Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2216 Road Mysteries

I like driving around. You encounter so many mysteries.

Like the pathetic juxtaposition of things I saw the other day. I was driving by a place called Boulevard Animal Clinic. I noticed something in the middle of the road directly in front of the clinic. It was a dead possum, obviously splattered by a vehicle.

That close, I thought. That close. 

Such are the mysterious ironies of life and death. Was the possum on the way to the clinic? Probably not. Could it have used the clinic had it managed to crawl the fifty feet to the door. Yes. Could it have crawled there? Not a chance. Even a light vehicle makes a possum pop like an armadillo under a Winnebago wheel.

Saw another thing further down the road that was mysterious in a different way. It was a vacated house with a big sign in the entryway that said, "Private Property. No Trespassing or Camping."

So. Wouldn't camping be subsumed under the notion of trespassing? When you trespass I don't think you have to actually be doing any passing. Movement or actually passing through doesn't have to be involved. 

As far as I understand it, it is your actual presence in the disputed territory that's the trespass. Like in the updated Lord's Prayer where we ask for forgiveness of our trespasses and for those who trespass against us. It's a violation, not a passing through thing. 

So if you're camping on said property you're most definitely also violating the law by trespassing. Maybe the signmakers figure potential trespassers are too numb from their brown bag dinner to read the big word "trespass" and will recognize the word "camping."

Question: If you violate someone's air space by breaking wind, is that a trespass too?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2215 Clan Clowder

The other day I was looking in the air and what should fly by but a gaggle of geese. Naturally my mind started to flit around too. Why do some birds have their own group designation? Birds generally are referred to as flocks. But then you have a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows.

Cranes are even more privileged, groups of them can be called by a number names, like siege or sedge or even herd. Yep, it's perfectly appropriate to say a herd of cranes.

Ducks come in skeins or rafts depending on whether they're in the air or water. Doves come in cotes or bevies. Eagles, if you ever see them together, are called by the impressive sounding name "convocation." Though a convocation of eagles sounds like some kind of car club.

Other animals are equally interesting. You've probably asked yourself, "What do they call a herd of crocodiles?" Why a “congregation” of course. A congregation of giant lizards. Sounds like devil worshipers. Or maybe officers of the Ku Klux Klan. 

BTW, a group of hyenas is also known as a clan.

My favorite weird animal grouping name is for cats. Though the process of herding cats is a great metaphor for difficulty, the word for a herd of cats is actually just weird. It's "clowder." As in, a clowder of cats was on the prowl. Sounds a little like cloudy chowder and not at all catlike.  

The word for a clowder of kittens is even stranger. A herd of non-littered kittens is known as a "kindle." Hmm. Why would savvy Amazon name their reading device after a flock of felines? 

I'm guessing that knowing how cute kittens were, Jeff Bezos wanted to imply Kindles would be adopted by all the hep cats.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

2214 Light Cloudiness

For every thing there is a season, they say. They also say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. They also say that for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. It's no wonder I'm often confused.

Take the speed of light. I wonder if it has anything to do with how time seems to get faster as we get older. Weeks go by like the day before was only yesterday. Einstein says when an object approaches the speed of light it gets infinitely heavy and that time slows down. So my question: If time appears to be getting faster, why do I keep gaining weight?

Except in my brain of course. There I'm light headed. Or at least light on the ability to remember things. 

Next question. I was trying to make an appointment with a guy the other day and he whipped out his smartypants phone. "How about Tuesday?" he said. Conscious of how time seems to fly by at my age I suggested Wednesday instead. He said, "Okay, I'll pencil you in then."

Surprisingly, he didn't pull out a pencil at all. In fact, he didn't even have one those smartphones with a stylus. So he didn't stylus me in either. He tapped and pinched and scrolled and made his notation that way.

He fingered me in. 

Lastly, did you every wonder about that song Mary Poppins sang before she flew lightly away into the optimistic silver-lininged clouds. "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Certainly a nice little homily. And accurate much of the time. But what if the thing you're taking medicine for is diabetes and the medicine is insulin?

Remember: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And every silver lining has a dark cloud.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

2213 Para-Nostril

Saw a couple of new problematic technological advances recently. One was this new parking assist feature on the Ford Escape. The commercial I saw had different people in Escapes looking around excitedly with their hands off the wheel while the car parked itself into a parallel parking slot.

Finally, a good use for technology. Who hasn't tried to parallel park with traffic coming and panicked and done it wrong. Relatively easy when there's no one on the street that wants to get by. Even easier when there's no one on the sidewalk watching. Parallel parking always gets exponentially harder in direct proportion to the number of folks observing you. 

How cool that your car can now park itself. One problem though. Does this still mean the Department of Licensing will require you to take a parallel parking test before you get your license? Why should they? You don't have to prove you can drive a three-speed on the column gearshift anymore. Automatic parallel parking is the same as an automatic transmission. 

The other problematic techno-marvel they came up with recently is artificial nostrils. Yep, nostrils. Scientists have created them in the lab using biodegradable scaffolding and stem cells from the nostril recipient. I guess you got to start somewhere. 

They've also done other body parts, including ears and various sphincters, so further full-on physical replacements are only a well-designed scaffold away. Maybe even using 3-D printing. 

I wonder though, are we opening the door to a new wave of cosmetic surgery or adornment? This one featuring parts we design ourselves? Forget piercing an ear, how about having an ear installed on your forehead? 

Or, a simpler problem: If they gave you a choice of which new nostril you liked better, how would you pick it? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

2212 Shoe In

They say the newest thing in advertising is product placement. The idea is you work your product or destination or whatever seamlessly into a scene someone watches in a film or TV show and voila, people adopt those things in their own daily lives naturally. Because they saw their favorite character using it or doing it.

Plus, you don't have to interrupt the ordinary flow of the entertainment to talk about your product. The hero or heroine is just using that product and obviously enjoying it. 

Some would say that there are limits, like what if your product is in a really scary scene? Wouldn't the takeaway be to stay away from that product because it reminds you of the scariness? 

Not so, according to the University of British Columbia. They say, after a recent study, that consumers are more likely to develop emotional bonds to brands when they are alone and afraid, such as when watching a scary movie. Why? Because they perceive the product to have "shared" the experience with them. 

Speaking of scary, Hillary Clinton was the latest in a series of politicians to have to duck a shoe thrown from the audience at her at a recent public speech. George Bush had it happen to him in Iraq, shoes were thrown at Tony Blair multiple times, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had it happen to him too. 

It begs the question. Flying shoes are pretty scary. Is this form of protest really catching on? Or is it a new kind of product placement? 

"Keds, they fly farther and faster." 

"Nike, we put the swoosh in your throw too."

Or "Nike, we really put the air in Air Jordan."

Or how about, "Converse, even our name disagrees with you."

Talk about pitching products...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2211 XP-Aladocious

Maybe it's going to happen this time. You know, the total meltdown of technological civilization. We've been warned for years. Our systems are so vulnerable. Hack attacks. Monster brownouts. Giant flares from the sun.

I had some giant flares and they were the end of fashion civilization.

Remember the terrifying computer threat at the beginning of the millennium? Windows ME.  I mean Y2K. Civilization was going to end because of the Year 2000 changeover in computers that only used 2 digits to identify the year. 

Old computers that were clunking along on 640 kilobytes and didn't even have room to add the other two digits in a 4-digit year. Just 99 instead of 1999. Come 2000 your computer was supposed to think it was the year zero. And who could tell what would happen? The Magi could have shown up pitching myrrh for all anyone knew. 

As it turned out, not so much did. 

So it is now with the death of XP. All the news outlets are predicting the end of the world. ATMs across the country run on XP. Financial institutions, stock trades, Mom and Pop chicken and jo and Fosters Forty peddling convenience stores. 

But maybe this time it is so. Unsupported XP is hackable. There's also the Heartbleed bug vulnerability. Heartbleed, sounds like a Liberal plot. But no, the SSL/TLS security channel is compromised on computers and servers. Not just yours, your bank's and whoever you do online business with. The solution, change all your passwords. But not yet, because your providers all need to change theirs too or your new ones will get compromised. 

And this is really scary: The other day here in Washington, even the 911 system crashed.

Batten down the hatches. The X-Pocalypse is here.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2210 Dereliction

Words drift through my consciousness in different ways. I've floated along using them for years with never a care then one day they bump into my brain like chunks of driftwood into a propeller prop.

Take the words flotsam and jetsam. I've used them as two words meant to indicate the stuff drifting around in the ocean. But why both? Why are they apparently inseparable, like Chip and Dale or yin and yang?

I first heard the terms roughly in the time that the Flintstones and the Jetsons were on TV. I thought they were some sort of garbled southern dialect version of those two names. Like Dixie folks say Luh'vul instead of Louieville or Nah'lins instead of New Orleans.  

But no, they were words on their own. Words used a lot recently with the Malaysian airline disappeared. Leading some to conclude that perhaps jetsam is actually flotsam that comes from jets.

Flotsam and jetsam are used more or less interchangeably in thesauri but there are actually distinctions. I looked it up on the internet and flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict are specific maritime terms.

Flotsam is the floating wreckage of a ship or it's cargo. So in this case, if the airplane is found floating, it would be flotsam because it's a ship, not jetsam because it's a jet. 

Jetsam is part of a ship or its cargo that's purposely cast overboard to lighten the load in distress or that sinks and is washed ashore. So if it was purposely crashed or if it sinks the jet is jetsam.

Lagan and derelict are stuff on the bottom.

So by using flotsam and jetsam together I've been derelict in my duty to use words accurately. Sometimes the internet makes me feel like a befuddled castaway.


America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

2209 Commotions

We can finally rest peacefully. The long promised advent of robots that can feel has finally arrived. Get ready to pet your Roomba. At least if you want to keep it purring contently on your carpet. 

Researchers at Ohio State University, home of the fighting Buckeyes, have managed to teach a computer to distinguish 21 different emotions. They've done so by having it learn different facial recognition patterns.

In case you yourself didn't think you knew 21 different emotions consider that a couple of those they taught the computer were composites, like "happily disgusted" or "sadly angry." 

Why does it sound like they got those from Japanese anime cartoons?

In any event, it's a pretty significant achievement, not least because although earlier facial recognition attempts had focused on the six main emotional expressions, the reality is we all express complex compound emotions every day. It's like the difference between seeing a painting with primary colors and watching a film of all the subtle shades in between.

Which may also explain why some people are emotionally stunted. They are just bad emotion readers. Stuck in the emotional knowledge equivalent of comic books when other folks are delving into emotional Tolstoy. 

Personally, I think this could help. Like an emotional prosthesis for the clueless. They could have an app for your smartphone. Which could become your emo-phone or your sensi-tone. Better yet, incorporate the software into Google Glass.  

Which then could come full circle to the tech world, as computer nerd tech types are legendary for being emotionally tone deaf. And what dumbass guy wouldn't appreciate a little help about when to not try to solve his loved one's problems but "just be there for her."

“Is that a happily disgusted face on you or are you sadly angry Honey?”

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

2208 Non-Choices

In this digital world, where every organization wants you to reserve online and every ATM and gas pump requires you to punch a variety of buttons, I often find myself resenting having to make non-choices.

Like recently when Chevron stations decided to partner with Safeway to earn or redeem rewards points. So now, every time I get gas, before I can proceed with the normal procedure, I have to first press a button saying I don't have a Safeway rewards card. 

I resent having to make that non-choice. It's a wasted effort in a world already riddled with inefficiencies. And at my age, it's a waste of the precious amount of time I have left in this world. Computers are pretty smart. I'm sure there's a way to have an opt-in button without having an opt-out button. 

Likewise an event I signed up for online recently. When it came time to select the meal, the choices were "vegetarian" or "non-vegetarian." In this instance it wasn't that I had to press an extra button, it was that my food preference was categorized so negatively. 

It's as if vegetarian was the default choice. Anything else was non-vegetarian. It was so non-inclusive. I don't have anything against vegetarians. But at this point they're still far from the norm. Non-norm if you will. 

I absolutely think vegetarians should have a choice in group meals, and have been kept from it for too long, but I like a positive name for what I do too. I'm not a non-vegetarian, I'm a carnivore. Or better yet, and more accurately, I'm an omnivore. Talk about positive and all-inclusive. Like omniscient and omnipotent, omnivore says it all. 

And I'm guessing no one would ever make non-omnivore a selection. It's just too confusing. Or is that non-clear?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2207 Sporting Bads

The world of sports is really just a microcosm of the real world. Just because a person is a sports star doesn't necessarily mean they’re a nice person. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised when one of them gets in trouble for some heinous crime. I mean, devoting your whole life to a single thing seems to get you headed in a weird Biebermania direction right from the start.

Speaking of weird Canadians and weird Canadian sports, what is it with curling? When I was watching the winter Olympics, I was totally surprised. Curlers don't have brooms anymore. I know sports have to adopt new technologies to keep ahead but still. My favorite part of curling was the traditional broom. I'm not sure I'm ready to accept skaters with Swiffers. 

Speaking of bad sweeping things. Or sweeping bad things under the rug. News from Brazil is they're releasing a convicted murderer so he can play soccer. I know, talk about misplaced priorities.

Fernandes de Souza was sentenced to 22 years in prison last year for arranging the murder of his model girlfriend so he wouldn't have to pay child support for their son. She was subsequently killed and fed to dogs. 

Since, before his murder conviction, he was initially convicted of kidnapping her, he has now served three years. Brazilian laws allow limited furloughs for felons after that amount of time is served. That means he can play state soccer again. 

Man, I know Brazilians are known for their ability to finesse close shaves, but this definitely cuts too close to the spirit of justice. Kidnapping, murder, dismemberment, and feeding to dogs? 

Speaking of which. If you thought Michael Vick was a miscarriage of justice, you better not go to the Brazil Olympics. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2206 Bone Eating

The other day I was brewing some coffee in our breakroom and my eye wandered like it usually does, looking for something to fixate on and read. Compulsive reading is one of my many quirks. I had ADHD before they invented it. All I can say is, before I could read billboards and road signs my parents hated having me in the car.

In any event, my eyes lighted on the bottom of a special Starbucks coffee cup. On that bottom it said, "new bone china." I looked it up and bone china is special because they make it out of bones. The ash of ground-up bones to be exact. 

Naturally, I was curious. Is there an "old bone china"? At what age that the creature died was it considered old or young in order to be included in the new or old bone classification structure approved by the USDA or other organization? Is it a badly self-regulated industry, old bones rattling in where new bones should stand firm?

Do new bones only come from veal, lamb, or Cornish game hens? 

Or is it the crockery itself? New bone china is made first and features the virgin firing of the ceramic. Then later, after various runs through homes, garage sales, and the shelves of the Goodwill, that old stuff is saved from the landfill, collected, and broken into teeny-tiny bits from which are refashioned the cups, plates, and bowls of old bone china. The bone is the same, it's just the china that's old. 

So. Questions: If you avoid leather belts or shoes is this the kind of coffee cup to use? Is it appropriate for Vegans to eat or drink from bone china?

I know bone eating is not preferred by some. But bone drinking? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2205 Yinyang Garden

Sometimes we use terms so sloppily. Not really giving much thought to their origins.

Like recently I was talking to a guy about the power of Asian symbolism and he got a little impatient with the whole discussion and said, "Enough already. I got Asian symbols up the yinyang."

Never once did it occur to him that the term yinyang, which he used to indicate an orifice in his nether regions, was in fact a contraction of the two words yin and yang, usually represented with the Chinese symbol of two paisleys mating.

Not sure how yin and yang, which sort of represent the oppositional nature of all things, the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the powerful and passive, came to mean the cave closed with a sphincter, but language and symbolism is funny that way.

On a similar note, I saw a sign recently outside a church's community garden. It said, "Garden of Weedin.'" Very cutsie. A nice little play on words with the old Garden of Eden.

But then I thought about it a little bit. This was a church, so I figure they know the story. The original Garden of Eden was a literal or figurative tale, depending on what church you were raised in, for the fall from grace of mankind. Meant to explain why the world isn't paradise, and we, humanity, are somehow at fault for making it so, perhaps with our false apple-eating pride. 

But the thing is, in the story, the Garden of Eden had no weeds. It was flawless. Weeds were part of the curse laid on us all. There was no weedin' in the Garden of Eden.

Hmmm. Weedin' implying Eden. Maybe the church's sign was meant to symbolize the Yin and Yang in all things.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

2204 Private Dancing

Privacy as they say, is dead, but it's still a little galling to note all the ways people keep devising to kick its deteriorating corpse.

Take this new free app I read about. It can track and map all of your social media contacts. Every time any of those contacts checks in on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites you can see their location on a map.

And get this, that's whether those folks want you to see them or not. If that sounds creepy, I agree. Especially when you consider that those contacts actually friended you to begin with.

How'd you like to look in your car's rearview mirror and see one of your supposed friends following you wherever you go, even to that exotic dance place. How long do you think they would stay a friend? Since the app is "free" that means it will be paid for by ads placed in your social media pages. No doubt for even more stalking products.

Another article I read pointed out that the NSA could highjack your computer's camera and microphone jack to see and hear what's going on in your home or office. Or bedroom if you left your laptop on the nightstand. Hope the spouse hasn't enrolled in a pole dancing class to spice up your married life. A lap dance next to the laptop is a no no.

Anyhow, the article said Russians and teenage hackers could do the same thing. The author recommended using the same low tech solution I've been using and being teased about by my less paranoid friends for years; cover your camera lens with a sticker.

Then cut off an old headphone plug and stick it into your microphone jack so they can't hear you, um, "dancing" either. 

America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

2203 Chicken Lickin'

I, like you, like most of us, spend a fair amount of time every day consuming one of the largest commodities our culture produces. Commercials.

I don't resent this. Commercials, to me, can be the best our artistic endeavors create. Miniature stories or movies. Information about a product, service, or destination I wouldn't have known otherwise, all wrapped up in a festive coating of entertainment.

But sometimes they get it wrong. Like recently I saw a commercial for KFC. They were promoting their Dip'ems 20 Piece Bucket. They had a family sitting around the table consuming it. The mom was the narrator and she was talking about what picky eaters her kids were and how the dippable chicken strips with six different sauces satisfied all of them. 

Then she, the dad, and the two kids all started dippin' and nippin'. That's where it all went horribly wrong. Because by nippin' I mean they nipped off tiny bites of the very long pieces and then acted as if they were about to double or triple of quadruple dip. 

“Argh,” I grimaced-growled, “Cross-contamination.” Everybody was about to re-dip their previously mouth-contaminated end of chicken tender in the common dipping containers. Even if their mouth wasn't filled with cooties, if one or more of the chicken tenders was undercooked and rife with salmonella everyone else would now get it too. Hey KFC, you should be stickin' to chicken that's KFC finger lickin' not ABC family dippin.'

On another note, I've noticed a whole bunch of commercials lately promising their products or services would be "beyond your expectations." Too many, really, to believe. So question: Are services and things getting that much better? Or are our expectations simply getting lower? 

Pass the toxic chicken, Mom. After you spit in the sauce...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2202 Flasher

Ah, technology. I love the way it goes around to what comes around. This great circle of life we call modern times reinventing the wheel of olden times.

So it is with a new app called Spritz. According to, it's promising to help readers eventually read at a rate of 1,000 words a minute. It does this by flashing words one at a time on your device.

I know, sounds like a miniature teleprompter. What could go wrong, San Diego?
But it's not just about flashing. According to them it also eliminates time-consuming eye movement, allowing the "brain to focus on each word, promoting faster reading and higher information retention."

Dude. I'll sign on for higher information retention. Since I've reached the age where even when I'm talking beginning every sentence is an adventure, not sure if I'll reach the period at the end before my mind wanders off, this sounds like a great opportunity to, um... what was I saying?

Anyhow, the Spritz makers also promise to reduce arm and finger fatigue, by eliminating "the inconvenience of scrolling, swiping, squinting, and pinching to read on your devices."

Because, you know, we're burning so many other calories in our obese sedentary lifestyles that we can afford to not burn the miniscule amount we got from genuflecting at our devices. Just lean back in your recliner and have your Kindle flash you.

Funny thing, I already have a device that I can read one word at a time and not scroll, pinch, swipe, or squint.

It's called a book.

Oh sure, I have to go through the incredibly exhausting process of turning a page once in a while but that's the price you pay for superior technology.

Because bonus. It requires no batteries...

America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2201 Cheese Please

Recently I saw a headline on the Google news page that promised to share the entire new Taco Bell breakfast menu. Naturally, I clicked on it. With the teaser they put out a few weeks ago about the Waffle Taco, I couldn't wait to see what other Munchie-friendly concoctions they'd invented. Pancake Taco? French Toast Taco? Donut Taco?

As we've often been told since the days of Ben Franklin, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even its name "break fast," tells us we're putting an end to a substantial period of hunger. It's time to dig in, refurbish the calories, and get charged up for another work day. 

So thank you, Taco Bell for making the experience more enjoyable. Especially with all the other fast food outlets, including Dunkin' Donuts, ballyhooing their depressingly healthy egg white selections, it's good to see an unabashed conglomeration of artery coating fatty saturation. 

It's good to see cheese.

“Cheese?” You say. “For breakfast?” Indeed. Five of the six new Taco Bell breakfast items come with cheese. Bacon or Sausage Breakfast Burrito, Bacon or Sausage A.M. Grilled Taco, Steak and Egg Burrito, Sausage Flatbread Melt, and the Bacon or Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap.

Listen to this line from their menu description for the Bacon or Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap: "All the classic breakfast tastes, like fluffy scrambled eggs, real cheddar cheese, your choice of flavorful bacon or a hearty sausage patty, and a golden crispy hash brown wrapped and grilled in a warm flour tortilla." 

Um... When did cheese become a "classic breakfast taste"? I certainly never had it with my bacon and eggs at the diner. And I damn sure didn't have it as a kid with my cereal. 

It was Captain Crunchberry not Captain Cheeseberry. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

2200 Daisy

What's in a name? Well apparently, a lot. The famous Shakespeare phrase "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" sets aside the whole notion of cultural conditioning. If the other name for rose was "rancid pustule" I'm not sure anyone would stoop to smell it.

So consider the word Margarita. A lovely lyrical sort of name. Puts one in mind of bonita or senorita. The bonita senorita Margarita.

Plus, it's a flavorful drink. The perfect refreshment for a hot day at the beach. A whole blown out flip-flop stepped on pop top culture was launched thanks to the delicious margarita.

But what if I told you that margarita is a Spanish word for daisy? Yes daisy, as in the flower. A margarita by any other name is a daisy.

Still, not bad, the daisy is a lovely flower. But it's also true that we equate the name Daisy with less the parrothead culture and more the bubba culture. Daisy was, after all, the inventor of the slightly trampish cut-off daisy dukes. And while the Dukes of Hazard from which she sprung were a fun slice of Americana they weren't world stage material.

Consider: Margarita is also the Spanish rendering of the name Margaret. And I have known many a Margaret who just didn't ft the Daisy image. 

Such as, perhaps, the historical Margarets, like Queen Margaret of Scotland. Also known as Saint Margaret. She was canonized in 1250 in recognition of her personal holiness and fidelity to the church. Does she sound like a Saint Daisy?

And then, of course, there's the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain. Ronald Reagan's BFF. Somehow Prime Minister Daisy Thatcher just doesn't cut it. Not your basic brinkmanship cold war warrior. 

Who ever heard of an Iron Daisy?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

2199 Road Thrill

I was driving down the road the other day and man did I like it! Modern improved roads are nothing like the barely-paved soft shouldered byways of my youth. They almost drive themselves. All they need is a low track in the center of the lane and they'd be like the Autopia I once pined to be tall enough to ride at Disneyland.

Consider; your average road these days has a hard shoulder or breakdown lane on either side, so at the very least you have some slop room if you take your eyes off the road for a couple of minutes to do some texting.

Then you got Jersey Barriers to really keep traffic corralled. Nothing like a low concrete wall to prevent extreme meandering. I suppose a person sufficiently unconcerned about car body damage could navigate a road by caroming from side to Jersey Barrier side. 

Then there's the road turtles. Bumps to define the lane and red reflectors to caution you're in the wrong lane going the wrong way. Lately I've also noticed warning strips. Little not-really-speed-bumps placed perpendicular to the line of traffic to warn you of an impending school zone or tight curve.

You know, because the huge yellow and black arrows and 20 MPH and SLOW DOWN signs don't get your attention enough. I'm worried when they feel it's necessary to put in the equivalent of road Braille. Is it a good idea to encourage blind people to drive?

But my favorite modern improvement is the rumble strips on the edges and center line. You know you've strayed from the appointed path when your car starts to shake like a Magic Fingers bed in a cheap hotel room. 


Did I mention I really like driving on the new roads?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

2198 Chicken and Mice

It seems like in some ways we're becoming a more compassionate world. Like I believe in catch-and-release for fish. Problem is I don't actually like to fish. So I just go to the supermarket and buy some salmon. Then take it back the next day.  

Anyhow, I think we're more compassionate because my sister and brother-in-law and I were recently reading a little story written by my great aunt. It was about something she and some other kids did on the farm back in the early 1900s.

They had stumbled upon a field mice nest and took out the little babies, who at that point were still hairless, and put them in their pockets. Later they decided to see if the mice could swim so they put them in the horse trough. According to the story each one lasted about three laps before "giving up the ghost."

They discarded drowned mice on the ground while they tried new ones. Later, while tidying up the area, knowing that their father took a dim view of them putting foreign objects in the horse trough, they found that the mice corpses had been gobbled up by the chickens in the yard. 

I guess kids had to do something before they invented video games like Grand Theft Auto. Grand Mice Baby Drowning.

I also guess those chickens were free range chickens. Desiring "free range" chickens is an indication our modern times may be a touch more compassionate to other species. 

Disappointingly, I bought some eggs from free range chickens not long ago and found they were really expensive. You'd figure they'd be cheaper. What with the farmer not having to pay for expensive feed. The chickens just peck for free bugs and seeds and such. 

And the occasional baby mouse...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

2197 #NotTooMuchLent

There was time when holidays meant more than they do now. Or at least we knew what they meant. I was talking to someone the other day about Mardi Gras, and how it was the last big bash before Lent, and he asked me what Lent was.

I confess, I'm no authority, having not come from a Catholic upbringing, but somewhere along the way I did pick up that it was a period of fasting before Easter. And that folks gave up things for Lent. 

The Lenten season is determined by backdating from Easter and coming up with the appropriate Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday. By the way, it’s a little hard for Irish Catholics, as Mardi Gras is before St. Paddy's day. They need to make sure not to promise to give up green beer and beads for Lent.

Yes, they have a choice. It used to be that Lent was a period of fasting from everything mildly indulgent; rich food, alcohol, partying, things you really liked to do. Lent was about sacrifice. But nowadays not so much. You can give up belly button lint-picking for Lent and it counts. 

Me, I like to give up "making sacrifices" for Lent.

Anyhow, because folks now have the choice, polls show that 31% of Lent observers say they are "fasting from technology" this year. 16% are making the extreme sacrifice of giving up social media. Hashtag I give up tweeting.

Oh the humanity, giving up Facebook for forty days. How will you post pictures of your boring trips to the mall?  I'm sure the Lord will be impressed with the depth of your sacrifice. 

Maybe he can have the Holy Spirit Dove tweet you the old-fashioned way.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

2196 Busi Bodies

Conservatives chafe at government intervention in things having to do with business. And seeing how certain regulations increase the burden of paperwork on small businesses it's easy to understand why.

So the new effort to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour has not gone down well with the small business community. Those extra dollars are the difference between being in business and being out of business. 

But some big employers, particularly their lobbyists in Washington, have been up to a little talking out of both sides of their mouthpieces. Or at least saying one thing and doing another. 

According to a new study reported in the Wall Street Journal, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would take 3.5 million people off the food stamp rolls and cut federal spending on the program by $4.6 billion a year. But, the report goes on to say, many big employers rely on federal programs to provide food assistance to their workers. 

Basically, complaining about the cost of food stamps, big government, and federal intervention on one hand and then exploiting it with the other to pay less wages and pad their workers' bottom line. And their company's.

So hey. The ultimate judge of all things is happy; the stockholder.

But if U.S. businesses think they got it bad, intervention wise, try Canada. Broadcast regulators there reprimanded three erotic channels in Toronto for not showing the government-required 35% of Canadian content. 

Because you know, if you're going to serve up porn, an industry rife with misuse and abuse of their workers, you better make sure you take advantage of the appropriate percentage of local people and don't just import it from around the world from less sophisticated and less moral nations. 

You know. Think global, exploit local.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

2195 LeManwich

I was listening to a commercial on the radio recently and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. On the one hand it was kind of a clever concept. On the other it was vaguely unsettling. Because it was sort of about cannibalism.

The commercial was from McDonalds and it was about their new Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich. The announcer said that it was a step above an ordinary sandwich. In fact it was "about as LeBron James as a sandwich could get."

Because, um, when I think Bacon Clubhouse, I think sweaty tall basketball player. 

The commercial went on to say that the sandwich is like LeBron because, "it gets all up in your face." And that, "it'll even dribble."

Two things: As a beard wearer, having a sandwich get all up in my face is a non-starter. I don't even like those fancy 3-inch high cupcakes because I'm plucking frosting nuggets out of my mustache for the rest of the day.

And two, informing me that a sandwich will "even dribble" just sounds icky. Especially when the implication is that LeBron James dribbles. The comparison suffers because a basketball can only dribble one way, i.e. bouncing on the ground. Which you wouldn't expect of a sandwich. But humans and sandwiches can actually dribble in a similar way. As in wet slobbering mess. 

The commercial concludes by saying that the sandwich comes in a artisan roll, "so it's handsome, just like LeBron." Then LeBron's voice saying, "Man, I make a great sandwich." Which, you know, if I was stranded on a desert island, or in the Andes with a crashed plane, may be tempting. But otherwise... 

I think I'd rather appreciate LeBron in the basketball court. Not the food court.

America, ya gotta love it.