Friday, July 29, 2011

1545 Un-Unemployment

I'm always heartened by the consistency of humanity. I get a little worried sometimes when I only hear of the dastardliness of rich people. They lie, they cheat on taxes, they cause worldwide economic meltdowns...
But hey, they're human. And a couple of stories recently show that neither the rich nor the poor have a monopoly on immorality.
One story was that despite the high unemployment, bad economy and stagnant wages for most workers, the average paycheck for top executives in 200 big companies in 2010 was 10.8 million.
Now before you go pointing fingers about what a disgusting amount that is, consider that it's a mere 23% gain. Of course they are the ones giving themselves raises but who says they have to be fair. The economy wasn't bad for them and those pitiful line workers whose hours they're increasing and pensions and benefits they're cutting back to increase profitability probably didn't deserve a 23% raise anyhow.
But you don't have to be rich to be crooked. In another story, according to the U.S. Labor Department, about $17 billion in unemployment benefits last year—a full 11.6% of the total amount paid out—was obtained through fraud. People continued to cash checks after they found a job or claimed benefits for which they were not eligible. Imagine…
So here's my question. If the top CEOs think they can afford to pay themselves a 23% increase, and 11.6% of the unemployed are actually employed, is the recession over? I mean, they come up with unemployment figures by counting people claiming unemployment benefits. And if 11.6% of them are un-unemployed...
Now if we could only get the cheaters on both ends to take out flaky mortgages on new houses and bring the construction industry back...
Happy days are here again.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

1544 Close Shave

It's rare that I get the opportunity to make a pun using exactly the same words as the thing I'm punning about but here it is. The latest in cutting-edge technology is actually the latest in cutting-edge technology.
Yep. It's an amazing new razor blade. It's called the Zafirro Iridium and it features solid white sapphire blades that are sharpened to 5,000 times thinner than the width of a hair. It will supposedly last forever.
Talk about cutting-edge technology.
5,000 times thinner than the width of a hair. Just the blade for the discriminating man. You wouldn't just split hairs. This sucker could split hairs on angels on the head of a pin.
Isn't iridium that rare element associated with meteors crashing into earth? The iridium layer is what supposedly proves dinosaurs were wiped out when a giant meteor hit the Yucatan region at the cretaceous/tertiary extinction event back 65 million years ago.
That was back when the dinosaurs didn't last forever.
Forever is a very long time. A long time to be making a guarantee. Then again, if humans get wiped out, who's gonna be around to insist on the guarantee anyhow.
"Um, my grandfather to the 100th power bought this in the early 21st Century and it's getting kinda dull."
Good news is there won't be a long line slowing you down on your way to purchase this fine product. It comes in at price tag of $100,000. That's even more than the $6,400 toilet I most recently thought plumbed the depths of decadent excess.
But what price a close shave? Sure, you could buy a 101,010 99cent Bics which would last you 276 years, but hey.
What with inflation and all, by “forever” the Iridium would be virtually free.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

1543 E-Changes

Always fun to deal with the changes wrought by new technology. Like the other day, my modem went out. And I had to do a hard reboot. All well and good, except they’ve improved those pesky old modems.
They put in a battery backup so a power outage doesn't affect them. But that means you can't reboot them by unplugging them. You have to flip over the modem, pry open the hole, figure out how to dislodge the battery, knock over everything on your desk, lose your connecting cables down the backside of your desk behind the privacy plate where you can't reach them, finally yank out the battery and then reverse the whole process.
And then find out it doesn't work anyhow because Comcast is still screwing with a node somewhere upstream on the internet highway.
I'm convinced all the time we save using computers we lose again when something crashes. So it’s a toss up. Leave the battery out and save myself the trouble next time, or put it in. Gamble on what are the greater chances, the giant power company having an outage or the giant cable company having a service interruption.
Another E-frustration is clandestine Facebook photos. If you do anything in public, right now a goofy picture of you could be posted on the web. In the old days, news organizations about to publish your likeness had to obtain a release from you. Not so with Facebook. And with fast digital shutter speeds, goofy pictures are easy to get. Interrupt any normal person talking midword and you'll catch and freeze their face in very odd contortions.
Voila. E-goofy.
Primitive tribes used to think pictures stole your soul.
Facebook steals your reputation.
And that's really hard to reboot.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1542 Pedestrian Warming

So I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing the other day and it got me wondering. Pedestrian crossings, as I'm sure you know, are not your regular crossings that have a traffic light. They are those crossings painted on the pavement, kind of like the ones the Beatles are walking on in the Abbey Road Album. The one where George is dressed like a gravedigger and Paul is supposedly dead.
The crossings are supposed to allow pedestrians to cross, without being struck dead by an inattentive motorist. Some pedestrians nearly have that happen, as they appear to feel the painted lines bestow some sort of invulnerability. They certainly show a capacity be impervious to a reasonable outlook about what drivers will and will not do.
Because even though it’s the law that people stop when a pedestrian enters the zone, those individuals should be aware laws never splinted a broken bone. And people break laws—and bones—all the time.
As I saw traffic come screeching to a halt when one such oblivious individual stepped out into the street, I had to ponder the wisdom of said crosswalks when it comes to the whole global warming thing.
It's always important to reduce trip miles in vehicles. Walking somewhere definitely prevents excess usage of fuel—to the walker.
But I also know that smoothness of traffic flow burns less fuel too. That's why the traffic-lighted intersections, with pedestrian countdown lights increase smoother traffic flow, fuel efficiency and less global warming gasses by allowing motorists to adjust to predictable stop/start outcomes. Less braking and less jackrabbit or other starts, less fuel burned.
So unfortunately, when one pedestrian causes 20 cars to come to an unexpected and sudden halt, a whole bunch of greenhouse gasses get emitted.
Proving once again one law never gets broken, the law of unintended consequences.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

1541 C'ntr'ct'n

You gotta wonder sometimes about our great English language. It's certainly one of the most flexible and dynamic of languages. Able to grow and accept new words like "neeto" "keen" and "for shizzle." But that flexibility has led to some inconsistencies as well. Like with contractions.
You have your your and your you're with an apostrophe, which is, of course, a contraction for you are. And then you have a word like “bo'sun,” b-o-apostrophe-s-u-n- which is a contraction for the longer word b-o-a-t-s-w-a-i-n-. Which for some reason is not pronounced boatswain but is pronounced bo'sun. Which as a contraction leaves out many of the original letters but also adds a different vowel altogether.
Then you have the word "don't" which is a contraction for "do not." Shouldn't it be pronounced "doont." Shouldn't keeps its should sound. As does wouldn't. Would not. Wouldn't. Simple.
But what about "won't"? That one won't fly at all. It's a contraction for will not. I won't go to the store means I will not go to the store. Shouldn't it be willn't?
And then they have the nerve to say the word "ain't" ain't right to use. If "won't" is good enough for "will not", "ain't" is perfectly fine for "am not." And I am not kidding. Admit it, "I ain't kidding" would sound so much better.
But let's forget about contractions. How about we at least get some consistency with plurals. You have a roof and you have some roofs. But if you have more than one hoof then you have hooves.
And if you have more than one reef you have reefs. But if you have more than one leaf you have the plural leaves.
Except when I singularly say, "Commentary's over so like a tree it's time for me to leave."
America, ya gotta love it.

1540 Sleepy Time

Groucho Marx once famously said, "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas, what he was doing in my pajamas I'll never know."
Well scientists have finally answered the question—most likely sleeping. A recent study uncovered the sleepy times of numerous animals.
We often think of humans as the lazy species, spending a third of our days—and our lives—tucked away in the arms of Morpheus. We envision animals as hunting restlessly in the wilds, chasing down prey foraging in the open, with one eye always open for said hunters.
Not so. A lot of animals spend a lot of time in slumber. Interestingly, horses are the most constantly alert, spending only 2.9 hours a day sleeping. Cows, who you would think of as slow and dull, get by on 4 hours of sleep. Of course when it's hard to tell if you're awake, it's hard to tell the difference.
Humans are actually on the low end of the scale at 8 hours. Lazy dogs? 10.1 Hours. Never to be outdone by their canine competitors for human indulgence, even lazier cats are 12.5 hours.
The house mouse sleeps exactly 12.5 hours too, in a lovely detente between predator and prey. Both of them still waste half a day. Doing what? How amazing can a mouse dreamworld be?
The mighty king of the jungle is nearly the king of laziness too. Spending 13.5 hours a day napping away. But even lions don't hold a candle to the giant armadillo. It sleeps 18.1 hours a day. 75% of its life asleep. No surprise the world isn't overrun with giant armadillos.
The top sleeper? The little brown bat, at 19.9 hours. It's like his whole life is turned upside down.
One fact that woke me up; I'll sleep better if I get rid of my lazy watchdog and get a watch-horse.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

1539 Peanuts Love

I read an interesting article on waste the other day in National Geographic magazine. It described all the food we purchase every year, and how much we throw away. And it really makes you want to go back to the old clean-your-plate-people-are-starving-in-China philosophy.
(I remember being confused as a young child when I was first told that people were starving in China and the plates our food was on were china.)
Some interesting facts were presented. And remember, when you waste food in industrial agriconomy times, you're also wasting the energy, oil, and tractor grease it took to make it.
The more you eat, the more global warming gasses went into producing it—including cow flatulence methane. And when the food rots in the landfill even more wafts into the atmosphere. That should be the new admonishment. "Clean your plate, your waste is warming the planet."
Or put less on your plate.
By the way, the following data does not include bones, peels, pits, cores, or cobs.
The average American purchases 77 pounds of fresh fruit a year and wastes 22. About 28%. Fresh vegetables 131 pounds, wasted 39 pounds. Almost 30%. Poultry 70 pounds purchased, 27 pounds wasted, nearly 40%. That's some funky chicken statistics.
Red meat is just as bad—103 bought, 36 pounds wasted. A third of all cow flatulence warming the planet for nothing.
The funny thing the statistics showed is that the least wasted food category is peanuts. That's right, peanuts. 9 pounds purchased only .9 pounds thrown away. We love our peanuts. And we sure don't want them to go to waste.
And if the rest of the world is appalled at our general wastefulness, they are totally jealous of our exemplary peanut consumption standards.
You might even say they have peanuts envy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

1538 Pop Hit

I read another interesting scientific study on brain cravings. Turns out our primitive brains like pop hits more than our logical brains like to admit.
So that's why there are so many jazz and classical radio stations...
Researchers played little known pop songs to teenagers and scanned their brains while they were listening. Then they asked the kids what they thought. Often the kids said they didn't think a song was that good. But their brain scans indicated otherwise. Many of those songs lit up the portion of the brain linked to reward and anticipation.
Years later the results were compared to how well the songs actually did on the pop charts. The songs that did the most lighting up did the best. While the songs that were stated as preferred were not so hot.
The scientists tout this as further proof that we may not be aware of, or at least admit, what we like. Research like this is fueling a new field known as neuro-economics to use brain scans to exploit this trend.
Great, just what we need—fMRI Focus Groups.
Really? Thank you science. We like things we don't admit we like. So you mean hot fudge sundaes sell so well for rational reasons? Of course we're not going to admit to primitive urges and cravings. The struggle between unrestricted hedonism and rational restraint is as old as Adam's apple.
Our primitive brains light up in anticipation of all kinds of not-so-good things, ranging from infidelity to porn to booze to deep-fried bacon doughnuts. Heroin too, if we're ever exposed to it at least once. That doesn't mean it's good or right.
Funny. I seem to remember mainline drug users describe the crucial part of their experience using the words "pop" and "hit."
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

1537 Sunspot Haboob

Weird Weather news lately. I think God is messing with us. Just when we are at the point where all the massive weather disruptions have pretty much proved global warming and its effects are on us, we're running out of sunspots.
Yep. The sun appears to be entering a calm and cooler stage, which last happened about 400 years ago and led to something known as "The Little Ice Age." That lasted about 70 years. Luckily, our oil reserves should hold out just long enough to keep our planet globally warm and comfortable.
On another weather note, there was this massive dust storm in the Phoenix area of Arizona. And when you watched the video footage on the of it, it really looked like some CGI special effect out of "The Mummy" or something.
What was weirder was what these news commentators were calling it. They said it was a massive haboob. Naturally, I immediately went to the internet and started googling the word.
Something oddly inappropriate sounding about googling haboob.
Anyhow, I had no idea how to spell it so I figured it must be some North African term, maybe Arabic in origin.
So I typed in h-a-b-b-u-b- thinking that might work. Nothing. Then h-a-b-u-, thinking I may have misheard it. Nothing. Then h-a-b-o-o- and bingo, it auto-completed to h-a-b-o-o-b-. And there it was. Haboob. Instead of Arabic, it was 4th grade American boy.
When I followed the link to the American Meteorological Society webpage it did actually list the alternate spellings I had tried and even said there was no completely agreed upon spelling. It also said the word meant "a massive dust or sandstorm in Sudan".
So... It's nice to know Sudan is now a suburb of Phoenix.
And I don't have to feel like a total haboob.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

1536 Un-immigration

"Be careful what you wish for," they say, "it might come true."
A fine aphorism, going back to the fable of the monkey's paw and the three wishes it bestowed. Those wishes led to pain, woe, and suffering, as wishes often do, especially as the law of unexpected consequences takes over.
So remember, monkey's paw bad luck, rabbit's foot good luck, except to the particular rabbit whose foot you currently hold.
Be that as it may, the fine farmers of Georgia have a dilemma. Seems Georgia, in a spasm of the anti-immigration fever that often sweeps our country during dire economic times, passed some of the toughest anti-illegal immigrant laws in the nation. And they no doubt felt they had appropriate cause to do so.
But laws are only laws with the full consent of the people and unfortunately, the shadow world of illegal immigration, like the world of drug trafficking, sprang up because it filled a need. In this case a need to harvest crops.
It was a law ill conceived, like the fireworks law one city in our area recently passed. Because the rest of the cites didn't. And who knows where the borders are. And it's hard to prove who exploded a post-exploded firecracker.
The monkey paw law of Georgia currently has Georgian farmers suffering. It left them with no spare hands to help them harvest their crops. They are desperately looking for 11,000 workers.
And here's the kicker. It’s a job no one else seems to want. Even thought the state unemployment rate is 10 percent, few citizens are willing to lend a hand and pick jobs picking crops. Maybe Georgia can issue temporary un-immigration passes to get the harvest in.
One thing's for sure. It gives you pause to think.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1535 Mental Switch

Sometimes you'll go along and all reality just seems boring and normal. And then there'll be some mental switch—like your brain got a dose of antihistamines or something, and a new reality will suddenly clear.
Like the other day I was saying "BTW" out loud to someone. And it occurred to me BTW is a great abbreviation when it's written in print or text , but to say it out loud actually un-abbreviates it. It takes a lot longer than saying "By The Way." That darn W letter. The only letter in the English language with a full three syllables.
I also had a mental switch recently about this rideshare program we're talking about on the radio. It's a pretty cool deal. Rideshare Online. You can go to the website and sign up and it hooks you up with people going the same way as you are on a trip.
Wow. How far we've come since the sixties. Rideshare. Didn't we use to call that hitchhiking? Maybe we'll should call the online version e-hitchhiking.
Not long after that, some guy was telling me how he used a groupon at a strip mall. And I misheard him and thought he said grope on. And really, it was natural thing for my mind to do. Where else would you use a grope-on but a strip mall?
And how is it for years and years we have used the term strip mall without thinking it's some shopping center for burlesque?
"Yeah, I went to this sushi place at the strip mall, and it was really weird. Behind the counter there was this huge out of shape Japanese guy with very sharp knife. And he was naked."
That's a mental switch I'd like to turn off.
Not BTW…
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

1534 You're In

We have an ambivalent attitude about bodily wastes. We use animal wastes quite freely. Quite obvious when you go to the nurseries and see bags of cow manure and steer manure. I've always wondered—how do they tell the difference? Do they sort it after or just make sure cows and steers use separate facilities.
Likewise urine. For years it's had many uses, from curing leather to polishing gold braid on uniforms. But we still maintain a respectful distance from it.
So it was the other day when I went in for a physical. The lab asked that I stop by the day before for a specimen cup. They also gave me a plastic bag for holding the cup. The next morning I noticed the bag had a space checked on it. The checkmark was next to the word "refrigerate."
But for some reason I didn't think an appropriate place for the specimen in question was the refrigerator. The only letter of the alphabet I want iced is T.
But I also thought I was being a little too squeamish.
Then I read a news item the other day. Apparently some drunken individual urinated in a Portland water reservoir. So authorities emptied all 7.8 million gallons of it.
What a waste. Really? There's probably more animal and fish pee, not to mention over-flying bird poop, in that reservoir than one person's output could compete with. Especially if that one person's output was diluted with 8 beers.
I'm no whiz at math but the parts per million on that have got to be below anyone's squeamish factor. Wait. What's the abbreviation for parts per million?
Oh yeah, PPM.
I get it. Or is that just if the guy did it at night?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1533 A League to Disown

Fun times in sports lately. The professional leagues keep finding more and more ways to be entertaining. Like not long ago when the Tacoma Rainers had a total blowout game against the Las Vegas 51s.
By the way, do you think it’s a good idea to name a minor league sports team after an area where UFO research was supposedly going on? An area synonymous with Government cover-ups and mysterious doings.
Especially the other night, when the 51s mysteriously couldn't seem to get a break. They were down six runs in the first inning and it got worse from there. The final score was 19 to 5. Good news though, they did win the “base run” competition afterwards.
It really did seem like that for a while, a minor league game actually played by minors. I mean really, I heard they were actually putting players from field positions in as pitcher towards the end.
But unfortunately, there's no mercy rule in the big leagues. Which is too bad. It might have made the game more fun if they let the 51s use a T-Ball stand in the last inning. Because up to that point they sure couldn't seem to find the ball.
An unidentified flying object indeed.
On another sports note, the Philly Phanatic was hurt recently. It too was at a minor league game. Talk about weird sports names. It was at an Allentown Iron Pigs game.
Anyhow, apparently he was going all crazy jumping around like he usually does and a foul ball hit him. Right in the throat.
Fortunately, he's a mime, so nothing important was hurt. Although his silent scream looked not unlike a painting by Edvard Munch.
And he also looked a little green around the gills.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

1532 I-Cradle

It's interesting how we adapt to new technology we have a adopted. You'd think since we were the creators it would be the other way around—we would create new technology to adapt to us.
But no, for years and years things like phones required us to lean in close to a wall, or juggle knotted cords. The original Ma Bell bakelite phone had a head-knocking hard chassis and a handset about as far from comfortable ear-gonomics as you can get.
Today's phones are no exception. They're so smart, they show how dumb we are. A flat 2-by-4 inch rectangle is not very ergonomic. But it does fit in another human invention—the back pocket.
But as far as your face? It makes contact not in any particularly comfortable way, but definitely in a way that encourages your face to grease up its screen.
And look at the way we hold them. My friend Rick, ever the student of human nature, pointed out we tend to hold smartphones palm up, like we're balancing an open-faced tuna melt.
I suppose it makes sense. When not talking on the phone we are using our fingers to swipe icons on it, and that's hard to do unless it's flat like a piece of paper. Even with new technology we still write best—or fingerswipe best—in a horizontal plane.
Come to think of it, that face grease makes the swiping pretty slick.
And iPads and other tablets? Notice how people hold them in the crook of their elbows? When not being propped up on a table with those origamic covers, the average person who freehands an iPad does so handsfree, with his or her forearm. Holding it like one would hold a baby.
A flat, sharp-edged, makes-us-squint-to-read-it-in-bright-sunlight baby.
We love our creations. Even when they're adopted.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 08, 2011

1531 Artistic Record

Occasionally things we do seem to merge. Or maybe they just take on different meanings because of intent. A white lie, where you fail to tell your mom that new piece of clothing makes her look hideous, becomes a kindness when you find out how much she spent on it.
No one can deny you were dishonest and so divergent from one of the Ten Commandments. But sometimes one commandment trumps another, as in, “Honor your father and mother.”
So it was the other day when I heard of a new piece of art from Florida conceptual artist Brian Feldman. He took honoring his father to new heights. He spent the whole of Fathers Day, 24 hours, giving his dad a hug while the two stood in the middle of a boxing ring.
Feldman called it, "a healing and transformative experience". And crucially here, he also called it art.
Which is funny, and goes back to that intent thing. Because to me it sounds less like art and more like an attempt at a Guinness world record. Which is the ultimate in anti-art.
Then again, I suppose there's not much difference in installing cheesy fabric gates in an entire park like that Christo and Jeanne-Claude did and having a Midwestern town build the world's biggest cheese pizza. Art is in the eye of the beholder. And if the beholder happens to also be Guinness, well, why not?
But I do like the idea of 5,000 people linked in a mile long conga chain being called a conceptual art creation. And if Brain Feldman wants to call hugging artistic, I'm all for that too. But maybe he shouldn't call it conceptual art.
Since it was his father, maybe he should have called it Pop Art.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

1530 Porta Parable

In the course of my profession, I often have the opportunity to go to various outdoor festivals. And I've learned that one of the secrets to a successful festival is the plethora of porta-potties available. Nothing more likely to get a crowd roiled than a buildup of noxious bodily humors.
No humor there at all.
But porta-potties are more than just waste receptacles, they are microcosms of humanity. I saw a couple of things recently that sat oddly with me.
Porta-potty designers have done their best to streamline the interiors to prevent filth buildup. The fewer corners, the fewer nooks and crannies to clean. But up in the corner of this one I went in, wedged between the vent pipe and the wall, were two empty bags of chips.
And it made me think we are way too addicted to our snack foods. The idea of someone sitting in a porta-potty, munching on Doritos, was somehow extremely off-putting.
For one thing, the little sanitizer dispenser they have in porta-potties are no match at all for Dorito fingers. And secondly, one really needs to keep one's bodily functions appropriately separated. Just because you're at a fair, doesn't mean you need to forsake all civilized behavior.
The other thing I saw was a cautionary tale on single parenthood. A porta-parable if you will. Some poor woman had four kids, all under the age of six, and she needed to use the facility. She also didn't have another parent to share her load. So she had to unpack her stroller and herd all the kids into one of the larger handicapped labeled porta-potties. It was like some bizarre version of a college phone booth prank.
But fairs do come with a fair share of unsavory characters. So the porta-potty offered porta-protection too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

1529 Hot Mags

Not long ago I was at a medical lab having some blood drawn. I had called in to arrange a physical at a doctor's office and the first thing they did was send me a form to go to a lab to get poked.
It was a nice clean place. The phlebotomist was very good. She was also friendly and commented on my last name, and unusual last names in general. "There are some really weird ones," she said. I forbore pointing out how unusual commenting on weird names was coming from someone whose profession was “phlebotomy.”
Which always sounds to me like an extremely delicate brain operation on a tiny parasite.
I noticed something interesting in the lab's waiting room. The magazines. There were the three obligatory types that seemed to go for the three stereotypical gender typecasts—Sports Illustrated for the oversexed men, Us magazine for the oversexed women and Readers Digest for those who are just over sex.
What was interesting was that the Sports Illustrated and Readers Digest copies were pristine. Well, not entirely, they were a bit dog-eared, but they had no writing on the covers. The Us magazines meanwhile, were completely disfigured by writing done with a black felt pen.
The writing, done in a loopy yet somehow angry cursive, admonished people not to steal the magazine. "Do not steal, this is the lab's copy." "Do not take this home." "Be like Carrie Underwood, do not steal." (Fortunately Carrie Underwood and not Lindsay Lohan was on the cover of this particular Us.)
So what is it about readers of gossip and petty theft? Sounds like a good scientific study right there. Maybe Us could get a grant. Or a new ad campaign.
Us doesn't steal from People. People steal Us.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

1528 City Space Out

A couple of interesting statistics I read the other day give the lie to our myth of downsizing. There has been a big to-do recently about Americans moving back to the cites, paring down their goods, simplifying their lifestyle, and using more mass transit.
All laudable goals to be sure. Cities are actually a great way to go green. Reduce your trip miles, centralize your resources, build up rather than out. Of course the people who like living in small cites don't like the idea of making them into big cities, especially if it means messing up their personal view with a taller building in front of them that they blocked from the person behind them when they built their house but hey, hypocritical nimby-ism takes many forms.
Whether or not one uses shoreline setbacks or isthmus protests as a justification.
Nevertheless, a recent study showed that 91 percent of population growth in U.S. metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2010 occurred in suburbs rather than city cores. Today more than 60 percent of Americans live in suburbs.
So much for moving back to the city.
Now we see why there's no downtown housing in our area and a jillion single family homes still going up. And it's probably for two reasons. One, we like our privacy. Those of us who first moved out of our parent's home into a shared apartment or college or barracks room understand the shortcomings of thin walls when it comes to things like, um, sleeping.
The other statistic I read helps explain the second reason. In 1930 the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today she purchases more than 60 pieces of clothing a year. Men a heck of a lot more too.
The biggest reason for urban sprawl?
Closet space.
America, ya gotta love it.

1527 Road Noise

Saw a couple of interesting road signs the other day. The first was one of those temporary mounted-on-a-trailer signs with lights that can be programmed to say pretty much whatever you want—as long as you say it in the right number of letters.
That limitation may have been in play. I'll give the city workers the benefit of the doubt. They may have actually known how to spell and simply made the best of space restrictions.
In any event, the sign blinked once and said, "Road Closed." Then it blinked again and said, "Business are Open." I believe that's Business-es are Open. Those two extra letters make all the difference.
Then again, if the road was closed the businesses probably wouldn't be open for long. The road in question was certainly not pedestrian friendly, what with bulldozers, graders, and other construction paraphernalia.
Maybe the sign had started out saying businesses are open and there's only one left. Maybe it sells stuff for off-road motorcycles or something.
Still, if it are open the sentence are not correct.
The other sign was an example of bureaucratese, the govspeak we all know and love. It was identifying a federal freeway project whose purpose appears to be to reduce the amount of noise from the freeway to the residents who bought property next to the freeway long after the freeway was built. This sign said "Noise Mitigation Project"
The project itself was making a huge amount of noise.
But the word mitigation? My thesaurus gives as synonyms for mitigation; alleviation, lessening, and easing. All of which appear to signify a tepid result for this project. You wonder if they were afraid to come right out and say "noise reduction."
Nothing worse than a road project that doesn't make the grade.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 01, 2011

1526 M&Mmmms

I recently acquired a package of the new Coconut M&Ms. And I'm a little concerned. The cartoonish scene on the package depicts what appears to be questionable activity on a tropical island. Questionable if you consider this could be a candy for kids.
A giant coconut is in the center. Nestled within the coconut are various M&Ms in the colors of brown, light green, and white. All well and good. But next to the coconut filled with regular M&Ms is a cartoon figure of what appears to be a feminine M&Ms creature.
She has large eyes, eyelashes, and brows drawn in a come-hither look, a hibiscus blossom festooning her shoulder, and lush green lips. She is sitting on the sand in a seductive pose, leaning on one hand while the other drapes languidly across one of her knees. Her over-sized hands, honoring cartoon convention, are of course three-fingered and wearing white gloves.
Her legs, however, are clad in knee-high Nancy Sinatra boots. With what appear to be three-inch heels, they are certainly not practical for walking on the sand of the beach where she is apparently sitting. Bad lesson for the kids right there.
Be that as it may, and putting aside for a moment the odd idea of a sexy M&M stretched out on the beach, the other cartoon figure drawn in the distance is even more disturbing. It's of a male M&M falling from a coconut tree.
He is upside down, with an expression of dismay on his face. But even more dismaying is that falling down with him is a pair of binoculars.
Voyeurism and chocolate candies, what will they think of next? Coconut M&Ms, preferred by perverts everywhere. Thank goodness this isn't Easter and he's not ogling those marshmallow chickens.
Talk about peeping Toms.
America, ya gotta love it.