Friday, May 31, 2013

1999 Tools of the Tirade

I'm always impressed by the extremes we go to creating new and different things in our culture. Perhaps that is our culture, the drive to do something different.
Like the commercial I saw the other day. It was for Ryobi. They make power tools. At least 50 different ones according to the ad. And they can all be powered by one of those snap-on rechargeable batteries.
The ad I saw looked very impressive, a guy going around snapping his battery into a small hedge trimmer, a power drill, a reciprocating saw, and a dustbuster.
Call me skeptical, but I've never got that much power out of one battery. So when I heard their tagline I was a little suspicious. "Ryobi Tools, over 50 tools powered by one 18-volt battery."
Wouldn't work for me. I keep using a tool till the battery's done. "Oops, guess I did enough hedge trimming. The battery's run out. Now I'll just switch my dead battery to my 49 other tools and not be able to use them either."
But it isn't just tools where we're extreme. Or maybe it is. With the tools in Hollywood and their new movies. Like one that got my attention, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters." It's a different take on an old theme. Part of the new extreme fairytale remake fad. Like "Jack the Giant Slayer" about Jack in the Beanstalk and the new Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood's wolf is a werewolf, naturally. It is the Twilight era.
Personally, I'm waiting for a screen adaptation of Billy Goat Gruff. Maybe with a were-billy-goat to make it extra spooky. Then again, a really plum choice for a movie would be that guy in the corner.
Little Jack Horner and the Life of Pie…
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

1998 Fecal Fate

The Center for Disease Control is once again blasting out a familiar warning: "Beware Of Fecal Matter in Public Pools."
Yep, stool in the pool.
They tested various pools, and found traces of waste in a boatload of them. Human waste. Since human waste harbors all sorts of nasty pathogens, among them E. coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, this could be a gut wrenching, or at least gut clenching, problem.
E. coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, sounds like an evil group facing the Avengers, doesn't it? Watch out for Cryptosporidium, he has the power to make you hug the thundermug.
Must be the nemesis of Thor.
The danger of pool stool is in the ingestion, trace bits being snorted and swallowed. So it's interesting what the latest craze in medicine is these days---fecal injection.
That's what I said, fecal injection. Seems many human health problems these days come from the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill all bacteria indiscriminately and leave a person's gut depopulated of its normal healthy bacterial biome.
Scientists have recently determined that alien bacteria outnumber human cells in your body by about ten-to-one. You carry around approximately 8 pounds of foreign biomass, mostly in your gut. These beneficial bacteria help digest food, secrete or excrete good enzymes, and even affect your mood.
When a sick and depopulated person is treated, they snake a tube through your nose and directly inject someone else's fecal matter into your stomach. I know---you'd think they'd use a reverse enema instead. But with doctors for friends, who needs enemas.
Interestingly, in through your nose and into your stomach is often how swimmers get infested with pool stool.
Maybe I'm fickle about my fecal, but why is it snorting pool water seems better than snaking a tube through my nose...?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1997 Random Acts of Humor

A bunch of random observations today. Us humorist types write down little observations as we go through life. Hoping to one day make them into something someone else can laugh at, or at least acknowledge with a sneer or a groan.
My personal method is to jot them down on a scrap of paper and put them on my desk. Some of those ideas never grow. Stunted little insights, they just can't fit in with any other essays. So they get old and dusty in a pile on my desk.
Until today.
Like this one: Biscotti, the croutons of the dessert world.
See what I mean, where could I possibly work that in with anything else?
Or this one, that didn't make it into a few essays I did on legalized marijuana in Washington State. Is this a good state to have a military facility called "Joint Base Lewis McChord"? Which, by the way, everyone shortens to just "Joint Base."
Speaking of odd words that make me hungry. What's with IHOP? They now have Brioche French Toast. Did you ever think IHOP would be hoity-toity enough to use the word brioche? Like when Jack-in-the-Box first used croissant. Of course they didn't dwell on pronouncing it all frenchy. Cwahsohnn. Burger King got smart and dumbed it right down to croissan'wich.
On another note, I heard an ad the other day for a theater production. They said, "Kids under two get in free." Shouldn't you charge them extra? They're the ones making so much noise and bothering everyone else. Making it impossible for full-paying customers to enjoy the show.
Maybe they need to quiet the wee wailers by giving them free teething biscuits. Which are like biscotti for babies.
Or dessert croutons...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

1996 Ad-ed Value

It's pretty amazing how we find ways to advertise. I certainly understand the dilemma of a business, needing to get the word out about its service or product. There are a lot of services and products out there, and a lot of things competing for your potential customer's attention.
So it's funny when a company like Audi puts out a cool long form commercial on YouTube featuring the old and new Spocks. And even funnier that in order to see the commercial you have to watch a random YouTube commercial from someone else first.
One of the commercials I saw in order to see the commercial from Audi was about a product called Enbrel. Enbrel is a drug that treats psoriatic arthritis. It has the usual list of side effects, and also includes the possibility of reactivation of latent tuberculosis and the initiation of invasive fungal infections.
Serious stuff, so they got a serious spokesperson; Phil Mickelson, pro golfer. And here's the really, really, funny commercial thing. Phil, even when he's appearing in a commercial for arthritis medication, has to wear the logos of the companies he's contracted to wear in all golf-related things.
So while he's pitching Enbrel, he has on a KPMG hat. Which, interestingly, has been negatively implicated in some financial hanky-panky with another sponsor and sort of financial competitor Barclays, whose emblem is on the breast of Phil's golf shirt. On the sleeve of that same shirt is the logo of Callaway. Which at least is a golf product maker.
Three commercials on one body doing a commercial for another company. Talk about invasive fungal infection. Trademark my words, pretty soon pro golfers will look like NASCAR drivers.
This message brought to you by Funny Guy on the Prowl and...
America, ya gotta love it.

1995 Heartfelt

It's cool how science finds new uses for old things. Especially when it comes to drugs. Especially when drug companies spend billions on research for new drugs every year.
So when it was found that a low dose of non-patent protected generic aspirin every day was good for your heart, and more side effect free than any of the blockbuster expensive drugs, I'm sure the drug companies felt their blood pressure go up accordingly.
That's why the story I read recently about Tylenol struck a nerve. Seems acetaminophen, the chemical name for Tylenol, also available in generic non-patent protected form, has another use. It can treat depression. At least depression related to pain and dread.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia had subjects watch disturbing scenes from a movie or write several paragraphs about what they thought would happen to their bodies when they died. Turns out those who were given acetaminophen before engaging in those depressing acts were significantly less upset than those given a placebo.
The study author Daniel Randles said, "We think that Tylenol is blocking existential unease in the same way it prevents pain, because a similar neurological process is responsible for both types of distress." A region of the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex processes both physical pain and certain kinds of psychological pain.
So good news. To the extent depression is caused by pain, a couple of cheap Tylenol may help. Bye-bye Prozac. And hello Big Pharma freaking out and having a coronary.
You can take cheap aspirin to keep your heart from stopping and inexpensive Tylenol to ease the pain of it breaking. "Broken heart? Take two of these and call me in the morning."
A one-pill solution for headache and heartache.
My heart is bursting with joy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

1994 Cafe Cousin

Humans is interesting folk. On the one hand we like to group together, as in following fads and suchlike. On the other, we like to keep our distance. That's why I find it interesting to go into popular coffee shops and see people interacting on their fad-favorite electronic devices, fashionably avoiding contact with each other.
I noticed another thing at a coffee shop recently. The place had arranged its seating so there were two benches along two walls, meeting at a right angle. Opposite the bench were tables arranged in a row. It would be possible to sit right next to a person.
But that didn't happen until one had to. The benches were empty when I got there and as they filled they followed the urinal rule. There was at least one empty space between users until crowding meant one absolutely had to be right next to someone.
Perhaps it originates in some genetic thing. Like avoiding incest or something. Be in a tribe, but don't get too close to anyone in the tribe.
You'll be happy to know modern technology has recently come up with an app for that too. The anti-incest app. It's available in Iceland. Seems the nation's 320,000 residents, confined to the island for generations, are often related because of the inbreeding such confinement causes. With the anti-incest app, prospective partners just have to bump their phones and they'll hear an alarm if they're too closely related.
I wonder if you can hack it. To set off an alarm even if you aren't related, but just think the guy's a creep.
Instead of begging off with a lame "I like you as a friend" excuse you could say, "Gee, I'd love to go out for coffee... but my phone says never caffeinate with cousins..."
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

1993 Sin-gle

I read an interesting little snippet the other day and I'm not sure what it says about our culture. The emergence of a new freedom? Or the loss of something we may not want to lose?
See what you think.
The article had to do with the tumultuous life of reality TV show personality Kim Kardashian. This the first commentary I've written about her. I've been a little behind the curve on Kim. From what I understand, there's quite a bit of curve, and quite a bit of behind, to be behind.
I'm not a cultural Neanderthal, and insensitive to the fact that women are indeed more than the sum of their anatomical parts. I only mention it becuase she and her family spend a lot of time exploiting just those features of her physique.
Here is the snippet I found disturbing.
"Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are finally divorced. Humphries reportedly dropped his demands for an annulment because he felt sorry for his visibly pregnant ex. He reportedly walked away with nothing so the case could be resolved in time for the NBA playoffs. Kim will now be able to give birth to her first child with rapper Kanye West in July as a single woman."
Well thank goodness for that. To be free to play in the playoffs. And free to give birth to a child conceived in an adulterous affair as a single woman.
As I said, it's a new freedom. There was a time when folks that had been "living in sin" would rush into wedlock to "give the child a name." Sometimes that was a mistake. Sometimes it made the child feel more valued, that two adults would put aside selfish things to provide for another.
Kim's either taking the sin out of single. Or sticking it in...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1992 Error Bag

As modern times eclipse previously modern times I find myself trying to catch up with the new things I have to worry about. Like in the old days we had to worry about seatbelts. I remember when we actually didn't have seatbelts in cars at all.
Then we had to worry about lap belts alone being unsafe. Causing internal injuries as they distributed all the collision force to your waist.
So then we had the new seatbelts like today that have a chest and shoulder harness. Then we had to worry about fastening them or disabling the ding-ding-ding thing till car companies finally put a ding limit on.
Then law enforcement stepped in, dinging people with fines if they failed to buckle up. "Click it or Ticket" ruled the airwaves and folks were constantly being reminded to tune out not just the ding but the constant pleas for them to help themselves stay alive. Humans is contrary animals. Especially when it comes to saving their lives.
Or not. I've known suicidal people, in the midst of depression, fastening their seatbelts on the way to the building they plan to jump off.
Now we have a new worry. Counterfeit airbags. One might say Error Bags. I read a news story about a guy being charged in an elaborate scam. Selling cheap under-the-table made-to-malfunction airbags to repair shops.
So where did they come from? China.
Oh, what a devilish plot. Melamine in our babyfood and lead in our kids' toys isn't enough. Now it's counterfeit airbags, some of which deploy in a ball of flame. Knowing full well one of the leading causes of injury and death in the US is automobile accidents, China can finish us off even faster by exploding our airbags.
Oh the humanity.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

1991 Writing for the Brand

Body art is growing. And I don't just mean tattoos themselves are growing as young tattooees stretch out into obese oldsters. I mean the use of ink and piercings generally.
There was a time they recommended you didn't get tattoos because it might hamper your job advancement. Now one company has said if you want to get advancement you have to get a tattoo. Which pricked my curiosity, and my indignation.
Seems a realty company in New York City is offering its employees a 15% raise if they tattoo a logo of the company on their bodies. Around 40 employees have taken up the offer.
Talk about inking a contract.
It's a Double-R tattoo and the owner, one shortsighted fellow, declares the tattoos show employee's "commitment," then says, "Talk about Marketing, they're walking billboards."
A walking billboard that says, "I work for a jerk."
Or one that has plenty of money to fight a labor lawsuit. Because think about it. You've now created an entire class of employees who will make 15% less, simply because they refuse to permanently change their bodies for the boss. Whatever happened to working harder for a raise?
It's not like wearing a uniform. It's a permanent change you wear even when you aren't at work. What's next? "I want a Rapid Realty piercing on your right eyebrow. That way when you wink at the client you're showing Rapid Realty cares. Better yet, let's snip a clip from your right earlobe. Mutilation for the company, that's commitment."
So what happens if an employee gets hepatitis from a contaminated tattoo needle? That lawsuit could bankrupt the company. Sending current tattooees looking for jobs at, um, other realty companies.
Or worse, RR's owner, on another stupid whim, changes his logo.
Talk about a re-branding.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

1990 Fakebook

Ah, the artifacts of technology. Technological changes creating new wrinkles in the fabric of old realities.
Like fake identities. We've always found uses for temporarily being someone else. Anonymous letters to the editor, altered voice phone calls. But Facebook and their ilk have made it even easier. There was a statistic a while back about 8.7% of Facebook identities being fake. Some estimate much higher.
Which is very interesting on one level. Since Facebook was supposed to be the be all and end all of new advertising. Where you could advertise directly to folks based on the demographic information they entered into their profile. Now companies waste good money sending real ads to fake people.
Some fake identity users take it one step further. Using their fake identities to maintain contact with people with whom contact with the real identify may cause a problem; old boyfriends, girlfriends and ex-spouses and such. Creating fake email addresses to supplement the subterfuge.
In the old days you could fake your identify by dressing as a different gender. Nowadays you can be a different gender on your Facebook email. Not cross-dressing. Cross-addressing.
On another note, I had the misfortune to call QuickBooks recently and got stuck in their high-tech on-hold phone tree. You know, where they don't give you any pressable option and they've disabled the star, number, and zero keys so you can't back up.
On one of the options, before I was transferred to another level, they did have the courtesy to warn me it may be awhile before the transfer went through. Then concluded the warning with this statement: "You may hear several moments of silence."
I may not be up on all the recent technology. But I'm pretty sure you still can't hear silence.
Whoever you are.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

1989 App-lied Technology

Modern times. Where is the promise of the future we all thought we'd have? Who would have thought that the liberation of technology would chain us to burying our face in an app?
I wish there was an app for being less self-centered. It was kind of funny. I was at a job fair the other day, and as the younger applicants wandered from booth to booth, they made very little eye contact, preferring instead to fix their stares on their smartphones, even to the point of bumping into each other if the person in front came to a sudden pedestrian stop.
Really scary, because I see so much similar behavior on the road these days that I've already evolved a protective defensive driver strategy. Whenever I come up to a stoplight I automatically look in my rearview mirror to be certain the driver in the car behind me has his or her head up. If the person is looking down in his or her lap, I quickly scan for ways to swerve out of their way if necessary.
Another funny thing I noticed at the job fair. Some of the applicants were older. And in camo. In fact, the two biggest groups at the job fair were military recruiters in the booths for their various branches, and actual military people about to retire from the military looking for civilian jobs.
Those jobs the recruiters promised them would be easy to find. Sad. I even saw a couple of recruiters about to retire checking out the other booths.
I guess I should be glad there are still job fairs at all where you can actually talk to prospective employers face to face. Soon you'll just use an impersonal, or should I say "im-personnel" app.
"App-ly Here."
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

1988 Silence of the Rats

Chinese food is in the news again. Not Kung Pao Chicken or whatever. Well, maybe the whatever. No, what I'm talking about is a Chinese food problem in China. Namely how unreliable their food sources are.
Chinese consumer protection, already mistrusted for allowing thing's like melamine in baby food and lead in chewable toys has now encountered another furtive food additive.
And no, it's not Romanian horse meat.
Rats, you say, and you'd be right. Rats it is. Big deal, you scoff, we've been ingesting rat hairs in our cereal and rat bits in our hot dogs for ages. There's even a USDA minimum allowable amount. And we don't even have a Year of the Rat on our calendar.
True, but the Chinese rat issue is different. It's not just that they're eating rat meat, which you would be too if you ate rabbit, from the same super class of animals, it's that it's mislabeled as lamb.
Yes, lamb. That delicate succulent meat preferred by epicures everywhere. Oh the odes composed to the poetic palate pleasures of young sheep. And to befoul that same palate with rat. Worse somehow than horse disguised as cow. One grass grazer for another isn't much of a leap, but a ugly skittering rat for a cute frolicking lamb?
Just come out about it China. Label your rats as rats and give consumers a choice. You could still use lamb designations. How about instead of leg of lamb, leg of rat? Or Irish rat stew for a euro touch. Or rat gyros for that perfect blend of Asian-Greek fusion. A middle eastern flair with rat kabobs. Or sure to be everyone's favorite---Rack of Rat.
I just want to see the Chinese version of Sherry Lewis's puppet.
Rat Chop.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

1987 Revealing

I saw a lady speak recently and she was very interesting. But it was also interesting because she revealed how location-centric folks can be. She was speaking from a meeting room in Lacey. But she was obviously from Olympia. Because when she went to talk about another two facilities in the area, she said one of them was "in Olympia" and the other one was "out in Lacey."
Did I mention she was speaking in Lacey at the time? We are creatures of familiarity. It creates problems sometimes.
Like in another interesting presentation thing that was iPad related. A guy was giving a demonstration but instead of having his familiar laptop hooked into the large screen on the wall, he had his new iPad jacked in. Which created unforeseen issues in what was seen.
Namely, he had no cursor. Unfortunate, since his presentation was about showing people how to navigate a website. So every time he needed to point out a tab to click on the website he had to use a laser pointer. No laptop, no mouse, no cursor. Ironically, in his effort to streamline he had to remember to bring extra stuff like the pointer anyhow.
Also, he had to enter a webpage in the demo where he needed to type in his password. No problem, he brought up a virtual QWERTY keyboard on half his iPad screen---for all of us to see. And we saw all. It was just dots in the password slot in the upper part, but as he tapped each key on the keyboard in the lower half, it virtually and visibly showed that it was depressed on the large screen on the wall.
When he saw that, he finally brought a familiar cursor to the presentation after all.
It was him.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1986 Soda Icky

Not long ago I did a commentary on carnitine, titled "Carnitine Spirit," about a chemical that stimulates bacteria in your gut to create a substance that increases cholesterol. I mentioned how this substance is available in muscle-building energy drinks as a meat protein additive. And concluded how that sounded suspiciously like carbonated gravy.
Little did I know that such a thing actually exists. The flavor that is, not the carnitine thing. It's put out by Jones Soda. And apparently helped Jones Soda stay afloat when the bottom had about drained out of their business.
Their original savory soda was actually Turkey and Gravy Soda, just the thing for Thanksgiving revelers that can't break away from their online role-playing virtual reality worlds. Why leave the basement to be with the real family when you can have your Turkey and Gravy in a convenient drink?
Jones followed that with the simple Bacon flavored soda, because, you know, everything is better with bacon.
I found this out because they recently announced a new flavor--- poutine. Poutine is a down-home culinary concoction from Canada. Down-home Quebec to be exact, so it has French roots.
On the face of it, it doesn't seem like soda material. The dish poutine is composed of French fries with brown gravy liberally sprinkled with cheese curds. Gravy and curds, two words not normally associated with root beer or Mountain Dew.
The publicity statement from Jones Soda says, "With a nice balance of rich, savory gravy over a starchy potato base, and accented with those fatty, cheesy notes you expect in a plate of poutine, we believe we’ve developed the perfect liquid version of this undisputedly Canadian delicacy.”
I guess flavors hit both sides of your tongue, so like Canada, it's bilingual.
What's French for ee-yew...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

1985 Prejudgment Day

You go through life and blithely develop certain attitudes and perceptions, most of them based on belief. Prejudged things. And of course, prejudged is another way of saying prejudice.
Take coffee. You'd think dark roast is stronger wouldn't you? Harder on your stomach. Loaded with caffeine. In fact, the reverse is true. Dark roast coffee, which comes from roasting the beans longer, contains higher levels of a compound that actually slows the stomach's production of irritating acid. And yes, darker roasts have less caffeine.
Then there's the coffee filter thing. I remember back in the 80s when I bought my first metal screen filter. I did so to cut back on the use of paper. And because white paper filters were supposedly loaded with dioxin.
Turns out mesh filters aren't as good at removing something worse. A substance coffee has, called cafestol, which can raise cholesterol levels in your blood. And if you're still on the French Press kick, watch out. French Press coffee has enough cafestol to raise your blood cholesterol by 8%.
A great way to start your morning. With a steamy cup of cholesterol-raiser.
The other odd prejudice I found in myself the other day was when I heard about the religious strife in Myanmar. Seems as the Dictatorial Junta has pulled back and allowed more freedoms, some folks are using that freedom to massacre each other. Notably, another religious group has taken to massacring Muslims. And the group that's doing it are Buddhists. That's right, violent rampaging Buddhists.
What? Buddhists are supposed to be members of the most non-violent of religions. Yoga and meditations and setting yourself on fire. Not setting a village of Muslims on fire.
Another prejudice shot down in flames. Cholesterol in coffee and murdering Buddhists. Someone pour me a cup of despair.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

1984 Snail Whites

The world just keeps getting more disgusting. Sometimes the news is hard to swallow.
Like this recent item I read in a magazine: House-eating snails. That's right, Florida is suffering an infestation of Giant African Land Snails. They're huge. Kind of the Escalade of Escargot. They can actually grow as big as a rat. Organized hunts have been mounted in Miami-Dade County and at least 1000 are being caught each week. 117,000 since 2011.
I'm guessing a snail hunt doesn't take a lot of high speed equipment. "Bring out the Land Rover honey; we're going on a snail safari!"
Still, the icky factor must scare some folks off. A snail the size of a rat is nightmare material. It gets worse. Seems the snails really need calcium for their shells. And a great source for that chemical is none other than stucco. Yep, the housing material preferred by Floridians throughout the state.
"Mommy! A snail ate through my bedroom wall!!"
Hide the limestone under the sinkholes...
Like the Blob, but with a shell. Plus, they don't move out of the way of lawnmowers like self-respecting real rats. So they get hurled by lawnmower blades, slick slime and excrement coating walls and sidewalks. Remind me not to go on the Giant African Snail ride at Disneyworld.
The other slimy disgusting thing is the new Egg White McMuffin at McDonalds. It's healthy, so good on McD's. But I've cooked egg whites. Before you cook them, they aren't white at all. In fact, they're not unlike snail mucus. Or just plain snot.
Hard to pour in a frying pan and stir. An egg sure. But like comedy in a way. Without a yolk it's a gag.
Personally, I like my egg whites with escargot.
I'm really into Flemish cuisine.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

1983 Rabbit Years

I wrote a commentary recently about the faux fur at Nieman Marcus. It was actually faux faux, or really real, and Nieman Marcus had to pay the FTC for faking out both PETA and consumers.
I know, fur out.
But it got me thinking about what fur the faux faux fur was. Turns out it was mostly rabbit. Which would have been an even greater outrage had it figured more prominently in the story. Because America loves its rabbits. The rabbit mythos is America is vewy vewy stwong.
From Bugs to Harvey to Roger to the Playboy Bunny, rabbits scamper through our lives. So as Barbara "Fudd" Walters would say, "Don't go messing with siwwy wabbits."
Even so, we don't take rabbits as seriously as some cultures. Like folks it Asia. 2011, just a few months ago in dog years, was the Year of the Rabbit on the Chinese calendar. It's pretty serious when you give a animal an entire zodiacal year, right up there with monkeys, dragons and rats. 2011 was the Year of the Cat on the Vietnamese calendar so you can see the equivalency.
Similar fur by the way...
China also doesn't see a man in the moon like we do in the west. They see a rabbit in the moon, as does Korea and Japan. The full moon doesn't look any different there, just the inside of their imaginations. In Japan, the rabbit in the moon has a stick and bowl and is mixing rice cakes. In China and Korea, the rabbit is mixing an immortality elixir.
Always a tough choice for me in the diet section of the grocery store. Hmm... rice cake or immortality elixir...?
Maybe I'll just skip mixing up my own dinner.
And go to IHOP.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

1982 Faux Efficiency

Big organizations have lots of problems. Perhaps because of their bigness. A couple of examples:
I called the phone number for a certain department of a certain city. A big department with lots of programs. My call went right to one of those recordings which said all of their representatives were busy, then kicked in to an on-hold recorded loop. It began to list the various options that the department was offering that I might want to find out more about.
That's where it got funny. I had dialed, let's say, 555-5500 to get the department. But at the end of each suggestion for other choices in the department's offerings it said to call 555-5500. The number where I was on hold told me to call the number where I was on hold to find out more about the stuff they told me about while I was on hold.
Let's just say I didn't hang up and call back.
Another example of the negative consequences perhaps caused by bigness: An interesting story I read about a problem with fur. Actually it was problem with fake fur. Or perhaps fake fake fur.
The Nieman-Marcus Group recently settled with the FTC in a case where they were charged with selling real fur, but labeling it as fake fur. I'm guessing Nieman's buying department picked up a good deal on a big buy of pelts, then their public relations department decided that PETA would never give up on creating bad publicity if they peddled them as the real thing.
Unfortunately, Nieman already had a lot of skin in the game so voila'...Faux Faux Fur. In this case a double negative bit of publicity. And a testimony to the power of PETA.
How fur we've come.
Bigger isn't always better.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

1981 Veni Vedi Victim

I was reading a story the other day about the latest "victims" in a Ponzi scheme. It made me think. Are they really victims? Isn't there a point when a deal is too good to be true and you say to yourself, hmm, I'm making a ton more money than any other safe investment. I wonder if I'm skirting the law?
Now I guess in the Bernie Madoff thing, where he made off with billions of pension funds, he did make it seem kind of legitimate. But the Ponzi set up generally pays off more than just at the tippy-top. The first echelons in the pyramid do quite well, that's why they recruit others.
So are those first adopters actually victims?
On the subject of skirting the law, I had an interesting experience recently. I was at a small teriyaki place. When I placed my order, the woman at the cash register, one of the family that owned the place, saw that I was pulling cash from my pocket to pay. So instead of using the register, she switched to a calculator to figure the amount owed. Then manually opened the drawer of the register and made my change. Which she did wrongly so I had to correct her.
I left the place still feeling short-changed. She had obviously taken advantage of a cash transaction to skirt the taxes she would have owed had the sale been registered in the register. Those taxes we all need to share and pay to fix roads and pay for police and such like. Worse, I still paid the sales tax to her, she just wasn't going to turn around and pay them to the proper place.
Hmm... Looks like a good potential "victim" for a Ponzi scheme.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 06, 2013

1980 Unsavory

A while back a Japanese chemist, pondering the flavor-enhancing qualities of fermented fish sauce, came upon an interesting discovery. Monosodium Glutamate. Turns out MSG stimulates your tastebuds in a different way than the Sweet-Sour-Salt-Bitter basic four we learned in health class. It’s another taste sensitivity. He called it umami.
As in, "Ooh mommy that's good!!"
Umami is the savory taste. You get it from rare or charred meats, tomatoes and suchlike. Savory foods are delicious.
The key ingredient in MSG is glutamate, the stimulator of umami. The prepared food industry jumped on it. Because glutamate not only provides savory flavor, it enhances other flavors too. Sweets are sweeter and salts are saltier. Flavors generally are rounder and more palatable.
Then came the MSG backlash. Although there is no rigorous scientific proof, enough people complained of swelling tissues and headaches that the food industry sought to obscure mention of MSG. After all, this is the same industry that's smart enough to call sugar "distilled cane juice."
So "MSG" disappeared. And just the word "glutamate" replaced it. Until people caught on again and the food industry realized that they could get glutamate from yeast. Look for the words "yeast extract" now in ingredient lists. A rather unsavory trick.
Ooh mommy, they are clever.
So recently I'm eating what I feel are healthy chips. Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues to be exact. Made with organic blue corn. Non-GMO. Gluten Free.
And suspiciously savory.
Because, according to the ingredients list, they include Torula Yeast. Which, I was happy to learn, comes from wood products. Organic wood products I'm sure.
Torula's also part of the Candida yeast family. A family responsible for all sorts of internal and external yeast issues.
But man, it's delicious.
"Ooh mommy, can Dita and I have more chips?"
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 03, 2013

1979 Nom de Butte

For those of you who like bacon, and can't help but notice that it's everywhere these days, from bacon-wrapped prawns to bacon-crusted maple bars, you'll be interested to know the pork industry isn't satisfied with that success.
Bacon-wrapped prawns; A whole new spin on the surf and turf thing. Seafood and Landfood on the same appetizer toothpick. Surf and turf hors d'oeuvres. Crickets of the sea wrapped in our closest domesticated genetic relative. What's not to like?
Anyhow, the pork industry feels they need new branding. Not actual branding, like they do with scorching hot metal and cattle. Branding like they do on Madison Avenue.
They're doing it by renaming various cuts of pork to give them a more sophisticated sound. Or, as the National Pork Board says, more "consumer friendly."
They recently received approval from the USDA to rename the various consumer non-friendly names. Like they are going to rename pork chops "porterhouse chops." There's an act of friendliness right there. Only seven extra letters to tap in when you tweet your friends about how great your "porterhouse chops" are at the Pork Palace Bistro.
They can also be called "ribeye chops" and "New York chops" depending on the cut. Obviously the pork folks have aspirations of grandeur. Beef loin envy or something.
But here's the kicker. What was formerly called pork butt, even though it's actually from the shoulder, has been given a very ostentatious appellation. Boston Roast. This the cut of meat favored by southern barbecuers everywhere, given a Yankee name.
What is it they say? A roast by any other name... Dumb. Naming a red state product after something from liberal Massachusetts. Bound to been seen as consumer friendly.
I'm guessing Kansas will still call it pork butt. Cause down-home and consumer friendly mean the same thing there. Especially if you add bacon.
America, ya gotta love it.

1978 Spitty

The world appears to be going to spit. By which I mean a very similar sounding word. Literally.. Because if it wasn't we would have a whole heap of starvation.
Read an interesting article recently in National Geographic about the green revolution. Turns out much of it can be attributed to the fertilizer revolution. And it all comes down to nitrogen. Most of man's big bonus food crops consume vast amounts of nitrogen, which it leeches from the soil. Nitrogen fertilizer puts it back.
It's not just chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers contain nitrogen too. When you mix up a load of compost, horse manure and chicken poop you're doing the same thing. Animal waste has the same negative effect on our streams and lakes, it's just that straight chemical fertilizers do it much quicker. Removing the organic middleman gut. Which may be safer, as organic options often use manure from antibiotic, hormone, and chemically-enhanced animals.
The article threw out an interesting statistic. It said that man adds more than a hundred million tons of fertilizer worldwide. That's what I mean about the world going to, um, spit.
Buried in another part of the magazine was a different but related statistic. It said the total weight of women and men, the whole heft of humanity as it were, was 633 billion pounds. That's a lot of humans on the hoof.
So really, a hundred million tons of fertilizer to grow food for the 633 billion tons of humans is not such a crazy thing.
The trick is how to fling it around. Remember, don't spread it on too thick. A little bullspit goes a long way.
Dump a shipload of BS, and you'll really wreak some damage.
And that damage will really reek.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

1977 Written Off

I'm a little worried about writing these days. Like I got an email from someone with this message embedded at the bottom: "Sent from my iPhone, please forgive the brevity or typos."
On one hand I appreciated the sentiment. Advance apologies are so polite. On the other hand I was concerned about the expectation that if one apologizes first all wrongs are automatically mitigated. Where's the incentive to improve? It's like the misguided notion some Christians have that since they can ask God for forgiveness they can keep sinning with no attempt to change. The "Blank Check Christians," as one pastor I know put it. He said he always reminds them that Jesus said, "Go... and sin no more."
I also worry that we are too dependent on spell-checking programs. Like the program produced by a computer program I read at a program the other evening. It was for a school PTO fundraiser of all things. One of the items in the agenda said, "7:00pm, Diner is Served." I'm guessing they meant dinner.
Or this word thing: Recently a famous couple got matching tattoos. Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and Avril Lavigne of Avril Lavigne put, in French, on their respective forearms, "Live in the present moment." If you think these people are nimrods, in this case forearmed is forewarned. Because it means the same thing if you say you "live in the present" or "live in the moment." So now, living in the past, present, and future, they have a permanent redundancy tattooed on their skin.
Which leads to my last worry. The legacy kids leave when they only communicate electronically. With deceased loved ones now, we can go through their papers. In the future will we only be able to go through their text history?
OMG. Brevity indeed...
America, ya gotta love it.