Friday, December 30, 2011

1651 Second Language

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1650 iChop

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1649 Naked Homonyms

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

1648 Hot Buns

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

1647 Animal Sex

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

1646 Naked Greed

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

1645 Skinny Dipped

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

1644 Naked Words

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

1643 Naked Body of Knowledge

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

1642 XXX Factor

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

1641 Naked News

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1640 Nude Horses

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1639 CyberRich

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1638 Spyber

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

1637 Chicken Spam

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

1636 Nanny Goat

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

1635 Get It

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

Monday, December 05, 2011

1634 Tpyos

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

Friday, December 02, 2011

1633 Foxy Reverses

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

Thursday, December 01, 2011

1632 Key Ingredient

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

1631 i-Maculate

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