Thursday, May 31, 2012

1752 But What?

Our society is falling in arrears. Or maybe we're just behind the times. Or the times are behind us. I read two news stories recently that didn't sit well with me.
The first was about inadvertent butt-dialing. Yes, the article actually said butt-dialing. A recent report indicated that 3.9 million calls, or 40% of the total, to New York City's 911 response system were inadvertent cellphone dials.
"You're fined for making a bogus call."
"But officer..."
Wow. As the nine and the one are at different ends of the number pad that's some creative butt dexterity. Or some seriously serendipitous wiggling. So if 911 gets it, how about other 900 numbers? Some husbands got some 'splaining to do to their wives on the phone bill.
The other butt story shows how our society really has cracked. The latest office chair innovation is a temperature-controlled seat. Far cheaper than redoing your entire HVAC system and individually tailored to the needs of your workers. Taking a cue from the seat warmers in new automobiles, the Tempronics office chair has not just heating, but cooling built into the seat of every chair. According to the article, "it puts climate control decisions into the hands, or butts, of every employee." It does that with a combination heating/cooling pad.
Like an iPad, but different.
It's the end of the world as we know it. Man. Heated and cooled derrieres. I believe we are going softer than a baby's... Well, you know.
Really? We can't get through the ordinary temperature fluctuations of a day without having our butts determine our comfort?
One final end note. The Tempronic chair is powered by a battery. The company says it's about the size of those used in a laptop.
Or in this case, a lap bottom.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1751 Chicken Feather

A feather can tell a lot. At least that's what I learned in an article about our chickens. Seems we are feeding them an astonishing amount of drugs. And not just floroquinolone antibiotics, which are supposedly banned because they lead to superbugs. According to the tale of the feather, poultry producers are still using not only them, but lots of over the counter drugs as well.
But let's put the egghead before the chicken. Scientist Keeve Nachman analyzed samples of feather meal, which is a food supplement made from chicken feathers. I'm not sure if it’s a food supplement for humans or other chickens. In any event, Nachman demonstrated it can be analyzed to tell what it is the chicken ate before its feathers were rendered.

8 of the 12 samples, collected from the U.S. and China, showed the antibiotics. And get this---most samples also contained arsenic. Which is a supplement farmers feed chickens to make their flesh look a healthy pink.
Healthy. Right... Nothing like a little rat poison to fry up for Sunday dinner.
The samples also contained caffeine, used to keep the chickens awake and eating. Because, you know, chickens are normally so un-frenetic and picky about their food.
They also found Tylenol, Benadryl, and Prozac. All of which, apparently, are administered to lower stress levels. Dude, just cut back on the coffee. And while your at it, maybe not sticking your chicken in a factory farm rancid cubbyhole may reduce stress a little too.
So anyhow, if after your next KFC or Happy Joy Joy Teriyaki you feel a little tense, but somehow calm, and can spit on a rat and kill it, send a big thank you to the chicken farmers of America and China.
Because according to naked facts of the feathers, we all should feel plucked.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1750 Coal Down Cycle

One of the big issues about curtailing global warming has been that it would be impossible to cut back on the use of coal in the US.
Countless dire predictions about what would happen if the government imposed a carbon tax were put forth. Businesses would be unprofitable. Some would close. Coal-related mines, industries, and employment would collapse, and so on, and so on. The prospect of a warming planet and all its future negative economic effects was ignored because of all the economic effects not ignoring it would cause today.
So congress told the president to lay off.
Meanwhile, other businesses starting fracking. Fracking's a process that's brought up huge reserves of natural gas. Of course there's environmental consequences there too. Pumping water at high pressure into underground formations is not without its effects, among them polluted water and poisonously flooded lands. There's even some science to support the notion that a spate of earthquakes in the central US, where no apparent fault lines exist, was caused by fracking as well.
Forget coal mine collapses, we can now cause earthquakes.
Ain't technology wonderful?
In any event, what government failed to do, business is now doing for them. A recent article in Bloomberg Business Week reported that cheap and abundant natural gas has reduced the share of coal used in electrical power generation to 40%, down from 57%. Coal stocks are down and mines are closing.
Oh yeah, you don't need miners for fracking.
So there's cleaner air and dirtier water, less fear of coastal flooding and more earthquakes in the interior. And what the government couldn't do to destroy the coal business the gas business did instead.
Just one question: Does this mean I can set the thermostat lower on my air conditioner this summer?
America, ya gotta love it.

1749 Doodle

Read an interesting article about the power of doodling. Seems it's a good thing after all. It's now being embraced as a key to corporate creativity, according to Rachel Emma Silverman in the Wall Street Journal.

And maybe too much so according to me.
Yeah yeah, it's the next big thing. Some experts are saying that sketches, cartoons, and of course, diagrams do a better job of communicating than text does.
Well, duh, that's like that saying, um, a picture is worth a thousand words. I always wondered, why didn't they paint a picture to tell me that? Because sometimes you need words too.
Truth is, our brains perceive things in many ways. And pictures, diagrams, and doodles are just some of them. But not the only ones.
Demonstrating the truth of her enthusiastic assertion, the author of the article went on to tell the story of a guy who presented a series of sketches in a board meeting instead of a PowerPoint and ended up getting the sale.
Good for him. I believe they call that storyboarding. And I believe it's been part of ad agency presentations since the dawn of charcoal and cave walls.
So yes, use sketches. And by all means doodle to sort your thoughts. Digital culture is not the only or even the best way to communicate. Actually using your fingers to do something other than press keys can really help formulate and shape ideas.
But let's not glorify one thing to the exclusion of all else. If only because one drawback is some people can't draw. You may notice the term doodle is also used to describe something that periodically doodles from a poodle.
One reason why even a picture that paints a thousand words can still stink.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

1748 Bull S

Bulls seem to run rampant through our culture. Or at least our metaphorical culture. And when they aren't being used as metaphors, like for the mood of the stock market or something, they seem to function well as similes as well.
Like not long ago I was reading an article on how the Chinese media saw the American treatment of a Chinese dissident. We had sheltered him briefly in our embassy in Beijing and caused a bit of a diplomatic crisis. A Chinese commentator apparently said, in Chinese, that it was a reflection of American diplomacy generally and it's indicative of how we throw our weight around "...clattering around Asia like a bull in a porcelain factory."
"Like a bull in a porcelain factory." Wow, isn't it amazing how close that sounds to, "like a bull in a china shop." An astonishingly similar simile. Or in this case, since it's Chinese, an astonishingly similar Sino-simile.
This must be one of those primitive concepts that evolved in different cultures in the same way. The rowdiness of a bull and the delicacy of pottery.
"Ugh, like bull mammoth in place we make clay bowls."
A proto-simile if you will.
I heard another bull reference recently in a commercial for an insurance company. They were using alliterations. In this case with the letter B. And they said as one of them, "...and that's no B.S.?"
Did I miss something here? Has B.S. now landed in the pasture of acceptability on the public airwaves? And if I were an insurance company, hoping to appeal to a broad spectrum of sensibilities, would I fling it around indiscriminately?
Not a word to bulldoze through Emily Post's china shop of social etiquette, I'm sure.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

1747 Bleep

Sounds can fool us and mislead us. Like recently there was something in one of my commentaries that was a little too harsh for radio. The things you hear on TV and Cable these days are still not acceptable for all ears radio. It's better to be tame where possible. So one of my words was bleeped.
I noticed something interesting. When the word that was being substituted with a bleep was actually bleeped, it suddenly sounded way worse. Somehow the process of bleeping imbued it with even more profanity than the original word.
Why? Because we all have pretty vivid imaginations. And we assume the bleep, which we know obscures bad words, must be obscuring the worst word we can think of. The word we ourselves would like to be protected from.
Then my editor took it one step further. He double-bleeped it. Yep. He gave the single word he was bleeping the dread two syllable bleep. Now some really intense words were conjured up in the bleeping imaginations of listeners. And now even my reputation was totally bleeped.
Another example of how little things can cause big changes. Here's another. I heard the name Gary Glitter on the radio. Actually, what I heard first, thanks to a bump in the road and little static on my not so solid state radio, was the name Barry Glitter.
And I thought, wow, what's in a name? Change only one letter and your imagination conjures up a whole different type of guy. Gary Glitter, obviously an over-the-top Bowie-esque glam-rocker.
Barry Glitter? An accountant. Black horn-rimmed glasses. Calculator watch. Allergy reddened nostrils. One of the few human beings on the planet that would actually express anger in conversation by using the word bleep.
Language is so bleeping cool...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

1746 Pocket Guffer

Some terms I never come to terms with. Like where did the word pocketbook come from? It's used today to refer to any purse-like accessory but at some point it must have been a certain type. I'm guessing it wasn't just a bag with one opening.
Probably more like a man's wallet, with a definite fold that one could then unfold. The unfolding would mimic the action we undertake when we open a book. I have a little problem with that. One page does not a book make, nor just a cover.
Because when you open up the unfolding type pocketbook there's nothing to turn inside that even vaguely resembles a page. There are, however, pockets, with snaps and zippers and slots for credit cards and what not. But there are not pages of pockets.
So we have a group of pockets that we folded into a book-like cover. Voila, pocketbook. I suppose it's a very efficient name, even if it foolishly ignores certain literal meanings.
Then there's the word "guff." As in, "Don't give me any guff." Or the more problematic, "Don't hand me any guff." It's a word of uncertain origin. Etymology folks say it must have arisen imitatively. Since it means foolish talk or nonsense, I'm not sure what the word is it’s imitating. Maybe an empty puff of air. So how does one hand one a puff of air? Even so, imitatingly it could have been fluff or luff or huff. Strike that. It couldn't be huff because people don't give huff, they go off in a huff.
Maybe it's a short form of "guffaw," another imitative word indicating laughter.
As in, "I guffawed when I looked at her silly purse.
She gave me some guff back about it being a pocketbook."
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1745 Jack n' Tom

It's nice when we use human names for animals that we keep them non-formal. Nicknames. Like the term Billy Goat. Obviously a familiar reference to the male of the species. And only confusing when said goat is owned by a yokel from the hills. Is it then a hillbilly goat or a hillbilly Billy Goat?
There may be other Billy animal references but I'm not sure. You don't hear of a Billy Bear or a Billy Marmot. Some animals don't take to friendly anthropomorphism. It's quite a stretch to say a Billy Lizard. Although I have heard of Ol' Man Crocodile.
Maybe reptiles are better left anonymous.
I've heard of the name Tom used with birds. As in Tom Turkey. It seems to tail off there though, as you don't hear of a Tom Chicken or a Tom Vulture. There is a little known reference to a small bird called a Tomtit. And you may have an encounter with a tom-a-hawk. Tom is not entirely confined to the avian family however. There's also its mammalian familiar, the Tomcat.
Interestingly, you don't hear of a Jack Frog or a Jack Duck. But you do hear of Jack other things. And what an amazing spread. Witness the difference in size between a Jackass and a Jackrabbit. Then there's the Jackdaw and Jacksnipe, birds, and the Jack Mackerel, a fish, and even the Jack Pine, a tree. That Jack guy got really jacked up about naming things. He must have been quite a jackanapes.
Jack, Tom, and Billy, and of course lots of animals are Harry but that doesn't count. But notice, they're all nicknames. A Johnass or a Thomas Turkey would be weird.
And I much prefer "Randy as a Billy Goat" to "Randolph as a William Goat."
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

1744 Billy Boys

I commented recently about the word hillbilly and where it came from. The etymology dictionary says it's from "hill" for hill and Billy for a masculine name. Interesting that Billy has become the name of choice for not only animal masculine references but objects as well.
Billy we see in animals like goats. It's also used in the song Waltzing Matilda to refer to a can in which water is boiled. The song makes it sound like he may be boiling a billy goat but the words actually refer to a can. Then there's the billy club, called such perhaps because it was used to hit Billys, or it's obvious masculine Freudian connotations.
The word Billy does seem to refer to the less than controlled aspects of masculine behavior. Perhaps because rowdiness and randyness go hand in hand. Males loaded with testosterone are often less than socially subdued. Like males loaded with Viagra.
Witness how society has changed since the advent of that drug. Viagra removed nature's braking system on male on-the-prowl behavior---age-related impotency. Now we see very older men making fools of themselves hitting on women that could be their daughters and not having to worry they can't back it up when the time comes.
Viagra took off the brakes and helped aging men rush headlong head-over-heels over the hill.
Crazy as a billy goat.
Now science has given them another tool. Yogurt. Remember how the image of a man's man was a guy with a big plate filled with a giant steak? And it's the wimpy nerd with the bowl of yogurt?
Recent research has shown that feeding mice probiotic yogurt increased their testicle size, and their potency, by 15%.
So we better ask the Betty Goat.
Does she want Billy... or Poindexter?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

1743 Dino Gas

Interesting stories in the news lately about size and gas.
First, a recent report indicated that Americans are burning far more fuel in their vehicles than they need too. The simple reason is they're carrying around too much extra weight.
One of the first tricks the hyper-miler MPG people use to increase mileage efficiency is to remove extra weight from their cars. You know, spare tires, chains you don't need in your trunk in the summer, backseats full of fastfood trash and happy meal toys.
A simple calculation really, more weight to move around means more fuel consumed moving it. So I guess it's no surprise the recent study concluded Americans are burning 1 billion additional gallons of gas a year because of---obesity. That's around $4 billion at today's pump prices.
That's what we get for being as big as donkeys. With jackrabbit starts and obesity, hauling ass really has a price.
One can only hope this will finally help us solve the obesity epidemic. At the very least we should diet for national security, and ease our dependence on foreign oil, if not French Fry oil.
Other big things once had a gas problem too. The dinosaurs. Recent research has indicated that a big cause of global warming during dinosaur days was gas emissions. Except they weren't from vehicle exhaust. They were from dinosaur exhaust.
Yep, dinosaur flatulence, not unlike the methane today's domestic cattle expel, may have led to Jurassic warming. And while the dinos were consuming plants, their methane helped other plants thrive, then lay down to form more petroleum products.
Your tank of gas today could have been caused by dino's gas way back when. Thank you ex-rulers of the earth. Thank you Flatulaceratops. Thank you Fartosurus. And thank you Passagasladon.
You give new meaning to the word extinct.
America ya gotta love it.

1742 Billy Boy

I like how our language grows. If grow is the right word. It's interesting how names for people end up being names for whole classes of people. At least that's what looks like happened with the term hillbilly.
Where did that come from anyhow? Was the Billy meant to refer to one guy at first and then eventually a group of guys like him? Like John Doe refers to any unidentified corpse? Here's comes a bunch of hicks, and I bet every third one of them is named Billy-Bob. The one's that aren't named Bubba anyhow.
I like Bubba better. Language evolution missed an opportunity there. Too bad we didn't call backwoods folks hillbubbas.
But "hillbilly" stuck, perhaps because Billy is such a easygoing name, and hillbillies are by and large a relaxed group. The etymology dictionary says the word originated from the term "hill" for, you know, the hills, and "Billy," a masculine name. There you have it. Nothing too complex. So simple even a hillbilly could understand it.
So question: Can a woman be a hillbilly? I'm betting they call an older version a "biddy" anyway. As in, "That old biddy really was really cranky." Like Granny on the classic TV Show, "The Beverly Hillbillies."
The etymology dictionary says Biddy comes from slang for an Irish maidservant. Which came from the Irish pet form of the name Bridget.
So an old cranky hillbilly woman could be called A hillbiddy.
Maybe when she went to town she would be "gussied up." Another name for a type derived from a name for a person. Perhaps because the original Gussy was short for Augusta, which sounds like a pretty dolled up hoity-toity person.
Hello Dolly, meet Gussie, she's Biddy and Billy's cuzzin'.
Cuz theys from them-thar hills.
America ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1741 Old Band Time

I was reflecting on the ravages of age the other day. Namely, in the world of popular musicians. If it can be said that one of the great things that's made it possible for old friends to connect is Facebook, then it can also be said that one of the greatest things for fans connecting with old musical groups has been casinos.
In the old days a vintage musical group had only county fairs, Las Vegas, and Reno as venues to reconnect with their fans. Nowadays, as casinos have proliferated across the country, aging rockers and crooners have enough places to play to actually make a decent living. So thank you to the casinos for making it possible.
Still, every now and then there’s the odd stuff that crops up as a result. Like recently, I heard an ad for one popular singer. The ad said, "So-and-so...singing all the favorites...and so much more..."
And I thought, all your non-favorites too? What could "so much more" be? If he's singing all the favorites, is "so much more" that much? And shouldn't "so much more" be even better stuff? Maybe instead of "favorites" they should have said "hits." Then “favorites” would be the “so much more." We all have favorites from our favorite artists that didn't make it to the charts. I personally like the director's cut version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
In a radio ad, the choice of words can mess things up. Better, however, than billboards. I heard the music on a radio ad for an old rock group and thought I might like to see them. Then I actually saw them on a billboard, and changed my mind. They looked as old as me.
Believe me. You don't want to see my face forty feet tall.
America ya gotta love it.

1740 Dragon Paddlers

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Dragon Boat Festival. This was especially enjoyable for me, as I was born in the year of the Dragon. I believe I carry the spirit of the dragon within me, and have had that confirmed on many occasions when folks have told me I have dragon breath.
The Dragon Boat Festival featured competitions between various dragon boat rowing teams and cultural performances on the main stage at the Port Plaza.
The teams had fun names, usually involving the word paddle, like "Paddlers of Fury." One of the SMU teams was the SMUth Paddlers. Difficult for announcers to say, as it was spelled S-M-U-t-h. We are trained to say the t-h- different with the o-o- in smooth than with the u- in truth.
The team from Apple Physical Therapy had no name, just headbands with an Apple logo on them. I suggested they call themselves the iPaddlers.
The cultural presentations were good too. One group I've seen in other venues. They also had a hard name for announcers, Quetzalcoatl, after the Aztec creator deity, normally depicted as a feathered serpent, and not unlike a dragon.
The dancers wore quite impressive traditional costumes, with long feathers and shell leg adornments. When I've seen them before they performed on an indoor stage and were able to go barefoot. This time they were on rough concrete.
Which forced them to wear different kinds of shoes. A couple of the women were dancing quite vigorously in open-backed sandals. Which helped show how important the study of history and culture is to putting us in touch with our roots. Nice to know even ancient Aztec women wore impractical footwear.
At the end of the day we were all pretty tired.
We were really dragon.
America ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

1739 Of Off

I've mentioned before how words come at a premium in the radio business, time being short and all. So, as a radio person, I notice extra words a lot.
Like when someone says, "His riches were the end result of hard work." Do we really need to say "end"? Isn't it pretty much implied by the word "result"? Yes, yes, I know you can have intermediate results. But all results are ends so it just seems redundant. Like saying, "The start of the beginning." A lot of extra additional verbiage.
Or how about the two words together so many of us use, "off of." It's 20% off of the price. Take the Smith Street Exit off of I-5. He ate the icing right off of the cake.
Wrong. You can just say off. In these instances "off" is a preposition in it's own right. So you don't need another preposition in a post position.
"Off" is versatile. It can be an adverb. Like when you say, "The party is a week off." Or, "He's going to drive off." But it instantly transforms to a preposition when you say, "He's going to drive off a cliff."
"Off" can be also used as an imperative interjection, as in "Off with his head" Or it can be used as an adjective, as in, "The wedding is off." Or, "He stood with his shoes off."
My favorite is when you actually do need a preposition to clarify that "off" is not a preposition. The antithetical word to off, "on". Compare and contrast: "He went off grammar for good," to "He went off on his grammar teacher."
Let's hope he doesn't get angry at a power controlling device. The end result would be he went off on the on-off switch.
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

1738 alloneword

In the radio business, words come at a premium. That's because time is short. If you're writing a radio ad you have to make sure every word is necessary and every syllable is expressed in the quickest possible way. So we even use short vowels rather than long whenever possible.
Hear how long it takes to say fih-NAN-sing compared to FY-nan-sing.
That means we're very conscious about the way folks express themselves. Like, say, when giving out the addresses of websites. It's really not important to say w-w-w- anymore. And it was very annoying when it was. Fortunately, now people have caught on. There are very few websites that don't automatically have w-w-w in their address so we can skip saying it.
Double-you is the longest letter in the English language and radio people hate having to pronounce it over and over. Plus, it's one of those words, like comf-ter-ble and feb-you-ary, that hardly anyone enunciates well anyhow. Can you say dubba-ya?
Another verbatrocity is the stipulation "all one word." When someone tells you the web address is "JohnSmithCabinets all one word" you kind of know that. How many web addresses do you see with spaces in them? Um...none. If there is a space, it's designated by an underscore or a dash and it's appropriate to spell that out.
I heard another non-web term that caught my ear recently. "Exact tie." As in, "They're crossing the finish line and it's an exact tie." Really. Are there any other kind? An inexact tie would definitely cause some complaining. It's just not the exact same thing.
There’s another weird redundancy. It is either the same or it's merely similar. "Exact same" doesn't add anything to the discourse.
It's almost the exact same waste of time as dubba-ya dubba-ya dubba-ya.
America ya gotta love it.

1737 Rock Head

I was at an event recently and I saw this guy with a bandanna on his head. You know the way they do it. Folded into a triangle and stretched flat across the forehead area then tied under a spray of hair in the back.
I've never been able to perfect the head-danna look. Maybe because I have too much hair up front. There's always a weird bulge underneath it when my forelock is compressed.
God forbid you should have a compressed forelock.
The guy I was with speculated that perhaps the head-danna was a precursor to the mullet. Obviously one cannot have too much hair on top to make it lie smooth. The short-shorn front and uninhibitedly hirsute rear of a mullet is perfect for adornment with a scarf. In the classic red tablecloth pattern or even an American flag.
Or heck, even a confederate flag. Mullet sprouters have been know to be lacking in political and cultural sensitivity. Any owner of a hairdo that proclaims "business in the front and party in the rear” is not likely to subscribe to any post, Saturday Evening or Emily.
Personally, I'm inclined to believe the mullet is not the actual precursor of the head-danna or vice versa. The progenitor I see is the skullet. That hairdo that has no hair in the front and most of the pate at all, but a lot of hair on the back and sides. The head-danna makes it seem as if all the luxuriant hairiness continues over the entire head.
Then again, maybe head-dannas trace back to rock and roll musicians, whose top hair is just wispy. With a head-danna, your sweat doesn't mat it down during a hot concert.
Yeah, that’s it. Balding Country stars have hats.
Axl Rose types have head-dannas.
America ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

1736 Math Dish

I had an interesting and humbling experience recently.
I got fooled by a pizza.
The scenario. I was at a local pizza parlor, a place called Dirty Daves. The owner Dirty and I go way back, as I actually helped him open the first Dirty Dave's on Pacific Avenue some 40 years ago. In the time I worked for him I cooked and purveyed any number of pizzas.
So you'd think I know from pizza.
The other night I took my dad in for dinner and order two pizzas, his a plain pepperoni, mine a Gay 90s special, which includes sausage, onion, pepperoni, and cashews. If you've never tried it, it's delicious, and both less and more nutty than it sounds.
The young woman at the counter suggested I could save money by ordering one giant 15-inch half-and-half pizza. Less cost and "more pizza real estate" as she put it. My brain did a quick calculation based on the apparent sizes of two 10-inch pizzas and one 15-inch pizza, threw in a little arrogance, and concluded she was young and callow and didn't know what she was talking about.
I was a veteran pizza expert after all. Turned out I was also old and smug and due for a comeuppance. And just desserts usually don’t have cashews.
When I got home, I did the math. The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared. A 10-inch pizza is 5 x 5 x pi or about 78.5. Two pizzas are 157 square inches.
Or round inches in this case.
The 15-inch pizza is 7.5 x 7.5 x pi, which is 176.625 inches.
A wonderful ego-adjusting experience. The young person showed me the value of pi, in all three ways; math, pizza, and humble.
America ya gotta love it.

1735 Mixed Up Greens

I commented in my last essay about the dandelion and how ubiquitous and how useful it is. I wonder that the agribusiness industry hasn't taken note. Especially with the preponderance of foodies who are both locavores and organic omnivores.
Or have they already? To try to manage a healthy diet, I buy this spring salad mix from Costco. It's organic and comes in one of those clear plastic boxes that's hard to recycle and is poisoning the planet.
But it always seems to hold a different mix of greens. Sometimes it says, "spinach and mixed greens." Other times just "mixed greens."
What a mixed-up bunch it is. There's some recognizable ones, like red lettuce and escarole, but then there's this weird variety of other leaf-like substances.
So I wondered. Is dandelion lurking in there somewhere? They say their greens are pre-washed and ready to eat. Maybe they pre-blanched some to make them more edible. Could be. Some of the spring-mix greens leaves have the same tooth-of-a-lion shape as the dandelion. And some of them are bitter.
Is the giant agribusiness salad mix company slipping in weeds?
I checked the list on the bottom of the box. It says, "The ingredients in each package may vary." They may contain "organic baby lettuces," which could be "red and green romaine, red and green oak leaf, red leaf, lollo rosa, and tango." The box also could have "mizuna, red and green chard, baby spinach, arugula, frisee' and radicchio."
There's no way to tell. Mizuna looks close. But so do some of the others. You gotta wonder though. If pink slime can make it into our beef supply, dandelion could make it into our veggies.
Hmm. I guess if I don't want a titanic tummy I may have to go back to iceburg lettuce.

America ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 07, 2012

1734 Dan Dilly

Spring. Everything's in bloom. Especially those lovely yellow flowers--in my lawn. Yep. The ubiquitous dandelion.
What a prolific plant it is. I remember it from the desert area of Southern California, and it's here in the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest. In each place it seems to reside in the one place it's least welcome, the suburban lawn.
So I wondered, why do we call it dandelion? It's certainly not a dandy thing to have around. Or are we just mispronouncing some scientific name like dan-DIL-ion?
I did a little research and wow, what an amazing plant. First, it is native to Eurasia and North America but is in temperate climates worldwide. And though most cultures see it as a weed, it is completely harvestable as a food product.
The name dandelion comes from the French, "dent-de-lion" meaning, literally, tooth of the lion, named after the shape of the dent-de-lion's leaves. It also has other names if various cultures. In French it's named pissenlit, in England, piss-a-bed and in Italian, piscialletto, all referring to the plants strong diuretic effect, not to how people feel when they see it in their lawn.
But what's really amazing is that all the parts of the plant are edible, leaves, flowers, and roots, and contain large quantities of vitamins A, C, and K. Plus, it's great for other plants as it's taproot brings up nutrients from deep in the soil. It also attracts pollinating insects and releases ethylene gas to help ripen fruits.
A complete food source, with beneficial effects to other food plants too. And it grows anywhere, like manna from heaven.
Sounds like the real weed is the completely useless suburban lawn. I think I'll let my dandelions take over. Then I'll have a dandy lawn.
And a whole frontyard full of salad.
America ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 04, 2012

1733 Traffic App

New technology is cool. And new tech words too. We have all sorts from the last decade that are fun. Words like "phishing" and "smishing" and "app." We say "copy-and-paste" like we've been saying it for millennia, so deeply ingrained is the procedure. Likewise when we "click" on something or "drag-and-drop" it.
So I really liked it when I heard a new term the other day. It described the process Google was using with their "Street View" recording cars. They weren't just taking pictures of houses with cameras when they went by. They were also harvesting data from open WiFi networks.
What a trustworthy company Google turned out to be. (I hope you weren't one those who fell for their "secure" DNA testing thing a while back.) Anyhow, the process of harvesting that open WiFi data with a specially tuned antenna has a name. It's called "slurping."
I hope they harvested all my junk emails.
Nothing like slurping spam.
Beyond words, I do like how new technology eases efforts. Especially the effort to think. GPS enhanced by that Google mapping has really made it easy to figure out how to get somewhere. Now we need to figure out how to do so safely.
So here's the next app I want to invent. It uses the camera feature on your ironically named smartphone to monitor traffic lights. You know, while you're texting. Then it uses the Siri voice function to tell you the light is turning red. Or if you're stopped, and really texting up a storm, that it's turned green.
"The light is green," it says in soothing voice.
Hopefully it will be hackable. Then someone fuming behind you could make it say, "The light's green dumbass. Put down your phone and drive."
America ya gotta love it.

1732 Aussie Fest

Good news from Australia. They actually want Americans. For years Australians have been pseudo-welcoming to Yanks. Love the heck out of us spending massive amounts of tourist dollars. Loved that we helped take some of their super-egoed movie stars off their hands.
I mean, Mel Gibson is a bit of a wild card. And that Crocodile Dundee guy got insufferable.
But Australia really didn't like the notion of Americans coming over and staying, and taking work away from Australians. Yep, we were to Australians what Mexicans are to us. They didn't have to worry that much. Thousands of miles of ocean are a little wider to swim than the Rio Grande.
But now they need us. And are offering temporary work permits. We'll be American Braceros. The Bracero program was what we once used for migrant labor in the US. Bracero means Strong Arm, like a strong arm to help bring in the crops. Mexicans were issued temporary work permits and when the harvest season was done, "encouraged" to go home.
That's what the Aussies want to do with us. They have a shortage of workers with necessary skills for certain mining and infrastructure projects. They don't want to train locals because the projects will end in 3 to 5 years and then they'll have to lay them off and pay them unemployment.
American temps? They can just revoke their visa.
"It's a real win-win for both nations," said our US Ambassador to Australia. Of course our folks won't get unemployment either but hey, migrant workers aren't entitled to labor protections, right? So what if they get burned.
Entrepreneurs are even now putting together low-cost training to help Americans learn the language. Crocodile Dundee movie soundtracks are available on iPod.
G'day mate, throw another Yank on the barbie...
America ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

1731 Shame More

Scandal scandal scandal. We have it from all over the world. Like a couple of weeks ago the President of Hungary resigned because the university he attended revoked his doctorate.
Um, he plagiarized the thesis that "earned" it.
Interestingly, this guy was pretty respected. His name is Pal Schmitt. What I great political name. "Vote for me, I'm your Pal." He actually won gold medals in fencing in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics. In 1992, he wrote a 215-page thesis on the Olympics. But a committee recently found 200 of the 215 pages were cut directly from other authors' works.
Oh well. I suppose he had to take a stab at it. But he wasn't too sharp. No truth to the rumor that on his exposure he said, "Curses, foiled again..."
He wasn't alone at the plagiarism party. Just last year both Germany's defense minister and the German Vice President of the European Parliament lost their jobs when it was found that they plagiarized their theses.
In their defense, it must be getting pretty hard. A PhD thesis is supposed to be a totally original idea. They must be just about used up by now.
Except if you're the Secret Service. A few bad eggs there apparently had the original idea of having prostitutes entertain them right before our President went to Columbia. Scandal indeed. You gotta feel for President Obama. If you can't trust the Secret Service to keep a secret, who can you trust?
I know. They must have been doing undercover research. The percentage of presidential assassins who are also prostitutes must be pretty high. Apparently, the whole thing leaked out because one of the not-so-Secret Servicemen argued about the price.
Good to know at least Obama's belt-tightening budget message is getting through.
Now if they can only keep their belts on...
America ya gotta love it.

1730 Where Am I?

As we get older, I think it's only natural for us to be hypersensitive to the loss of memory. We can't help but worry when we do things like repeating ourselves. Or find ourselves reading the same sentence over and over. Or find ourselves reading the same sentence over and over. Or find ourselves reading the same sentence and wondering if we're going totally batty.
Such is life. We die in pieces and not in a grand eloquent one-off. But there is some hope. Or at least some consolation in camaraderie, since we're all in the same mental boat. As I read in an interesting factoid in National Geographic recently.
Say a light bulb burns out in your bedroom. You need to get a replacement in the kitchen. You get to the kitchen and can't remember why you're there.
Been there? Sure. Good. It's always a positive sign when you can remember the times you forgot. But that brain flatualence may not be a plain old senior moment. It may be an evolutionary adaptation.
Gabe Radvansky, psychology professor at Notre Dame, did a study. His participants carried things around a house. They didn't remember things very well when they crossed through a doorway.
The doorway apparently signaled a change in environment. A new scene for action. Or fear. Or awareness. Going through a doorway creates a change of venue that makes your brain "push out old stuff and focus on what's going on now." That saber-toothed tiger lurking outside your cave door perhaps. Or the monster under your bed you fled when you went down to get a light bulb.
National Geographic recommends you take a Post-it with you to remind you of the purpose of your search.
Now where did I leave my Post-its...?
America ya gotta love it.