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.