Friday, January 31, 2014

2154 Bum Deal

Had one of those odd epiphanies recently. I was driving around doing errands and happened to encounter various but similar homeless guys at freeway intersections.

Based on their shoes, coats and general demeanors, they didn't strike me as the sort who were desperately in need of services. They were more like your traditional hobos. Bums, if you will. Interestingly, they all seemed to be offering a bum deal.

Accent on "deal." Because the signs they held up bore evidence of the fine hand of marketing. Their appeals weren't just baldly asking for money, they were couched in phrases that seemed a little more sophisticated advertising-wise.

One guy held up a sign done in bold curlicue letters. It said, "It's my birthday!!" complete with two exclamation points. 

Another at a different intersection was equally upbeat. His said, "I believe in random acts of kindness." Not only was it completely legible, it had a heart drawn and colored red on it. Not sure where someone may have donated him red paint. Maybe he got it from a graffiti tagger.

The final sign I saw in the series was a couple of miles down the freeway at another exit. It simply said, "Have a Nice Day." It too had color, this time your classic smiling happy face completely rendered in bright yellow.  Again, not sure where the yellow paint came from. Not your normal bindlestick bag accoutrement. 

I was led to conclude one thing. The bum coalition has recruited a marketing consultant. All those positive messages. A whole different approach to the ask. Color on the signs. 

Yep, it's Bum Re-branding.

More power to 'em. In this world, if you stand still you fall behind. Stick it to the man with his own weapons, dudes. As Smashmouth said, “We could all use a little change.” 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

2153 Drive-Bys

Some drive-by thoughts today. Drive-by thoughts are those little observations that occur to me when I'm out driving. A lot of them have nothing to do with driving, or even anything I've seen while I've been driving, but are somehow driven into my brain by random inspiration.

So the other day I was driving, and around this one area I smelled a smell not unlike the smell you smell when a bit of meat or fat drips onto the fire in your barbecue. Or that comes billowing out from the odor ejectors at Burger King. 

The first time I smelled it the air was pretty still. One of those winter stagnant air days they call burn bans on. I figured some homeowner with a woodstove misplaced a piece of bacon. I smelled it again in the same place as I drove through a couple of weeks later. 

Then I realized. I was downwind of a crematorium. Mystery solved. But a new one in its place. Do crematoriums have to honor burn bans? 

Another time a news report came on when I was driving. They were talking about Seahawks tickets going on sale to the general public and that they were around 80 bucks but they expected they would fetch much more on the secondary market. 

Secondary market? Didn't we used to call that scalping? Secondary market sounds so much less gruesome. "The Apaches attacked the settlers, Colonel." 

"Their own fault, they squatted on the Apaches' land."

"Still... It wasn't nice for the Apaches to secondary market them."

Lastly, just a thought that drove in when I was daydreaming. I like the internet and all for showing funny things. But how many grumpy cat memes are too many grumpy cat memes?  

America, ya gotta love it. 

2152 Odd Thoughts

Some odd and assorted thoughts today. BTW, not sure if assorted means that whatever it is is sorted or unsorted. Maybe it means sorting never even comes into it. Like there's heterosexual and homosexual, and just asexual for those who not only don't have a preference, they don't even think about it.

One of the odd thoughts was about this new church I saw that opened up. It's called the Mars Hill Church, which is cool by me. I'm all for diversity in politics and religion. 

What got my attention about them was a sign they had hanging on their fence announcing an upcoming sermon series. Which I guess is like a lecture series but with a different kind of lectern. What's the church type called? Pulpit? 

I hardly know it.

Anyhow, the sign identified the series as, "James, Jesus' Bold Little Brother." Wait a minute, wasn't Jesus' non-boldness one of his divine qualities? The ultimate humility he taught? I suppose you can be both bold and humble, kind of like doing competitive yoga, but it seems like a stretch.

Then there's the Mars Hill thing. I researched the internet for a couple of minutes but was unable to find out why they picked the name. Maybe a geographical thing. Which maybe wasn't a good choice. 

Because unfortunately, one of the basic tenets of Christianity as I've practiced it, is that it's, um, monotheistic, the worship of one god. The word Mars comes from the Roman god Mars. The Romans, you may remember, had fun feeding Christian monotheists to the lions and stuff. Mars was one of their many gods. He was the god of war.

Coincidentally, he was pretty bold too.

Forgive me. Odd thoughts from my odd and probably bound for hell brain... 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2151 Underhand

I wonder about things sometimes. They say that curiosity killed the cat, but it's been my experience that wondering often leads to a sense of wonder. Of course it leads to confusion too.

Take an innocent word like “underhanded.” I thought about it the other day. What triggered my thought was a catch made by a football player as he was about to go out of bounds. The commentator said that the guy's hand under the ball indicated he had control of it, so the pass should officially be considered complete. 

A time when underhanded is actually good, my brain immediately concluded. Which led me to wonder why it was ever bad. A mystery. Why did the term underhanded come to signify something nefarious?

The etymology dictionary says such meaning dates back to 1540 but that's all. The regular dictionary says it is something done in a treacherous or deceitful manner; sneaky; disreputable; base. All right, but why?

For some reason underhand is viewed as dirty. Perhaps the usage developed because in the less than sanitary days of yore one had to choose which hand to use for which thing. Like Leonardo DiCaprio's rendition of OC germophobe Howard Hughes.

So maybe it has something to do with why the left hand is considered the bad hand in certain Arabic countries. It's the hand one uses to wipe one's underside after doing one's business. Not that doing business is necessarily underhanded, but some business does put the doo in doing.

I'll wonder no more. Theoretically, the underhand is the hand one puts under one's underside. And therefore dirty. The idea flows from there. The mystery is solved.

Oh sure, it all may be a tissue of speculation. But I think I've gotten to the bottom of it.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

2150 Head Lines

Like any other child of modern times, I'm attracted by headlines. No, not lines to the toilet at concerts and football games, the kind you see in the newspaper. Or what passes for the newspaper these days online.

Headlines pique the interest, like one I remember from long ago. It was in the local paper in the sports section and it said, "Sonics Pick Off Nuggets." For some reason that line has stuck with me like a booger on a wall for all these years. 

Headlines are essentially teasers, constructed in such a way that you want to explore further. Headlines online have gotten even more teasy, done in such a way that the last couple of words are cropped off, so in order to even read the whole headline you have to click away from the news aggregator and head to the actual website of the headline in question.

I saw one recently that got my attention pretty good. It said, "Beanie Babies Billionaire could get prison time." Partly it was because the headline used alliteration. I love alliteration, that seductive selection of similar sounding syllables. Beanie Baby Billionaire, it just cries out for extended exploration. 

And the questions it provokes: Someone survived the Beanie Baby Bubble? He's a billionaire? Has anyone even heard of Beanie Babies since Magic Cards, Pogs, and Hummel Figurines? (BTW, I think because of the Beanie Babies craze, I always thought Hummel Figurines were sculpted out of mashed garbanzo beans.)

The last time I saw a Beanie Baby was in my deceased grandma's survival kit in her storm cellar. She apparently thought she could cut one open and make soup if she had to. 

Headline material right there: Senile Senior survives bad bout of Beanie barfing.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

2149 Whitewash

So. Student of American culture that I am, I often find myself faced with cultural conundrums. Case in point: Recently many of the fast food perpetrators having been making an effort to health up their act and offer more nutritious selections on their menus.

But knowing that entrees with fresh vegetables have traditionally proven to be non-starters, they've switched to the lower total calorie approach. They figure if they dangle an under 400 calorie piece of bait in front of your maw, you'll also be likely to order fries and a drink and tip the whole scale at 1200 calories. 

But they can sit back and point to the moral high ground with the health folks. Knowing full well that you can lead a shark to water but you can't make him eat under 400 calories.

Anyhow, in the pursuit of this healthier goal, the fast fooders having starting offering "egg white" concoctions. McDonalds has an Egg White Delight McMuffin breakfast sandwich. (Great with a hash brown patty and Dr. Pepper by the way.)

Dunkin' Donuts, who in an ad I saw just suspiciously called themselves Dunkin', has three healthy egg white sandwiches, two of them with flatbread. Don't get your hopes up on flatbread by the way, with high expectation pita fantasies. Flatbread is meant to look healthier, but ingredients wise, is really just a reconfigured bun.  

So my cultural conundrum. When millions of egg white sandwiches get sold by all the fast food pushers, what happens to all those egg yolks? There's not enough custard and flan in the whole world.

I'm guessing they'll be putting a high calorie new dessert item on the McDonalds menu soon. 


But you can't have your pudding if you don't eat your, um, egg white... 

America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2148 Fludge

Flu season is in full swing and folks around me are dropping like flies left and right. I wonder if the Center for Disease Control has figured all the factors in these annual outbreaks.

Tradition has it that the reason the flu sets in so strong in late January is that we all spend more time indoors with other infected people. The Christmas holidays in particular are lovely virus swapping opportunities. Better yet, opportunities to swap viruses with your close genetic kin. So the viruses, once adapted, don't to have to do too much work to jump from host to host. 

When we do go to other gatherings we take a full packet of phlegm particles with us, ready to spray on our innocent party host's household surfaces, and from there to other guests sharing the same toilet flush lever, faucet handle, and guest towel in the bathroom. 

Deck the halls with balls of flu phlegm.

Then it's time to get on a plane and visit distant relatives, you and a large group of others sharing the same small breathing space to transport your now combined stowaway viruses across country.

That's the traditional view. I have another suggestion. The reason the flu season peaks in January is the same reason health clubs capacity peaks in January. We are full of sugar and fat.

Think about it. If you were a virus, which body would you prefer to invade, a stringy old vegetarian or a fat sweet bacon-crusted donut of a human being? 

The donut person of course, bloodstream brimming with vital viral victuals. Sugar and fat ---who could ask for anything more? Free-floating in the bloodstream sugar too. And countless cells saturated with the results of Christmas goodie gobbling. 

Want to attract the flu? Have another chunk of fudge...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2147 Phone Bug

Back in the old days, bad folks engaged in nefarious activities, or  good folks working against nefarious enemies, had to worry about people bugging their phone. Tapping their line, listening in during calls out. Thus the first idea of the phone bug.

Then came smartphones. Smart phones could be bugged too, as the NSA has shown so well. But they could also be bugged with viruses. Phone bugging now included hacking. And your computer phone's software could be infected. So now we had a bugged phone and a phone with viruses.

All very metaphorical until the latest scourge emerged. Dirty bugged phones filled with actual bugs and viruses. I-Philth.

That crud that sticks to your phone when you pass it from coughing adults to snotty-nosed kids when you show pictures. The nastiness that collects on its surfaces when you set it on desktops or bathroom counters or the local barrista bar. 

Everyday noxious grime. Dr Dubert Guerrero, infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota says devices as a source of disease transmission aren't even a subject of debate anymore. 

The problem is that many device manufacturers will void their warranties if you use normal cleaning and disinfecting agents like ammonia or alcohol. So your phone may make you void because you want to avoid voiding your void-making phone. You could start hacking your lungs because your virus-protected hack proof phone is loaded with viruses on its touchscreen. 

Answer? Wipe with a soft dry cloth and look for a source of disinfecting UV light. You can buy a wand style one, available on the internet, or just take your phone tanning.  

Even though that's the one place of relaxation most people don't take their phone because they don't want to folks to bug them. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2146 Doubledecker Donkey

The news story about Walmart having to deal with tainted donkey meat in China has some interesting ramifications. Namely, that international companies dealing in China have to adopt some of China's cultural tastes.

So it was that Walmart, finding itself in a "when in Rome do as the Romans do" situation, felt it necessary to stock its shelves with "Five Spice Donkey Meat" to please the local palate. Walmart is, after all, about satisfying the masses with the cheapest mass products available, so it certainly fits in with their corporate tastes if not the particular tastes of the corporate officers themselves.

But it does makes one ponder what the other multi-nationals seeking to get a foot in the cultural mouth of China have up their sleeves. Can we expect donkey offerings from Burger King China soon? A doubledecker donkey burger perhaps. The Donkey King Kong?

How about a Jack-in-the-Donkey treat? Just the thing for a late night menu item catering to the stoner Chinese shiftworker. Jalapeno cheese donkey bacon Jack. With halfsies, a soft drink, and a couple of donkey tacos.

Speaking of tacos, Taco Bell would certainly ring in an entry in the donkey entree food fight. Donkey Nachos possibly, or Donkey Chalupas. Burros are just tiny donkeys, so a Burro Burrito would be a natural.

Then there's KFC, run by Yum Foods in China. An original or crispy recipe 10-piece boneless donkey bucket would be sure to please. Or Kentucky Fried Hee-Haw Tenders. Hoof-licking good.

I'm sure McDonalds will have it figured out before any of them. McDonkey products will range from their dollar menu to their deluxe quarter-pounders to Donkey McNuggets. Maybe they'll even have a donkey happy meal. With commercials voiced by a high-priced spokesperson like Shrek's Eddie Murphy...

Would you like fries with that?

America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2145 'Taint Donkey

One of the oddest stories to come galloping down the pike recently was the unfortunate plight of Walmart in China. Seems one of their food items was adulterated with a foreign substance. As the whole Chinese food chain issue has been a problem, this was particularly vexing for Walmart, who sought to maintain a sterling American-style Upton Sinclair food reputation.

The problem, as the news stories put it, "Tainted Donkey Meat." Did you say Tainted Donkey Meat? That's right, Walmart's ever popular "5 Spice Donkey Meat" was contaminated with some other animal. Oh the horrors. To have your donkey tainted! 

The story said donkey meat is a very popular snack in China. You haven't lived till you've had donkey jerky. Or a donkey Slim Jim. 

It gets better, or worse. Authorities were able to determine what was spoiling that pure donkey flavor. The Shandong Food and Drug administration -- Shandong is the local authority on donkey -- determined from DNA analysis what the offending filler meat was.


Fox? you ask, Why would they add fox? My thoughts exactly. You'd think fox would be an even more exotic and expensive meat. Why use a fox to stretch out your donkey? That's like stuffing your chicken nuggets with pork loin.

And who first detected it? "Honey, is it just me or does my donkey taste a little doggy."

"I didn't do anything to it. And I don't think it's doggy dear, tastes a little like fox if you ask me." 

Speculation is, it wasn't hunted fox. All official fingers point to roadkill. Which, if you need another reason, is a good reminder to steer clear of meat products from China. 

On the other hand, it would make a great Jimi Hendrix song. 

Foxy Donkey...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

2144 Watch Out

'Tis the season for paranoia. At least it should be. Most people's problem is they just have mono-noia. Not as vigilant as they would be if they had a full pair o'noias.

So try on this story for size. The National Security Agency, known for their good hiring choices, is offering paid internships to high school students as young as 15. One young person said in an online review "Wonderful experience, can't really say too much..."

I'm guessing he may have been aware the NSA monitors online reviews and stuff. 

So. How does one get a security clearance at age 15? Most 15-year-olds complexions haven't cleared that much, much less their security profile. And aren't 15-year-olds a little easier to bribe? Just saying. At 15 your sensibilities are tuned to two things, loudly pointing out adult hypocrisy and figuring out how to have sex. 

Maybe not the folks to have closest to sensitive data. You'd think the NSA would learn. Edward Snowden was a low-level outside contractor and look what he had access too. As the whole world now knows. 

Second of the paranoias for today. According to a former FBI official, the FBI can secretly activate the webcam on your computer without turning on the indicator light. Like right now. 

Smile, you're on candid camera. Please remove your finger from your nose, as our face recognition technology is having a problem preparing your photo for our security dossier. 

Let's hope the FBI doesn't farm out any work to the NSA. You may have a 15-year-old looking into the room where you computer is soon. Or out from your laptop. So no hanky panky near the computer. And couples, no using online porn to spice up your love life. Sensitive eyes are watching.

Keep it classy America.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2143 Bark Bite

Every holiday season we get assaulted on all sides with the temptations of food. The sugarplum fairies turn into gluttony goblins and doom our waistlines to extra inches to work off in the new year. It's as if the health clubs are in cahoots with the cookie makers.

But I do like that we get to appreciate food in different shapes and configurations as well. What holiday would be complete without a nut-encrusted cheese log? Or festive cheese balls? As I've written more than once, there's nothing that says holiday like balls and logs.

But let's not forget loafs either. A lovely pimento olive loaf is a great accompaniment to the holiday dinner. Not to mention as an appetizer alongside the aforementioned balls and logs. 

A great way to present leftovers too. After the turkey sandwiches, and the turkey casserole, and the turkey pot pie, and the turkey soup, a good homemaker knows how to squeeze out every last turkey drop with a steaming turkey loaf.

I saw a couple of new cooking item words in a circular recently. You can now buy a Himalayan salt "plank" upon which to grill your food. The picture showed shrimp on a skewer resting on an inch thick 8-by-10 plank of salt. I'd like to use it for a flank steak. Flank on a plank sounds fun.

The circular also had a picture of something called "bark" in holiday tins. Peppermint bark, dark cherry caramel bark, and dark caramel and sea salt bark. Dark bark looks like the bark of choice. Yum. Who doesn't want to eat something named after the hard prickly outer surface of a tree? 

The epicurean joys of the season. Logs, loaves, bark, and balls for your holiday fling, these are few of my favorite things.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2142 Rec Meds

I was reading how some football player was suspended for using a banned substance. The article mentioned that it was suspected that the banned substance was in fact marijuana.

And it got me wondering, isn't that a bit of a legal dilemma when it comes to Colorado and Washington state, where the substance is not only not banned for medical use, it's not banned for recreational use either?

What's a citizen to do? I fully understand banning its use, even in off hours, by certain workers in certain professions, doctors and emergency utility linemen come to mind. But a football lineman?

In what way is he going to hurt anyone because he's a little numb? I would think numbing the pain would be right up there on the medicinal end of things anyhow. Is it any worse than being addicted to oxycontin?

And hey, you're saving the league money. Why not self medicate? Even if you're self medicating a pulled groin?

That whole medicinal versus recreational distinction is weird anyhow. You get high either way. Medicinal? The best buzz I ever inadvertently had was when I went it to have my colonoscopy. Wow. They ought to make that stuff illegal.

If it wasn't for the prepping regimen I had to go through the day before I'd definitely consider volunteering for another one on fairly regular basis. 

"You sure you didn't see anything Doc? Those polyps can be pretty tricky, better put me under again. I don't have to work, or fix a power line, or even play in a football game till next week. Put the IV right there and take a really long close look..." 

I can see the headlines now. Washington State; pioneer, trendsetter, and leading light for the first ever recreational colonoscopy.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2141 Type O

I saw an ad that got me tapping my head. It was for the new Microsoft Surface tablet. The main selling point was that it had a real snap-on keyboard.

What? Weren't tablets all the rage because they didn't need a keyboard? Now the best thing about a tablet is you can snap on a real keyboard? What happened to all their cool virtual touchscreen technology?

Well, it's not that good. Oh, you can slog through a message tapping on the virtual screen, but if you want to do real typing you need a board that has some touch back. Some feel as it were, that you just can't get from tapping a flat surface.

Another device on the market, from a company invested in by none other than Idol maker Ryan Seacrest, comes up with a solution for the same problem on iPhones. Ryan's device is called the Typo, which, iRonically, it helps get rid of, because there are a lot of them with touchscreens. The Typo’s a case that snaps around the ends of your iPhone and adds a Blackberry-like keyboard at the bottom.

You heard me, a Blackberry added to an iPhone. If only Blackberry had thought of that. Oh, right, they kind of did. Business iSucks sometimes.

Ryan said he put money behind the device because everyone in Hollywood carries two phones, one to i-around on and one to do serious typing. So why not have a tiny real keyboard added to a cool-factor iPhone? You got the sparkle and you got the practical grit. The iDol formula for success. 

Makes you wonder though. Is there some keyboard gene we all carry? Like Type O in our blood? No matter how we try to leave them behind, they always return. 

I better dust off my Smith-Corona stock...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

2140 Force of Hobbit

Whenever anyone says, "'tis the holiday season," my brain automatically jumps to, "'tis the Hobbity season."

Because thanks to Peter Jackson's periodic releases of movies, and DVDs, and extended director's cuts of DVD's, we can just about always count on the Christmas holiday being the Christmas Hobbit day as well. 2013 saw the release of the second in the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, and many critics were happy. Happy because it was a pretty good movie. 

I know, that sounds so un-critic like. But what a good Smaug did was free them up to finally say what they wanted to say about the first movie, An Unexpectedly Bad Journey, but were afraid to when it debuted. They hated the first movie.  It was too long. It was boring for the first hour. Peter Jackson had lost his ability to make an exciting movie. He was being Hobbit self-indulgent.   

But the new movie was exciting, mesmerizing. Stunning video.  Smaug blew in like a breath of fresh air. 

I'm looking forward to that stunning video on my old, non-big,  non-flat panel, non-HD TV next year. I hope the voices on the audio come through on its tiny speakers too.

As it's the Hobbity season, I traditionally re-watched the old Lord of the Rings trilogy. And finally got frustrated enough by not being able to pick out the speech that I turned on the hearing-impaired function. Pretty cool. Now I could read what they said. 

Unfortunately, I discovered some things weren't meant to be heard. There was a group scene where I'd nearly worn out the DVD in the past replaying the groove to hear what was being said, as it was followed by a violent clash. The close caption said, "muttering in Elvish." 

It made me mutter something in French. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2139 Camo Mode

Call me persnickety, but there are some fashion items I don't like. Namely Camo. It needs to stay in its place. It's supposed to be garb for successful hunting.

But no, camo has become ubiquitous in American life. Camo accessories from knives to --- I kid you not --- shower curtains. My favorite misguided camo item I’ve seen was a nylon camo wallet. Great, I suppose, when you're paying each other for poker losings around the campfire, but what a bummer when you drop it in the woods. How are you going to find it?

I saw a guy the other day that epitomized the misuse of camo. He was wearing camo pants and bright neon orange tennis shoes. Kind of a walking visual contradiction. Look Mom, there's two shoes on invisible legs. If I was a game animal, I may have been too stunned to move.

Perhaps we owe it to reality shows like Duck Dynasty. Folks think it's okay to dress in redneck casual wherever they go. But in the old days on the farm us true hicks made sure we put on our Sunday best when we was going shopping. On go-to-town day we wouldn't be caught dead in the overalls we wore in the barn.

Part of the erosion of propriety generally in our culture. With instant gratification only an Amazon drone away, why would we go to all the trouble of redressing just because we're going to be seen in polite company? What is polite company anyway? Folks with their noses stuck in smartphones? 

Saw my new favorite the other day. Camo jammies. That's right, a guy in a store with camo pajama pants. I'm guessing he usually wears them at home. 

In case he has to shoot a deer in his bedroom.

America, ya gotta love it.