Monday, April 30, 2012

1729 Fudged News

Read an interesting article the other day online. It was originally posted on Which in turn was based on a posting from the Drudge Report. So a conservative-leaning website was blasting an even more conservative blog, which I in turn am turning into a radio and blog commentary.
Ain't the newfangled blogo-media-sphere great?
The article was about what the Drudge Report tried to convey in a supposedly accurate factoid on taxes. The commentator from Forbes called him out. Drudge's headline said, "Data: Only 85 Million pay Fed Taxes" The kind of suitably histrionic headline for which Drudge is known. The term "drudging up the muck" has taken on new meaning since Matt entered the fray.
Josh Barro, the commentator in Forbes, took issue with Drudge's drudgery. In a nutshell, it's because Drudge was wrong. While the IRS reported 85 million paid income taxes in 2010, that doesn't tell the whole story. First, income taxes aren't the only federal taxes people pay. Virtually everyone who works pays payroll taxes, for Social Security, Medicare, etc. And anyone who drives a car pays gasoline taxes in abundance.
Both taxes, by the way, are the same for folks whether they’re rich or poor. Though it's easy to see how poor people pay a disproportionately higher share of their income for a tank of gas. And actually, rich people get a break on payroll taxes because after a certain high level of income it cuts off.
The other thing Barro pointed out was that the IRS said 85 million tax units. Many of those are married couples filing a single return. There are 122 million actual people paying income taxes.
Looks like Drudge fudged.
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

1728 Boxed Out

What goes around comes around. Big box stores are getting boxed out. Or possibly Taco Bell's philosophy has taken hold. They are thinking out of the box...
Big box stores across the country have found out an important lesson. There's no substitute for expert service after all. The latest to make this rediscovery is none other than Best Buy.
Best Buy was largely credited with driving Circuit City out of business because they were bigger and boxier. But Circuit City, some analysts now believe, boxed itself in when it fired all its specialists and experts---who could actually help you make an informed decision, and possibly even upgrade to a more expensive product that would satisfy your needs---and replaced them with minimum wage novices whose sole function was to run a scanner across a price code at the cash register.
Usually the price code of the lowest-priced item in the category.
Best Buy announced last week that it would close fifty stores and start opening smaller stores from here on. Target and Walmart have similar plans.
Wow, if even Walmart plans to downsize, the paradigm really is shifting. And now where will old people go for their exercise walk when its raining?
There's always the worry consumers will "showroom shop" the new places, pick the brains of experts, then buy online anyhow. But give consumers a little credit. Loyalty does count for something. If you give warm, friendly and knowledgeable service, they'll buy right then and there (especially if you give them a little credit).
Seriously, why go home and wait 8 days for free shipping?
Complicated high-margin items like smartphones need a little coaching. Even Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar stores for that reason.
Just make sure the smartphone doesn't have one those price comparison apps...
America ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

1727 Smish Smash

It's hard to keep up on technology. Both the upside and the downside. I'm not just talking about keeping up with changing the privacy settings on Facebook so the information thieves don't plunder your data.
Privacy is a big concern. From the GPS in your smartphone tracking your every movement to potential employers asking for your social media passwords, modern times make it harder and harder to maintain a standard of cyber-decency.
They want us to be naked.
Used to be I just worried about simple things. Like I needed to get a bigger monitor so I had room for all my icons. But now there's weird stuff out there. Like something called phishing, which is when nefarious organizations send you emails disguised as important communications from your bank or insurance company and ask you to send in personal data to verify your account. You end up sending them your Social Security number and mom's maiden birth date and spam-bam-thank-you-mam, your identity has been theived.
Bad stuff has expanded so rapidly our language has barely been able to keep up. "Spam," for gosh sake, what a word. And "phishing." Well now there's another one. "Smishing." Yep, smishing, like smish smash I was taking a bath. Except this time it's the financial bath you'll take when you give out your data.
Smishing is the smartphone equivalent of phishing. It's phishing by text, offering $1000 gift cards to places like Wal-Mart in exchange for your personal info data verification.
So far it's just text messages. I've no doubt that soon we'll see them throw out such bait for Twitter too. Fish like worms but so do birds. Expect to see a new bad tech word soon.
The baddies will be trying to gather gullibles from the Twishing well.
America ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1726 Found Humor

Back in the nineties I had a Cable Access TV Show. Yeah I know, standards were not high. One of the things that propelled my show was discovering "found humor." Stuff that existed in real life, like a road sign or a newspaper typo, and I just found it and exploited it for a lame joke. Like I saw this big billboard at a Firestone Service Outlet and it said "Gas Shocks." I stood under the sign and intoned into the camera, "Especially in mixed company."
Another time I stood under a reader-board at a travel agency. Their sign said, "Hawaiian Vacation $2500--Air Included." I said, "Great, it's nice to know when we go on vacation we'll be able to breathe..."
Then there was the time I stood next to a sign in Westport that was obviously trying to tell about the amenities available on that particular public beach. Still, it was confusing. The sign said, "Beach Access, No Water." I verbally visualized sand stretching to infinity...
So my radar perked up the other day when I saw a Pierce County Sheriff car that had something odd. It's exempt license plate was secured by a license plate holder like they all are. But this one wasn't standard issue. It was from In-and-Out Burgers. "Since 1948" it said.
A private company license plate holder on a public law enforcement vehicle? That seemed very, very wrong. Especially since the biggest letters on it very clearly said, "In-and-Out." Runs the risk of confirming some people's beliefs about our justice system in allowing criminals back on the street.
Beyond that, of course, was how I once pointed out In-and-Out on my show. Is this a good name when you're talking about food? Sounds like a burger joint for bulimics.
America ya gotta love it.

1725 Jack Elephant

I'm not certain why we adopted some of our national symbols. Like where did we get the idea for the animals that represent our political parties? The Donkey and the Elephant.
They must have started as putdowns. Disparaging characterizations thought up by some political cartoonist. And then, strangely, adopted by the parties themselves. Politics is nothing if not the ability to co-opt ideas and change them beyond all recognition.
So Democrats are donkeys. That's certainly nice and alliterative. Is it because they can be stubborn? Or is it because the donkey is tougher than the more noble looking horse. Stubborn yes, but that's just one side of the coin. Tenacious is the other, not to mention humble, hard working, and toiling industriously for others.
Then again a donkey is a jackass. Braying and obstinate, downright mulish. One might even say pigheaded. That about rounds out the farmyard.
I guess Democrats thought that all in all, being a donkey was okay. I'm not so sure. I don't see any sports teams with jackasses as mascots. I guess because calling your team the fighting asses is confusing.
And the brawling jackasses sounds too much like congress.
Then you got your elephant of the Republicans. Another stirring symbol. Umm...They never forget. They're big. And solid and dependable. Until you encounter a rogue elephant. Then watch out. You may get stampeded.
I wonder if the first satirical cartoonist thought elephants and fat cats were close enough symbolically so it would make drawing easier. They're both rotund and self-satisfied. Unfortunately, it's also very easy to picture a dumb-looking elephant---tired and doddering, consuming huge quantities, stripping a forest of fodder.
No to mention if you've ever been to a zoo and watched an elephant unload. Not exactly trickle down.
Then again, if I’m a Democrat, is that guilt by ass-ociation.
America ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

1724 Hamp

I’m always curious about words we use to describe stuff. Why do we go down certain roads and not others? Like you never see the word "hamp." Seems like it would be useful. Maybe for a damp handkerchief.
But you see the word "hank" used in a couple of ways. As in Hank the name, short for Henry of all things, and the term "hank of hair" from the famous song. You know the one. The guy sings, "You take a hank of hair and a piece of bone, you got a walking talking honey comb." Weird huh? And it was apparently a love song of some sort.
So how much is a hank? Is it 20 or more strands? A handful? Less than a scalp cut from an unfortunate pioneer invading aboriginal lands?
How about the word hump? An odd word. Is it some variant of bump? I started with a bump then it got bigger and I ended up with a hump.
The railroads once used the word hump to describe the act of over-vigorous coupling. When two boxcars were pushed together too quickly the connectors would overlap and damage the cars. That was called humping, so boxcars would often have the warning, "Do Not Hump" painted on them. Much to the delight of teenage boys everywhere.
So the word for a distended protuberance made the leap to a verb for describing the action which could lead to a similar looking arc of boxcars.
Then there's the word gist. As in I have the gist of it. I think it sounds like the present form of jest. Surely you jest. I used to jest. Currently I gist.
Funny. Nobody's ever been known to jast. Another completely wasted word. It makes you want to cry.
Someone hand me a hamp.
America ya gotta love it.

1723 Hold Up

A couple of stories dealing with hold up numbers in the news recently, having to do with driving and the economy.
First the hold up in the economy. $288 billion in new income was created in the course of 2010. 2010 was, as you may remember, a year in which unemployment was quite high, although we had supposedly turned the corner on the Great Recession. Of that remarkable $288 billion, 93% was reaped by the top 1% of U.S. Taxpayers. Must be falling off the pace--isn't it usually 95%?
Those wealthy taxpayers saw their average income increase by 11.6 %. But they didn't get it all. The remaining 99% of taxpayers received an average of $80 more a year. Just enough to afford an extra loaf of bread after they got their tickets to the circus.
Or was that a down payment on a new iPhone?
The wealthiest would counter that they are the drivers of the economy so they're entitled to reap the benefits, and that may be true. I'm just suggesting maybe such a conspicuous difference in income may lead to trouble down the road.
Which brings me to the other numbers. Turns out the Driver Safety organizations are suggesting that the old hand positions of 10 and 2 are no longer optimal for driving safety. This is partly because of smaller steering wheels and better power steering. And partly because of the loaded airbag bombs ready to explode in the center of your steering wheel and break your 10 and 2 arms.
The new suggestion is 9 and 3. Which is great, as it turns out. With your left hand on 9 it's much easier to hold up your new iPhone at eye level while lifting your right hand from 3 to text with.
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

1722 Canoodle

So I read an interesting word in an article the other day. Canoodle. It reminded me how fun our language can be. The sentence in which it was embedded was "She wasn't done with her fan fiction tribute until she had turned the author's tame canoodlings into graphic heavy-breathing erotica."
What contrast. Tame canoodling versus graphic heavy-breathing erotica. Makes the act of canoodling seem very tame indeed.
But what, actually, is canoodling? Is it short for caressing your noodle? Or is it something like limp and tepid Canadian kissing?
Maybe it's a word from the same origin as "hunky dory." "That's hunky dory, Dave, me and the wife are going to the drive-in later on and do some canoodling, eh.
What is a hunky dory? Some very macho and handsome flat-bottomed boat? And why would it be an synonym for things being great? Not a lot to aspire to if you asked me. Man, I want my life to be like a good-looking flat-bottomed boat.
Perhaps while they're getting ready to go to the drive-in they'll dilly dally. "Oh, the date would have been hunky dory all right but Jen had to dilly dally and make us late. We still had time for a little canoodling though. But no hanky panky.
Did you ever notice how folks never seem to dally dilly? They always dilly dally. Must be the same people that get involved in stop and go traffic. How do you stop and go if you never were going in the first place? Don't you actually go and stop? You can't just start out by stopping. You have to stop going to stop. No matter how much you dally dilly or dilly dally.
Kind of makes you scratch your noodle, if not caress it.
Still¾ain't our language a dilly?
America ya gotta love it.

1721 Goggle Boggle

I'm interested in the recent upcoming innovation touted by Google. They call it Project Glass. The glasses of the future. The idea is to have a wearable heads-up display so you can access important information, like maps and GPS and other Android apps, without having to flip out a smartphone or an iPad. It will also have voice technology so you can make hands-free requests.
They used to have technology like this. For finding your way and understanding new stuff. They called it a brain. Now you should be able to pilot without one for the most part. Thanks to Project Glass.
And bonus---now it will be a lot easier to text and drive.
I'm sure greater wags than eye have bemoaned the missed branding opportunity though. Project Glass? Why not Google Goggles? That name could also help describe the obliviousness we see in those that text and drive or text and walk.
"Don't mind him, he's got Google Goggles."
Or, "He's Google Goggle-boggled."
So when you get caught staring vacantly at a member of the opposite sex, while actually concentrating on your heads-up display, will they say, "Are you making googley eyes at me?"
It's bound to be a disaster. People have proven they can't multitask. If they're bad drivers now because they can't even talk on a cellphone and drive at the same time what's it going to be like if they're also cluttering up their field of vision?
Jet fighter pilots do simulated flights and engage in intensive training to get used to heads-up displays. You think you're going to get that training with your average mangled English startup CD or truncated App description?
These may be glasses of the future, but if we use them, we may not make it to the future.
America ya gotta love it.

1720 Remedial Interpretation

Old wive's tales. They tell so much. Who were those old wives anyway? Was it like some club of women who spent their entire lives coming up with home remedies? As they had nothing better to do than beat laundry on rocks and such-like their minds were left free to concoct all manner of treatments?
Like that old wive's tale about butter and burns. It said that when you have a burn the first thing you should do is put some butter on it. On the face of it, it seems to make sense. Restore some moisture to the area, and do so in a way that sticks. Like an emollient on frayed and dry chapping skin, maybe it would help.
Unfortunately no. It can actually encourage infection and stops the skin cells from healing. Not to mention that many folks have no actual butter around the house anyhow and it's not at all certain the original old wife recipe was adaptable to the days of oleo. Slapping "I can't believe it's not butter" on a burn may be even worse.
Then again, actual butter may be especially bad for some folks, and I'm not just talking about those with high cholesterol. Would you put butter on a burn on someone that's lactose intolerant?
And what about the use of mineral oil for constipation? Like adding a gas cleaner to your pipes or something. What was the thinking here?
"Gee, I'm stove up, give me something really slick to drink."
"Here Honey, take this fluid that's toxic in large doses for a condition that's likely to pass in a day anyhow."
I'm beginning to suspect there's a reason why there were no "old husband tales."
They didn't make it.
America ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

1719 Wordworst

So if you've experienced my commentary in any media modality before, you know I'm fascinated by words and phrases. Like the other day I was reading a book translated from Swedish. It was a pretty good book. But I couldn't help but wonder if it was a good book because the original Swedish writer was good or because the translator was also a good writer.
In any event, he used the phrase many of us have heard, "if worse comes to worst." Except he said, "If worst comes to worst." That seemed wrong somehow. If already-the-worst comes to already-the-worst, where's the progression? The normal order would be bad, worse, and worst. Positive, comparative, and superlative.
So you would say, "When bad comes to worse, we will move." And then say, "If worse comes to worst we'll move even further." But I doubt you'd say if worst comes to worst. Something must have been lost in translation. Maybe Swedish adjectives are always at their most extremist.
Then again, he could have just misspelled the Swedish sausage.
I came across another word of mysterious literary lineage the other day. Some commentator was talking about politics and he referred to a party's leaders as the grand Pooh-Bahs of the party.
Pooh-Bah. It's a weird word when you think about it. Pooh-Bah. He's a Pooh-Bah. You wonder. Is it only masculine? Can there be a she Pooh-Bah?
Pooh-Bah actually comes from a pompous character in W.S Gilbert's Mikado. Sounds to me like something you play in a marching band. Trombones and Pooh-Bahs filled the air.
Or perhaps something Christopher Robin's animal would snarl when feeling cross-literarily Scrooge-ish. "Bah," said Pooh. "Humbug."
There's another one. Humbug? What type of bug is that?
Some many odd words---Scrooge, Pooh-Bah, Pooh, humbug. Literarily, worst really has come to worst.
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

1718 Spicy Medicine

I read an interesting couple of articles on health the other day. And how to keep healthy with what you eat. Turns out the spicier you eat your food, the more healthy you're likely to be.
At Penn State University, researchers fixed two identical high-fat meals for volunteers. With one of the meals they added a couple of tablespoons of spices, which included rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, paprika and turmeric.
I love turmeric--anything that includes a root word like turmer has got to be good.
As you can see from all those spices, they essentially turned one of the meals into curry. The results were interesting. While high-fat foods normally increase blood levels of insulin and triglycerides, and increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, this particular spice concoction actually reduced triglyceride levels by 31% and insulin by 21%.
In another medical research effort, a new Harvard study showed that eating just one serving of red meat per day can dramatically increase your risk of premature death.
(Is any death not premature by the way?)
Researchers tracked over 120,000 people over more than 20 years. Those who consumed at least a 3-ounce portion of daily red meat were 13% more likely to die during that period.
People who substituted poultry or grains reduced their risk by 14%. Those substituting nuts reduced risk by 19%.
Unless, of course, they had a nut allergy.
Too bad Harvard and Penn State don't communicate better. I think the solution is obvious. Forget about substituting nuts. Get a 31% reduction by adding spices.
So they can say, "Some Turmeric a day keeps the doctor away."
Or, "A spoonful of turmeric helps the risk or premature death go down..."
America ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1717 Potastetology

I was remarking to myself the other day on the amazing progress we’ve made with flavor technology. When I grew up, we had only a couple of chip flavors to choose from¾regular potato chips and Fritos. They hadn't even invented the tortilla chip yet, if you can believe it, much less the Dorito.
When it came to potato chips there were always some generic brands but basically the choice was between Lays and Laura Scudder. I know. there's something about the word Scudder that’s less than appetizing. Sounds like gutter or something, or crudder.
Oh yeah, we also had ridged chips versus flat ones.
When the first Dorito came out it was a revolution, not unlike the first home computer, and when the first flavored Dorito came out it was like the first Apple Macintosh. I believe the original flavor was cheese.
Well we've come a long way from those simpler days of chipology and blossomed into a wonderful world of ever more complex flavors. Forget those earlier primitive chips condemned to tantalizing only small groups of tastebuds with a single flavor. Cheese, Sour Cream, Ranch, like lumbering dinosaurs, or computers with a mere 640 kilobytes of RAM.
Today is the iPad age of chips, with all the flash and bells and whistles your tastebuds deserve. Consider this. I just bought a package of Ruffles chips that were “bacon and cheese potato skins” flavor. There's even an occasional burnt chip in the bag to simulate the real thing.
And it's perfect, because I also have BBQ Rib flavored potato chips and Smokin' Hot Wings flavored potato chips. Now I have the whole meal covered, because with the bacon and cheese thing, I even have a potato-flavored potato chip.
The miracle of potastetology...
America ya gotta love it.

1716 Roach Coach

What goes around comes around. And one of things that always used to go around and come around was the food trucks at the factories. These days we’re so used to the ubiquitous taco truck rendered from Winnebagos we barely remember the slightly smaller stainless steel-covered food service trucks that would visit virtually every factory or highly populated workplace at coffee breaks and lunchtime.
They purveyed coffee from an urn¾black, nasty, and potent¾ and a variety of pre-packaged soggy sandwiches, chewy donuts, and stale salty snacks. And they purveyed them in less than hygienic fashion. So much so we had a lyrical sobriquet for them. We called them roach coaches.
The factory break bell wouldn't buzz until the food truck pulled into the parking lot. Then you'd hear the combined buzzer and universal shout of "Roach Coach" and your stomach would hurl over in Pavlovian response. It wanted the food, but on some deep cellular level, it knew it didn't want the food either.
So it was with amusement I read the news story that a California lawmaker is trying to ban food trucks from within 1500 feet of schools, farther away than medical marijuana stores are banned. He says he knows gourmet food trucks are really popular but the food trucks coming to the schools are peddling ultra-sweetened beverages and high-sodium snacks. "...the kids aren't paying for risotto," he said.
How times have changed. "Gourmet food trucks." Our roach coaches never had risotto.
It sounds like the lawmaker's approach may backfire. He thinks a quarter-mile distance will put off lazy kids. But if there's a med pot place between the school and the food truck, I'm thinking he just helped the truck sell twice as many sweets and salty snacks.
Roach Coach indeed.
America ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

1715 Ripped Tide

There's been an odd spate of news stories recently about basic American products. Like the whole ground beef/pink slime thing. Recently, another bizarre tale bubbled up. It involved, of all things, laundry detergent. Specifically, a rash of thefts of the laundry detergent Tide.
That's right. Perpetrators purloining Tide Detergent. Dirty business indeed. There's been a recent surge in shopliftings at various supermarkets and big box stores. Thieves whisking in, loading carts with boxes of Tide, and then getting clean away.
Why? You ask. Is there some secret Sudafed-like ingredient in Tide? Some arcane chemical normally used for fluffing or freshening that also converts into meth-amphetamine. The answer is no. Tide is worth something on the black market all by itself. Or maybe not black market so much as just plain soiled market.
Seems Tide has just the right new and improved ingredients. It's both expensive and completely useful to just about everybody. So when thieves steal it, they're always sure of getting at least 50 cents on the dollar when they unload it later.
And that's the high-efficiency load.
Still, it brings to mind all the criminal things you'd expect. What thief is going to stop with dealing straight Tide? Especially since white powder is pretty much ubiquitous in our consumer culture. You can hear them in the meth trailers now. "Dude this Tide’s not pure, it's been cut...with Duz."
"Damn Detergent Gang! Mine's been cut with salt. My tank top undershirts feel sweatier than when they went in the washer."
Police report they're cleaning up the streets where store owners were most agitated. Officers have been detailed to spot suspicious bulges under shirts indicating large rectangular boxes.
And it's working. They say with this particular crime wave, the tide has turned.
America ya gotta love it.

Monday, April 09, 2012

1714 Slime Time

Ground beef. The USDA is buying 7 million pounds of it for distribution to schools for school lunches.
But it isn't ground beef as you think of it. It's ground beef scraped off the floors of slaughterhouses, mixed with ammonia gas to kill all the pathogens, and used to fill out 15% of regular ground beef.
I guess you could say the beef from the floor was truly "ground" beef.
This is the meat that was once used for dog food, so at least we're making a humanitarian step forward for our pets---by giving it instead to school children.
So what's new? I remember many a mystery meat casserole in the school cafeteria.
The beef is labeled "pink slime" by fooderatis and now everyone else. The USDA calls it "lean, finely textured beef trimmings" with, you know, a chemical they derive from rat urine. Which is no doubt present already on some slaughterhouse floors.
The USDA says it's safe and that's why they're using it. Industry representatives point out that by adding up to 15% pink slime, excuse me, “lean, finely textured beef trimmings,” to regular ground beef, they are effectively shaving 3 cents off the cost of a pound of beef. And bonus, more meat is produced from fewer cows, putting less strain on the environment.
So they could also say the beef was green. Or even more confusingly, they could say pink slime is green.
And just as appetizing.
Meanwhile supermarkets across the land are joining the fray, and banning outright pink slime from their shelves. Some are giving consumers a choice and letting the market decide.
Biggest problem? Having to use all their labeling ink printing "lean, finely textured beef trimmings"...
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 06, 2012

1713 Gold Hobos

They other day I saw this interesting street corner tableau. There was this guy standing on one corner with a sign. It was cardboard and had some writing on it. Then there was this other guy standing on another corner with a sign. It was larger and was mounted on a stick. They both were a sign of the times.
The first guy was definitely homeless. His sign said, "Need money for food, Need Job," and the kicker, "Need money for bus ticket." If that doesn't work nothing will. He was saying, essentially, "Hey, please help feed me. Failing that, give me a job and I'll feed myself. And failing that, give me some money to get out of town and out of your hair, not to mention vacating this guilt-tripping corner."
On the opposite corner, was the other guy with the larger sign. Instead of asking for something, he was promising to buy something---namely gold. He was dressed not unlike the homeless person, raggedey jeans and a sweatshirt, but was promising to all an sundry that he was prepared to buy their gold jewelry and coins. Not only that, he promised to pay more than any other gold buyer---20 percent more. Guaranteed.
I wasn't sure if he was promising to buy for more than any other storefront buyer, or any other streetcorner buyer. Kind of hard to guarantee something like that when you change corners all the time. "Where'd that gold buyer go? I know he was on Trosper and Tyee last week..."
So. Here was a guy without a job waving a sign and a guy whose job it was to wave a sign. The sign of the times?
This country doesn't need more factories to solve unemployment.
It needs more gold buyers.
America ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

1712 Couched Meaning

The other day I saw an article of furniture and I referred to it as a davenport. A person nearby said that no, since it wasn't convertible to a bed it was actually a couch. That got me thinking. I have this theory that the more uncomfortable we are with a word or a concept the more euphemisms we have for it. Think of how many words we having for the concept of procreation¾excuse me¾“making love.”
Flying in the face of this theory is the amazing number of words we have for couches and their ilk. There's couch, of course, and sofa. But there's also divan, davenport, chesterfield, and settee. Then there are the derivatives, like bench, settle, lounge, chaise longue, daybed, loveseat, and ottoman.
What's interesting to me is how many of them are also words for something else. Like couch. You can plop down on a couch, or you can couch your words in gentle phrases. You can sit on a settle or you can settle for sitting.
A davenport is either a sofa that can convert to a bed, or a small compact writing desk. A divan is a couch or a word for council chambers. I believe it's also a way to cook chicken. Possibly since you can sit on a couch while it bakes in the oven.
A sofa was once a word for a raised carpeted floor area festooned with pillows. A chesterfield is even odder. It’s a davenport with armrests...or an overcoat. Quite confusing.
As a kid, I learned the coat meaning first. So when I went to the neighbor's house and they told me to sit on the chesterfield, they were quite dismayed later when they found me in the closet.
I, at least, am uncomfortable with the word chesterfield.
America ya gotta love it.

1711 Tasteless is More

What is it with the fast food purveyors recently? They're on a quest to outdo each other to be more bizarre, dedicated to shocking and shaking up our palates.
Like Jack in the Box's Bacon Milk Shake. Tase my tastebuds, Bro. Or the Taco Bell Dorito Loco Taco, a taco shell made out of flavored Doritos. So you can have a taco-flavored Dorito surrounding an actual taco. Artificial Flavor Armageddon.
Or the new Papa Murphy's cheeseburger pizza. It has a ketchup and mustard sauce, ground beef nuggets and bacon bits, onions, cheese, and even pickles. Yep, you heard me, dill pickle slices festoon the pizza like green pepperoni.
Greened pepperoni, how's that for an appetizing look?
And yes I tried it. It really did taste like a bacon cheeseburger with pickles. But it didn't feel like a cheeseburger with pickles. Unless you're used to eating a cheeseburger open-faced on a really chewy bun. The mouth feel was way off. And that's key to how we enjoy food. We don't just like food because of taste, we like it because of context. In this case, they needed to not think out of the bun.
Like the new hot dog-flavored potato chips from 7-Eleven. They really do taste like hot dogs with mustard. But they don't feel like hot dogs with mustard. They feel like chips. And frankly, the idea of a hot dog flavored chip is a little over the top for even a flavored chip fanatic like me. Like the cheeseburger pizza, it's not about flavor. It's about format.
Now if they could make a hot dog flavored Dorito, turn it into a taco shell and wrap it around a real hot dog...
Or, I know, a hot dog and sauerkraut pizza....
America ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

1710 Compost-ition

I heard someone use the term "non compos mentis" the other day and it occurred to me that it sounds an awful lot like someone's brain has turned to compost.
Which came to mind while I was reading an article about the differences in the way folks think. Scientists had done experiments on self-proclaimed conservatives and proclaimed-self liberals and figured out an interesting thing. When shown a video clip of various scenes, the conservatives fixated on the images of fear and violence, and the liberals focused on peaceful idyllic images.
Obviously they weren't showing a film of the negative effects of global warming.
It points up interesting biological level differences. And certainly good ones for the survival of the species as a whole. We need folks to raise the alarm but we also need folks not to be actually paranoid about it.
Another article talked about a different difference. Conservatives see things in black and white a lot more—absolute rights and absolute wrongs. Liberals seem to more or less see shades of gray and immerse themselves in the nuances of situations. Liberals would call conservatives bigoted and rigid. Conservatives would call liberals wishy-washy namby-pamby and weak.
So it goes. You would think from the above that conservatives hate change and liberals embrace it. True when it comes to personal expression. So do liberals embrace all new projects? Particularly new building projects? Um, no, that’s where they switch hard hats. Or hard heads.
Conservatives are far more liberal about building new developments and buildings. And liberals are far more conservative about leaving things the way they are. Conservatives would call them namby pamby nimbys.
Liberals just want the new buildings to, let's see—be green, look exactly like the old buildings, be painted shades of gray, have built-in compost bins…
America ya gotta love it.

1709 Language Anguish

Sometimes politicians don't get the language thing. Like recently I heard an official talking to a local crowd and attempting to come across as less stiff and more approachable. He was talking about the economy and how we had lost a number of jobs. He went on to say we needed to fill those jobs again.
Unfortunately he was using the hole analogy. Like the economy was in a hole and the job declines were in the hole. So he said, in reference to filling those jobs, that we needed to "backfill" that hole.
Which backfired in the sensitivity department. Backfill a hole is more of a road patch thing. Or like filling a grave.
Language is important. So I was not surprised recently when Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rican Republican presidential primary. And not just because he has investments in the Cayman Islands nearby. Although there's nothing that brings on a feeling of solidarity more than being in the same hurricane path.
No, I wasn't surprised because Mitt, for all his gaffes, understands that you need to at least make an effort to speak your potential constituent's language.
Language is key to understanding, and acceptance. So when Rick Santorum told the Spanish speaking nation, who has been Spanish speaking ever since the Spanish wiped out their native Caribbean lingo, that they needed to make their official language English if they wanted to be an American state, you can imagine the language hurdle to delegate winning he put in his own path.
Hurdle aside, it's really difficult running a race with your foot in your mouth.
Santorum, whose own name doesn't sound very American when you get down to it, messed up. You might say he told the people of Puerto Rico what they didn't want to hear in a language they didn't understand.
America ya gotta love it.