I have a story to tell about what
some fast food places call chicken nuggets and what some places call chicken
littles. I think this time the sky really is falling.
There's a line in a Barenaked
Ladies song that goes "Chickety China the Chinese chicken, have a
drumstick and your brain stops tickin'". Which may explain my sense of
dread about the story I read.
Seems the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, normally our friends when it comes to protecting our food supply,
are going to allow poultry that has been raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to
be shipped to China, where they will "process" it and then ship it
back to American consumers.
What could go wrong?
Just because there is virtually no
food chain oversight in China--- where bribes and corruption enrich officials
looking the other way, where in 2008, they were found to have laced baby
formula with melamine, sickening thousands of babies and killing six, where
lead paint-encrusted toys have been shipped countless times in unlabeled
containers--- I'm sure there's a good reason to now place our trust in them.
Well, yeah. Money. It turns out
this is a bid to open up Chinese markets to imports of our beef. A tit-for-tat
as it were. Or a nit-for-nugget. And we're the nitwits doing it.
make-your-brain-stop-tickin' from an anger-engendered stroke fact: No U.S.
chicken folk have rushed forward to take up the offer yet, but if they do
you'll never know about it. Since the chickens will be slaughtered here and
cooked before its return, companies won't be compelled to reveal its Asian
I've always been suspicious of
chicken nuggets healthwise anyway. Lips, feet, sphincters, and non-free range
chicken litter. Who knows, maybe melamine will be an improvement.
It's no secret, from you or the
NSA, that I get a little impatient with the supposedly great innovations in
today's culture. Because it seems like so many of them make us more lazy and
So when I saw this Egg Minder
gadget in a magazine recently I was not impressed. The article said that the
Egg Minder represents "an elegant solution to a common food waste
problem." What does it do? It keeps track of which eggs are oldest in your
refrigerator. And gosh, it even warns you when eggs have gone bad.
It looks like an elegant open egg
carton. Alongside each egg-shaped indentation is a blue LED that, when lit,
marks the egg that has sat the longest. When you remove that egg the next
oldest lights up and so on. There is, of course, a related smartphone app.
Perhaps to phone you and the NSA when one of your eggs has gone over. The NSA
is very interested in bad eggs.
A little egg-cessive if you ask me.
Don't regular egg cartons have freshness dates on them? I checked mine and yes,
there's a date right there on the side. So I already know how old those eggs
are. Even if I'm that persnickety, I could always grab a felt pen and write the
date on each individual egg. Since I don't eat the shells, who cares?
Obviously the manufacturer of the
Egg Minder has created a niche product for those refrigerator fashionistas who
would be mortified to have the inside of their elegant ice box tainted with an
actual cardboard egg carton. What next? Repackaging their milk cartons too?
Oh look Gisele, I have the new Milk
Minder carafe. It calls me on my smartphone when it's empty.
I came across a couple of articles
recently that got me thinking. They were both related to today's technology and
the potential misuses of it by the NSA and other spying organizations.
As an aside, isn't it odd how we
keep getting more and more revelations from Edward Snowden? It's almost like
those serial novels that used to be published in newspapers. They helped
increase circulation, and of course revenue, by forcing readers to keep coming
back for more.
It's like someone is paying Snowden
for each chunk of juicy spy gossip. First the NSA is spying on our emails.
Ka-ching. Then on European leaders. Ka-ching. Then metadata on our phone
travels. Ka-ching. Then hacking into fiber optic cables to steal data from
Google, Apple, and other supposedly secure networks. Ka-ching.
And now, (ka-ching) not content to
spy on us in the real world, the NSA is spying on us in the virtual online
alternative worlds, like World of Warcraft and other games.
Because, you know, Al Qaeda members
like communicating with each other as zombies and ogres. Hey, if we could
convince them to only blow up stuff online our problems would be over. Someone
find 40 virgin avatars.
So that's why another news item
scared me. Qualcomm has come up with a new open source framework that will
allow all sorts of regular platforms to communicate with each other. Cars,
mobile devices, computers, and home appliances will soon be conversing
seamlessly. The program will allow all those devices and more to discover,
connect, and communicate with each other regardless of manufacturer.
Which means, guess what? A new way
for the NSA to spy on us. Crimenentely, the spies are already in my World of
Warcraft. Now they're in my refrigerator too?
I read an article recently that
talked about the President's new actions regarding the Affordable Care Act, the
ACA, aka Obamacare. The headline said: "Obama to make economic case for
health care, pitch to young people."
It cast my mind back to 1980, when
in fact I was pitching health insurance to young people. And usually being
rejected soundly. Few people are reviled as much as insurance salesmen.
Back in those days I sold life and
health insurance, and if there are two things that are exceptionally hard to
sell to young people and really, people generally, it's health insurance and
Partly because no one wants to
believe they are going to get sick or die. Or if they do believe they're going
to die, they could care less about what happens to their survivors. I actually
heard the phrase, "Screw 'em, I'm dead" more than once.
As far as health insurance, people
clung tenaciously to the idea that "it won't happen to me," until of
course it did, then they wanted as much insurance as they could get. I think
one of the often overlooked but possibly biggest resistances to a national
health plan is that same "it won't happen to me" feeling magnified
Folks don't want to pay for
something that they may not but someone else definitely will use.
Until of course they personally need it. I think that same impulse leads people
to live next to flood prone rivers. The definition of humanity is a remarkable
capacity to deny the obvious.
But what struck me most about the
headline was that Obama now finds himself in a strange role. One guaranteed to
lower his approval ratings even lower. He's the Insurance Salesman-in-chief.
Recently I saw something that made
me scratch my head. It was an ad for a Chia Pet. I'm sure you remember Chia
Pets. Those pottery bases that you put seeds on and then the seeds grow some
weird plant material that looks like hair.
If the pottery base looks
sufficiently like an animal and the furrows in which the seeds sprout are
evenly distributed, it's like Hair Club for Men except Hair Club for Grotesque
The seeds used are actually called
Chia seeds and are from the mint family. The plant itself was cultivated by the
Aztec as a staple food crop.
So I guess at some point you could
actually eat your Chia. That means vegetarians could harvest an edible plant
from an animal shape. In some cases that might look good, as the terra cotta
bases have been rendered in numerous animal-like shapes, among them Chia bulls,
Chia pigs and Chia chickens. Yes, I said chi-chi-chi-chia chickens
Speaking of which, they've also
featured Chia celebrities, including Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. But that's not
the weird thing I saw. Chias have evolved to mirror our culture, from the
original ram to the aforementioned Chia Elmer Fudds. So this season, you
guessed it,Chia is hawking Duck Dynasty
Yep, Uncle Si and Willie, both
known for their hirsute pursuits, are rendered in terra cotta, ready to be smeared
with Chia paste and encouraged to sprout green hair and beards. Interestingly,
as the Chia sprouts are green, it almost looks like Uncle Si's and Willie's
hair is growing in camo. Miss Kay would be proud.
I should get them. My other famous
Chia died. Too bad. I can tell you, there's no better conversation piece than a
green hairy Newt Gingrich.
I saw a commercial for Walmart
recently about how great they are when it comes to matching prices. The gist of
the ad was that if you found an item that you'd bought at Walmart somewhere
else priced for less, Walmart would make it up to you.
In the old days they called that a
price guarantee. And in the old days stores that offered it would promise to
refund the difference. You had to go to the trouble of buying the other item
and producing the receipt or showing an actual printed ad to get it but at
least you got the refund.
Walmart has a new wrinkle. They
promise to give you a gift card for the difference. Translation, they still
keep your money. Yes, I overcharged you but here's a gift card for the amount I
overcharged you that you can spend on some other item that I plan to overcharge
you for. Sounds more like a grift card to me.
BTW, studies show 27% of gift cards
Still, things are pretty tough in the
discount biz these days. What with smartphones and all, and other retailers
actually posting ads online for their discounts, I would think one of the
biggest challenges Walmart faces is keeping their checkout lines as short and
quick as possible. With folks always sticking their noses in their devices, the
more waiting time they have in line, the more time they have to compare the
price of what they have in their cart to a price online. And simply step out of
line and not buy it in the first place.
I plan to use my gift card to buy a
new wallet. My last one got blown out holding all those unused gift cards.
Drones. The world is all abuzz
about them. Not just because they're being used as weapons, but also because,
not unlike the atom bomb, they're now being turned to peaceful uses.
Like personal shipping.
Yep, according to Jeff Bezos in a
recent 60 Minutes interview, he intends to get you your Amazon Prime doodad in
under 60 minutes. And he'll use a fleet of drones to do it. Gone will be the
days when you have to wait 2 days, or even 24 hours, nervously whiling away the
time between wish and gratification. With the Drones of Bezos humming on the
horizon your satisfaction will make a bee-line for your home in less than an
Of course, like all new technology,
there'll be downsides. Drones can't carry much, in fact just one five-pound
package at this point. So, unlike one delivery truck driving the streets
carrying lots of packages, you'll have lots of drones carrying one package
Imagine the noise come Christmas
season. Talk about holiday buzz.
But there's another contingent
pretty happy about the deal. Deal hunters. And I mean literally hunters.
My friend Kris predicts packages will be dropping from the sky as fast as
marksmen can shoot them down.
Their new game will be drones. Game
of Drones as it were. Drone Huntin' will be the equivalent of a Walmart redneck
doorbuster stampede. Beer guzzling on their porches, decked out in holiday
camo, duck-shooting presents for the kinfolk. Whatever they end up bringing
down. It'll be as easy as shooting flying reindeer.
"Hot damn Cletus, we's gonna have us
a free Christmas, no matter what we get. But we's running low on bullets,
have Willie or Uncle Si order us up some ammo quick. They got Ammo-zon Prime
I was thinking about the word
"range" recently. As in "Free Range."
I believe my first encounter, and
confusion, with the word was when I heard it in the song, "Home on the
Range." Where the deer and the antelope play and all that.
I was confused because I had also
heard the term in conjunction with where our family's meals were cooked. My mom
called our stovetop "the range." I wasn't entirely sure where there
was enough room for deer and antelope (whatever they were) to play on our
Later, I learned the open range was
where animals and cowboys roamed about seeking free fodder. I'm still not sure
why the same word is used for both.
Perhaps because there was a
somewhat open flat space where food was involved. But that notion was shattered
even later when we got our first microwave oven. It was called a "Radar
Range." And was completely enclosed.
So today, when we use the term
"free range" to describe an unenclosed situation, where animals are
humanely allowed to roam free before we kill them and eat them, it's confusing
But "free range" does
sound kind of cool. And because range still carries with it the cooking
association it even sounds a little appetizing. Like it would be more savory
somehow. Flavorful like you get when you cook on an open fire. When you say
"free range beef" or "free range chicken" it almost gets
those lips a smacking.
Even when you say "free range
chicken eggs" the flavorful association continues. It's when you get to
free range chicken egg products that it starts to get weird. Like, um,
"free range mayonnaise." Those bugs the chicken ate on the
range not so appetizing anymore.
There's this thing called Bitcoin.
From what I understand, it's basically a way of dealing in virtual money and/or
using real money to purchase virtual money. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could
use it as currency in alternative life universes online?
You want to get better at a
particular virtual reality online video game and so you buy yourself some extra
health points, or possibly magic. Or maybe even a bigger sword or temporary
invulnerability so you can get past the pack of zombies and make it to the next
Money in this sense acting like a
cheat code so you can move on and get more success, and more perks, even if you
aren't that good at something. Wow. It could make virtual life more like real
Bitcoin, the company that
facilitates this semi-imaginary money, has been under fire from the feds
recently because it's being used by some nefarious folks to launder money. The
Treasury Department is worried. Because, you know, the South American drug
cartels and remnants of the Cosa Nostra are so tech savvy and all.
Anyhow, in a classic case of one
hand of the federal government not knowing what the other is doing, lawyers for
the Federal Election Commission are recommending the agency approve the virtual
currency as "in-kind contributions to federal campaign committees."
Political campaigns couldn't spend or donate the Bitcoins directly, only after
they've been converted into U.S. dollars.
So, back when I played role-playing
games, you could build up extra life points if you did something really awesome
in the game. Wouldn’t it be great if you could convert those points to
I like the idea of killing mindless
zombies to get my candidate elected. Congress so often acts like a pack of
mindless zombies now.
Christmas Season is here, and with
it the frenzy foisted upon us by herds of anxious shoppers. The people that are
most motivated by the phrase "don't miss out."
This year many of the large
retailers are, according to them, altruistically relieving the crunch of Black
Friday shopping by opening on Thanksgiving Thursday. Well, thanks to them.
Thanks for creating the Black
Friday frenzy in the first place. Thanks for inventing the term
"doorbuster," only to see it actually come true as hysterically
amped-up shoppers, having waited in the cold for hours for ridiculously low
prices on two items, actually bust down doors in their mad dash to a discount,
sometimes killing folks in the stampede.
The great Darwinian shopping
extinctifier. Shop now while natural selection is best. Only the fittest
So now, the doorbusters are being
pushed back to 8:00 on Thanksgiving night. Or even 6:00 in some places. I'm
sure next year it will be 4:00, then 2:00, then what the hey, really really
early Thanksgiving morning, before the family sits down to turkey later that
day. Stuffing their shopping bags before they stuff their bird.
Sad, because retailers don't seem
to get that the biggest thing that makes Black Friday work is anticipation, the
suspense and delayed gratification created by the break of Thanksgiving.
Encroach on that and it disappears faster than beer goggle beauty.
Besides, it's spending all day with
your relatives on Thanksgiving that makes some folks want to get out early and
shop in the first place.Why be home
with family when you can join a crowd of strangers in the cold and damp and
bust down doors?
A tough question. Morally it's not
a black and white issue. Perhaps that's why some retailers are calling it Gray
Every now and then I'll read
something or another and it’s like the world suddenly shifted when I wasn't
Case in point, I read on the
webby-news about the recent accord between world powers over Iran's nuclear
issue. This has been a three-decade long case of gridlock. It makes the
congressional stalemates between dems and repubs look like spasmic spats
So this was a momentous occasion.
What was the lead line in the article? "Iran Foreign Minister Zarif
announces on twitter feed that historic deal has been reached."
Really? A world-shattering treaty.
A momentous historic occasion. A three-decade standoff unstood off. And it's
first announced on twitter? Dare I ask? Was it a nuclear tweety?
Bet Twitter’s happy they're having
their IPO right now.
The other weird thing in the
article I read was from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In which, if I may
say, he really put the yahoo in Netanyahu. Not Yahoo as in the search engine.
Yahoo as in country rube.
Because he said to the West that
this was not a historic deal, it was a historic mistake. It was, quote:
"Like giving Iran a Christmas Present."
What's wrong with this picture? In
the US this is about the time of year folks start warning about the "War
on Christmas." And here we have the prime minister of Israel, who, when I
last checked appeared to be a Jewish individual, talking about a Christmas gift
to a country that is officially Islamic.
Kind of gives hope for Peace on Earth
right there. I wonder though, if the Messiah was born today, would the angels
on high twitter?
“Hark,” the herald angels tweet.
“Peace on Earth, that's really neat.”
I read an article recently about
the newest path to a healthy life: A handful of nuts.I'm not talking about a group of
zany comedians. I'm talking about actual nuts. The kind you can hold in your
hand, pop into your mouth, and gobble up.
Scientists have known for some time
about the general health benefits of nuts; unsaturated fats, minerals, a great
way to get protein. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration actually said a fistful
of nuts a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. The Heart Association
recommends four servings of un-oiled unsalted nuts a week.
But new research indicates there's
an across the board benefit to nuts. And it doesn't matter what kind, from
peanuts to Brazilians. Oiled, salted, raw, or even roasted, the health
improvements are significant. Research showed those who consumed
nuts every day were 20% less likely to die during the study period than those
who didn't. Eating nuts lowered the death risk in direct proportion to
The risk of dying from heart
disease dropped 29%. The risk of dying from cancer dropped 11% among those who
had nuts 7 days a week compared to those who didn't.One final bonus, nut eaters stayed
slimmer. Another reason to fly on cheap
airlines. By serving their piddling little peanuts or a handful of some other
nuts, they're promoting good health
In sum, you can be healthier, less
heart attack prone, more cancer free, and less obese, all by having a daily
handful of nuts. In fact, the author of the article
said, "regular nut eaters were less likely to die from any cause."
Sorry, that sounds nuts. Any cause? I'm guessing none of the study
participants were sentenced to death by hanging.
I was thinking of balls recently.
Specifically, tennis balls. I'd written a commentary about how you always see
tennis balls stuck to the back feet of walkers. Walkers the devices that help
walkers walk, not the walkers walking themselves.
You'd think by now someone would
have invented something so people wouldn't have to go out and buy a walker,
then right away accessorize it with extra balls.
Like getting a tablet computer and
having to buy a keyboard. Oh, right.
The other annoying thing about the
balls is their obnoxious neon green color. But I suppose it's not like they
have a lot of options, tennis balls are pretty much always neon green these
days. Chartreuse the color of choice for visibility reasons, I guess.
Racquetballs come in red, black, or blue. But they don't have a hairy surface
so we won't be seeing walkers with blue balls anytime soon.
When I was growing up tennis balls
were white. In fact, white was the color for the whole sport, from tennis
skirts to tennis shirts. Today's flamboyance may be a reaction to that. The
fashion equivalent of the sexual revolution's reaction to Victorian prudery.
Thus neon balls.
Sad though, that a whole generation
of tennis players has never seen a white ball. Nor been able to know when to
retire a ball from the court because it got too dirty.
I'm thinking even dirty white balls
would be a great accessory for walkers though. If only because you could then
wash them, dye them, and garnish them in different colors.
Neon green is so unseasonal. As we
approach the holidays wouldn't it be nice to decorate grandpa's walker
differently? Maybe use some of that holly adorning your walls.
As tragedy after tragedy involving
guns unfolds in the news it kind of makes you wonder. So many of them are
Here's an interesting statistic I
got from The Week magazine when I was looking up a story on Rand Paul: The
number of Americans killed in all wars since 1775 is 1.17 million. The number
of Americans killed by firearms, including suicides, since just 1968, is 1.38 million.
With friends likes us who needs
Many involve automatic or
semi-automatic weapons with rapid fire capability. That may be a crucial piece
to look at in solving at least part of the problem. Because even with large magazine
rapid-fire technology lots of people survive. The truth is, most people aren't
very good shots.
Case in point. Hunters. The other
day before dawn I was looking out my back window and noticed my security lights
had been triggered by something. I looked over near my apple tree and saw a
young two-point buck standing there. He looked casually at the bright spotlight
then proceeded to bend down and eat. Totally cocky and unconcerned. He appeared
to be eating apple tree leaves, and I thought, go for it bucky, there's plenty
The thing is, if I’d had a rifle I
could have had meat for the winter. He was only 20 feet away. Why didn't humans
scare him? That reminded me of the previous Sunday morning when I was awakened
by shots about 500 yards away in the nearby woods.
Ah, I'd thought, hunting season,
they'll stop soon. Nope, eventually 20 shots rang out. All from the same place.
I think someone needs to take up a new hobby.
So. My solution. Let folks keep
their weapons. But just the ones they have to aim.
Recently I was at the emergency
ward. My father bumped his noggin and had to get stitches and such. Time
slipped by slowly, as it does at such places. Each moment in itself absolutely
interminable and then suddenly you look up and three hours of your life have
After they looked at his head and
rolled him in for a CAT scan to rule out internal bleeding, they returned him
to the room for a while where we could kill time in relative peace and quiet.
Then, time to leave. A doctor came
in, said everything was fine, and we were free to go. But first they wanted to
stand up my dad and make sure he could walk with the aid of a walker. Which
they then brought out. I was amazed.
Amazed because, though we were in a
high-tech hospital, with computers and all kinds of electronic modern miracles everywhere,
the walker they pulled out was a cheap aluminum fold up thing with, get this,
tennis balls stuck to its rear feet.
I'm sure you've all seen such
walkers, and even more expensive ones, being utilized by old people as they
ambulate through public spaces. Elderfolks shuffling along, pushing their
walkers in front of them, sometimes with front wheels spinning, but always with
tennis balls sliding in the back. It seems so cruel in a way, since none of the
folks in question is ever likely to play tennis again.
So here's my question. If everyone
is going to put deflated drooping balls on their walkers anyhow, why doesn't
the designer/manufacturer come up with a ball-oriented solution? Build it right
into his product. Why does even a hospital resort to accessorizing the walkers
with off-label after-market balls?
I read an interesting article
recently on how the Chinese are handling their incredibly bad pollution.
Unfortunately not so well. But they are facing up to it.
In case you've been on another
planet, China's two decades of runaway economic development and lack of
restraint from any sort of pollution laws has created a horrible air quality
crisis. Used to be Chinese millions got around on bicycles, but since the
growth of their middle class more than 120 million vehicles are now cramming
their roads and belching smog.
Worse, just about all their energy
needs come from dirty coal. China burns as much coal as the entire rest of the
world. The coal cartel controls the coal committees too so goodbye breathable
air. It's the perfect example of a
government who pushes growth and capitalism that has no restraints. Without
those two sides balancing each other even a simple freedom like taking a breath
But in a country where basic
freedoms are still at issue it's hard for an environmental movement to take
hold. So the only thing left is entrepreneurialism. The only freedom the
government actually supports.
Enter the solution to Chinese
pollution. Fashion. Yep, in order to breathe, millions of people are buying
facemasks. And the companies that make them are making a killing. There's been
a boom in fashion forward facemasks. Cause, you know, who wants to look like a
Some of the masks come with
counterfeit designer logos, (why should China's counterfeit industry suffer)
and some come with animal prints --- a choking panda perhaps.
It creates some interesting social
dynamics. Now when someone says your fashionable facemask is breathtaking, you
can be rude and say no, it's for breathtaking.
And that's how China is facing the
desolation of smog.