Monday, February 28, 2011

1441 Twev-olution

Corporate America is getting a little too cocky. They think that by bringing scones to the Tea Party, they’re getting off the hook for our nation’s problems. But Tea Partiers aren’t stupid. Pretty soon they’ll notice the sullied hands serving the rotten crumpets.
Consider this. Exxon earned more than $9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, a 53% increase over 2009. This during the depths of recession that has millions out of work. A full year profit of 30.5 billion as compared to a 19.4 billion dollar profit in 2009.
That’s profit. After all costs are paid. Profit is what’s is left over. 30.5 Billion Dollar profit. But no leftover crumbs at the party for the average Joe.
US economic output has regained its pre-recession high. Our Gross Domestic Product reached 13.38 Trillion. A big jump over 2009’s 12.81 Trillion. That’s Gross Domestic Product. What we produced here, in the United States.
Somehow unemployment stays stuck at 9%. And worse, underemployment rankles the average worker. Half the jobs lost during the recession were higher wage jobs paying from $17 to $31 an hour. Of the jobs created during the first 7 months of 2010, 76% paid $8.50 to $15 an hour.
It’s no wonder folks are angry. So far, the Tea Party has directed that anger at the government. You know, the one that writes them their unemployment checks despite massive deficits.
But corporations should remember. It wasn’t just the English Government’s Stamp Tax that suffered in the original Tea Party. The companies charging through the nose for tea got stuck as well.
So how long do you think before some twitterer takes a page from the Egypt revolution and starts taking on the fat cats who are failing to trickle down their high-calorie profits?
We’re just a tweet away from a Twev-olution.
Tweet Party anyone?
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

1440 Cannibal Media

Somewhere along the way, perhaps it was when people started measuring the impact of a news story by the number of internet hits it got, the media started reporting on itself.
I call it the cannibal media.
I suppose it was a natural progression. For years and years what sold newspapers was gossip about celebrities. From Liz Taylor to Paris Hilton delectable scandal kept the dailies fresh. And the tabloids owe their very existence to delicious nuggets of gossip.
Then came Twitter. And now folks who would have been just a passing bonbon in the public eye can tweet themselves into any news cycle by twitting some outlandish comment on public events.
Twitter has become the medium for the narcissistic press release.
And if it’s not being nobly pressed into service to energize a Mideast protest for democracy, it’s being abused by soon-to-be has been political hopefuls to buoy up their popularity and briefly tick up slow news days.
About the same time, news folks themselves became celebrities. And they started twitting, and being twits and doing bizarre things for the cameras—crying, bullying, shouting—and the news media started reporting on them.
And the cannibal frenzy began in earnest.
It’s interesting to note that at the height of his popularity, only 251,000 people watched Keith Olbermann nightly. Glenn Beck has 377,000 viewers on a good night. Slightly more than 1% of the population.
A mere mouthful. And yet an eight-course meal’s worth of total news coverage. The media cannibalizes it’s extremes every day. Like a person with an ulcer and a predilection for chili.
The wails of pain get them noticed.
Let’s report on the real news. Not the reporters’ take on the twisted purveyors of the news.
Remember—you are what you eat.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

1439 iZip

Here’s an interesting factoid. A recent study showed that nearly one in five children, aged two to five, can operate a smartphone application. The actual figure is 19 percent. That’s according to a survey done by security software developer AVG.
Why smartphones and children are security issues was not addressed. Perhaps 3-year-old hackers are becoming a problem in the daycare world. Programming the snack dispenser to spit out more pudding cups. Filching the playground monitor’s iPhone and resetting her playground timer for longer swing time.
But what was interesting about the statistic was another one published nearly simultaneously. One in five kids can use a smartphone; only one in ten can tie their own shoelaces.
Looks to me like Steve Jobs has a new area for explosive technological development. I-Shoes.
Yeah. They tie themselves when you make rapid finger motions along the tongues or soles. Piezoelectric tendrils wrap themselves in convoluted configurations. One virtual tug and, voila, tied shoelaces.
The technology could be expanded to other nettlesome clothing items. Knotting a necktie for instance. Some adults never master that. A couple of finger strokes in your chest area and bingo, knotted necktie.
If Jobs is smart, he’ll make the motions similar to scratching chest hairs. Then your average Barcolounger-bred Neanderthal will be ready for the boardroom with a couple of natural motions.
Or hey, what about an XYZ app? A smartphone-bluetooth camera knockoff that automatically examines your zipper. No more embarrassing barn door openings. The XYZ Fly-to-the-Rescue app closes it for you.
Just be sure to keep the area clear of anything pinchable.
Now that’s something that would be a good thing for security expert AVG to handle. Imagine the potential for malware for a malfunctioning ill-timed automatic zipper.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

1438 Busi-ment

Surprising economic news continues to pour in. And it’s leading to an unsettling conclusion. Unsettling for some Tea Partiers at least. If they don’t want the news to rain on their party they may have to reconsider their opinion of the use and value of a tarp. Because it turns out the Federal TARP may have been a pretty good thing after all.
One of the big rage items of the Tea Party agenda was the government’s meddling in the natural highs and lows of business, even to the point of taking over some businesses like General Motors.
General Motors is now profitable. They are paying back huge chunks of the money the government invested in them. And they actually managed to keep some people employed in the process.
The American car industry generally has benefited. Americans are buying American again, even Japanese cars made in America.
And the banks, anxious to get out from under government’s financial scrutiny, are paying back their TARP funds too—posting profits and generally getting their motors running more efficiently.
And here’s the latest news: The fund set up by the US Treasury to take toxic assets off the hands of financial firms, so they could return quicker to the solvency they are now showing, is itself turning a profit. Managed by private managers, selected by the government, the toxic funds have earned a 27% return. They’ve turned 5.2 billion into 6.3 billion.
A little ironic, considering the big election drubbing in November that swept the Tea Party into prominence was based on getting government out of business.
The unsettling conclusion is, it’s looking like the government is better at running business than they are at running government.
America, ya gotta love it.

1437 Snowtistic

I wonder about those factoids our statistic-flinging news media get us all in flurry about. It’s almost like they want to get us paranoid.
Like this interesting stat. And I do mean stat—as in when they tell people to hurry at a hospital. Turns out one of the leading causes of death in the US is snow. Not snow like being hit by snow as one would be hit by lightning. Snowball fights are a very small cause of death.
No, snow as in shoveling. Shoveling snow causes an average of 100 deaths a year. And 11,500 emergency room visits too.
“Stat! We got a shoveler here. And he’s cold. Code blue...and shivering...”
Snow shoveling’s most common cause of death is heart attacks. Here’s a recent co-statistic to put things in perspective. The US Airline industry didn’t have a single fatality in 2010, despite more than 10 million flights involving 700 million passengers. It was the third year in the past four without a death.
The conclusion? Maybe we ought to have full body scanners at hardware stores and other places people buy snow shovels.
Shovels are dangerous indeed. Consider that your number of lighting strike deaths in the US typically amount to about 60 a year, and that’s more deaths than those caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, or winter storms.
Okay. I would also suggest avoiding metal snow shovels and/or holding them on high ground during a storm.
And consider this statistic. Despite the indirect efforts of the snow shovel industry, there are more millionaires in the world than ever. 24.2 million people in the world have more than 1 million in net assets. That’s more than the entire population of Australia.
Another interesting statistic? There are no snow shovel related deaths in Australia.
Coincidence? Or conspiracy...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

1436 Teenage Brains

Read an interesting science article about how teenage brains are different. And not just because they like video games, text gossip and sleepovers.
Seems we all carry two programs in our brain through our life. One function allows us to consider the relative benefits of risk and reward. That process grows steadily from infancy to adulthood ‘til it plateaus at about age 25.
The other function is an awareness of the value of reward, and the experience of it as well. That function changes with time too, but in the teenage years it takes a big spike, briefly outpacing the risk/reward management system.
If the value of the reward seems greater, you are likely to ignore larger risks to achieve it. They know staying out ‘til 3am and worrying their parents sick will get them restriction, but they love being with their friends.
And witness the intensity of your average adolescent when it comes to relatively mundane things. I’m rushing the stage about to get crushed because I really really really like Justin Bieber-slash-David Cassidy-slash-Bobby Darin-slash-Slash.
Okay, Slash really is good.
I was a little worried when I read about the research though, because it was conducted using the fMRI machine—Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It detected pleasure and reward appreciation in the brains of various, as the scientist put it, “volunteers” ranging from ages 6 to 60.
Really? How does one volunteer for a radio wave magnetic ray device when one is 6 years old? Risk/reward indeed.
Go researchers...
The evolutionary reason for all this? Young adults ignoring risk appears to cut across species. That’s the time most adolescents are kicked out of the nest or pack and need to overcome things low risk takers would find daunting.
Like what a dumb idea having babies who turn into teenagers is.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1435 Numb-ers

We get assaulted ‘til we’re numb by numbers claiming this or that. It’s a pretty basic vulnerability of the psyche to be convinced by numbers rather than emotions. We don’t trust our heart. We think our head ought to know better. And what more head-like than a big bunch of pure mathematics?
Unfortunately, the numbers we often hear are mere digits pressed into service to leverage an emotional reaction. Archimedes of sales as it were.
But still they make you wonder. Like the statistic I heard the other day. One organization found that 63% of people were either overweight or obese, but only 1 in 10 thought they had an unhealthy diet.
Well there’s the problem right there. We need to convince more people that they’re eating unhealthy. Or more hearts and minds.
It’ll be tough though, because one of the biggest proponents of that direction unfortunately died recently. Jack LaLanne. From age 21 in 1936, he promoted healthy eating and physical culture. He was the original fitness guru. Sadly, the jumpsuit-wearing weight-lifting carrot juice drinking Jack LaLanne has passed away peacefully from complications of pneumonia.
Jack LaLanne was also 96 years old, so it’s fair to say natural causes are a contributory cause.
Funny thing though. The same day Jack LaLanne died, Ernest Borgnine celebrated his 94th birthday. If you’ve ever seen Ernest Borgnine, especially from his TV McHale’s Navy days, you’ll see the amazing contrast in health and body styles with Mister LaLanne.
So the big question, even if Ernest Borgnine were to die tomorrow, all Jack LaLanne’s lifestyle bought him was 2 years. And 2 years beyond 94 to boot. Not your peppiest.
So was 75 years worth of carrot juice worth it?
Or are our days just numbered?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1434 Commstitution

The American Constitution is amazing. It’s survived as the guidebook legal document for our country for over 200 years, from woodfires and slaves to nuclear power plants and robots, and has done so remarkably well, with only 27 amendments so far.
It’s interesting to note that the first 10 amendments were added before it could even be ratified by the states but, you know, it’s hard to please everybody. Even the Founding Fathers, sage compromisers that they were, failed to make their living document lively enough to pass first muster.
Constitutional originalists take note.
But what’s most interesting to me, who’s often had the pleasure of working with groups of people, is how the constitution ended up as good as it did, considering it was made by a committee.
Recent large public documents by committee have not been as successful or healthy.
Part of the constitution’s success is it’s vague enough to allow for interpretation. That’s why we have a Supreme Court. Both because the constitution called for it and because the constitution calls for it.
Supreme Court Justices are called upon to decide things over which reasonable people disagree. The hard questions. Decided by smart guys. You hope.
So it was particularly discouraging the other day when I read how Justice Clarence Thomas is having to amend his financial disclosure forms to include $680,000 his wife received from a conservative think tank.
Justice Thomas said his omission resulted from a “misunderstanding” of the filing instructions. Well that’s a relief. If even a Supreme Court Justice has a problem with a legal document, I don’t feel so stupid.
Still, must be an ego-deflator to be the Supreme Legal Judge of the land and have to hire an ordinary lawyer to explain things.
Darn those pesky confusing legal documents...
America, ya gotta love it.

1433 Fudgesicle

A Media Personality whose name I refuse to use recently described Obama’s State of the Union “Sputnik Moment” comment as a “WTF Moment.”
Potty mouth.
I had to wonder, does she know what WTF means?
I can tell you, it’s not “What’s That Frank?”
Or “What the Fudgesicle.”
Naturally, as a media person myself, and one much schooled in What the Fudgesicle people may say on the radio, I wonder why it is the word itself cannot be said, but the thought communicated in no uncertain terms.
How long would it take to annoy a person if you kept saying, “You’re an N-word.”?
Or how long do you think a schoolteacher would tolerate a bunch of boys saying loudly and vociferously and in every possible variation and intonation, S-word S-word S-word.
There is a fine line between punishing someone for intent and punishing them for action. But less of a fine line for calling them on the fudgesicling carpet for it.
Jimmy Carter once caused a big stir by his anguished admission to committing lust in his heart. His southern democratic successor committed far more than lust and also took a lot of heat for niggling over the correct definition of the word “is.”
But as far as I know, neither one of them would dare use the letters w, t, and f, in that order, in that way, without fully expecting some outrage from the general public.
Which we have seen very little of. Which may mean the American public is now so blasé about the incendiary and obviously attention-grabbing moments produced by this personality that they just don’t care anymore. We are jaded.
The raw areas once rubbed on our psyches are now calloused. The nerves frozen.
We just don’t give a Fudgesicle anymore.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

1432 Twit II

Ah new technology, it becomes the norm so quickly.
The Boy Scouts actually have a video game merit badge now. We’ve come so far from Pong and Space Invaders. Interestingly, the Scout merit badge isn’t about playing or mastering video games. Although quest games seem a natural for a Scout over-treatment.
No, the badge is about managing time.
A Scout has to set and follow his own video game limits. Master himself rather than the technology. Sounds like a merit badge we all could use.
When you see folks endlessly dithering with their smartphones you know why. Twitterers are like potato chip eaters, or anyone who gets addicted to mindless repetition.
Then again, I suppose it won’t be long ‘til we see a positive social outcome for them too. The army has found a place for videogame masters. The interface for piloting robot spy aircraft is not much different from running a vehicle in Grand Theft Auto. Except so far, Predator Drones can’t yank people out of cars and slap them around.
And now big companies are seduced by the idea of using social marketing to peddle their products. And the only effective social media is when you’re constantly updating your posts or tweets so you perk to the top. Like Craigslist, where you sell the most if you stay at the top of the list, Tweets and Facebook posts only stay effective as long as they’re above the “right now” horizon.
So we’ll be seeing full-time paid professional social-networkers soon. Along with professional designations.
I can see the conversation at the WiFi bar now.
“What do you do?”
“I used to be a Clerk-Textist I, but now I’m a Facebooker II.”
“No kidding, I’m a Level IV Twitterer. And I just got a merit raise.”
America, ya gotta love it.

1431 Plum Good

Naming always interests me. Products or things that seek to align themselves with other products or things in order to be successful. I thought about that recently when I saw that Google had named its new search thing “Chrome.”
In the fifties, it was a pretty big deal to add chrome to your car. Doodads the big daddies loved to embellish their hot rods with. Strips of chrome flashily festooning the fenders and fins. So, in my tiny little mind, the word chrome always calls up useless decoration—lots of flash, not much else.
Also, my mind is naturally drawn to the use by other major companies of more precious metals. The American Express Gold or Platinum card perhaps. Chrome seemed like a bit of a metallurgical letdown.
But now American Express has gone the other way. Perhaps because of the success of the product called Blackberry. The newest fancy version of the American Express Card eschews metal altogether, in favor of, of all things, a fruit. It’s the new American Express Plum Card.
It’s supposedly for sophisticated business people but it sure calls up folksier imagery.
“Yeehaw, That’s a great card pardner—it’s plum good!”
Still, plums have a long and positive association with our cultural psyche. When someone gets a raise in status and income, it’s often because he or she has ascended to a plum position. Or a plum job.
Plum pudding was once widely regarded as well. Sticking in a thumb and pulling out a plum could lead a person to conclude what a good boy he was.
But I worry. American Express was dangerously close to going in the financial toilet not long ago.
And plums are, after all, often precursors to prunes.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1430 People Power

Not long ago I wrote about how our local sewage treatment plant is harnessing the power of waste by using the methane generated from said waste to generate power.
Waste not want not.
Well another community-minded organization has thought up a new responsible and innovative alternative energy source. People power. Literally. They are actually burning people to make heat.
Whoa, you say, I’ve heard of biomass incinerators, but this is ridiculous. Never fear, like biomass incinerators only use trees that are already cut down, peoplepower burners only use people who are already dead.
It’s happening in Austria of all places. Undertakers there say they plan to funnel the excess heat generated by the crematorium next door into their new headquarters.
Makes sense, why let all that excess people heat escape into the atmosphere? Although I’m a little concerned. Lord knows what sort of greenhouse gasses the average rich food fed Austrian contributes upon immolation.
Also, I have a problem with the name crematory. It sounds more like a cold place—like a dormitory for cream. And crematorium sounds even worse. Like an emporium of some sort. You know, like the Builders Emporium. You expect choices and specialty items.
So a crematorium sounds like a place where you shop for different gourmet creams from different breeds of cows.
From crematorium to power plant. Pellet stove to people stove. Still, if you look at it coldly, you’re average cremation consumes more heat than it produces. Most cremation requires an input of energy to achieve temperatures over 1500 degrees, so there’s every economic reason to recapture a little of that heat.
We’ll just have to think of a new final goodbye.
“Ashes to ashes dust to dust, we hate to recycle you but we must we must.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

1429 Forced Testimonial

Technology is going out of control. We’re not long from the future world predicted in Terminator, where machines only get under control by taking control of themselves, and us.
A friend recently told me he had been using his smartphone to take pictures. Later he was showing the pictures to some folks and noticed these little icons on them. He pressed an icon and was quickly rewarded by a description of the time the picture was taken.
But he was disturbed to discover something else—the description also told him the place where the picture was taken. He didn’t remember ever enabling any kind of GPS picture ID function but there you are.
It was, as he said, probably in the terms of use, or the voluminous instructions that came with his device or app, but who the heck has time to read those in today’s busy society? We’re much to busy spending time trying to figure out the next piece of time-saving technology in order to start using it to save time.
Nice to know your smartphone is tracking you every minute though isn’t it? Lord knows we all need a big brother looking over our shoulder to identify our pictures.
Speaking of which, Big Brother Facebook is looking over your shoulder at your comments—and selling them. They have the software to sort the gajillions of posts looking for brand names. If the post mentions something positive about someplace, like say Starbucks, they’ll sell it, along with your name, to Starbucks, who can then use it in their advertising as a testimonial.
And not pay you a cent. You can’t even opt out. Look in the terms of use agreement.
There is one thing you can do. Quit Facebook. Take control.
Become your own terminator.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

1428 Ad Seeds

I respect people that get out there with new ideas. It’s too easy to copy old ones, and borrow someone else’s hard-earned creativity. But seeing a new opportunity where none did before, that’s a quiet form of genius.
Like the guy who first realized he could mix horse poop with sawdust and sell it to someone else as fertilizer. He turned a problem into a product. I guess you could say, since he came up with a new business fertilizer idea, he wasn’t an entrepreneur so much as an entremanure.
Speaking of growing mediums, I got this interesting letter from Google the other day. That’s right, a real letter, made of paper, through the US Mail, from the giant of e-commerce, Google. I guess even they realize it’s hard to get attention on the internet these days.
They were trying to get me to advertise on Google AdSense. To, you know, get noticed on the internet. There was a certain inherent irony involved. Like bus-boards telling you to advertise in the newspaper.
But the most interesting thing about the letter was what the actual letter was made of. The paper was beige and kind of speckled. It was uniform thinness. But the last line of printing on it said, “PS: This card was printed on 100% recycled paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Plant it in a sunny spot with a thin layer of soil, add water, and watch it grow—while you watch your business grow with AdWords.”
Clever. Does it work? You’ll never really know. If you put a bare patch of soil outside and watered it, how long would it take before just the air blew in some wildflower seeds?
And by wildflower I mean weeds.
By the way, I hear bull poop makes great manure.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

1427 Fontwise

I read a statistic that stated that 50% of all emails were misunderstood. It went on to say that 107 trillion emails are sent out, either annually or daily, I forget.
In any event, a lot of darned emails and lot of misunderstanding. And that doesn’t even count spelling and grammar-mangled tweets. It’s no wonder the world seems to be going to Jello in a shopping basket.
Apparently the misunderstandings aren’t just about words. For ages we’ve had that problem, where one person was far too free with multi-syllabic locutions and the other thought he was wordy dork.
No, these are problems of intent. Like conveying the subtleties of sarcasm or humor. People write emails in the mood they’re in. That mood doesn’t always come across, because people read emails in the mood they’re in.
Even the phrase, “you are so nice” could be taken any number of ways. Especially if you really sneer the word nice.
Add to that a further complication—font usage. Used to be we typed letters with two choices, pica or elite. Now we have a plethora of font choices, and no wisdom in how to use them.
I got an email from someone the other day and the font was in 16-point type and some odd sort of curlicuey thing. My first thought was, does the sender think I’m old and blind? What’s with this giant type? And my second thought was, this curlicuey thing is totally unprofessional. This is a business communication, not an invite to a wedding.
I hope none of my employees are sending out emails like that. What joy. In order to prevent miscommunication there’s another thing to micromanage. Fonts.
I am the old guy. And experienced in communication.
So I’ll have to be the font of wisdom.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

1426 Gross-ery

I almost never look at print ads anymore. At least the ones that get stuffed in my mailbox every Tuesday or Wednesday. And especially the one that gets thrown in my driveway. They are the physical version of spam and I just can’t get over my resentment at having them litter my mailbox and driveway long enough to even glance at them.
But the other day I did. Specifically the mailbox grocery ads. Each store had its own separate tab. And I noticed something interesting. Grocery stores for the most part are like Hollywood. Everyone is perfectly willing to save creative effort and copy everyone else.
Because the layouts are suspiciously consistent. Only the name of the store changes at the top. I’m no layout artist, but the tabs all seem to have the same top three themes.
First: “Lead with the meat.” All four grocery stores had meat ads above the fold. Bad move. Something about newsprint and color reproduction that leaves pictures of meat so appetizing. They put the gross in grocery.
Second: “Have a limited day sale.” 3-day sale, weekend sale, 4-day sale. Judging by the ads you may as well never come to the store on Tuesday.
And third: “Pitch a loss leader.” Some abnormally low price that makes you suspect they acquired the item in question under less than acceptable circumstances. High-jacked a frozen corn truck, or got eggs from factory farms near a nuclear waste facility.
In fairness, I imagine it’s hard to put together these tabs week after week. I wouldn’t want to be in the grocery ad business. What do you look forward to?
“Look Madge. I can’t wait till management puts them on sale. I just found a really good picture of a rutabaga!”
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

1425 Foggy Reasoning

Got a flyer in the mail not long ago from the sewer folks. Seems there’s a new environmental hazard we need to worry about. At least it’s a hazard to the sewer pipe environment. It’s FOGs. F-O-G-s. Fats Oils and Greases.
Seems they clog pipes.
They quickly solidify and gunk up pipes within 25 feet of your home. They also create gases that can break down pipes, leading to expensive cleanup and repair. And, oh yeah, they also can cause sewage backups and mess up the machinery at the treatment plants.
They could have come up with a better name. FOG? FOG may seem thick to see through, but it’s thin. FOG is never gunky.
I prefer something like GLOGs. Gunky Lipids Oils and Greases. Lipid is another word for fats, so people would learn a new word when they used the acronym too.
FOGs, or GLOGS, include margarine butter and grease, but you’ll be surprised to note they also include gravies, salad dressings, mayonnaise and dairy products. The sewer people recommend you pour the GLOGs into a separate can, wrap that in plastic and put it in the garbage, then wipe your pan or dish with a paper towel and throw that into your organic recycle bin, or the trash.
Hmm. I try not to use paper towels because, you know, you cut down trees to make them. And I try to keep stuff out of the landfill that would otherwise biodegrade.
It’s so hard to be conscientiously environmental. Clogged pipes or dead trees? Gunky sewage machinery or eternal plastic-wrapped landfill lard.
So here’s a sticky question. If we eat gravy and salad dressing and mayonnaise, isn’t our waste matter a GLOG?
You’d hope the pipes and machinery are prepared to cope with that without pooping out.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

1424 Kohl Reception

I was reading a book recently and the word kohl came up. That’s right kohl, spelled k-o-h-l-. I’d never really encountered it in real life before. Except as the name of the big department store.
I assumed, as one naturally would, that Kohl’s the department store was named after someone in a family named Kohl. That’s probably true. But now other possibilities entered the notion department of my brain. Or possibly the close-out department.
Because the “kohl” that I had read is actually a word for an ancient type of eye shadow from the Middle East and Africa. The original concoction involved grinding up lead sulfide. Not so much anymore. They used to put lead in Grecian Formula men’s hair color too. Now they think lead so close to the brain is not so smart.
My spellchecker in Microsoft word actually offers as synonyms for kohl: eye shadow, eyeliner and eye makeup. As in, “She applied kohl as she prepared for the evening.”
Kohl and eyeliner, go figure. The things you don’t know. My surprise was as complete as that of one of my wives when I first told her about the actual use of athletic cups. It promptly vanished from here clever WWII Aviator Halloween costume.
Pursuing the word kohl further, I also found out it’s a German word that means cabbage. We have a remnant here in English with kohlrabi. And it’s a fair bet the cole in coleslaw was originally spelled k-o-h-l-.
As far as I could tell no one ever made eye shadow out of cabbages but who knows? Gee honey, is that coleslaw on your face?
So the big question? Did Kohl’s the department store start out as an eye makeup store? Or were they originally a German cabbage market?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

1423 Fifth Degree

Recently I came back from a short vacation. In some ways I regretted taking it. I think it’s all about preserving momentum. You know, once you get the ball rolling, it’s easy to keep it rolling. But once it’s stopped, it’s harder than heck to get it up to speed again.
It looks hard when you see one of those stage jugglers spinning six plates at once, but once they’re all there the plate spinner finds it’s just fine. It’s all a matter of degree.
All a matter of degree. I was reminded of that the other day when I read an article about this Pakistani man. Seems he was publicly beaten by two of his three wives.
Now I can imagine how things may get a little tense in a polygamous marriage. If only because it gets exponentially more difficult to remember anniversaries and birthdays.
Thank Allah for Valentines Day. At least you can roll a bunch of card buying into one trip to the Islamabad Hallmark.
But public beatings by a portion of your wives seems excessive even by Pakistani standards. Still, they had what they felt was a justifiable reason. They accused him of having a secret fourth wife and planning to marry a fifth.
It’s all a matter of degree.
The man himself proclaims his innocence and says he’s willing to swear on his life he only has three wives. Well sure, I don’t why your first three don’t believe you. Why would they suspect a man who has three wives of harboring any desire not to stick to his multiple vows of fidelity?
And marrying a fifth? Introvert that I am, if I had four wives, I’d go through a fifth a day.
And never go home on vacation.
America, ya gotta love it.