Friday, August 31, 2012

1816 Watching

Today's essay has to do with the word watch. Not the watch we wear on a wrist, though I wonder why we call it that. We look at it briefly, we don't watch it.
No, I mean watch like watch out.
If it ever seems as if there are some people who are just plain mean, now we have scientific proof. A recent study found that 6% of drivers actually swerved when they saw a realistic-looking fake small animal on the side of the road. The drivers swerved all right, but in an unexpected direction. They swerved so they could actually run over the small animal.
No word whether the drivers were driving trucks with realistic fake testicles dangling from their back bumpers.
As I said. Watch out.
Maybe they were just all het up. A rodent had bit their dog or something. Speaking of het up, that's another watch word. Recently the weather was very warm and the Weather Service said they were announcing an "extreme heat watch."
How does one watch heat? And how does one, when doing so, watch extremely? Is that like a really wide-eyed gaze? Get totally stoned and stare at the air?
When one is on a heat watch what is one watching? The little turbulence in the air as the heat radiates from the sidewalk? The mirages that form down a hot summer road? Perhaps complete with small animals?
And if a mirage is an illusion can we really say we are watching an illusion? Aren't we just imagining it? Or hallucinating? Not good for the weather service to say there is a heat hallucination on.
Perhaps the term "heat alert" would be an improvement.
I'd feel better if I knew the Weather Service had a heat alert device, and not a watching machine.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

1815 Doctor Red Tag

I'm not sure about communicating these days. Maybe we've all gotten sloppy in the age of internet blogo-news, as editors of real newspapers across the country, those last bastions of words and phrases that make sense, have gotten fired.
Maybe we just aren't thinking.
In any event, it leads to bad marketing. Take the DR Horton Company, which for many years I've read as Doctor Horton. I've always thought, Dr. Horton is who? And is he related to the Doctor in the DR Brushcutter company?
I guess when he moved from brush-cutting to house building and got his contractor's license he skipped learning marketing. Because old Doctor Horton is having a sale. And it's a prescription for disaster.
Taking a page from regular retailers, he's having a "Red Tag Sale" on homes across Washington State. A great idea except for one thing. He's not selling clothes or bed linens. When you have a Red Tag Sale on them a red tag means a discount. But a red tag on a house has an entirely different historical meaning.
A house that's been red-tagged has been deemed deficient or uninhabitable by a building inspector.
That's right, everyone who has any knowledge of the building, insurance, hurricane or destruction remediation industries thinks only one thing when they think red tag and house in the same mental breath. There's something wrong with that the house.
With clothing or linens, it's probably okay if they were red-tagged for being less than perfect. A slub, a flaw, or a mismatched pattern on a piece of clothing is probably worth a big discount.
But a house? Let's just say I hope they didn't red tag it because of the plumbing.
Or the wiring.
Next we'll be hearing old Doctor Horton is having a fire sale...
America, ya gotta love it.

1814 Draft Waft

I get confused by our language sometimes. Take the word w-a-f-t. Some say wahft. Like loft. Some say waaft. Like the waah waah of a baby.
The smoke was waafting in the window. Or the smoke was wahfting in the window. I understand people using the softer form, as it sounds like soft. I smelled the gentle soft scent wafting from his sox.
Then again, the waaft sound makes it sound like a draft. Which is how the smell is usually conveyed. The odor waafted through the room on a draft from the door. Its waafting scent smelled like draft beer.
Wahft waaft, tomato potahto.
Thinking about how draft beer smelled made me think about how the draft in draft beer is spelled. I've seen it two ways too. D-r-a-f-t- just like the draft of wind we talked about before.
And d-r-a-u-g-h-t-, which, as we all know, makes absolutely no sense at all. For some reason our language stubbornly holds on to the GH dipthong conveying the sound of the letter F. As in the word enough.
And I say enough. I get F. And I get PH even. But GH?
D-r-a-u-g-h-t-. Crazy. And how about that AU in the middle of the word? Doesn't AU usually give an "ow" sound. Or at least the sound "aw". Which, since the word originally meant to draw forth, makes sense. It should be draught, like naught. But it's not like naught, for some daft reason it's pronounced draft.
So here's what I say. Beer companies, when you do a free happy hour sign for a bar, just spell it d-r-a-f-t. The other way is so confusing. And so like you're putting on Olde English airs.
How do you stand the smell of pretension wafting through your turned up nose?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1813 Bum Investment

We get in the habit of thinking certain ways about things, so it's kind of nice sometimes when a new observation forces you to question yourself.
Like the other day I was walking downtown and I was approached by a panhandler. I turned him down because he looked less homeless than hobo, and I was pretty sure if I gave him money he'd waste it on booze. Sure enough, he tapped the next guy and headed into one of the little convenience markets they have downtown. Markets who struggle along trying to eek a living out of Doritos and HoHos but whose major income depends on the sale of cigarettes, Mad Dog, and forties.
Not long after, I was walking back the other way and the guy was coming out of the store with a giant 40-ounce can of malt liquor in his fist, happily chugging away.
And for the first time it hit me. Those panhandling dollars didn't stop with him. Just like when a new factory opens up, or government money gets used to build a professional sports complex, those dollars expand tenfold as they work their way through the community.
And so it is on a smaller scale, for every dime you spare for a bum. The panhandler multiplier.
Those dimes and dollars aren't lost. They get spent at your mom and pop convenience store, and go right back into the community. 'Cause if there's one thing you can be sure of with kings of the road, they ain't locking away their money unused in banks. Or the Cayman Islands for that matter. Their money goes right back to work. And right into circulation.
As quickly as blood alcohol goes into circulation in their body.
America, ya gotta love it.

1812 Perm Mutation

A memory was triggered recently when I read of the untimely demise of Ron Palillo. Ron, as you may recall, was the very not so bright member of the Sweathog gang on "Welcome Back Kotter," the 70s TV show about a teacher who returns to his old high school to help problem students.
Hard guys made nice. One of which was John Travolta, before he got inflamed with the fame of his Saturday Night Fever blister.
Horshack brought back a painful memory. My first perm. Back then, perms for men were all the rage. It was disco time and huffing perm solution was worse than the effects of LSD in the sixties.
How else did we end up with the Hustle?
Eventually I bowed to fashion, and the pleading of my hair stylist, anxious to prove his new chops, as he had only recently upgraded himself from the term barber, and decided to give it a go. Unknown to my hair stylist was that I already used a hotcomb to tame my naturally wavy locks.
He thought my hair was naturally straight so he used a stronger method to perm it, either through extra time or stronger perm solution.
As my hair was less than naturally flat, naturally the result was less than flattering. My hair up until that time had been cut to resemble a certain member of the Partridge Family. Now it mimicked another member of another TV show. I went from David Cassidy to Horshack in one bad perm. A perm mutation I hadn't expected.
Thankfully permanents aren't actually permanent. But I regretted it for the next 6 months. Though I was able to connect with my Hebraic heritage with my new Jew-Fro.
The mistakes we make: Hearthrob to Sweathog in one bad perm.
America, ya gotta love it.

1811 i-Addict

I've written before about how obsessive-compulsive some people get with their smartypants phones and devices. There are even municipalities that have banned "texting while walking" because of the accidents such behavior causes.
And who among us has not been inconvenienced or annoyed by some fiddling techonaught who slows down a line or screws up a perfectly good theatre experience by flashing and beeping on his or her device?
As my tendencies run to the obsessive-compulsive, I've avoided acquiring iPods, iPhones, or iPads. The "I" in each of them, if you ask me, stands for narcissism, the endless love of fiddling around with oneself. Always a danger for me.
Well, the world of science has finally caught up with what the rest of us knew already. Technology addiction is a real thing. And a destructive one. Not just to community but to self.
The Silicon Valley tech giants are encouraging their employees to step away from the internet and connect with nature again to get a mentally healthy perspective on life. And the world of psychology has come up with a new sickness. It's called "Internet Use Disorder." That's right. Next year for the first time "Internet Use Disorder" will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
An actual psychological sickness, you say, how could that be? Well, for one thing every time you get an email bing or a text reminder tone, your brain squirts out a little pleasure-inducing dopamine. And you actually do become addicted.
Me, I'm more worried about the name. Internet Use Disorder devolves into the acronym I.U.D. Which sounds like either an improvised bomb or a mechanical contraceptive.
Maybe they should make it Internet Preoccupation Use Disorder. I-P-U-D-.
That way they could say an iPod or an iPad could lead to iPUD.
America, ya gotta love it.

1810 Yogurtisement

I bought some yogurt at the store recently. I didn't buy it because I'd heard an advertisement about it. Although that might be an opportunity. Advertisements for yogurt. They could call them yogurtisements.
I bought the yogurt because I had no choice. It was the only one available. If I wanted All Natural Nonfat Greek Strained Yogurt. And this was. At least it said so on the label. I'm not sure about the Greek strained part though. Was the yogurt strained using some Greek method or did they use a Greek to strain the yogurt?
In any event, the name of the yogurt was spelled F-A-G-E-. Which, obviously, was problematic in the pronunciation department. Although the terms fag, fagged and faggot were once used quite frequently to describe cigarettes, fatigue and flammable pieces of wood, they have degenerated into obnoxious and cruel slurs to describe homosexual folks, and have left the arena of polite discourse.
Sad we find so many ways to make language cruel.
Back when I was studying science, the professors used to call the white blood cell a macrophage (pronounced macro-faggee). Nowadays they call them macro-fay-jes, broadening the A and softening the G to a J sound.
The folks from F-A-G-E- yogurt appear to be similarly sensitive. Right next to the name on the label they have in parentheses, "pronounced Fa-yeh!" F-a-dash-y-e-h-. Which actually is not much help, except to avoid the fag similarity. Y-e-h- could be yeh as in Oh yeah! Or yeh as in feh. And as there were no accent marks in the parentheses I don't know if its FA-yeh or fa-YEH.
Bottom line. If you have to provide a pronunciation guide for the name of your product in general, or so you don't offend people...
Pick a different name.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1809 Potsco

With the recent election cycle has come the various recurring initiatives. Which means we're once again facing a decision about the legalization of Marijuana. Whether this stems from an urge to transcend the ordinary or is rooted in the seeds of discontent I don't know. But I do like the mellow tone the “for” ads have taken.
They just say it's time to have the conversation. Nothing histrionic, nothing demanding, just a low-key laid-back suggestion that instead of spending billions on interdiction, it might be time to legalize and make some tax revenue.
Instead of preventing use, make some scratch off the use. Regulate the flow, regulate the product, increase state revenues. An idea whose time has come. Sin taxes generally have worked pretty well. And ending prohibition on alcohol showed it didn't cause more alcohol use. In fact, alcohol abuse went down when it became legal again. Less deaths from bad product, less binge and excessive drinking.
Still, I'm not sure I'm ready for a commercial saying the money could be used for our school system revenue shortfall. "Get stoned---it's for the kids..." is not my cup of tea.
But I think we're ready. And one day, if it takes hold and the state makes lots of money off it, they'll be a push to privatize, and we'll see another initiative, this one backed by Costco. Taking it out of the medicinal dispensaries and into the warehouse.
Imagine the aisle-end samplers. "Dude, ready to try some Bucoda Bud?"
"I can't believe it, I got a three-pack of shrink-wrapped ozzies for only 200 bucks."
Big Box stores would love it. Sell some quantity ganja… and then really clean up on a 10-pound bag of Funyons.
And in-store branding? I can see it now.
Kirkland Natural Botanicals.
America, ya gotta love it.

1808 Bundle

I'm sick of bundling. Actually I'm just sick of the word bundling. I don't know if you've noticed, but it's like everybody and their business brother, from insurance to cable companies, are trying to entice you to buy their products with "bundling."
It's as if they're sticks of kindling. "Yeah Cletus, I bought a bundle of kindling at the store the other day. Lots easier to carry than them there loose pieces."
I suppose I'm still okay with a bundle of objects. A bundle of clothes, perhaps, or a bundle of newspapers. I'm even okay with bundling up when it's chilly. "Hey Billy, don't forget to bundle up so you won't catch cold."
But I have a problem with bundling up insurance coverages. Or cable, internet, and phone services. Whatever happened to the word "combine"?
"If you combine services we can get you a discount."
"Your combination package is 25% off."
Or if you need another word, why not "group." Sure a group discount sounds like you've brought in a lot of people. But you certainly don't want to bundle people either when you do need to give them a group discount.
And let's not forget, in the land of bundling, "groups" are no longer groups anyhow, they're "mobs." As in, "cash mob" and "crash mob" and "flash mob."
Lord knows we all need to bundle our thinking abilities and turn into a mob. Mob behavior is so to die for. Or be killed for if you're Frankenstein.
You could say "conglomerate" if you like. Though it too sounds a little weird. Like clot or coagulate.
But bundle has a worse issue. When you hear it on the radio, it sounds an awful lot like bungle.
I remember it now...
"We are bungling our services at Washington Mutual..."
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

1807 Auto Alert

We are so dependent on automation. Naturally, sometimes it's scary.
Like recently I heard one of those radio emergency broadcast things, an automated Amber Alert. Amber Alerts sometime have a voice that's created digitally, so all the agency putting out the alert has to do is type in the relevant information.
That way if the person doing so is excited, or out of breath, or has any of the myriad vocal faults we all possess, like say, a terminal mumble, those things don't affect the audio quality of the alert. It's all part of the emergency system upgrades the Federal Government has been instituting.
You may remember the old days when an alert from the Emergency Broadcast System would come on and the audio quality was so terrible and the sound so scratchy that all you heard was unintelligible garbled garbage.
The new Emergency Alert System is supposed to change that. Now the voices are clear, audible, and intelligible, even if they're only slightly better than robotic.
But in the case of the alert I heard, it became clear that human input error may have caused a problem. The first clue was that the robot voice said to call, "nine hundred and eleven." What? I thought, that's a weird way to say 911. Then it got worse.
The robot, apparently reading numbers without appropriate dashes as it's software determined it to do, said further calls for information could be directed to "three billion, six hundred and seven million, five hundred and thirty-five thousand, four hundred and sixty two."
That would be 360 dash 753 dash 5462 in the language of AT&T. And you and me.
Clear is great, so thanks EAS. Now let's work on meaningful. Like all things technological, the underlying logic is still determined by us fallible humans.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

1806 Truth View

A lot of life, and how we interpret it, is point of view. Or point of you. That is, the internal point of view you have when you're confronted with new information.
Like recently, I was driving behind a car that had a curious bumper sticker. It said, simply, "Thank you President Bush."
It was a very interesting bumper sticker for that reason. Depending on who you are, it was either a simple declaration of thanks, or an incredibly acerbic piece of sarcasm. Did the sticker of the bumper sticker mean that he was thankful for all the things Bush did to protect America from terrorists or was the sticker sticking it to him for all the things he did to bring about the economic apocalypse that brought us the largest recession since the Great Depression?
Similarly, employment news came out recently that could be read two ways too. The economy added some 163,000 jobs, and payrolls went up, but the employment rate stayed at 8.3%.
Wall Street surged. Why? Isn't one side telling us the 8.3% shows the economy is stalling and every deep recession has had a more powerful recovery than this one and therefore Obama's policy is at fault?
And isn't the other side pointing to the Great Depression and noting that recessions caused by financial meltdowns like it take up to 12 years to dig out of?
Wall Streeters point of view was different. The 8.3% actually means more people who had previously given up looking for work have re-entered the job force. It's actually a sign of hope, and a sign that things have really turned around.
Let's hope more people take that point of view and believe it. Nothing like confidence that things are getting better to build up confidence that things are getting better.
America, ya gotta love it.

1805 Election Cost

Not long ago an interesting bi-partisan thing happened. Harry Reid and John Boehner got together and did something. (Let's hope they never get together and trade names, the political world's not ready for a Harry Boehner.) They agreed, in a low-key private non-ballyhooed non-ideological way to quietly extend the funding for our government for six months.
Beyond the election. Hmmm.
You mean the bickering congress can get things down without political posturing?
Why, you ask? Aren't all those histrionics important to the base? Aren't arch-liberals and Tea Party Republicans supposed to fire up their constituencies and prove once and for all the American public is either left or right?
Well, um, no. It's an election year and elections are decided by moderates. Now is not the time to beat the drum. Now's the time to play the flute. The gentle, reasonable, pied-piper flute that leads the independents to one camp or another.
Because poll after poll has shown that independents are sick of partisan bickering. And they really don't like the nonsense gridlock has brought about. Like last year's government shutdown over the budget. Remember that?
You'd think shutting down the government would save money, right? Not so, according to the Government Accountability Office. (Yes there is one. Yes, it's a government office. No, I don't know who is responsible for keeping it accountable.)
The GAO estimates the cost of the debt ceiling shutdown promulgated by the Tea Party freshmen forced the Treasury Department to pay extra borrowing costs, including hundreds of overtime hours for federal employees tasked with avoiding default.
Total loss? $1.3 billion.
Not the kind of story you want to get out in an election year. Especially if you don't want to lose independents who reward reasonable behavior with a vote.
That's a cost electeds on both sides don't want to pay.
Who says bi-partisanship is impossible?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1804 Tech Twofer

A couple of technological observations today. A tech twofer.
I saw this traffic jam recently. It was actually at a gas station. They'd had a promotion and for one hour their gas was $1.94.5 a gallon. It was amazing the crowd that formed. And it kept conglomerating as more people saw the crowd and joined in. It was like a gas mob.
But it led to one interesting picture. All the cars were literally bumper to bumper. And that meant there was a Prius backed up against another automobile, one of the Dodge muscle cars, so close that they were almost hooked up like a in-flight refueling between planes. In more ways than one--the Prius was backed up against a Charger.
Speaking of hooked up technology, I was totally amazed by the Olympic swimming competition. Most notably how close the winners are. And how it comes down to the final touch on the high-tech touchpad.
The race that got me most was the one between Le Clos and Michael Phelps that ended up with Michael losing. The media were all chortling to themselves with headlines like, "It was a Le Clos call" and suchlike, but my thinking was, "Oh my goodness--just five hundreds of a second?"
That's like the time it takes Google to load 50,000,000 search results, or so they say. Or how long it takes flatulence to clear an elevator. It's faster than the blink of an eye. Light could go only 9300 miles. Almost to London and back from Olympia.
It's quick. So you want a reliable touchpad. And not have one pad a quarter-inch thicker than another. Or with a bad relay switch. Or GFI.
And maybe, if you're a swimmer, this is not a good day to trim your fingernails.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

1803 Adios

I like the way words sound. That may be why I'm such an inveterate pun perpetrator. Like the word inveterate. Doesn't it sound like you're without a vet? "I was going to take Fifi to the vet but her insurance didn't cover the one I liked, so I'm currently inveterate."
Not to mention inveterate sounds like invertebrate. So if you're inveterate it's like your incurably spineless.
Then there's kayak. A lovely word. But it sort of reminds me of hacking up a phlegm-ball. There's a similar sounding name for a festival in British Columbia, known as the Hyack Festival. I'm not sure why. Perhaps they have a lot of Flemish people.
I went on a little kayak adventure recently. The low tide odor did congest me a bit. So I kayaked a few off the side. My personal kayak was pretty sleek. Slipped right through the water, slick as snot.
It was a custom kayak, made in Selma, Alabama of all places. So I guess you could say it was a Selma Kayak.
Speaking of folks from Mexico, I've always wondered something. Most folks know that the way you say goodbye in Mexico is "adios." It's probably the one Spanish word everyone can say.
But it doesn't mean goodbye as such. It's more of a blessing. It means "to god." Apparently, in the old days, things were pretty harsh so any departure may be your last. So it's kind of like a mini-last rites thing.
Then there's the other way Hispanic folks say goodbye, vaya con dios, or go with god. So it brings up the question. How does a Mexican atheist say goodbye?
As I'm an inveterate worrier it really bugged me. Fortunately my friend Bobby had the answer.
It works for everything.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

1802 Straight Talk

So I wonder about words we use sometimes. Every now and then some contrary linguistic streak leaves us with an outrider that makes no sense.
Take the word orthodontia. "Ortho," you would think, is a word that refers to bones. Like an orthopaedic doctor. You go to one when you have bone problems, right?
Very true. But the paed in paedic originally referred to the Greek word "child." And "ortho" doesn't mean bone at all. When used as a prefix it means straight or erect. So orthopaedic actually means straightening the child. At least according to
But that's a bonus. The word I was really curious about was orthodontist. Thinking the ortho meant bone and the dontist meant teeth. So now I know ortho means straighten, and dontist means teeth. But why? Every other time we refer to teeth, we use the word dental. From the Latin word "dens," meaning teeth.
So why isn't it orthodental work we pay through the nose for, and which leaves our jaw hanging when we see the bill? And why aren't the practitioners of said specialty known as orthodentists?
On another note, how about the word "downs?" Horseracing places are always called downs. As in Churchill Downs, Emerald Downs, and Kentucky Downs.
To what do the downs refer? I always think of downs as like dales. You got your hills and you got your dales. So if you got your downs, why aren't there any ups?
"I went to Churchill Downs and while I was there took a side trip to Churchill Ups. Great view of the horsetrack."
Strangely, the dictionary defines downs as "an expanse of rolling grassy upland."
Maybe if they straightened the rolling downs out they could race horses on the flats.
A little orthodowntia anyone?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

1801 Per Sense

I know I've belabored the subject of wealth inequality before, but I read a couple of statistics recently that worked on the subject in a different way so I thought I ought to share.
A recent article in The Atlantic said that so far, 0.000063 percent of the country's population have given more than 80% of the Super PAC money that's been spent in the presidential election. In case you're slow at math, that's 196 super wealthy people. So much for evil corporations, who know that their bottom line is affected by both parties in power.
Apparently, these 196 people think they ought to buy the election and affect the outcome in their favor. One guesses that favor would lead to them being able to be even more super wealthy.
So much for the evil 1%. The 99-percenters are going to have to change their name. To the 99.999937-percenters.
The other wealth statistic was that the average Canadian is now richer than the average American. The net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household net worth was $319,970.
Canada! A country with universal health care. And no Super PACs!
But that's too easy. This is average net worth. That means the wealth of the top .000037% has been averaged with the wealth of John Q. Unemployed in Detroit, Michigan.
And that means an even more disconcerting conclusion. Even though the rich got richer recently, the country as a whole still got poorer.
All I can say is, I hope the Super PACkers plan to use the results of their election to finally create some of those new jobs they told us they need to be free from regulation to do.
So we can all pack on some more wealth.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

1800 Cafe' Morte'

Since I've written numerous essays in the last few years on the subject of burial practices and cremation, it's only fitting that for my 1800th essay I do so again.
I just can't seem to put the matter to rest.
Especially when folks in the rest-putting business continue to come up with different ways to do so. Like the South Carolina funeral home that's opening a Starbucks coffee store in its lobby. Yep, according to reports, the baristas will wear regular Starbucks uniforms as they dispense lattes to the bereaved. The owner, Chris Robinson, hopes his new Coffee Corner will help customers relax and "get their minds off of what's going on."
Well yeah...nothing like a fresh latte to make me forget about dear Aunt Lucille. And what better way to help put you in the right frame of mind to pay obscenely high prices for a casket than to pay obscenely high prices for a cup of coffee.
Except, of course, the whole cremation cremains cream combination confusion.
I've talked before about how the funeral home word for cremation ashes--cremains--sounds not unlike a coffee additive. This just brings it home. "Here's your drip, Sir. Did you want room for cremains with that?"
"I've a got a double necre-ado with extra cream here, who's next?" Sort of makes you want to avoid ordering a cup of Joe.
So what do you call the place? Cafe Die-em? Creme'-torium Emporium? Seattle's Last? Final Resting Grounds? Roast in Peace? I'm sure we haven't seen the last of this.
Some cultures see owls as symbols of death, so I suppose it could be worse. The funeral home owner could be hoping to take his customers' minds off their grief with the second most popular modern chain in his lobby. Hooters.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

1799 'Cinco Johnson

Seems like not a day goes by you don't hear of another privacy invasion by the crumbling Facebook. Like even after you log off Facebook still monitors every website you visit for a while. The better to harvest data and place those ads that pop up with strangely relevant categories.
Those ads that various surveys have shown are more and more completely ignored. Like splotches on the wallpaper of our lives, eventually they just disappear from our perception.
So. If Facebook is harvesting, storing, and using all these private things in our lives in such a discourteous fashion, and violating the norms of decent society, shouldn't we really be calling them anti-social media.
Speaking of social media, apparently Chad Ochocinco is positioning himself to be an unencumbered free agent, even though he just signed with the Dolphins. And doesn't want to unnecessarily restrict himself from a new jersey number on a new team. He's legally changed his name back to Chad Johnson.
The regular media confirmed the seriousness of the change by reporting he not only legally changed his name it court, but also renamed his Twitter account.
Twitter...that is serious.
He says it's because his new wife has no interest in taking a numerical last name. I'm thinking Johnson is not much of an improvement, for obvious reasons. Like wherever they go people will say, "Here comes Johnson and Johnson."
Maybe the real J&J will seek their endorsement and offer big cash. When the new Johnson and Johnson have kids, there's shampoo, baby's a slam dunk. Or is that a touchdown? Either way, Chad can cash in on his new old name more than ever.
Maybe now that he's back to Johnson he can start catching a break that way.
And maybe a few passes.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

1798 Candidated Spam

It's election season and that means one thing---tree-killing junk mail.
Yep, mailbox spam, the bane of every resident and the boon of the US Postal Service. This is the one time of year they can actually turn a profit.
Because, at least in my mailbox, not a day goes by without three new flyers telling me whom I should vote for. Most of the rest of the year I get ads for pizza and Lovers Packages so in a way it's a relief. Looking at pictures of perfect smiling families is a nice change from lurid photographs depicting semi-naked hussies hawking hootchie-cootchie underwear.
But family photos get boring pretty quickly too. Why is it that every candidate feels it's so necessary to send me a rack card-quality circular with a picture of the dear old family? The obligatory two children, dressed in all-American sweaters and khakis you know they never wear except when Aunt Maebelle comes to call, and scrubbed so hard their ears are still red late into the photo session, when the Northwest weather finally cooperated enough to render that perfect shot.
Then there's the pets. Apparently all successful candidates must have pets. Pets show trans-species compassion, very important when you're promoting non-trans-partisan gridlock.
As I contribute to candidates on both sides of the aisle, I get double the junkmail too. Curiously, Republicans this year are outspending Democrats 2-to-1 on building my instant recycle heap.
I'm not sure what that means. R's favor print because it's an Grand Old-fashioned Presentation? They think their targets are more literate? Or they think their voters like pretty retouched pictures of idealized America?
Come to think of it, the background in just about every picture does include amber waves of grain...
Or is that just weeds in a recent clearcut?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, August 06, 2012

1797 On Demand

I read a commentary recently warning of the hazards of "binge watching." That's right, the subjects of world peace and war and hunger and such aren't compelling enough. We need to wring our hands over TV watching.
Well, not TV watching per se, but watching serial TV episodes all in a row. Binge watching is when you buy or rent an entire season of a TV show and watch it non-stop.
I'm guessing the motherly admonition of it being bad for your eyes is the least of your worries. Who has time to watch 13 one hour episodes of one show?
Oh that's right, this is the generation of young folks who spend endless hours in their parent’s basements playing multi-person video games or composing snarky comments to newspapers.
But it's not just trolls. Consider this. The commentator talked about us being in an "On Demand" TV consumer age. We can watch what we want, where we want, whenever we want, on whatever device we have handy, from smartypants phones to wall-mounted HD3DTV.
But that also means we are more alone. When was the last time you gathered around the water cooler and talked about last night's episode of Seinfeld? Or Mash?
That's bad. Because then the only thing that jolts our society into some sort of group consciousness is tragedy. A gulf coast hurricane, or a big mass murder. We share nothing good and entertaining together. We only share the bad side of nature... and human nature.
Which leads to fear, hate, and paranoia.
That's the real tragedy. As any marriage counselor will tell you, learning to live together means balance, sharing the bad and the good.
Life is struggle. We need to share all the load.
On demand means on your own.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, August 03, 2012

1796 Innumeracy

There was talk recently that we spend too much time worrying about our kid's math and science scores. After all, one group maintained, when do we really need calculus? And who cares if x and y equals z? Everyday life is more about negotiating with people and finding ways to earn money to pay for cool stuff like smartphones.
The argument has a certain appeal. Especially to those who remember suffering through Mr. Poindexter's algebra class right before lunch break. Growling stomachs amplified by wooden elbow desks seemed to proclaim, "X schmex, let's eat..."
Well here's why you need math. Some stores are trying to screw you. A recent study by the University of Minnesota showed that a store will sell 73% more hand lotion when they offer 50% more in quantity than when they offer a discount of 35%. The discount of 35% is actually a better deal. Researchers call it a numerical blind spot.
If an item is a dollar, 33% extra is not as good a deal as 33% off. One gets you a cost of 75 cents and the other a cost of 67 cents for the base unit.
The researchers call this "innumeracy." Kind of a math version of illiteracy. People who can't comprehend numbers. Stores do this on purpose and you end up holding the fractionally shorter end of the stick.
They also double discount. Because people think if it's 20% off and then an additional 25% that the whole thing is 45% off. Nope. It's actually just 40%. Because the second discount isn't on the whole amount.
But us inummerate types jump to the easier percentage-free math. My advice: Use that smartphone. Admit it. It is smarter than you. Especially if you can get a "fraction app" for 50% off.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

1795 Flying Pets

I heard on the radio that one of airlines has opened up their pet policy. They’re going to allow any service animal, with an appropriate doctor's prescription, even if that animal is a monkey or a lizard.
Up to now, most airlines have only offered dog and cat onboard privileges, although some allow birds. Which seems a little odd. A bird flying in a plane is like a fish riding a submarine.
Be that as it may, I wonder where the rights of one trump the rights of another. If by service animal, they mean one who assists the deaf or blind that's one thing, but how about the broader category of the psychological service animal? Those brought along to comfort their owners.
Because I know plenty of people who have physical allergic reactions to dogs, cats, and pet dander generally. What about their rights? Do they have to add additional allergy assistance just because someone else can't fly without Fifi or Fido?
Where do you draw the line?
Or how about the poor person who has a morbid and debilitating phobia for four-legged fiends? Can they bring their counselor on board for a reduced fee?
I remember a woman who brought a dog into an establishment were I worked a long time back. The dog started to growl at me. In my workplace.
And it stunk to high heaven. I had to open the doors to air the place out afterwards. The lady was exercising her right to bring her stinky dog with her. But what about my right to work in a dogsmell-free environment?
She wouldn't have been able to walk in with a cigarette burning. Why should I have to inhale her stinky dog?
As you can tell, it got my dander flying...
America, ya gotta love it.

1794 Crimementally

Read a couple of articles recently that, if you aren't a little worried about the future prospects of our little democracy, may make you so. Actually, it was three articles, so I guess that qualifies technically as a “few.”
The first article said that Americans are more prone to anxiety than any other nation. According to a new study by the World Health Organization, 31% of Americans suffer from some anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes. The WHO says it's because of work and financial worries and stuff. That's five times the anxiety rate of Nigeria, where, you know, they have to worry about where the next meal is coming from.
The second article said that despite having spent more than $25 billion on the so-called "war on drugs,” the price of one gram of cocaine has actually dropped 16 percent since 2001.
Who says government stimulus doesn't improve the marketplace? Then again, the price of illegally traded legal oxycontin has gone up.
The third article reported that U.S. cellphone carriers handled 1.3 million requests from law enforcement agencies last year to spy on user’s calls, text messages, and location. They say the number of requests are rising about 15% per year.
It all appears to be related somehow. Interesting that even with cellphone surveillance added to the mix, the drug war continues to fail. But even more interesting that our anxiety is going up. Perhaps because we're paranoid that some of those same incompetent elements in law enforcement are snooping on us.
Reading our emails and texts, putting us through full body scanners that fry our DNA at airports, sending domestic unmanned drones into our neighborhood skies to surveill us all 24/7. What's to feel anxious about?
I'm just glad the terrorists haven't won.
America, ya gotta love it.