Tuesday, July 31, 2012

1793 Caticide

I was reading a guy the other day that I really like who has a blog on words (http://www.word-detective.com/) ---and apparently a very tight budget. So tight, in fact, that he misses meals from time to time. Despite that, he maintains the life of a cat.
Not without a sense of irony however. Recently he offered up a pocket cat philosophy I'm unable to resist sharing.
"Everybody likes cats. And, after a while, they bring out your philosophical bent, even if you never thought you had one. There you’ll be, sitting in your cold, dark house, impoverished by vet bills, shunned by friends who have just developed convenient allergies, with both your furniture and your future in tatters. At that moment, when all seems lost, you’ll pause, muse philosophically, and realize that you still have a prize more precious than gold — the knowledge that you have made one small, furry creature very happy. Because it just won a coin flip with you for the last can of Fancy Feast."
Oddly, that segues with a recent article I read about the good old toxoplasmosis parasite cats pass along to their owners via their feces. The cats not the owners. It's been known to affect rats, making them more docile and easier to catch.
Or perhaps just more fatalistic.
Because it's also been linked to schizophrenia in humans. And recently, a study or 46,000 Danish women appears to link it to suicide as well. People with cats are 1.5 times more likely to kill themselves, says the study. The cat parasite can actually "alter the chemistry of your brain." And perhaps cause tortuously rationalized behavior that makes you elaborately sacrifice your last can of Fancy Feast.
Then again, maybe Danish women get really despondent over shredded furniture.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

1792 PAC Land

Ah, the cost of democracy. Ever since the Supremes voted to stop the whole campaign financing limits thing, expenditures have skyrocketed. Now that Super PACs can spend what they want and not name donors all sorts of special interests are filling the coffers of every media outlet from Seattle to Sheboygan.
So much so that Borrell Associates, a national media consultant firm, estimates that political advertising on presidential, congressional, state, and local campaigns will get near $10 BILLION nationwide. In 2008, $7 billion was spent, so that's a 43% increase.
Looks like everyone has tooled up to campaign on the green bandwagon this year. Except this green actually has denominations.
It's all thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision recognizing corporations as people, and giving them the power to pump unlimited amounts of money into campaigns.
But hey, there's got to be a bright side, right? Yep, economic stimulus. Oh sure, the corporations could be spending that 10 billion on factories and energy efficiency upgrades. Or they could even be bringing some of it back from offshore and using it to pay those taxes they're always complaining about so the rest of us could get some upgrades in infrastructure so we're not stuck in traffic burning expensive fuel, depleting our wallets and personal budgets and dragging down the economy because we can't afford their goods.
But one sector of the economy is being stimulated. Advertising. And even now that Super PAC bonanza is at work in a very democratic fashion. It's providing much needed cash to not just Fox, but ABC, CBS, and even MSNBC.
Which, you know, must be hard on certain Super PACs. Keeping their sworn enemies in business so they can preach to someone other than the choir.
Ah, the profits of democracy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

1791 Agin' It

This upcoming election may be a battle of for and against. And whichever is strongest will prevail. The positive or the negative, which energy is more powerful?
We've all heard the chestnut that it takes 47 complements to offset one criticism. (It may actually be 46 or 48.) The point is that we react to negatives a lot more. And there is good biological reason for that. At least if survival is your goal. Embracing a warm sunny day filled with flowers may be full of joy and all, but running like hell from a fire is probably going to see you to the next mating session better.
And while a polar bear may be magnificent and beautiful, it also has large teeth, and paws that could swipe your head off like a horizontal guillotine.
So an interesting factoid I read the other day may tell the tale of next November's election. A predictive poll as it were.
The poll said that 75% of the voters who plan to vote for President Obama in November are mainly for him, as opposed to against his opponent. But just 37% of the voters who plan to vote for Romney say they are mainly for him. 59% say they are mainly opposed to Obama.
Apparently 4% will get killed by a polar bear while they're trying to balance on the fence.
Sound good for Obama? Not so much. Because which emotion will drive people to the real polls? Love and joy? Or dislike and fear? I'm guessing love and joy will lead to comfort and complacency. And dislike and fear will lead to revolt and action.
You can have the thickest, softest horse blankets under a saddle you want.
But it only takes one burr to make a horse bolt.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

1790 Photo Appeal

I see myself as an independent thinker. My conservative friends think I'm way too liberal and my liberal friends think I'm way too conservative, so I guess that's about right.
Or left.
You could say I'm bi-partisan, except the whole idea of partisanship doesn't really fit, at least not the way it's expressed today. I can't see myself as a rabid ideologue, sworn to savage my political enemies and refusing to admit there is any such thing as common ground.
Maybe I'm bi-particle. The spinning particles of both left and right bound together. Like an atomic nucleus with electrons and muons and suchlike.
I'm a political quark.
Since I'm bi-particle, I vote for candidates on both sides of the spectrum based on their personal qualities, not their party. So I also get solicitations from each side as well. Which means the other day I go this big envelope from the Romney campaign.
And I do mean big. It came in a huge 12-by-11-inch envelope. Thick paper that said "Do Not Bend, Photo Enclosed." I'm guessing they paid a pretty piece of postage.
Inside was a framable thick-stock photo of Mitt Romney standing in front of a weathered barn with a giant flag photoshopped on it. Mitt is wearing a button-down shirt and a zip-up jacket and photogenically creased and faded jeans. He looks like your high school principle dressed up for Halloween as John Cougar.
Sorry Mitt. Jeans are just not in some people's genes. Hard to believe anyone with hair that perfect could crease anything. Photoshopped again.
Oh, also included was a solicitation letter asking for money.
Cause, you know, randomly sending expensive photos through the mail can run up a deficit in the old campaign funds.
And what a good example that sets…
At least they're consistent. Because when you shop for contributions by sending photos that's also, um, photo shopping.
America, ya gotta love it.

1789 iPay

You wonder sometimes about the “cool” new companies. Facebook with their constant invasion of privacy, Google with its hacking into Safari and pillaging WiFi info with its Google Maps cars. And then there's Apple. The coolest of the cool. IPhones, iPads, iPods and the soon to be iPad Mini for those who just can't live with the empty iPlace between the sizes of the current phone and pad.
Apple, once chastised for exploiting labor in China, has found a way to open the income gap domestically as well. Fair is fair, I suppose.
According to the New York Times, last year Apple's 327 global stores earned over $5,600 in sales per square foot. That was more than any other U.S. retailer. It was double that of the number two earner, um, Tiffany & Company.
Gadgets outsold gewgaws 2 to 1.
Interestingly, if you divide the stores’ revenues by its 30,000 store employees the result shows that each employee was responsible for $473,000 of sales.
Sounds like a lucrative place to work, huh? Not so much. The average employee at an Apple store makes $11.91 an hour, or $25,000 a year.
Still. That's 5%. If he or she were in China, that would mean for every $100 tennis shoe they make, they could buy the heel.
And at least they have a job. Traditional jobs, like the legal profession, are faring worse. Only 55% of 2011's law school graduates managed to find a full-time job requiring a law degree within 9 months of graduating.
Plus, being an Apple store employee has it's benees. They have to demo products all day long. Dinking with iPhones and iPads --- just like in real life.
Where else can you make $25k a year just fiddling around?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1788 Sir Mullet

I was reading a book recently in which they used some terms having to do with Heraldry. Family crests and such that started way back when knights wore various signs on their shields to indicate who they were. It's quite a complex study these days as so many different symbols emerged over the course of the middle ages.
I was reminded of one of those symbols recently when I saw a guy attending a local fair. Fairs originated in medieval times as well, so it was nice to see some sort of weird consistency over the years. The guy was wearing a mullet.
The hair -- not the heraldry.
Mullets, that favorite hairstyle that proclaims "business in front, party in the back" and tastelessness all around, is a hairstyle that goes way back indeed. As does its bald-on-top version, the skullet. But the term itself goes back even longer.
Some heraldic symbols were meant to indicate not just the family you were from, but what position you had in that family. So a person sporting a laid down pallet looking thing called a Label on his crest was known to one and all as the firstborn son, or heir to all the stuff.
A crescent signified both hope and glory, and the second son. A finger ring or an annulet signified the fifth son and fidelity. Apparently fifth sons stayed married longer or didn't sire as many illegitimate offspring in medieval times.
The sign of the third son was a five-pointed star. Also known as a mullet. The mullet also meant that the person had a divine quality bestowed by god.
Perhaps the quality to ignore the dictates of fashion. And wear a hairstyle that looks like it was hacked into shape by a medieval barber.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

1787 Bust a Cap

Technology takes two steps foreword and one step back. Like the new tablet Apple has in the works. It will be like an iPad but smaller. Really? Isn't there already not enough room to move around an iPad?
You know what I mean. No sooner does someone get an iPad than they get one of those foldover case thingies so it can stand up. Not long after that they get a keyboard attachment. Then maybe even a bluetooth mouse. Pretty soon it's not an iPad anymore at all, it's a not-that-tiny laptop.
So why would you want it even smaller? You're still going to be carrying around a heavy bundle of peripherals.
And you know what? I bet the keyboards on all of them will still be that dumb old qwerty style. Qwerty, the traditional keyboard we all use with the configuration of letters that were once supposedly meant to keep full-swing mechanical typewriter arms from sticking together.
Technology of the late 1800s, haunting us in 2012.
Because today's keyboards are flat, and the damn caplock key is in the wrong place. How many times have you been looking at the text you are typing from and innocently touch-typing away only to look up at the screen and see half a paragraph of all capitals because your little finger accidentally tripped the caplock key when you meant to hit the common letter A?
Why? Because of some useless 19th century artifact. Hey technology-inventor dudes, keep your qwerty monstrosity, but at least move the caplock key where it can do no damage.
Put it up with the F-Keys. No one uses the F-Keys except Excel and D&D nerds.
Maybe the new iPad can at least give us a way to disable it.
A cap block key.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

1786 Trampoling

Recently I was at a great event, the Lacey Chamber of Commerce South Sound Barbecue Fest. I know, quite a mouthful. They had this bungee-assisted trampoline thing there. It looked cool. It took the inherent danger out of trampolines and allowed folks to do flips without crashing on the springs or framework.
Which put me in mind of my childhood, when we had no such thing. We had spotters.
In my high school, learning how to do flips on the trampoline was encouraged. I never had any problems with that until after one summer when I'd learned to do "full layout" back-flips at the pool. When I came back to the trampoline, full layout flips, at least as poorly as I did them, didn't leave me room to both launch from and land on the trampoline proper.
Or so I discovered midway through my first layout back-flip. As I was upside down at the time, it was quite a sight. I was definitely headed for the edge and frame of the trampoline, and about to nearly geld myself on the springs.
I vividly remember watching the spotters scatter. I landed, shall we say, painfully. Following the maxim "if you fall of a horse get back on and try again," I did. And crashed the same, again with spotters scattering.
Stupid maxim.
Nowadays I'm thinking, what were they thinking? The folks who assigned high school kids to spot. What could they have done anyhow? Poke me in the eye with their fingers, break their own arms and my neck as I came crashing down?
My attempt at early crowd surfing was flawed in many ways. Not least that one or two spotters, even if they didn't scatter, would be unable to arrest my momentum.
But also that baseball isn't the only sport where it's wise to wear a cup.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1785 Preyer

Not long ago I chanced on a sit-down meal at the Adult Family Home where my dad is staying. Like many people his age he's outlived all of his brain cells, so needs supervision lest he wander off.
He maintains some fragmented memory bursts however. He was pretty excited when I told him he was going to be in an adult home but quite disappointed when he found out there were no adult films involved.
In any event, other residents' visiting relatives at the meal were saying grace. Which put me in mind of the grace we used to say while I was growing up. It was a simple one so us kids could trade off leading it.
My sister reminded me recently what it was. Like one run together word we would say, "Thank you God for the world so sweet thank you God for the food we eat thank you God for the birds that sing thank you God for everything." To which I sometimes added, "Thank you God for all we find, thank you God for bacon rinds."
That was right before I got struck by lighting.
But that put me in mind of the prayers we teach kids. Notably the "Now I lay me down to sleep" one my parents required. "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."
I remember thinking, "What? If I should die? Sleep is scary enough what with the dark and the whole black-out thing. And now you're saying death might possibly happen? And if so the Lord will take my soul somewhere?
"Am I prayer or prey?"
No wonder us kids couldn't get to sleep.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1784 Morning Thoughts

Another day for some of those random observations that accumulate in my mind.
I was reading a book that had a lot of medieval dialogue in it. And one of the characters wished another one "good morrow." It was delivered in the present tense and what he meant by it was "good morning."
"I'll see you on the morrow" was once a way to indicate one would see one the next morning, and by implication the next day. The word tomorrow captures some of that flavor. "I'll see you to-morrow" means "I'll see you come morning" or "I'll see you in the morning."
So here's the question: When we say "I'll see you tomorrow morning" are we being redundant? "I'll see you in the morning morning." ?
Like when people say "RSVP please." The SVP in the RSVP stands for s'il vous plait, which is French for please. The R stands for repondez, which means respond. So "RSVP please" means "respond please please."
Maybe it's for the really desperate.
"Please please respond by tomorrow morning."
Medieval language can be fun though. I remember talking about the medieval weapons my lawyer has. Words. The other day I was threatening someone and told them, "My lawyer is gonna open up a can of whereas."
From medieval words to medieval instruments. Like the lute. How did we end up getting a soundalike word that means stealing stuff during a riot and a tame tinkling stringed instrument?
The ways of language are mysterious. Like the mandolin. Not a very manly instrument at all. Is there a different dolin for a woman? A femdolin or maybe a gender neutral persondolin?
The way they hold it to play I've always thought of mandolins as guitars for the extremely nearsighted.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

1783 Furbelow

The other day I was in the Merriam Webster Online dictionary and I found something cool. Their little artificial intelligence thingie that makes suggestions has a interesting sense of what to choose.
I already like their dictionary because it has out loud pronunciations of words. It's hard sometimes to figure out all the different diacritical marks they use to depict the sounds of vowels and what not. So they have this great sound file system that allows you to actually hear someone saying the word.
But they also had this other thing. I suppose it's the same technology Amazon uses when they suggest books related to books you've already read but this one was lot more subtle. And a lot more fun.
The word I had originally looked up was balaclava, a fancy-schamncy way of saying ski mask. The related words they thought I might like to look up were as follows:
Babushka, brogue, and bumbershoot.
A head scarf, a shoe, and an umbrella respectively.
Cravat and dishabille. A tie-like thing and the archaic word for negligee. Dishabille can also mean a state in which one is in their lounging clothes. Sounds like you're dressed for being able to do dishes. Dishabille.
Webster also suggested for my interest spectator and raiment.
Spectators are shoes. Sometimes worn by people watching things. Raiment is actually just short for arrayment. It basically means attire, but fancier. So remember; if you tire of attire everybody loves raiment.
Then there's furbelow and layette. A furbelow is a flounce or pleat in material. Though it sounds to me like arctic underwear. A layette, though it sounds like some sort of lab equipment, is actually a complete outfit for a newborn child.
In Alaska that may include a furbelow.
For when it's really furbelow zero.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

1782 Revolving Power

I heard an interesting story out of Mexico in the news recently. Seems a new party is in power there that was once thrown out of power because they were corrupt and arrogant and really screwed the people. They ruled for a number of years and then languished on the sidelines and now they're back in power again.
People always say democracy doesn't work in Mexico but it sure sounds like the way it works up here. The voters are a forgiving sort. Or forgetting.
We think we learn from history just fine. We just forget the correct answers when we take the test.
Anyhow, the party that's now back in power has an interesting name. They are called the "Institutional Revolutionary Party."
Wow. Institutional Revolutionary. That's like saying "organized anarchists." The name is totally made up of opposites. Maybe they should shorten it and just call them the oxymoron party.
Let us deconstruct. "Institutional" often means settled and bureaucratized and ossified. Graven in the stone of convention. "Revolutionary" means new and wild and untried and possibly exciting. And possibly completely out of control.
Institutional revolutionary. Hmm. "Excuse me Mamacita, it's our paid government job to riot in the streets, so if you'd just stand aside."
Then again, they may be talking about a different kind of revolution, like going around on a wheel. And in one revolution they are in power and in the next they are not and so on. And that has certainly proven to be the case. They have revolved back into power in the Mexican Government.
Because the people apparently forgot what they had done. And that appears to be the true institution of revolution. It's graven in the millstone of humanity. The wheel turns because no one learns.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

1781 Balaclava

Folks sometimes ask me how I've managed to write nearly 1800 of these little essays of mine. I reply it helps to be a total ignoramus. I think that means an amiable ignorant person.
That's the ticket. Being ignorant of something and good-naturedly seeking out knowledge to end that ignorance.
Like the term balaclava. I came across it recently while reading an article in National Geographic. The article's writer was in the Antarctic, and described being issued cold weather gear. Amongst the vests, down jackets, and fleece pants, she said was issued a balaclava.
A honey drenched dessert made from filo dough?
Why would one need that? I know polish explorers need high calorie food like pemmican and seal blubber, but a rich dessert?
I was wrong, of course, and following my ignorance to the nearest ignorance relief center---Google---found out all about it. The dessert is called baklava. A balaclava is a thing you wear on your head, usually knit, and usually having slits for your eyes and mouth or sometime just one slit exposing your face.
In other words, a ski mask.
Someone must have decided to highjack the word from the Russian, as there are often uses for it that have nothing to do with skiing. Like, say, highjacking.
It does seem rather more appropriate to have such a term to describe eastern spies coming over on some surreptitious mission, dressed all in black and sporting balaclavas to shield their identities.
Although we in America still talk about ordinary criminals knocking off 7-Elevens wearing ski masks.
I'm cool with that.
Because were a crime report to say they had balaclavas on their faces your ordinary ignorant American observer like me would probably conclude the police gave them their just desserts.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

1780 Statoids

I always get a kick out of reading statistical factoids. Or statoids as I call them. America by the numbers is so mathalicious.
Like this factoid, picked up in The Week magazine, who got it from Mother Jones, which I assume is a publication of some sort and not actually the publisher of The Week's relative.
The factoid: The average member of the House of Representatives has to raise $367 for every hour they are supposedly serving their constituents to pay for their re-election campaigns. The average Senator needs to come up with $819 an hour.
If we're generous and say they work 40 hours a week, that's $14,680 a week for reps or $763,360 a year---$1,526,720 for a 2-year term.
And that's not what they actually make. That's what they need to raise to keep making it. A house member's salary is about $174,000 a year. So they need to spend $763,000 thousand to make $174,000.
Wow. That's a worse funding model than Facebook.
No wonder we need Super-Pacs contributing to campaigns. They're the only people who can afford democracy.
The other statistical factoid I saw was a poll that said that 67% of Americans support the use of unmanned drones to track down criminals but that 67% would oppose the use of drones to issue tickets for speeding. Apparently the American people would love to catch someone else with technology, but not themselves.
Because, um, we all speed.
Whenever I hear of autonomous thinking unmanned drones hunting down criminals I have this flashback to 1984. The year not the book. Because that year a movie came out that showed a future where drones hunted down anyone who didn't follow the established order.
It was called The Terminator.
Apparently, 67% of Americans never saw it.
America, ya gotta love it.

1779 Low Watermark

Ah, the persistence of belief. It's getting worse. Used to be folks would torture facts to arrive at a preconceived conclusion. Now they just believe what they want to believe not matter what.
Like a guy I saw speak recently. He was a banker. The first statement out of his mouth was that Obama hated bankers. Then he went on to speak positively about all the things the Obama administration has done to help the financial crisis. I take that back. He talked about all the things that needed to be done in a crisis like the financial crisis and they were all the things that have been done.
He never gave the Obama administration credit for doing them.
So why did he hate the Obama administration? Just because, I guess. Finance people are supposed to hate democrats. I suspected the banker for my own prejudices. He said crisises when he meant the plural of crisis. It's just crises.
And also because of my 401k.
Then there's Sheldon Adelson, the SuperPac guy who single-handedly financed Newt Gingrich's failed campaign. He's now giving $10 million to Mitt Romney and $100 million to other candidates and conservative causes. He thinks Obama's a socialist. Yet according to Forbes magazine, Sheldon has made more money than any other American during the Obama administration.
Maybe he just knows how to capitalize on socialism.
Then there's the state of Virginia. They're suffering from the effects of climate change with a growing flooding problem. Sea level has risen 10 inches on their coast. Republican lawmakers had a recent study remove the phrase "sea-level rise" because it’s a left-wing term.
Really? Sea level rise? When the sea level is actually rising?
If we're politicizing words for the ocean we're in serious trouble.
Surf’s Up! (But only for communists…)
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

1778 Free Soles

An interesting news story was afoot the other day. It had to do with sneakers. Excuse me athletic shoes, though they'll most likely never see the basketball courts for which they are theoretically designed.
It was about a controversial new model made by Adidas. Adidas, normally so adept at athletic accouterment design, apparently dropped the ball this time. They designed a pair of sneakers with shackles.
The shackles appear to extend from little chains at the collar of the hightops to a large band that closes around the shin. They are also bright orange, so it would be pretty hard to confuse them with real shackles.
But they created quite a flame-out of negative responses on Facebook. Most of them related to the racial insensitivity involved, as shackles symbolize slavery and we are not far removed from that heinous act in our own country's history.
Even the reverend Jesse Jackson weighed in, although not with his usual flair. He said they were "offensive, appalling and insensitive." Had he been up on his game he would have rearranged those words to "insensitive, offensive and appalling." Always close with the strongest word or you risk sounding weak.
"Those are appalling and, and, um, insensitive."
"Those are horrible, and, not nice either."
Adidas pulled the shoes, but not before saying the designer, Jeremy Scott, was known for his "outrageous and unique take on fashion."
I don't know. Maybe the designer was more subtle and politically motivated than people think. Maybe the shackles were meant to symbolize slavery, but the slave labor that went into their manufacture. Or the admittedly well compensated, but slavery nonetheless, of today's professional sports system.
You have to ask yourself, what is a free agent free from?
Hmmm. Maybe it's the designer that's the real sneaker.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 06, 2012

1777 Distinctly Old

I read an interesting little scientific snippet the other day. It was one of those that confirmed what we know already from experience. Sad when so many dollars of scientific research are spent proving what we already know, but hey, sometimes it's for the good.
Remember when doctors recommended cigarettes?
This factoid was about old people. As I have an elderly person in my life, my aging and Alzheimer's addled father, and have noticed certain things about him, I found the article all the more fascinating.
Not long ago he watched a movie that was sad and made him cry. Except, because his memory is not so good, when he rubbed his eyes and found them wet, he said, "That movie must've had smoke in it."
A logical conclusion based on a faulty premise. Our brain doesn't grow old so much as have its files corrupted.
The article I read demonstrated proof positive that there is something known as "old people smell." Surprisingly, it's not from undepended accidents. It's their basic default odor.
The researchers took volunteers in three age groups 20-30, 40-55, and 75-90, and had them wear a t-shirt to bed for 5 nights. Then they presented those t-shirts to another group of volunteers to smell.
I think I would have been one of the "wearing" volunteers.
Young and male enscented t-shirts were rated as most odiferous over females of their respective age groups, but all seniors generally were rated least offensive, regardless of gender.
Researchers theorize hormones, or lack of them, are the reason. Older folks go back to prepubescent levels. Or perhaps I should say prepubes-scent? Interestingly when asked to identify the origin of t-shirts the volunteers were almost always able to recognize the senior smell.
It was identified as most dis-stink-tive.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

1776 Scientific Belief

I like keeping up on the latest pronouncements from science. Because science is always updating. One thing that a lot of folks--- especially those who like to see the world in immutable black and white terms---don't get is that science is never totally right. It's always changing and updating as new facts come it. Facts actually change based on available information.
It's beliefs that are hard to change.
Like recently, the Mayo clinic reported that too much exercise is bad. Marathoners and anyone that puts in more than an hour of intense aerobic activity a day have a heightened risk of irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, and scarring.
As in everything, moderation is key.
Just like I've always believed.
And now it seems that whole thing about salt being bad for your heart is wrong. In fact, if you restrict yourself to the super low doses recommend by the FDA, you may actually damage you heart.
How could that happen? How could they be so wrong? From science based on the fact that high salt temporarily increases blood pressure because it causes fluids to accumulate in your system and your kidneys briefly overwork to deal with it. But there was never any follow-up proof to determine if that became a chronic condition.
It also turns out our obesity epidemic isn't caused by high fat food. It's caused by too much sugar being used in low fat food to replace the flavor lost when removing the fat. The extra sugar in our system is converted to bad fat surrounding our internal organs and causes heart disease and clogged arteries.
Since the bulk of that sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup these days my sister Merry pointed our we should call it corn-ary heart disease.
I believe I agree with her.
America, ya gotta love it.

1775 Oil Change

Nice to see gas prices are finally going down. Isn't it funny what a lag there is between market pressure to go up and lack of market pressure to go down.
Odd, since it's so much more work to inflate a tire, but so easy to make it burst. But gas prices aren't like a bubble. They're more like a controlled hardening of concrete. When it comes time to make them go away it takes a lot more jackhammering to destroy the oil-igarchs precious road to riches.
The truth is, since March the world's been producing more oil each day than it consumes and that's one of the main reasons oil prices have gone done to below $90 a barrel. Global consumption has declined by nearly 2 million barrels a day.
According to classic supply-and-demand theory, that should mean gas prices would drop off precipitously. After all, they go up pretty fast when any crisis threatens, and anticipated demand drives them sky high.
And it's even odder how high prices lingered here, in the Prius capital of the world, though demand was even less. Sure, there was the story of refinery capacity in Bellingham. But hey, gas prices were really cheap in other states, so if an gas truck filled up on fuel there, both in its tanks and in its own fuel tanks, they could have trucked north and still made a profit.
But prices didn't go down until Senator Cantwell threatened an investigation. Because our prices were near what they were when oil was $150 a barrel, even though it’s currently $86 a barrel.
One week later, on Sunday the 17th, I paid $4.05 a gallon. On Monday the 18th I paid $3.89.
Sometimes even threatened government intervention works.
Because sometimes "free" markets cost more than they should.
America, ya gotta love it.

1774 Call of the Wild

I had a technological moment the other day. By which I mean reveling in the possibilities of new gizmos. Then worrying about the consequences.
I don't think the Amish thing would work for me. Though I'm often suspicious of new machinery and inventions, I also like finding interesting ways to use them.
I wondered recently about the Amish when I saw all the stumps left behind after the ice storm. Lots of people just cut down their unsightly broken trees and were done with it. But not quite. They still had to deal with the stumps. So stump-grinding businesses are thriving.
An amazing machine. Try googling a video of a stumpgrinder. It does some serious damage. So what's an Amish guy to do? Dig it out? Bring in a very hungry ass from the back forty? Or a highly trained beaver?
You see what I mean.
Anyhow, I found something cool the other day. My laptop can be used to talk to wildlife. Well, actually, mess with wildlife's heads. I found this great website, allaboutbirds.org. They have the birdcalls of all sorts of our avian friends, from red-tailed hawks to spotted towhees.
I found if you take your WiFi enabled laptop out on the deck you can make the birds at the birdfeeder think some of their companions are close. I played the towhee call and within seconds one was making the same call behind me on my deck rail.
I felt like Doctor Doolittle. Except I had no idea what I'd said. And, um, the bird was leering at me somewhat lasciviously.
I quickly called up the shriek of a red-tailed hawk.
The towhee beat feet, or wings anyhow.
Bye-bye Towhee. And bye-bye uncomfortable cross-species moment.
Technology can be tricky.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

1773 Lie to Me

I was listening to an ad on the radio the other day. It reminded my how contrary we humans can be. We hold on to our beliefs despite complicating things like facts.
The ad was for J.C. Penney. They were trying to make the case they have everyday low prices. They don't do like other retailers, they said, and mark things up just to mark them down.
A noble attempt at refreshing honesty. But unfortunately, doomed to failure. Penney's is destined to join the ranks of other giant retailers who tried the same strategy and failed. K-Mart, Sears, all the biggies have made the attempt.
But the public isn't buying.
Because it's not just the more honest you are the more you make folks suspicious. It's that they'd much rather you marked it up just to mark it down. It's the appearance of a deal they want. Not an actual deal. The consumer likes to think that something was higher and you slashed the price.
It gives them satisfaction.
Like the psychological tests that proved people loved it when you flattered them. No matter how much you were obviously faking it. Test subjects were told they were going to be lied to with flattery and they still ate it up. Likewise recent studies showing placebo drugs worked quite effectively. Even with the drug takers were told the drug was a placebo.
So nice try J.C. I appreciate the sentiment. I get really sick of sale signs. And all that printing, paper, and ink has got to have an environmental cost. But the truth is we love to be lied to, if the message we hear is the message we want to hear.
Why else would politics and the stock market be such big money makers?
America, ya gotta love it.