Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1854 Phonoholic

I read recently how smartphones are taking a bigger chunk out of our household budgets. I can believe it. The technological explosion, while wonderful in providing us with instantaneous information, has come at a cost. Between smartypants phones and internet cable and NetFlix-enabled thousand channel HDTVs, people are surrounded by costly electronic subscription services. You used to buy a subscription to a couple of magazines for 50 bucks a year. Now it's $250 a month to get all the bells and whistles of pointless diversion.
Last year people spent $116 more on telephone services alone than they did in 2007, even though total annual expenditures increased by only $67. Interestingly, over the same period, restaurant spending declined by $48, spending on apparel by $141, and entertainment spending by $126.
That means trade-offs. Those fidgety phone folks we see everyplace have sacrificed something else to feed their fidgetyness. They say people get addicted to smartphones. This seems like further proof. Sounds like the heroin addict or the alcoholic, ready to sacrifice the normal things in his life to feed his habit.
Cut back on going to restaurants, people are always frowning at you while you're there anyhow, swiping and gesturing and beeping and pinging with your phone.
And who needs new clothes? As long as you have a pocket to hold your phone you're dressed enough. And any pictures of you that you send on your phone are head shots.
And entertainment spending? Who wants to go to a movie place where they block your signal? Heck, in six months you can watch that same movie on your phone and keep up on your tweets at the same time.
Hmmm. Sacrificing, rationalizing---key qualities of addictive behavior.
It may be time for a smartphone twelve-step app...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1853 Little Thinkers

It's the little things in life that get you thinking sometimes.
First, I heard a news story the other day about an ordinary soccer match in Seattle that had 66,000 fans attend. Pretty amazing. The back of my brain registered that you never hear of a Mariners game having 66,000 people attend. And yet you hear nothing but the Mariners on the news when they're limping along through the season. Doesn't seem fair somehow. Maybe if they want more people in the stadium they should suppress media coverage.
Then there's the Nissan Armada. Was driving behind one the other day. It was large. It blocked the view from my tiny Honda. But all that wasn't annoying. What got me was my historical memory. Or memory of history.
Come to think of it, all memories are history aren't they?
Anyhow, you probably also remember the story of the one armada most of us have been taught about. The Spanish Armada. The huge fleet of ships that was going to attack England and put an end to their privateering. It was supposed to be invincible. Like the Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable.
You might want to check those Armada airbags.
Lastly, I'm beyond thinking, and getting more than a little annoyed, at dropdown menus. You know the ones. You're filling out an online form for something and they want you to input your address. Easy enough, you're typing away, and then you come to the "state" and "country" fields. And they each have, instead of a type-able into space, a dropdown menu. You have to select your state and country from long lists.
Beautiful... if you are from Alabama and Argentina.
Totally sucks if you're from Washington, USA.
Ironically, where the Microsoft version of dropdown menus was invented.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

1852 Infusionary

Every now and then I like a little variety. Or at least think I should try something different because I don't want to be an old fuddy-duddy who's set in his ways.
Unfortunately, I usually get reminded it's safer to stay set in my ways. Like not long ago I was going to buy some Craisins. I like to stir a few craisins into my oatmeal as a sweet fruity supplement. I like the flavor and the texture, even though I'm not particularly troubled by urinary tract infections.
When I went to buy my last bag they offered an alternative. Craisins “infused with pomegranate juice.” I shelled out the bucks to try them, proud of my non-fuddy-duddy adventurousness.
Boy was I disappointed.
I was hoping this would be a way to enjoy pomegranate, which as you know, is a singularly hard fruit to eat. I always think the word pomegranate sounds like some sort of thing cheerleaders shake that's made out of stone. The hard shell lends itself to that interpretation. And the little pebble-like granules inside aren't too easy to dig out either.
Be that as it may, the pomegranate juice with which they infused the cranberries didn't taste too good. And worse, the cranberries themselves had an even more dehydrated texture than usual. I began to suspect that the reason they infused them was because they were over-dried to begin with and the pomegranate juice was meant to restore some softness.
So tell me, how do you infuse a cranberry? To me infuse sounds like when they inject something into something. Do they have a little IV they set up for each cranberry?
Really? Infused? Wrong word. Maybe they should just say soaked.
Like I was when I forked over the money to buy them.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

1851 Greasy Peanuts

Sometimes words have problems meaning what they say. Like recently when I heard Toyota was having another recall. "Recall" is one of those words that sound pretty final.
Like the recall right now for Trader Joe's Peanut Butter. Seems one of the "all natural" manufacturers with which they deal slipped some “all natural” salmonella into their peanuts products.
Ouch. Who wants to get intestinal distress from a PB&J? Would they call that discomfort food? But trendy Trader Joe's isn't the only natural food purveyor getting kicked in the gut. Peanut products are being recalled from Starbucks too, along with cookies sold at Whole Foods, nut butters from Harry and David, and the chocolate peanut butter cup gelato at Talenti.
Really? Isn't gelato supposed to be fruity? Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Gelato? That makes me sick already...
Anyhow, that type of recall doesn't involve having you come in and have someone make an adjustment to the product like with cars. "Here you go right here, ma'am. The problem's a misplaced peanuts adjustment. We'll have your nut butter running smoothly in no time."
When I heard Toyota was having a recall it was about something pretty mundane. A sticky window switch. The news story said Toyota was recalling them because they may short out and cause smoke or fire. The problem was caused, they said, because of an uneven layer of grease being applied to the switch.
What? Intentionally applying grease? I'm thinking "grease" was not the word to use here. Grease is icky, smelly, dirty, well... greasy. Grease and grime are brothers, cousins of stains and smudges.
I'm just saying. This would actually be a fine place to slip in the word "lubricant."
As long as it's not an all natural lubricant made from peanuts...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

1850 On a Roll

The economy continues to improve. Lately there was the unemployment report. It unexpectedly dipped below 8% for the first time since the depression sunk in. Not long after that another unexpected report. Consumer confidence is at its highest level in five years.
All of this, even though Brit Hume of Fox News characterized Joe Biden in the Vice-Presidential debate as coming across like a cranky old man. Really? Brit Hume calling someone else a cranky old man? I guess it takes one to know one. And he's crankier than ever with the upturn of the economy. Because he was surprised too.
Funny how with all the expert prognosticators out there, and speed-trading Wall Street analysts and such, we still get unexpected reports about such seemingly basic things.
What is a real leading indicator we can trust to find out these things? I may have a clue. Bloomberg News who reported on the Reuters/University of Michigan study that showed consumer confidence rising to 83.1, the highest level since September 2007, also dug deeper and interviewed a few important people. Like the head of Winnebago.
Yes, that Winnebago. The giant, luxury, $4.17 a gallon gas-guzzling hotel-on-wheels America invests in so they don't have to use strange toilets. “We are very encouraged by the positive signs we see in the general economy,” said Randy Potts, CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc. “Past experience has shown that motor-home sales closely correlate to both consumer confidence and new single-family housing starts, both of which are now showing real signs of improvement.” Improvement is right. Winnebago company earnings rose 24.5% over last year's fiscal fourth quarter.
So there you have it. As goes Winnebago so goes the economy.
Winnebago must be a Native American word that means, "Giant Rolling Kitchens come with a chicken in every pot."
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

1849 Electronic Bum

The other day I had a dream that I saw a glimpse of the future. I was on a surface road, driving by a freeway interchange. And there was one of those hobo guys. One of the real bums, not one of those people in desperate need that we call homeless.
He was holding up a sign. But when he turned towards me I saw that it didn't have any words on it at all. It was just a piece of cardboard, on which was stamped a large QR Code.
Dude! What a brilliant idea! Freeway Onramp Bums are the last edge of technology penetration, but it's only a matter of time. I saw one the other day talking into his phone on the sly and it was a smartypants phone that was newer and better than mine.
So why not make the panhandling process more efficient. The government has already made food stamps electronic with EBT. This could be a private sector alternative for those who hate messing with the government as a matter of stubborn rebelliousness.
No more handing out dirty money and leaning dangerously out of car windows. Just take a snapshot of his QR Code, if you are so moved by his predicament, and follow the link to the Badly Underwritten Men website to make your contribution.
There could be a drop-down menu that would help you identify which onramp or off-ramp he was on. Northbound I-5 Exit 107. There could even be thumbnail pictures, in case a set of bums was sharing a QR sign.
Then you could just access his PayPal account and electronically transfer the money. Or not even actual money, you could press icons for e-coupons redeemable at the convenience store for oranges, sandwiches, and cigarettes.
Or malt liquor forties.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

1848 Beneficial Code

I write a lot about technological changes. Because it's like they drop out of the sky on a daily basis. Take QR Codes. Those little black-and-white stamps that now appear on everything.
You capture them with your smartypants phone and they instantly deliver your consciousness to a website or video that tells you all about something. A QR Code, stamped on the packaging of a salmon filet perhaps, will lead you to a firm in Denmark that's declaring a salmonella alert on it. Very quick, very updatable to the QR Code placer. Who cares if it robs objects of their beauty like a badly placed homemade tattoo.
I would like some sort of technology like that for flight insurance. Some app that would bing your beneficiary's phone and let them know that in fact they are a beneficiary. How much flight insurance do you think goes unclaimed? I took some out recently when I flew to Minnesota. Somehow doom and carnage entered my mind when I contemplated flying across the Great Plains. Must have been that Children of the Corn story.
In any event, I wondered when I took out the insurance how my beneficiary would ever know. Does the insurance company really care? Who's checking on them? Should I call my son?
"Oh, by the way, if I crash and die there's a policy with Fly By Night Insurance Company with a survivor benefit in your name. Have a great day."
That's why an app for his phone would be cool. "Ping!" it would go, and a little angry birds-like animation would show smoking airplane shrapnel, a flaming father, and dollar signs dropping from the sky.
And a QR Code he can tap on for the beneficiary website.
And PayPal account.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

1847 World Wide Warming

Sometimes the scale of our new internet technology overwhelms me. Like the other day I heard that Facebook had crossed the one billion mark for users. But I also heard recently that something like 20% of all Facebook identities are not real. Those fakebookers mean there are only 800,000 real users.
Still it's pretty large. Which if you want to advertise to them doesn't qualify your leads very well. It would be like if you were a salesman for a doorknob company asking for a lead list and someone gave you a phonebook for one sixth of the planet.
But hey, huge is what the internet is. Did you ever wonder how much power it takes to plant the information, store it, and shuttle all that data around? A recent news story in the New York Times answered that question. And they answered it online.
The huge internet data centers that store and process all kinds of e-stuff, including old emails, Google searches, and billions of Facebook updates, consume in the neighborhood of 30 billion watts of electricity worldwide. Yep, even with today's efficient circuitry and electronics, the World Wide Web is a world wide energy sucker. The equivalent of 30 nuclear power plants.
I wonder how many power plants that is in coal? I always knew my computer box helped keep my feet warm under my desk. I had no idea it was contributing to global warming too.
But here's the deal; only about 10 percent of that energy is being used to power actual computations. The rest of the power just keeps servers running 24/7, to avoid any slowdowns in archive retrieval and RAM that might annoy users.
RAM? Archive retrieval? Hmm.
The World Wide Web and global warming:
Thanks to the memories...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

1846 Walroom

Interesting story in the news recently about Walmart and Kindle. Actually it was about the huge war between Walmart and Amazon, but the skirmish in the battle was about Kindle.
Walmart will no longer carry it.
Seems Walmart has decided by enabling Kindle sales they are enabling their competitor to "showroom" their store. "Showrooming," in case you haven't heard, is the practice of going to a pleasant retail outlet, physically examining a product, talking to a knowledgeable salesperson about it, then going home and buying it more cheaply online, most likely through the services of Amazon.
I'm not sure Walmart has thought the whole thing through. Because first, when people buy a Kindle in Walmart, they don't immediately unwrap it and start using it to shop for other things.
Second, while I might be able to physically "showroom" products at Walmart, it's not the most pleasant place in the world to do so. And the chance of my finding a salesperson, much less a knowledgeable salesperson, with any kind of expertise I could tap into, are remote at best, as Walmart prides itself on paying the lowest possible benefit-free compensation.
The simplest way for Walmart to prevent showrooming would be for Walmart to forbid the use of a Kindle in their stores. Something that ought to be easy, as they are a bit larger than a cellphone. Which, by the way, countless people with countless apps are already showrooming with. Is Walmart going to ban smartphone sales next?
Lastly, if you do shop for a Kindle, why not buy it from Amazon in the first place? If you are actually buying a Kindle at Walmart, you are obviously one of those people who doesn't trust the whole online/delivery scenario.
Oops. Walmart just lost you as a customer.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

1845 Digital Musicians

Used to be if folks thought someone was good with an instrument they'd say he's handy, like with a flugelhorn perhaps. Or has a nice hand for the violin. Now a person is a good musician if he can handle the world of digits. As in digital technology.
That's good, I suppose. Things having to do with computers and keyboards have touched every cranny of our society. I find that weird. Especially when I read the web address of certain things out loud. Like, "Check Lumbering Products dot com slash Thurston County." Or "Medieval Weaponry dot com slash saber."
That "slash" sounds so violent. Is there a different key we can use? How about the tilde? Tucked up in the upper left of the keyboard, no one uses the tilde for anything. And it sounds downright melodious. "Check musicians with digital names dot com tilde Maroon 5.
Works for me.
Speaking of which: That's just one more indicator things have moved in the digital direction---digital groups. Like Matchbox Twenty. It sort of implies they signed up late for their AOL account doesn't it? Matchboxes one through nineteen were taken.
Not nearly as late as Blink 182 though. Talk about behind the trend. Or maybe they just couldn't see their way to controlling the keyboard correctly. They were blinking so damn much.
At least they could see the keyboard. Not as bad as Third Eye Blind. Maybe they should go to the optometrist 3 Doors Down and have it looked at. Then again, blind musicians have done fine through musical history, digital or otherwise.
You still need to be handy. So if you want to be a really good digital musician I suggest you avoid Nine Inch Nails. You could slash your keyboard wires.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1844 Data Bans

Data is distorting our world. Personally I'm ready for a data ban. Take my cellphone. It's 7 years old, which is like 49 in dog or technology years. But it does have texting capability. Sort of. I have to go through the 3-letters-per-number keypad thing so composing a text is not unlike tiptoeing barefoot through a field of thorns. But I manage.
What I don't manage is receiving texts, as now that everybody else has keyboards and data plans, they are composing and sending electronic opuses. My phone will buzz four times in rapid succession. Then I get a serialized text. The episodes aren't even cliff hangers. They'll be interrupted in the middle of a word.
I wish they'd just call.
Funny how we've gone from worrying about the minutes we used to have on our phones to the size of our data plan. Data has become the currency of life.
Data manipulation has made things so much easier. Take modern music. Today's pop songs have layers and layers of production. The main singer may have five or six different versions of her voice singing the song in different enunciations, pitches, and registers.
Back in the four-track master tape recording days that wouldn't have been possible without a lot of work. Now, thanks to digital electronics, it's easy. As easy as going to McDonalds for a Big Mac rather than cooking a 5-course nutritionally-balanced dinner at home.
Easier is not always better.
Personally, I think there are secret messages in the recordings. Maybe to make the young buy more technology. And get someone more profit. Old people can't hear higher frequencies. I slowed down one of the new songs the other day. There was a voice that said, "Paul is dead."
Or was it, "Data bans is bad Satan"?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1843 Durwardplay

I was reading an article on Carol Burnett recently. It mentioned some of the people she worked with in her long and entertaining entertainment career. One name that caught my ear was Durward Kirby.
For those of us who think today's celebrity names, like Snoop Dogg and Shaquira, are odd, it's nice to remember names from way back that were even odder. I mean really, Durward? D-u-r-w-a-r-d-. How many people are named Durward these days? I'm guessing it would be a playground liability. And kids don't even watch Bewitched anymore. That was my first thought. Wasn't that one of the pet misnamers Samantha's mom called Darrin? Or was that Derwood?
This from a character named Elvira. Played by an actress named Agnes Moorehead. Who had a surprisingly high forehead.
And Durward Kirby? Sounds like an out of control vacuum cleaner. It didn't go forward or backward. It went durward.
Those were the great days of Hollywood. When big stars could be named Zippo or Harpo. When one of the most captivating young talents to grace a Hitchcock move could be named Tippi Hedron. Tippi? Was she unbalanced in some way?
There was also Totie Fields, female comedy's answer to Zero Mostel. And let's not forget Tuesday Wells, not just named after something in a lot of fields, but first to vault a day of the week to Hollywood starlet fame.
What do we have today? Sting and The Edge. We name rock stars after things that may send you to the emergency ward. Or how about Slash? Just as bad. Worse actually. His name is even used in website URLs.
Want to learn more about him?
Go to w-w-w- bestrockguitaristsofalltime dot com slash Slash.
I hope he never crosses swords with Katie Perry.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

1842 Oddservations

Occasionally people ask me where I get my ideas. It's pretty simple. Life. Observations of odd things. Oddservations perhaps.
Like the other day a Dutch firm announced a recall of their food product because of salmonella contamination. Their food product? Smoked Salmon. What are the chances?
I just hope the name of the product wasn't Sam and Ella's Smoked Salmon. That would be too weird.
Sometimes I get ideas secondhand. Re-oddservations. I have a friend, let's call him Rick, who has a similar eye for the absurd as I. Occasionally he spots odd things. Like the other day he was in a store and he saw a sign for an item that said, "Waterproof Raingear." Now I suppose there is still that fine distinction in clothes between waterproof and water-resistant. But really. If it's actual raingear you'd assume, with rain being water and all, that it would be waterproof. Otherwise it's just a coat and pants that can stand a little dampness.
He saw a more interesting thing at a food store. The sign in the fish department said "Refreshed Cod." Really? Was the cod tired? Did it just need a little nap and then bingo, it woke up perky?
How perky can a dead fish be?
And how does one refresh a cod? Was it fresh, then frozen, then thawed, then refrozen, and now it's refreshed. Why don't they just call it unappetizing?
Not as bad, I suppose, as the reconstituted pollock they use in those faux shrimp things. That always sounded like something they put through the Star Trek transporter. Beamed down to the supermarket and reconstituted.
I hope the refreshed cod isn't like that. I pray it's an actual filet and not just un-constituted fish bits, reshaped into a cod loaf.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

1841 Con Techy

You can make all the technological improvements you like but people will still be the contrary curmudgeons they are. Humans love to take the law in their own hands. Or break it.
Take the experience of police in Prince George's County Maryland. Which, by the way, appears to have not got the memo about the revolution. Prince George's County?
America's own little monarchy.
The police in that fine area are now setting up security cameras to figure out who's been engaging in malicious mischief. Against what? Against their speeding cameras. Apparently, six speeding cameras have been burned, shot, or vandalized by angry drivers. Police say this has resulted in a loss of safety to the community. Well yeah, nothing like drive-by shootings to decrease safety.
Actually, the police meant the speeding that's resulted.
Everyone is wondering who's going to prevent the new security cameras from also being shot out. Maybe they did get the memo on the revolution after all.
Speaking of technology, I was calling my credit card company the other day about a new card, and the automatic processing voice asked for the last four numbers of my Social Security number to activate and validate it. Pretty slick, I thought, but then I realized something. I've had that same question asked for a variety of verification procedures, many of them financial.
So really, all an identity thief needs to know is those same last four numbers. Along with my name and address. If verifiers never ask for the other five numbers they may as well not exist. At least if someone’s stealing my identify on the phone.
I suppose they could build a vocal frequency lie-detector into the automated phone processor.
But I'm guessing some contrary criminal will find a way to shoot that down too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1840 Survival Shopping

I was reading an article in my Costco magazine recently---I know, I know, normally I just look at the pictures---when I chanced on an interesting product. A whole year's worth of food.
Apparently, survivalism has reached a new plateau, and not just in the mountains of Idaho. It's now so popular you can buy products for it at Costco. Costco, as we know, is pretty savvy about what items they offer. They stick with the guaranteed sellers, shave some money off full retail, and pump it out in quantity.
I guess it's because disasters are becoming more common. The item I saw was called Shelf Reliance Deluxe Emergency Food, Water, and Fuel Storage. I think they have to work on the name. Too long and not catchy enough. How about Costco-geddon?
Or Pick-A-Pack-Apocalypse?
The disaster cache contains enough grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, protein, and drinks to feed one person for a whole year with a 2000 calorie-a-day diet. Plus fuel to cook them. Of course, it's in 66 #10 cans, meaning once you open a can you'll be on that food for a while so it doesn't spoil. Could be boring.
But hey, if you ain't an epicure, what a great idea. You don't even have to go to Costco to get it. They'll deliver it for just $999. That's right, for just $2.75 a day you won't have to leave your basement to shop for food or interact with real people.
Troll living just got easier.
By way of perspective, there was another big food item on the opposite page. 144 Holiday candy towers filled with chocolates. it was $2500. Something tells me the $999 survival stash doesn't include candy.
Maybe shopping every week wouldn't be so bad after all...
America, ya gotta love it.

1839 Flaps in Judgment

So you gotta wonder sometimes. Recently there were a couple of flaps that really shouldn't have been flaps; that is if the people involved had a shred of common sense.
One was a flap over someone flapping their lips. In this case blueblood Paris Hilton. She was caught on tape saying some pretty negative things about homosexual men. Naturally, something as scandalous as that got sold to the highest bidder.
Paris was all contrite and apologetic and tried to backtrack from her remarks. But the damage was done. To her, and to the people she looked down her up-in-the-air nose at.
But it raises the question. With all the electronic devices out there today, how can anyone have any expectation of privacy? Especially the rich and famous. The top one-percenters may make a ton of money, but they make a ton of money for their leeches as well when they become a tabloid commodity.
The other flap was over Princess Kate Middleton. Who didn't have on a flap of material to cover her breasts. For reasons unknown to the Queen, Kate felt she needed to avoid tan lines, which perhaps are some earmark (or chest-mark) of the hoi polloi. So she bared her bosom at a private estate. Surprise! She was caught by a photographer's lens.
Again, a very simple thing to avoid. Two words: tanning bed. Any negative health effects of tanning beds are still less than the outdoor sun. (Gift idea Prince Willy?)
If you don't want people to see you private parts keep them private. I don't remember the last time I nude sunbathed on my back deck. And I'm not even famous.
These people, of all people, should know better.
Sad they don't have the common sense of us commoners.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

1838 Animalsity

Life is such a menagerie. I was driving down the road the other day, nursing a massive headache, and found myself behind a slow-moving car. We were both approaching an intersection and the light was turning yellow. There was plenty of time to turn left, both for the person in front of me and me.
I was in a hurry, so catching this light would have been nice. The person in front of me chose instead to chicken out and stop.
As I applied acute positive pressure to my steering wheel in the form of a vigorous fist pound I chanced to glance at the lady's bumper, upon which was affixed a small banner with a slogan.
It said, "Live Like a Lion."
The yellow shards of irony cramped my braincells, increasing my headache. I couldn't help but grimace like a tasered hyena.
The light changed to green. I briefly hoped the lion ahead of me would now at least engage in a jackrabbit start to compensate for her formerly sheepish yellow light timidity. I was wrong in that bull-headed expectation. As a good friend of mine often reminds me, expectations are pre-meditated resentments.
Lion lady proceeded to move through the intersection with the ponderousness of a three-toed sloth. Traffic being what it was, I had no opportunity to snake around her for the next three lights. At each of which she slowed prematurely and started out again sluggishly.
Maybe her bumper sticker was from the Lions Club and she was just championing the philanthropic ideals it promotes. Somehow I don't think so.
She had probably gone to a Live Like a Lion seminar and put the sticker on her car to help her overcome her natural mousiness.
My headache just made me want to be lion down.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 08, 2012

1837 Wife of Jesus

There's been a big ballyhoo in the media recently about an amazing discovery. A piece of papyrus. Not just any piece of papyrus, but a piece of papyrus purported to point out the Jesus had a wife.
Yes, that Jesus.
The Jesus whose saint-like celibacy launched an entire set of restrictions in the Catholic Church. Woe is them.
Dan Brown acolytes, waving the banner of conspiracy, flocked to the airwaves and cooed in vindication and validation at the news. Nice for them to know, I suppose, that their favorite author actually had some shred of fact upon which to base his story of missionary misogyny. Mary Magdalene was not only important, and female disciples not only accepted, but Jesus himself may have taken Mary to wife.
The wife of Jesus, as told by a papyrus from 400 AD.
Wait a minute, did they say 400 AD? Doesn't AD mean anno domini, the year of our lord? So that's like 400 hundred years after Jesus' birth? Or approximately 368 years after his putatively pre-arisen passing?
Let's think about that. Even though 1600 or 2000 years ago both seem like a long time to us, people who lived in AD 400 still lived four centuries after Christ. Their papyri are no more correct than a 40-day-old PayPal offer to us. 400 years is a long time.
"But it was a rich oral tradition," you say. That always works well. Ever played the game rumor, where one person whispers a phrase and it works its way around the room? How does that oral tradition work out for accuracy?
I'm just saying...a 400-year-old papyrus-penning Christian would have known as much about the wife of Jesus as I know about the sister-in-law of the captain of the Mayflower.
It’s wholly unbelievable.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 05, 2012

1836 Tooth of the Dog

Yesterday I did a commentary about the big growth in pet funeral parlors and it lead me in a couple of directions I hadn't expected.
First, if people are now lavishing so many people-like things like fancy funerals on their pets, where's the limit? There are also now spas for pets, including not just petty pedicures but pet massages as well. What's next? Pet cosmetic dentistry? Then it hit me, why don't we see more doggy orthodontia?
And that led me to this epiphanic query---Why don't animals need more orthodontia generally? And its corollary---Why is it that only humans have such bad teeth and need it?
Kind of odd when you think about it. That the human species is the only one which suffers from bad teeth. Was that the trade-off for our big brains? Like birds traded off hands for wings, we had to give up a perfect bite so we could do advanced physics?
Something to think about with that big brain of yours next time you're in the dentist chair.
The other direction my pet funeral research led me was to potatoes. I was looking up the word "procession" to confirm it was used as both a word the meant moving ahead and also what they call the chain of cars in a funeral, and my auto-complete Google function completed the term "funeral procession" to "funeral potatoes."
Yep, funeral potatoes. Turns out it's a Mormon dish, prepared for their equivalent of wakes. It's made with hashbrown potatoes, cream soup, sour cream, and cheese, topped with crushed potato chips and more cheese and cooked as a casserole.
Rich enough to not just celebrate a funeral, but cause a few of its own.
But easy to chew, and pets love it too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

1835 Pet Procession

In America we love our pets. The evolution of pethood has come a long way. To providing shelter for cats so they'll hunt barn mice, or cave mice as the case was, to having mongrel wolf-like things handy so they could occasionally fill out a stew pot with four-legged protein, the pet has risen to a level of household royalty never imagined by our primitive forbears.
And now it's not just here that pets are taking first place in a family's affections. It's the hereafter too. Eric Spitznagle in Bloomberg magazine recently explained how much.
("Spitznagel." Isn't that a cross between a Shih-Tzu and a Weimaraner?)
Anyhow, Spitzy said the pet funeral business is growing by leaps and bounds, with over 700 funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories nationwide. A pet crematory... Thank god they found a use for the bankrupt teriyaki grill.
Bob Walczyk, who owns funeral homes for both pets and humans (separately...) says his pet funeral sales have risen 524% since 2003.
The owner's devotion for their pets exceeds the devotion to their human loved ones. Bob says, "When I tell them how much it is to cremate their grandfather, it's never cheap enough, but when the same family brings their dog next door, they don't even ask about money."
Why am I not surprised? In a land that created Little Caesar and Fancy Feast pet food. Whose owners blithely follow along behind their pets and hand-pick their poo. Who pillory a potential presidential potentate for utilizing a rooftop carrier. Why not drive the family into debt to send off Fido to the great pet park in the sky?
Where's the humanity?
Me, I'll just take the old pooch to the pound and donate that $1000 to the starving children's fund.
Sparky would have wanted it that way...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

1834 All Wet

I was reading recently on water and how much it takes to grow certain kinds of food. As the massive change in our climate seems to be getting underway, and vast areas of our country are suffering from drought, every drop of fresh water is becoming more and more precious.
In comparing foods with the formula of quarts of water per food calorie, scientists talk about an item's water footprint. The tiniest and most delicate footprint, just a tippy-toe in a shallow puddle, is the root vegetable. It uses .5 quarts per Calorie. That's still 50 quarts for 2/3 of a potato. Or a turnip. Sour cream is extra.
Cereals are also .5, while ordinary vegetables are about 1.4. Milk, from whence sour cream derives, is 1.9. So far, if you have a tater stuffed with green beans, sour cream, and butter you're still under 300 quarts of water for your meal.
But put on your swim fins, 'cause here comes the meat. Chicken is 3.2. Eggs? 2.4. Sheep or goats are really baaad. 4.5 quarts per Calorie. 3 ounces of goat is 122 calories or 549 quarts of water for one goat filet.
How did they kill him? By drowning?
But the worst? Beef---10.8 quarts per calorie. At 212 Calories for 4 ounces that's 2289.5 quarts for half a restaurant steak. Over 1000 gallons for the whole thing. Guess I'll skip that extra liquid teaspoon of steak sauce...
But good news, pork is only 2.3, lower than any other meat. Whenever I look at a menu at a new restaurant, I use my own formula, "When in doubt, try the pork." Cool. Now I can save the planet with that maxim too.
Just one more good reason to eat nature's most perfect food.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

1833 Confibence

It's time we started lying to ourselves more. Or at least be more selective in our beliefs. Did you ever notice how the word belie and belief are similar? That's because they both contain the word lie.
So let's lie to ourselves. End the recession once and for all. Get that consumer confidence back. Or is that con-fib-ence? Ben Bernanke said recently that unemployment would be around 7% if only consumer confidence were up. And what is consumer confidence but the belief that things are better?
The facts actually support that sort of belief. Auto sales are up. Really up. Automakers just had their best August since before the recession, selling 1.3 million cars and trucks. 20% more than a year ago. All three Detroit automakers, including the ones the government helped out, reported double-digit sales growth. Even full-sized pickups picked up 16%. Despite the rise in gas prices.
And home sales have turned around too. A recent news story told how home sales are on track to hit a 5-year high. So maybe folks will have some new garages to put their new cars in.
And to cap it all off, it's not just the little guy that has more money to spend, although he still has very little. The richest 400 Americans net worth jumped 13% to 1.7 Trillion. Yet they believe they could do better with a different administration in Washington. At least those attending meetings where they discuss the "victims" whose net worth didn't.
All I know is, if I had a 13% jump in net worth, I'd be believing things are not only picking up pretty good, but on their way home.
So believe the facts, and lie to yourself just a little.
Let's play the confidence game.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 01, 2012

1832 BP Ailing

There was a news story recently about another possible cause of obesity. This time it wasn't sugar. Or even high fructose corn syrup. It was BPA. That's right, bisphenol A, that great little chemical that's worked its way into ever facet of our existence. From hardening plastic to printing on receipts.
BPA is a hormone mimicker as far as the body is concerned. In this case the hormone is none other than estrogen.
Some studies link BPA with messed-up fertility in men, low sperm counts and such like. Not to mention mammary development. Who'd have thought filling up at the self-service island and ripping off a receipt would do so much damage? From a tiger in your tank to no stork in your future, all 'cause you filled it up with Ethel.
In any event, scientists found a correlation between that same BPA and obesity. But it was a problematic study. Since all kinds of fast food comes wrapped in or served from BPA-laced packaging, who's to say?
Maybe it's not the wrapping, maybe it really is the Twinkie inside.
As another great mind pointed out, "It's the Ding Dong dodo."
Coincidentally, Twinkies were also much favored by users of that other estrogen-mimicking mammary developing drug---Marijuana. But Twinkies backfired with LSD users. The cream filling was known to cause many a bad trip as it slowly extruded from the clutching grip of a acid tripper hanging on for dear life.
If you try squeezing a Twinkie with your bare hands you’ll see it takes you back to toddlerhood. And they said LSD was mind-expanding.
Funny, baby-boomers have gone from voluntarily altering themselves with one set of letters to involuntarily with another. LSD to BPA.
From expanding minds to expanding bodies.
My initial reaction? Better living through chemicals...
America, ya gotta love it.