Friday, March 29, 2013

1954 Poles Apart

You read things in the news sometimes that makes you wonder about where we're going. You expect to read weird things in the news, ordinary stuff doesn't sell ad space in their online editions, but still.
There was the story of the Maryland second-grader who was suspended from school because he shaped his breakfast pastry into a gun. The 7-year-old said he was trying to make a mountain. But the teacher thought it looked like a gun, so he was suspended. If you ask me, the second-grader may have been trying to shape a mountain out of a Danish, but the teacher was trying to make one out of a mole hill.
Worse, all the parents were sent a note saying the boy was suspended for using food to make an inappropriate gesture. So now people will think the kid was making a representation of a sex organ or something scatological.
Hope it wasn't a maple bar.
Even if he was making a gun so what? Kids use symbols to work out issues. A better approach would be to ask the kid why he did it and then work it out. Stigmatizing him to make a point will only make him really antisocial.
Another story was disturbing in a different way. Apparently firehouses across the country are quietly replacing the iconic brass poles that firefighters slide down. It's because of insurance liability for sprained ankles and damaged knees. Really? Sliding down a pole is damaging your joints? Whatever happened to that in-shape-more-than-anybody tough firefighter thing?
There's been one side benefit. Strip clubs have been able to pick up some cheap poles to erect in their showrooms.
To replace them, the firehouses are installing plastic playground-type slides. The firefighters? They're happier than a second-grader in a donut shop.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

1953 WOSAC

Occasionally life's offerings become odd in my brain. And occasionally I encounter little oddities in life. Here are a few examples.
When I come across a strange casserole type dish at a one of the many organizational luncheons I attend, my tendency is to suppose the meat therein is something I call MOMO --- Meat Of Mysterious Origin. I've noticed that if I eat at a lot of those luncheons, MOMO is also responsible for extra inches on my waistline.
Another acronym from my odd brain is my response when asked what type of shampoo or conditioner I use. As hair products are not high up my list of perceived value, I feel no inclination to part with too much money on them. Especially since hair is not something that stays with you forever anyhow. "Hair today, gone tomorrow," as I say. So when asked what time of shampoo I use, I always reply WOSAC. What's On Sale At Costco.
The other day I was working out at my club and had entered the locker room. At that point I had the odd and unfortunate experience of encountering a male whose use of both WOSAC and MOMO was evident. But not only was his waistline expanding and his hairline receding, he had been an early adopter of body art.
Unfortunately, he'd got one of those barbed wire tattoo bands around his bicep. All very lovely and menacing. A great statement of toughness and machismo. When it's firm and the underlying muscle is cut. And when the skin into which the tattoo is tattooed is tight.
Which was not the case for mister older and saggier MOMO WOSAC. His didn't look so much like barbed wire as a circle of flaccid worms in a limp conga line.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1952 Reds State

I was a little blue recently, about the color red. I was listening to some lame humorist on the radio doing what he thought was a funny tirade. During the course of his rant, he used the words "liberal commie pinko" to characterize folks on the left he disagreed with. Seemed a little inflammatory for the supposedly general audience the radio station's owners desired. The equivalent of someone on the left calling the humorist a conservative fascist nazi.
Then it occurred to me. Pink is a shade of red. That's why the pejorative "pinko" was originally coined. There was an old slogan back in the McCarthy days, when everyone's civil rights were trampled in the stampede of the Communist Scare. It was, "Better dead than red."
Back then the color red was the color of dread. Reds were commies. We were fighting the reds. So if you were leaning towards, say, socialism, then you weren't completely red, you were pink. You certainly weren't true blue.
Fast forward to now.
Heard a song on some country station and this guy sang that he likes things from the past. Country folks always seem to be hung up on the good old days. He sang that he wished he was like "a Civil War soldier, bang bang, like the good things that are never coming back."
Um... the Civil War was a bad thing. You know, brothers killing brothers, slavery, human bondage and destruction. Not a wistful time of universal goodness, Johnny Reb.
So, Red. Today if you're a redneck like that singer you're supposedly more patriotic. Especially if you come from a red state. My Ultra-conservative John Bircher Uncle is rolling over in his Texas grave, now that he's dead in a red state.
And because liberals live in true blue states.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

1951 Pick a Pope

The world has a new Pope. The news rang out on March 13th 2013. 3-13-13. Can't have too many thirteens in a lucky message. The Pope picked is socially conservative, so perhaps he'll reinvent Catholicism back to the 13th Century as well.
Everyone was just glad they picked a Pope at all. At first, the conclave was not conclusive in what they wanted. In fact, it was a little contentious, and the first and second round drafts were Pope free.
You'd think it would be easy to pick a pack of pious priests who picked a proper pope. But what kind of pope would a pack of pious proper priests pick?
They had one reluctant potential pope on the ropes but he did the pope-a-dope and got out of trouble. Then they couldn't get another because their Pope-0-1-k plan wasn't good enough. Now that they have to worry about old popes retiring, and not just being called straight to heaven, benefits packages are part of the negotiations.
And they had to please the press too. As my friend Ron Harris put it, everyone wanted to make sure the pope-arazzi wouldn't make negative pictures pope up in the tabloids.
The American news was completely American, as my friend Kris pointed out. The new Pope says his name is Francisco. The American media anglicized it to Francis. Why this renaming business? We can say Francisco, we actually have a San Francisco. Although we do call it Frisco. Pope Frisco sounds a little like a porn star.
Personally, I was disappointed in the pick. My fantasy pope draft winner was Benito from Barcelona. But Argentina won because Spain traded their number 2 pick for 3 Cardinals and a Monsignor to be named later.
Or renamed later.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

1950 Hobo Ejectus

Funny how things come back to haunt you. A few years ago I wrote a piece on the homeless issue. My thesis was that there are some very legitimate and needy homeless folks who have been totally destroyed by our economy. Hardworking people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
And another group of folks who actually chose to be out of the mainstream of American life. The kings of the road. Bindlestiffs. Swagman. Also known as Hobos.
The problem with the not-so-civil discourse about all of these people is that by mixing the two of them up, we don't find a constructive solution. They are distinct populations with distinct needs. You can't feed rice to a carnivore.
Let's face it, hobos are carnivores, in the sense that they are opportunists. Scavengers who know there are opportunities on the edge of society. Oftentimes they are not the most polite of folks. The conventions they defy are things like the prohibition on excreting bodily fluids in public planters. Or not being rude and aggressive in their panhandling.
They can also be sweet old drunks. Gnarled and affable and fun to have a conversation with.
But they are generally not single women with young children in need of a booze-free shelter. A shelter in which gnarled, affable, mildly drunk, and a little bit creepy, hobos are not so welcome. A shelter from which they quickly become hobo ejectus.
So recently a nameless graffiti artist scrawled in large letters the word I invented in my old essay for the fear of such hobos.
I'm sure the artist invented it independently. Still, it's nice to have my reputation and contributions, as rendered in graffiti, rise from the bathroom wall of my teens to the side of a big building downtown.
Hauntingly mainstream...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

1949 PxxPS

If it seems like I've been commenting a lot on food contamination recently, it's true. Because there’s been a lot of food contamination in the news. The most recent episode is weirder than usual.
First, it has to do with candy. In this case, Easter Candy. Seems Zachary Confections recalled their Chocolate-covered Marshmallow Eggs because they were feared to contain salmonella. A wise move. And since salmonella sometimes leads to vomiting, an even wiser move not to purvey an Easter candy that may rise again.
All and all, a good precautionary action. Zachary Confections is to be applauded for their proactive measures. Unfortunately, about a week after I heard about the recall, I heard that they had determined that there was no salmonella contamination after all. An independent testing laboratory had confirmed that there was no problem.
But what a problem for Zachary. Because it presented a horrible conundrum from a business standpoint. How do you recall a recall? Good news never travels as fast as bad. Nor does it stick. How do you convince the news media to say, "Um... nevermind..."
Worse, it's not like they're real eggs and can be sold 24/7/365. Chocolate-covered Marshmallow Easter Eggs are not a repurpose-able commodity. It's not like you're going to make up sales on the Fourth of July.
"I packed the hot dogs and buns and pickles for the picnic, Hon. What's this stuff?"
"I got a deal at the grocery store, Dear. I thought I'd try chocolate marshmallow egg salad."
Another issue is that marshmallow tends to do the reverse of salmonella in the ordinary course of events. Kind of an anti-diarrheal. I remember gorging on those marshmallow Peeps one Easter and finding that out the hard way.
I was too peeped to poop.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

1948 Something Fishy

There have been plenty of food scandals recently. Glass in baby food and breakfast cereal, horsemeat in meatballs, it's really very discouraging. Whatever happened to the days when we only had to worry about salmonella and rat hairs?
You'd think with all the modern tracking methods like QR codes and RFID chips, we'd be getting fewer of these things. But no, at every step of the way there's a human circumventing technology to make a quick buck. Beef too high-priced? Pink slime filler forbidden? Throw in a horse.
Or just dump in a batch of vegetable protein. Like "organic" meat pies in Iceland. Some inspector there decided to check them after the horsemeat scandal and he not only didn't find any horsemeat DNA, he didn't find any animal DNA at all. Just vegetable protein.
Carnivores everywhere were appalled.
It isn't just meat on the hoof we have to worry about. Seems the swimming kind is suspect as well. We all know Gorton's Fish Sticks do not occur in nature. Nor do the faux shrimp popular in many locales. But at least we're aware that such fish products are sort of like hot dogs. Rendered from some baseline fish flesh like pollock or other ugly bottom swimmers.
But we expect the prime cuts to be prime. So it was extremely disappointing recently when tests determined that 87% of the time what was represented as red snapper was not, indeed, red snapper. The world is a scary place if you can't depend on the authenticity of your red snapper.
Worse, the same study found 60% of the tuna sold in restaurants and grocery stores was not tuna. Most was, in fact, a fish called "escolar," an extremely oily fish known to cause explosive diarrhea.
"Tuna surprise" anyone?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1947 Random Eyes

Every now and then my random eyes see things worth sharing. Like a statistic that summed up the summer weather we had last year. Actually it was the summer weather we had in March. In the lower 48 states the average temperature was 8.6 degrees above normal.
If this keeps up it's going to ruin the Hawaiian travel industry.
Another random statistic: The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, an average or 88.8 guns per 100 people. Yemen by contrast has only 54.8 guns per hundred.
On the face of it, scary. But the 88.8% figure is misleading. First, women own guns here too. In Yemen half the population is forbidden to. And B, 88.8% of people don't really own guns. A lot fewer own more guns apiece. I've known some gun lovers with dozens. It's like the same compulsion you find in people who collect Beany Babies.
A different random fact: I was talking to a guy who is anxious to get into to the new legalized canna-business. But he doesn't want to make smoking products. He wants to make unguents and ointments. Namely, a comforting salve. He wants to call it canna-bointment.
Not sure if he'd use social media to Tweet the news about his product. If so, I'm sure he could use a hashtag.
Semi-related random fact: There's a great move afoot to section off vast areas to protect the Mazama pocket gopher. The weird thing is, it currently thrives in areas that were created largely due to the effects of man. Tree cutting and land clearing and such.
Grasslands as it were.
Land that would continue to remain profitable if it was used to cultivate that other grass.
Hopefully, both the EPA and the DEA will say, "Gopher it."
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1946 Air Pains

I got wind of a new scientific study recently that has helped answer that age old question: Why does sitting on an airplane lead to gas?
For years airplane food has been blamed. Even the short flights loaded you with peanuts, and it's well known peanuts create intestinal issues. And sometimes they issue too far.
But that's been a hard theory to let fly unchallenged. Especially since so few airplanes now serve food. And so many passengers still feel a little bloaty.
Fortunately, recent research led by a team of gastroenterologists has concluded that the airplane peanuts connection is inflated. Seems it’s actually all a matter of pressure. Cabin pressure that is.
First, let me congratulate the gastroenterologists on the intestinal fortitude it must have taken to engage in the study to begin with. Flatulence is no laughing matter --- well, okay, it is --- but to endure your fellow scientists' laughter in the pursuit of gastroenterological truth is a noble calling.
Putting the gas in gastroenterology front and center.
In any event, the team of researching doctors found that changes in airplane cabin pressure alter the volume of gasses in our intestines, much like nitrogen bubbles in blood veins affect scuba divers. Except in this case the gut bends lead to, as the scientists put it, "little eruptions."
Think Krakatoa.
The doctors warned that trying to restrain the eruptions from venting externally could lead to significant drawbacks, like indigestion and stomach pain.
They also noted that, should one vent one's expanded air pressure in order to avoid such drawbacks, "Proximity to other passengers may cause conflict and stigmatization of the offending individual."
Yeah, when I sit next to such a pass-enger, stigmatization is right up there with disgust.
Especially if dis-gust is blowing my way.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

1945 Japanties

I often bemoan the decline and excesses of culture here in the US, but that doesn't mean I don't think other countries aren't worse.
Take Japan for instance. Poor traditional conservative Japanese parents, seeing their young people find weird ways to survive a 30-year recession with very strange fads.
The latest? Teenage girls going out in public with their panties over their heads. Of course it's social media related. Sending electronic photos of themselves wearing panties as face masks. Recently they've even been showing up at school and clubs in such la-scivvy-ous attire. One can only hope they are new panties and not those who have seen ordinary wear and tear.
The fad is apparently based on a comic book character, the Abnormal Superhero, who also wears ladies' undergarments as a mask.
No word whether on cold days they wear long underwear. Nor whether it's safer for visibility reasons to drive with crotchless panties. When asked about the fad, one girl reportedly replied, "What's thong with that?"
What do you wanna bet it's not long before a fad co-opting entrepreneur comes up with a targeted product called Japanties?
Still, it's better than eating dirt. Another Japanese cultural aberration is the restaurant opened by a chef that serves dishes which include the featured ingredient of dirt. And no, it's not just a filthy kitchen. He actually serves "soil soup" and a light "soil sorbet." There's also a "sweet dirt gratin." What, no mud pie? He charges $110 for a six-course meal so apparently it isn't cheap as dirt.
He says his dirt is filled with healthy minerals. Then again, so is dog urine. He also screens his dirt for undefined "harmful" substances.
Why bother? Just sift the larger clods through your mesh panty facemask.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

1944 Personal Growth

I was on the Google news page the other day. I saw something odd. It was from Google, a line inserted between two news categories, and it said: "Want better news? Create a Google Account to get Google News personalized for you!"
And I thought, we are headed to hell in a handbasket on the devil's bicycle.
This is what's tearing us apart. All of us clustering into little tiny tribes. Only listening to people who agree with us and shutting out all the folks who don't. The equivalent of an ostrich sticking his head in the sand. But the sand is of his own making.
News is supposed to be new. New information expands your world. Informing you about changes, some of which may be uncomfortable. But that discomfort gets you out of your established patterns and helps you grow.
And if you don't grow, you grow old and die. I want personal growth. So I keep my Google news page on the broadest possible settings. Science, health, politics, from all sides of the media.
Where else would I learn that Americans lost 30 billion dollars worth of cellphones last year? Their fancy personalized Google news page didn't seem to help them overcome basic forgetfulness. It's hard to believe, with the darn things never being out of their obsessive hands, that they could manage to lose that many.
Or where would I learn that the average person carries 100 trillion good bacteria inside him? And they weigh a total of 6 pounds?
Don't blame your bacteria for your extra weight. Think of them as revenge against Mark Zuckerberg. You have 100 trillion very close friends.
Didn't I tell you news could help expand your world?
Six pounds of inner bacteria. Talk about personal growth.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

1943 Graphic Acceptance

Sometimes it takes a little perspective to see how far we've come. Take advertising for example. And take it as an example of how much more hyperbolic we've become with just about everything. Even shortening the word "hyperbolic" to "hype" to give it more punch.
Everything these days seems to be uttered in the most apocalyptic terms. The economy is dying! The deficit is killing us! The stock market is "crashing"... when it drops 2 percentage points.
Please. Can we all just relax a little?
I’ve gotten so conditioned, when I hear certain words I automatically take the worst meaning. Like the term "graphic novel." When I first heard it, I immediately assumed it was filled with graphic images. Like blood and gore and nudity and such.
Because when you hear of graphic depictions in the world of news and entertainment that's what you think. "The pictures of the execution were very graphic." "The graphic video of the car crash had blood strewn everywhere." That sort of thing.
But no, a graphic novel is a comic book. Graphic, in this sense, just the tame meaning of a drawing. So is it my fault or should they have just called it an illustrated novel?
Back to the advertising as perspective idea. I have this calendar. Each month features pictures of old ads from the original Olympia Brewing Company. Some of them are quite quaint. And they're all a bit understated compared to today's ads. The one this month says it all. A bartender is standing with a slight smile on his face and a fresh full glass of Olympia Beer in his hand. The slogan says, "Olympia Beer, Always So Acceptable."
Not, “fantastic.” Not, “Amazing!” Not, “INCREDIBLE!”
Life must have been less graphic then.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

1942 Panic Attack

Life is pretty funny sometimes. Like the other day. I learned the meaning of the panic button on my car key remote fob. You know the one I'm talking about. It's the special button you push if you feel threatened. It makes the horn of your car go off in a gawdawful way. Honking and honking and honking.
So I'm going into my garage from my house. I haven't yet opened the outer garage door. In fact, I'm in the middle of reaching over to press that button on the wall. I don't have the lights on because they go on when I press that button too. My connecting house door is closing and locking behind me.
And somehow my metal keys on the same keyring jam up against the fob thingamabob and set off the panic button.
The car horn in that enclosed space is so loud it startles me. I'm actually panicked by the panic button. The startle reflex causes me to flail my arms and fling my keys into the depths of the garage.
So now I being pummeled by the pounding of the horn noise and freaking out because I can't see where I've hurled my keys. I start scrabbling around, looking into boxes and piles of those junk newspapers they leave in your driveway every week and cursing and fretting and wondering what my neighbors are gonna think about what the hell is going on in my closed garage with what sounds like a fog horn in heat.
And as I try to find the keys in the blinking lights from my now menacingly animated car, I tell myself I really got to clean my garage one of these days.
And that my life is sometimes like living in a bad Monty Python skit.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

1941 Diet Med

Diet and food are in the news again. Notably the findings of a recent study that concluded the Mediterranean diet is best to guard against heart attack and stroke.
Apparently those hot-blooded Mediterranean types live longer, or at least heart-healthier. I'm just glad my dietary choices are now so straightforward.
From here on out, it's just plain Spaghetti-O's
Seriously, the Mediterranean diet sounds cool, because it includes stuff. Beans and nuts and fish and tomatoes and onions---great sounding hearty meals.
Perfect. Hearty for your heart.
And really, who doesn't want a bunch of tomato sauce with everything. That doesn’t mean ketchup on your quarter-pounder. But it does mean salty stuff is okay. Olives, salt-cured cheeses, capers, anchovies, all seem to help. And a glass of wine a day too.
Darn. And I was so in love with my carrot and celery sticks.
It's hard to fight the science on this one. A ten-year study concluded that participants had a 50% reduction in early death rates. Due to diet that is. There's always the North African Middle Eastern Cyprus Turkey stray bullet and rocket thing to worry about.
By comparison, us burger and fry eating Canadians and Americans have fewer border disputes and such.
Maybe that's because we drink so much coffee. And thanks to Starbucks even more people may join us. Starbucks has recently introduced a new coffee for people who don't like dark coffee. It’s called Starbucks Blond.
Which actually sounds dumber than it sounds. Because wasn't Starbucks the one that made us think we like dark coffee to begin with? And now they're offering a light alternative?
I've got high expectations. Starbucks Blond, the Bud Light of Coffee.
I just hope they keep the caffeine count high.
And remember that dark espresso is Mediterranean.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

1940 Drones

Funny how folks persist in doing bad things just because everyone else does, like mindless drones…
Take Facebook. Amazing how people keep using it. Time after time Mark Zuckerberg has shown he can't be trusted with your privacy concerns. Every time he revamps his format all your default settings get set back to completely public. But do people sign off? No, they just grumble a bit and then jump back in the snake pit. "Darn poisonous snakes, sure does hurt when they bite. But all the other people I like are in the snake pit, so I may's well be too..."
Then there's firms like Apple. Who've constantly been called to task for using Foxxconn factories in China. Inhuman working conditions leading directly to cheap iPads. But do people stop using their slave made tablets? Nope. They're cool.
Even National Geographic, who's done an exposé on those factory conditions, promotes iPad use within its magazine. "For additional content on this article on drones, get the National Geographic app for your iPad."
Dronesthe newest tech craze. The mechanical kind. And drone people hoping domestic drones will solve our problems, from crop dusters to paparazzi. How many Terminator movies does it take to show what a future that will lead to? What do you want to bet the NRA starts a campaign that says that every 2nd Amendment-loving American should be able to own a drone of his own.
And how many Chinese hackers have been able to launch hack attacks on American companies through Facebook and Twitter platforms? Makes you think Mark Zuckerberg secretly works for the Chinese.
But in fairness, with all our electronics manufactured in China, why would they need Facebook? They can plant the viruses right in your device.
Please don't let them manufacture our drones.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 08, 2013

1939 Horse a Course

America has it's food problems. E coli, Salmonella, the occasional shard of glass in a baked good. But for the most part we know what animal we're eating. Even to the number of rat hairs allowed in hot dogs.
At least we're better than Europe.
Seems the Eurozone has been having problems of late with foods that are supposed to contain beef containing another quadruped all together.
What? You ask. Horse, of course. For a main course. We're having a course of horse. And no one should have a course of horse unless of course the course of horse is a famous one, we said.
A slice of Secretariat perhaps, or a slab of Slough. But no, it's not a delightfully epicurean famous horse we get. It's a famished one. A plow horse from Romania. So sad. To not only be slaughtered ignobly in a Romanian abattoir, but then to go unacknowledged and disguised as a dumb ass cow.
It's like some insidious PETA plot meant to gross out carnivores. Hitting all kinds of major meat purveyors. Burger King. Findus lasagna. Birdseye chili. And now the final indignity. Ikea Swedish Meatballs.
What? Ikea makes meatballs?
Yep, they don't just furnish your furniture. The cafes in their stores serve famous Kottbullar Meatballs, which you can also buy online and frozen to go. And now it sounds even more appetizing. Horsemeatballs.
Hmm. The first two syllables in the name Kottbullar also sound suspiciously like cut bull. Is it a Swedish word for steer? Or gelding?
I'd be wary of buying a meatball product from Ikea in any event. Afraid I'd open up the package and find cracker crumbs, powdered eggs, indeterminate meat, a spice packet and instructions.
Ikea meatballs. Some assembly required.
Of course.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

1938 Discomfort Food

America is great about finding new uses for old things, re-purposing they call it, everything from duct tape to turkey basters. So it is in the health and fitness category.
Lately there's been a surge of "exercising at your desk" advice. Try lifting your mouse and holding it steady at arms length for a while. Repeat. If you have a rolling desk chair do desk pushups. Or push aways. Back and forth. It all adds up.
Caution: If you don't have a wheeled desk chair do not do this. You end up with a push over.
Had a little workout? Feeling a little peckish? Now it's time for your after-workout snack. Some sources say the best thing you can do to keep weight off is not let your body go into starvation mode after a workout. That means giving it some food. But stay away from donuts. Grab a banana protein shake instead.
Or suck down some baby food.
That's right. The newest healthful post-workout craze is baby food pouches. Sales of them have more than doubled in the last three months, far more than the rate of new births. Because they are being sucked down by grownups.
Unlike the old Gerber jars, baby food pouches are easy to rip into and suck down after exercise. You can even do it while driving and/or texting.
So some manufacturers are experimenting with direct products for adults. Including trendy ingredients like coconut milk and acai. One maker even has a new line called Happy Squeeze. Which is usually 10 bucks in the city. Maybe their spokesperson will be Lady Googoo Gaga.
Snacking on the go has never been easier. Now you can substitute that crumpled quarter-pounder for baby food. Talk about a happy meal.
Someone save me the strained peas...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

1937 Antitwerp

Some very disturbing news to newlyweds lately. The price of diamonds may go up even further. Because for a while at least there'll be a slightly diminished supply. And like the oil business, even the smallest pinch in flow can lead to big pain in the gas later on.
Recently, there was a huge jewel heist of uncut diamonds. No one is exactly sure how much money the theft was worth, as the diamonds were uncut.
What I do know is, it's a great opportunity to say the word Antwerp. Antwerp---sounds like an insect dork or the aunt of a nerd. Don't be such an Antwerp.
Antwerp is in Belgium, which is close to the Netherlands. It's also in the Flemish section of Belgium. Which, I think, is very densely populated. Someone once told me Flemish people are used to living in a congested state.
The word Antwerp supposedly derives from a legend involving a mythical giant by the lovely name of Antigoon, who in fact was a pro-goon, who would charge a toll to cross the river Scheldt, and if the traveler refused, he would cut off one of their hands and throw it in the river. I'm guessing it created a small wave.
A hero eventfully came along and got the upper hand, cut the giant's off, and saved the day. The Dutch words hand werpen, mean, literally, hand throwing. Those words were merged somehow. Hand werpen to Antwerp. Surprisingly, in Belgium today there is a ban on all hand werpens.
Perhaps because the authorities are worried about diamond heists.
I think I know who the culprit must be. The one person I've heard obsessively talking about Antwerp for decades. That's right. Tom Shane, your friend in the jewel fencing business.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

1936 Glass Packs

You hear a lot about Russian and Chinese hackers wreaking havoc on our economy. Lately it seems like an even more insidious source of sabotage is at work. Not hackers but packers.
Packers as in the folks who package our pre-packaged food supply. The conspiracy comes for all corners. Like The Nestle Company; in 2012 they had to recall banana baby food from the supermarkets because some jars contained bits of glass.
Youch. Wrong approach to sharpen your kid's appetite.
Shortly after that we heard from Bimbo Bakeries of Horsham PA. (Yes, I said Bimbo Bakeries. And yes, this is the year 2013 and the name Bimbo is probably up for a brand name upgrade.)
Bimbo currently makes Sara Lee bread products. Among them "Sara Lee Multi-Grain Thin Style Buns." Those buns were recently recalled because they contained glass and metal fragments. For some reason, cheek-lacerated consumers didn't choose to include metal fragments in their definition of fiber. Not one of the multi-grains they were expecting.
Hard to believe "Sara Lee Thin Style Buns" is a Bimbo Bakeries product.
Just recently, poor Kellogg's company of Battle Creek had a different battle on their hands. Their Special K with Red Berries was also found to contain bits of glass. It's those glass splinters that make Special K really special. And give those berries extra crunch. Kellogg's issued the following revealing statement:
“At Kellogg, our number one priority is the quality and safety of our foods. All of our processes will be thoroughly reviewed and appropriate actions will be taken to help prevent this situation from happening in the future.”
Nice try Kellogg PR. Be transparent. Then again, maybe it was a mishandled transparency that led to broken bits of glass.
Or was it undercover foreign sabotaging packers?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 04, 2013

1935 Tan-splosion

There was a story recently of an unfortunate young girl who was in the hospital for cancer treatment and came running out of her room because her shirt was on fire. The hospital speculated it may have been caused by an unlikely combination of hand sanitizer and static electricity.
The girl suffered third degree burns, so it's no laughing matter. Not the sort of treatment she had a right to expect at the hospital. But it's a sad reminder of how much of what we take for granted can hurt us. A sanitizer used to kill bacteria catches flame and kills everything else.
I'm sure the TSA will now forbid us from bringing Purell and balloons aboard airplanes.
Or maybe tanning lotion. In a little publicized recall back in October of 2012, Banana Boat took back numerous tanning products… because they were exploding.
The recall was for 23 varieties of Banana Boat UltraMist, "due to the risk that the lotion can ignite when exposed to open flame." One more reason not to smoke and tan on the beach. Even though all that sand seems like a giant ashtray, pay attention to that whole bursting into flame warning. Remember, tanned, not charred.
Perhaps they should include that on cigarette packages too. "Caution, smoking has been shown to ignite Banana Boat lotion. Do not light up cigarettes while tanning."
Not so funny. Actually Banana Boat's own UltraMist label warns: "Do not use in the presence of flame or spark. Keep away from sources of ignition --- no smoking."
Smokers think they should set up a different tanning area away from other sunbathers. Why should their smoking be interfered with by folks looking to destroy their skin?
Secondhand tanning lotion use can be deadly.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 01, 2013

1934 Presidense

Another President's Day has come and gone and with it the mild depression I feel after the passing of every holiday. Kind of like the post-Christmas blahs, only not as blah-ey.
Because it's not much of a holiday. It used to be more meaningful when it was exactly Washington's or Lincoln's birthday, occurring at random times in the week and therefore more special. Wednesday one year, Tuesday the next, a little festive period smack dab in the middle of the week.
Now it's one of those dull Monday/long weekend holidays. Not even tied to some specific president. Where's the fun in that? Back in the old days, we could chop down Lincoln Log cabins with a cherry tree axe and not tell lies and emancipate stuff. Now it's as much fun as trying to grow a Chester A. Arthur combo sideburn-mustache.
Hard to believe we ever had a president named Chester isn't it? One named Grover too. Times have changed in the stereotype department.
Anyhow, I think we could perk up President's Day. By the way, what do oppressed people in third world countries celebrate on the third Monday in February? Dictator's Day?
So... Perking up President's Day. First of all we need to have a President's Day Eve. All the good holidays have Eves; Christmas, New Years, Halloween. Then we need to have a special dinner. A good special dinner really makes a holiday holly-jolly. Think Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Independence Day BBQ.
And that means we can have President's Day themed dishes. Like Sausage Linc-olns. Or Arroz con Polko. John Quincy Adams marmalade made with real quinces. Washington apple pie, of course. And my favorite, Martin Van Buren muttonchops.
Then to splurge, and ruin your Presi-dental work?
William Howard Taffty.
America, ya gotta love it.