Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1667 Marching Bride

The other day I heard a radio ad for an upcoming bridal fair. This is the time of year for the advanced immense planning necessary to pull off one of the largest events most families will ever face. Enormous amounts of time, effort, and money are spent for an affair whose pictures are 30% likely to be tossed out in the subsequent ten years.
One year of planning for a wedding and ten years of planning for a divorce. It all balances out.
What caught my ear was the song they played in the ad. It was "Here Comes the Bride." And I suddenly wondered—What are the real words to Here Comes the Bride? We all remember the words we used in grade school, "Here comes the bride, all fat and wide..." etc. But what are the real ones?
Well you'll have to look them up. Suffice it to say they're too long to go into here, and they don't translate well from the original German.
Yes German. Turns out they came from a little ditty by the great German opera guy Wagner. From his opera Lohengrin, filled with valor, battle, intrigue and an occasional burst of anti-Semitism. It's actually called the "Bridal Chorus."
One phrase got me. "Siegreicher Mut, Minne und Gl├╝ck
eint euch in Treue zum seligsten Paar."
That German, such a romantic sounding language.
By the way, that means, "Triumphant courage, love and happiness, join you in faith as the happiest of couples."
And that's an order.
"Triumphant courage," huh, sounds like the opera couple knew what they were getting into. I just like that most people call the bride's graceful promenade a wedding march. Sounds so militaristic. From marital planning to martial art.
Marching off to wedded bliss...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

1666 Milk 1%

As I hear the outcry raised by the Occupy Wall Street folks, I look at economic stories around the world in an interesting new light. Like the fact that the world's biggest market for Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces is now China.
When did that happen? Last I heard Chinese folk were dying in tennis shoe factories. The problem is they're still doing so—and dying in iPad factories as well. But the new Chinese overlords are richer than ever and are snapping up more luxury cars than anywhere in the world. Interesting that they buy cars with no Chinese parts.
Guess that additional blood on their hands would make it tough to steer.
In another interesting article, I read how a recent survey found that immigrants founded nearly half of the top start-ups in the U.S. Of the 50 top venture-backed companies today, 23 have at least one immigrant founder. Not only that, 37 of the 50 companies employ an immigrant in a key management position.
Certainly shows the power immigrants bring to our culture. Despite the Chinese Lamborghini glut, we're still prized by foreigners as the land of opportunity. Maybe it's that desire to actually make it to the top 1%. Enjoy the land of milk and honey.
We all know 1% milk is better for you.
Which brings me to the last factoid. Compared to worldwide, a lot of us are pretty much bathing in that milk. Occupy protestors as well. To be counted in the whole world's top 1%, an individual has to earn just $34,000 a year.
The true middle class person in the world at large makes $1225 a year. Certainly not in Lamborghini territory.
But about the price of one of those fancy made-in-China tents you can occupy when you perch in a park.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

1665 Qwerky

I continue to be amazed by what technology reveals about human nature. Like what I recently found out by using the technology of Google Analytics on my blog. I had registered an enormous amount of hits on one day. It turned out that was the day I'd used the word "Naked" in the title of one of my essays.
Suspecting the worst, for the next few days I purposely added salacious words to the titles of my pieces. One title rose significantly above the rest, causing a surge in hits that nearly thrust the graph spike off the scale. The title? Animal Sex.
Extraordinary, since the essay in question dealt with the mating peculiarities of barnacles. Not your normal cultural norm.
Google also breaks down the countries of origin from which the hits are coming. Turns out the significant increase was driven by two countries in particular—Germany and Russia. Russia and Germany have been adversaries for a long time. It's nice to know they have something in common.
Besides long winters...
Another piece of technology that reveals human nature is the iPad. Specifically, the new iPad accessories. I saw one the other day that had a clever cover that you could fold and stack up in just such a way that your iPad would stand up like a computer monitor. The same guy had a tiny keyboard that he could plug into it too.
So he no longer had an iPad at all. It looked like he was typing at a teeny-tiny PC. What do you want to bet there'll be a mouse available too?
Because one thing about human nature, technology or no. It still resists change.
Look no further than the iPad keyboard. It's letter arrangement is QWERTY.
Quirky sex, QWERTY keyboards.
Cultural anthropology through technology.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1664 Pill Grim Progress

Saw an interesting news story the other day on the hazards of mass production. It reminded me of my high school daysback when they were installing the first versions of vending machines that dispensed pre-packaged food.
My rural high school was all agog with itself because it was so modern. Me too. Until I got an apple pie thing that was stuffed with burrito filling. Quite the surprise for the old tastebuds.
But nothing compared to the surprise—and potential for harm—from the situation I read about recently. Seems the drug company Novartis is recalling a bunch of pill bottles because they may be contaminatedwith bits and pieces of other pills.
Yep, if you are the proud owner of bottles of Excedrin, No-Doz, Bufferin or Gas-X, your bottles may have pieces of pills in them from other drugs altogether. Certainly puts the "no" in Novartis for me.
As Novartis is a big company, this could cause a lot of damage. And just plain weirdness. Particularly if they were to make any sexual dysfunction drugs.
"Gee Honey, I took some Bufferin and suddenly I don’t have a headache---hint hint..."
A quick internet search also turns up the information that Novartis once swallowed up the company Sandoz. Sandoz, unlike its product No-Doz, once was asleep at the switch, at least culturally, when they invented and manufactured LSD. They marketed it under the name Delysid. It was used to treat a variety of psychiatric ailments, including alcoholism and sexual deviancy.
Certainly far more than you would expect from your average Gas-X tablet. "Gee Honey, I took my Gas-X and not only don't I feel bloated, I feel like less of a pervert."
Crazy. Pills doing a lot of damage.
Is that called pillage?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1663 Graycare II

Wrapping up my series of commentaries on the possible economic opportunities in the eldercare market, a couple of final thoughts. Graycare is definitely a growth industry, but it's wise to understand it's not sustainable. Especially since it's centered around a crucial fact.
Its prime participants are terminal.
But like the funeral industry, experiencing a similar boom, where people are dying to use their offerings, it will survive on some level.
Elders, like young children, will continue to require oversight and care. And like children will exhibit all the emotional uncontrollability. Talk about terrible twos. You haven’t seen terrible twos 'til you've seen terrible 82s—or 92s.
Couple that with residual hormonal fluctuations and you have sulky, uncooperative, emotional outbursts not unlike the tortuous teens. But in this case "senior angst" has a whole different twist. Having emotional doubt over your place in the world when you've only lived 16 years is far different than that same concern after you've lived your whole life.
There is a lot of bottled up resentment to being suddenly dependent, ready to burst like a ripe boil over all and sundry.
So we need to arrange for play opportunities as well. Even pay for play. Instead of playdates, we can call them graydates. Senior companion hookups with whom they could to share those stories they repeat over and over. Much easier to take when you forget you heard them the first time.
Then I suggest we refurbish hotels with a number of eldercare rooms. Bed, TV, bathroom, fire alarm, medical alert, the needs would be simple. Folks could drop off their elders for an hour or two.
I do recommend this though; don’t use the advertising phrase, "Hourly Rates for Seniors."
Especially on Prom Night.
America, ya gotta love it.

1662 Graycare

The lack of care options for middle-aged children who've had their dementia-disabled parents move back in is alarming. Especially as the baby boomers get older and older and face the terrifying prospect of having to live with their kids.
Being one of those self-centered boomers, I think it's pretty obvious we need to do something now to build the elder infrastructure that will support us.
Forget about a safety net. We want a safety luxury condo.
As I've said before, there are some business opportunities in that regard. And since a lot of this stuff has been done before with single parents and working two-parent households needing places to put their kids, there's no reason to reinvent the old wheel.
Like instead of daycare centers we can just change a few letters and make them graycare centers. We could probably even use many of the same places, since the population bulge has moved on.
Instead of toddlers, they'll house doddlers. You could even have some of the same games and puzzles. Suitable for ages 2 to 92. Although a Sesame Street puzzle motif isn't that good for the current crop of curmudgeons, it's only a matter of time before Kermit and crew enter the comforting familiarity of nostalgic haze. And Oscar the Grouch is a great role model for crotchety old men.
But what folks will need most are elder drop-in centers. For those times when you have to take old dad or mom somewhere safe for a couple of late evening or early morning hours. So you can go to social events or civic meetings.
Business opportunity? Elder Kennels.
"Yeah, I'd like to drop off my dad for 2 hours. He's had his shots. And he's neutered... And don't worry, his bark is worse than his bite. I left his dentures at home..."
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

1661 Elderado II

As I mentioned in an earlier essay, I'm trying to flush out the opportunities involved in the up and coming eldercare industry. I see caring for elders as in many ways like caring for children, except, as I’ve said, they don't grow out of it.
But many of the challenges are similar—somehow you have to integrate your parent's care into your daily business life. And that means you need to have someone baby sit. Or in the case of the old folks, eldersit. You would think such people would be called "eldersitters," but no, they go by the generic—or perhaps geriatric— name, "caregiver."
By the way, I really like the term "caregiver." It works much better then the term it replaced—"caretaker." Because when we hire one of them, we definitely want them to give care, not take it. Besides, "caregiver" sounds so much more active and human, "caretaker" sounds like they're taking care of an abandoned property of some sort. Even a cold-hearted son like myself finds it hard to think of his father as the old shack at the lake.
So anyhow, the care problems one faces in day-to-day life are not the eight-to-five times we can all plan for, it’s the emergencies that come up, times that are hard to plan ahead, but for which you need temporary care. Kind of like when you're at Fred Meyer and you use the drop-in temporary daycare place, Playland. Drop off your unpredictable kids so you can shop in peace.
The business opportunity? They should have one for oldsters. But instead of calling it the Playland they could call it the Grayland.
A soft place for them to sit and nod off and only one other requirementmake sure it's really close to the bathroom.
America, ya gotta love it.

1660 Elderado

As our population ages and the economy of elder healthcare takes its toll, many folks are finding themselves with new guests in their homes—their parents. It's presented an interesting series of dilemmas. Or is that dilemmi?
Oh well, as I never tire of saying, when life gives you dilemmas, make dilemmanade. See it as an opportunity. Elders are more than just folks to sell big cars to.
By the way, is that how they came up with the Cadillac Elderado?
In the home though, it's hard to see the opportunity. Because now the roles are reversed. Having your kids move back in on you is one thing. The parent/child dynamic remains intact with minor modifications—yelling at your children to clean up their mess in the bathroom involves more make-up and whiskers and what not.
But when a parent moves in with a child, the dynamic is reversed. A person used to owning his or her household is now a permanent guest of the people who used to follow the rules set by the person who is now the guest.
Tension can ensue.
Then add another component—mental deterioration.
So any household customs the former children would like to uphold get routinely forgotten or ignored.
Flexibility is necessary.
Sad, because when your own children were children and had a lapse in, or lack of, judgment, you could always reassure yourself with the statement, "They'll grow out of it." With an elder, that comfort is not likely to be forthcoming.
Eldercare support groups would be blossoming all over the country but for one thing. Those in need of support have no place to drop their parents while the meeting is going on.
That's where the dillemonade comes in. I'm gonna launch some new businesses the will pave the streets with gold from the eldercare opportunity.
I'll be an Elderado elderpreneur.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1659 Tijuana Donkeys

I read recently that a whole new trove of information is being dug up in a branch of cultural anthropology. "Anthro-" as in mankind, "-pology" as in someone should be sorry for this. The place where the digging for treasure is taking place? Cyberspace.
This new information is made possible by the great search engines making available search data. Not intensive, track-back to your personally identifiable computer information—so they say— but anonymized data that reflects the searches requested by millions of browsers across the world. The very fact they coined the word anonymized should tell you something.
In any event, cultural anthropologists can look at the prevalence of a particular search term and make judgments about interest in a particular news item, or how that item may affect a given geographical region. It can also determine political trends and interpret demographics that include income or gender. Or whatever personal information you've ever filled out in any online survey or "private" profile field.
I've been conducting a similar survey into the tastes of the average internet seeker. Not long ago, noticing from the Google analytics for my blog that a particular essay had got a lot of hits, I decided to do an experiment. The term that had generated so much activity was "Naked." So I added the terms Naked, Nude, XXX, etc. to the subsequent titles of my commentaries. Internet rankings improved dramatically. Forget about search engine optimization. It was like search engine Viagra.
Recently I got the biggest daily hit rate of all time. It makes me wonder about the anthropology of internet surfers. The term that generated the hits was the title of an essay about barnacle reproduction—"Animal Sex."
Anthropology. Someone should be sorry indeed.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1658 Choice Words

I'm interested when I read the choices people make when it comes to the words they use. "Choose your words carefully," it's said, so I pay attention to how others do the same.
Like recently, I read how Apple had won a patent suit against Android. In case you're keeping score on metaphorical company names, the Organics won over the Robotics in this one. Seems the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Android had encroached on some patented smartphone features. Including, and I quote, "one that allows users to dial a phone number by tapping it."
What an odd choice of words—"to dial a phone number by tapping it." On a phone that has no dial to rotate. We've discussed this before, the use of the word "dial" to indicate the static composite view of a set of numbers, rather than a circular arrangement that incorporates the movement of a numbered disc or monitors the movement of a shadow.
Beyond that was the wordiness of the phrase. Instead of saying, "one that allows users to dial a phone number by tapping it," why not just say, "allows the users to 'tap' a phone number."
Just saying...
Another article I read featured a story on one-percenter rich peoples' kids supporting Occupy Wall Street and owning up to same with their fat cat parents and relatives. One rich kid said, "It's almost like coming out."
Really? An interesting choice of words. To compare the slightly uncomfortable consequences of support for a political movement with the agony of living genetically gay in a sometimes violent, prejudiced, teen-bullying, aggressive, heterosexual world.
Poor, poor, rich kid...oh the social stigma.
When next you enable your smartphone dial do me a favor.
Tap C for Clueless.
America, ya gotta love it.

1657 Boom Daddy

Much talk has been written about the effect on our nation's health care system, and economics in general, when the baby boomers reach retirement age. The front edge of the bulge is already sticking out over the beltline of age 65.
If you're into conspiracy theories, by the way, you can point to the recent economic cratering as a secret plot to bilk us boomers out of our retirement. Our prudently planned 401ks are gone and now we actually have to depend on Social Security. A system that would have been strained by our numbers in any event.
Since it isn't enough, however, we have to continue working. So we continue to pay in, rather that take out, which will postpone the systems collapse to a few election cycles down the road, by which time the 1% will have all moved to Ayn Rand island to be served by high tech robots with built-in instant pleasure-inducing nano-jacuzzi jets.
The other part about us aging boomers is that our even more aging parents are still hanging around. Having eked by on Social Security for the last 20 years and benefited from life-prolonging drugs purchased by Medicare, they are here now to join us in our homes, especially as eldercare facilities get even further out of the economic reach of recently unemployed boomers.
And bonus, the unemployed boomers' kids moved back in too.
The small nuclear, and then scattered, un-nested family, once decried as uncaring, sterile, and bad for society, is gone. Another solution to social ills orchestrated by the covert engineers behind the economic cratering.
The extended family is back.
Kids are in the attic, the bonus room has a bed and grandpa's in the basement snoring louder than a sonic boom.
Boom, Daddy, Boom.
He’s a boomer too…
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

1656 Si-Mile

Sometimes I encounter words, especially when they're used in a comparatively creative manner, and they make me smile. That's always how I pronounced simile when I was younger— si-mile. Because similes made me smile like bent over carpenter.
In any event, I was at a meeting not long ago and there was a pretty good speaker. He delivered a message on the state of our economy and more importantly, the economy of our state.
In the process, he used similes and another of those typical presentational verbal devices, the metaphor. He compared our economy to an ecosystem. And then proceeded to describe how the various components worked together to enhance the whole.
Ironically, our ecosystem economy is definitely in a hole.
All well and good, and interesting too that both eco-system and eco-nomy have the prefix "eco" in them. From the Greek word for house or environment—a very natural metaphorical comparison.
But then he went awry. He said that our economic ecosystem depended on four pillars. Therein was the mistake. He committed the dread "mixed metaphor" for which creative writing instructors always blasted our grades like a ton of bricks. For if he's talking about a plantlike ecosytemic metaphor, it would be based on roots not pillars.
Side question: eeco-sytem and eeco-nomic or echo-system and echo-nomic?
And another conundrum, speaking of metaphorical descriptors. Why is it "deep" asleep and "wide" awake? Shouldn't they be opposites? Wide is not the opposite of deep. High is the opposite of deep. So it should be deep asleep and high awake? Or if you don't like that, then come up with the opposite of wide for asleep.
Wide awake and narrow asleep.
Otherwise, I get as confused as a barrel of old people.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1655 Deep Condole

Recently I was in a position where I had to offer my condolences to someone. And I wasn't entirely sure what a condolence was. Much less that I had a bunch of them to spread around.
So looked it up and, of course, condolences are nothing more, or less, than sympathy with another in sorrow. So you could say, "I offer my sympathy." But it sounds more impressive somehow, maybe because of the plural, to offer your condolences.
The dictionary also defines condolence as "an expression of sympathy," and then goes on to use it in the sentence. "We wish to express our sincere condolences to your family." So they're really saying, "We wish to express our sincere expressions of sympathy to your family."
Condolent and redundant.
Another thing. We express sympathy by offering condolences, but when we are sharing sympathy, we console people. Why don't we offer consolences. Or condole people?
Turns out there is a word condole. And it is a verb. It means to express sympathetic sorrow to someone else. It's from the Latin condolere, "dolere" meaning to feel pain and "con" from com to communicate same. So you could actually say, "I heard about your loss so I'm here to condole you."
One final note. Unfortunately I looked "condole" up in the Merriam Webster online dictionary. And they have this other feature that suggests rhymes of the word you are looking for. In case you ever need to do a poem using condole and something else. Among those offered were bunghole and blowhole.
"When first I offered him to condole.
He said instead to shut my blowhole."
Destined for the condolence section of a Hallmark near you...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1654 Food Stuff

The sounds of food things get me. Like when they say food is a basic staple of life. That mystified me as a child. Because the first time I learned the word staple it was used to indicate the pointy metal thing that clamps and sticks through papers.
I guess I figured food as a staple must just be sharp foods.
In any event, I drove by one of those taco buses recently and it wasn't a taco bus. It was an Assyrian Food bus. That sounded really weird. What rock have I been living under? You expect something as exotic as Assyrian food, whatever that is, would have a sit-down restaurant. Perhaps with some sort of Tower of Babel motif. Lots of languages being piped across the PA. Some Nineveh dancers maybe. Jonah and a big whale.
Taco Buses and their ilk are supposed to be normalish food, like hot dogs and pizza. Welcome to the mobile culinary world.
Speaking of tacos and pizza. I saw a taco pizza the other day. I also saw one of those new Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo restaurants. And it occurred to me. You can have a taco pizza but you can't have a pizza taco. Some foods just don't go both ways. I suppose one of those mini-pizzas could be called a pizza tostada but that sounds really weird too. I'm holding out for a taco gyro.
That would be something cool to serve at Assyrian Bell.
And lastly, they named a new element the other day—Livermorium—after the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Unfortunately, it sounds like the food. Maybe the element's characteristics are chalkiness and a bad odor.
Not too good-sounding regardless. I'm hoping they name the next new element Nevermorium. It would be more Poe-etic.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1653 Canadia

Canadians talk so cool. In one of the clubs I'm in we occasionally have Canadians visit. When they do so we honor them by singing the Canadian anthem. If I'm leading the festivities I always ask if they would prefer we sing it in Canadian.
Their words are the same. But they sure don't sound the same.
Oh sure, they use some different words, like plenary instead of lecture. But they also pronounce stuff differently. Like the word "lever." They say "lee-ver." And "lee-verage" instead of "leverage." They seem to like the long vowel sounds. Maybe it's because they have so much time to kill during the long lonely Canadian winters. Long vowels tend to stretch out contact.
Try it. Take the word financing. Notice how if you say FY-nan-cing it takes longer to say than if you say fih-nan'-cing.
Canadians also say proh-gress instead of prah-gress. And proh-ject instead of prah-ject. Or the famous oat and a-boat instead of out and about.
There's also the use of the words "how come" rather than "why." "How come it's 3 in the a-m- and this proh-ject isn’t done, eh?" How about, "It's 3 in the morning, why isn't the project done?"
"How come" also seems like a weird way of saying "why" to me. Like people also say "on account of" instead of "because."
"He went to the store on account of his desire to make some proh-gress."
Whose account? Is it at a bank? The grand ledger of life? He died on account of his withdrawal from his friends and family.
I do like the fact that Canadians say "eh" rather than "huh" though. "Do you want to go, eh?" sounds so much cooler than, "Let's go, huh?"
How's that old joke go?
The way to spell Canada in Canadian is, C-eh-N-eh-D-eh.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 09, 2012

1652 Shaping Up

I'm sometimes hung up on the shapes of things—the little unattractive geometries of our world. Like recently I saw someone holding his smartphone. He was doing it in that hand-splayed manner characteristic of smartphone users. The new manual geometry.
You can't just hold a smartphone like you're holding a walkie-talkie. You have to put your longest finger on the top end and your thumb on the bottom end. Clutch it, like a crab.
Not too attractive, but hey—definitely gives a leg up, or possibly a hand up, to those folks who've had some piano training. The longer you can stretch your fingers, the more comfortably you can hold your phone to take a picture. Even if you look funny doing so.
I think my first encounter with the ugly geometries of everyday life was a cheap haircut. We were pretty poor growing up. And getting a professional haircut, even from the local barber whose sole stylist training was clippers in bootcamp, was something of a treat, reserved for Christmas season. As far as I was concerned, one of the three iconic gifts to the Baby Jesus should have been a good haircut.
For us, the rest of the year meant a bowl cut. Except in our instance, it was a Cool Whip tub cut. Well not actually Cool Whip. We were so poor we had the Western Family Whipped Topping tub cut.
It was the continuation of a family tradition. We'd grown out of the margarine tub my mom used when we were babies. Problem was, one time our Whipped Topping tub wasn't cleaned too well.
I think we may have actually invented the concoction that led to the shape of things to come.
America, ya gotta love it.