus free diet.
Or how about the word spouse? What a completely lame name for the love of your life. "Yeah, she's my spouse." Or "Yeah he's my spouse." It just doesn't sound very endearing.
Perhaps because spouse doesn't rhyme with anything good. You got house, and that's about the best. Because there's also mouse. There's some disparaging Dr. Seussian descriptors.
"My spouse is such a mouse."
"Don't grouse, my spouse is big as a house."
"At least he isn't a louse..."
I'm thinking the word spouse was invented by someone in an unhappy marriage.
So I suggest we mint a new word, Something that rhymes with good things like dove and love.
How about spove?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1602 Egg Dream

I was driving on a street the other day and saw a billboard with a slightly disturbing message. It was a McDonald's advertisement and it was a picture of an egg. A regular old white ovoid egg.
The egg had one of those thought balloons coming out of it and in the thought balloon was a picture of an Egg McMuffin.
"Why would an egg want to eat an Egg McMuffin?" I thought in anti-cannibalistic horror. And then I got around to reading the caption.
But before I get to that, take note. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, but it also speaks them quicker than word-driven thought processes. My subconscious lizard brain ingested the picture and had it processed and digested into my cannibalistic horror scenario long before the words even penetrated my forebrain.
What's worse is what the words actually said when I got around to reading them. They said: "Every egg's dream."
Really. Every egg wants to be eaten. Talk about setting your goals, um, high. Don't want to make it to the whole chicken thing, huh? Much prefer to skip out on a full life and jump straight to the middle of an Egg McMuffin. Nestled between a slab of American cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon. International premature death.
A sad commentary on the hope of eggs in general. Because really, if the egg had made it to chicken status, what prospects did it have? Suffering on a factory farm with a jillion other stressed and bloody chickens?
Better to be put out of that misery before it's actually suffered. Thanks McDonalds. You took them out of the fire and into the frying pan and onto a new reincarnation on the wheel.
Maybe next time they can come back as an all beef patty.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1601 iCon

We recently marked the passing of a great man. Steve Jobs. Up there in the rarefied heights of Thomas Edison and Eli Whitney, Steve Jobs delivered more innovation to the world in the last 3 decades than anyone in the last century.
Some say he's an icon. And I would agree. Especially if you spell icon with a small "i" and a capital "C". As in iPod. And iPhone. And iPad. And one of the concepts of icon itself. The icons on your computer screen.
The mouse/icon user interface was Steve Jobs. The words point-and-click would never have entered our vocabulary without Steve Jobs. Or drag-and-drop.
Before Steve Jobs, drag-and-drop sounded like something a murderer unloading a corpse did. Drag it from the alley and drop it in the dumpster. Point and click? A bad turn of events in a movie when a gun didn't fire when it was supposed to.
Younger folks take what Steve Jobs has done for granted, but to us oldsters the pace of his genius and innovation was amazing. The iPod revolutionized the music delivery industry. Pay by the song. What a concept. Like the old 45s but without a bad deal B-side.
The iPhone revolutionized phones. Touchscreen? Control things by swiping? Say what? And accelerated the pace of change too. I have a regular cellphone I bought in 2005. People look at me like I'm toting around a shrunken head. It's that primitive, compared to a generation 4 iPhone.
I spent my entire childhood with the same black bakelite phone in the living room. 6 years used to be a good shelf life for an appliance. Now it's an electronic eon.
Thanks to a man of his times. That changed how we used our time forever.
This was one Jobs report I didn't wanted to hear.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1600 Snorken

Do you know what they call that blowhole thing on a whale? A snork. It's true. Because it's sort of a nasal orifice and snork comes from same root word as snore.
Actually, I made that up.
It was always a great cocktail party diversion for me when I wanted to entertain a tipsy crowd with deadpan falsehoods. Kind of like Stephen Wright with a bad case of Wikipedia.
So imagine my surprise the other day when for the first time I actually wondered about and researched the origin of the word snorkel. You know snorkels—those tube thingies you breathe through when you are out snorkeling. Paddling around looking at shallow corals and pretty fish in tropical lagoons.
Just about every resort hotel offers options for snorkeling. Which, on the face of it, is not a very attractive name. "The Hilton Luxury Hotel, long known for elegance and fine taste, is proud to offer its elite guests...snorkeling."
Snorkel, it turns out, comes from German submarines. It was a device, not unlike the private version, for getting air into submarines when they were only slightly below the surface. Back in early U-Boat days, they didn’t have nuclear power and electric powered batteries had a very short range, so to run relatively secretly on diesel they had to have an air intake.
And, you know, the crew members had to breathe.
Snorkel comes for the German word Schnorchel meaning "nose or snout," and is related to the word schnarchen "to snore." The device was named for its resemblance to a nose and its noise when in use. Its current meaning for personal devices dates to 1951.
So there you have it. Snorkeling is related to snoring, snorting, and noses after all.
No wonder that whale tale sounded so convincing.
What a fluke.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

1599 Street Seen

An insurance selling friend wrote back about yesterday's essay, where I talked about NASA's falling space junk problem and the type of insurance the insurance companies will now ask us to buy to cover for it. Fire Insurance? Earthquake Insurance? Descending Junk Insurance? We agreed maybe a simple umbrella policy would be in order.
With a 6-ton satellite, I'm thinking a very sturdy umbrella.
So in the course of a day, I drive around a lot. I'm often mystified by the things I've seen on the street. Or I suppose you could say the things that are street seen.
Like yesterday, I saw a couple of young vagabonds hiking down the city street. They were in full on hitchhike regalia—packs, coats, sleeping bags, thermarest rolls, cardboard sign emblazoned with the word "Portland."
And it struck me what they were each wearingCarhartt canvas pants. Interesting that they weren't jeans. And even more interesting they chose the brand favored by working men throughout the land. The hardest of the hard laborers choose Carhartt. Durability and practicality.
Lots of pockets too.
All in all, a great choice for a vagabond hitchhiking youth. Odd choice for someone who has never seen a lick of hard labor.
I saw another thing as I was driving by Arby's. They had two signs flanking their driveway that said, "Bag of Ice, $1.00." What's the deal? Is this a new game or something? Like McDonald's Monopoly. Play the Game of Life—Play the Bag of Ice.
Or is Arby's giving up on competing with the fast food big boys and now they're competing with the convenience stores? What's next, six packs and cigarettes?
"Yeah Hon, go down to Arby's and pick me up some ice and a pack of smokes. And watch out for hitchhikers."
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1598 Descending Junk

Recently NASA narrowly averted a disaster when a 6-ton satellite dropped from the sky and managed to not hit anything.
In their defense, NASA was warning people for weeks. But the warnings were not that great. Just the satellite was going to fall...but they weren't sure where.
And, oh yeah, it would likely break up into smaller pieces.
Which was actually less than comforting. One six-ton satellite could destroy one house. Think having a bus land on your roof. But six one-ton pieces could destroy six houses. Think flaming Smart Cars raining from the sky.
And you gotta admit, for an organization that put a tiny roving rover on Mars and tracked it all over the surface, it's less than confidence-inspiring that they can't track and predict the trajectory of a flying bus.
Even worse that they lost track of it at the last. When the satellite disappeared off their radar one scientist was quoted as saying, "Wow, did it hit Seattle?" The satellite eventually landed harmlessly in the South Pacific.
Harmless if you're not a unluckily-placed pod of dolphins.
So. There's lots of satellites in sagging and decaying orbits up there. And where there's risk there's, you guessed it, insurance. Are we going to now be offered Descending Junk Insurance?
Could happen. My brother-in-law Paul and I have never been comfortable with the notion of specific insurances anyhow. Flood Insurance. Earthquake insurance. I mean, insurance is supposed to protect you from random stuff that happens. It's a crap shoot. Or a roulette wheel. But with all these special policies, the insurance companies keep insuring the house odds get better.
At least for their house.
For mine, I'll have to insure against descending junk. NASA has certainly shown their radar ain't much better than a roulette wheel.
By the way, I'm sure glad that Reagan era Star Wars defense system worked out so well.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1597 Hallmarketing

Well you know things are really getting bad. Or perhaps bad is really getting normal. Why? Because Hallmark has a card for it.
Yep, Hallmark now has a line of cards to console people about losing their job. And you know if Hallmark has a card for it, they've spend significant time labor and resources thinking it's gonna fly.
More reliable than a calendar, Hallmark has always been on the forefront of holiday and special occasion celebrations. Halloween, Christmas, circumcision ceremonies, they've been there for you. Weddings? They got a card for that. Divorces? You bet. Funerals and sympathy? They've got 'em
And they've got combo cards too. Have a birthday and a wedding on the same day, they've got a card for it. Lose a loved one on Halloween? From tasteful to funny they've got a card for your dead mummy.
Hallmark understands demographics too. They totally redo a display section of cards come Mothers Day. Dads and grads share the same space. Not as many cards for either. Grandparent's Day the same way. Not enough oldsters left to fill a whole section, much less have a separate Grandmother's Day and Grandfather's Day.
So I guess it's no surprise they now have an "Unemployed" section. With 9% of the people persistently out of work and others going into and out of the temporary job force, there's lots of opportunities for commiseration.
And a commercial card commission for that commiseration as well.
So when you get that special card from Hallmark that says, "Don't think of it as losing your job, think of it as a time out between stupid bosses," also think of all the card makers you're keeping employed.
When you care enough to give the very best cardmakers a job, buy an Unemployment Card from Hallmark.
America, ya gotta love it.