Thursday, July 31, 2014

2279 Re-Lego

Saw an interesting thing the other day. It was a small roadside sign that said, "Lego -- Buy, Sell, and Trade."

What, I thought, has Lego-mania really gotten to the point that there's an aftermarket in it? And then, on reflection, why not? They are certainly more persistent in manufacturing quality and durability than baseball cards. Virtually indestructible in fact. 

As my children went through their various Lego phases, Legos were always underfoot. And never crushed. In fact it was my feet themselves that got damage, as the sharp-edged knobs and squares gouged into my soft soles. Not to mention the occasional trip and fall. I'm surprised the Lego company was never sued out of existence.

So I can see how folks like myself, having passed through hundreds of dollars of ankle-twisting purchases, may want to recoup some of that coin and suffering when their kids finally wander off, hopefully never to return semi-permanently.

It's not like the basic Lego building block has changed significantly over the decades. The only building block more basic than Lego is the basic building block itself. The wooden-lettered one that's as basic as ABC.

I wonder if you can repurchase or get highest value for complete Lego themed sets, or if it’s all based on a per block price. Intrinsic or perceived value. Legonomics. 

In addition, with the advent and success of the amazing Lego movie, popularity and value are even greater. First Transformers, then Lego. How lucky some toys are to have full-length feature movies.

Never saw that in my day. It sure would have been cool to have a Lincoln Log movie. Or a Tinker Toy or Erector Set film. Now you don't see many Lincoln Logs anymore. 

Must be running out of Lincoln fiber. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2278 Standard Issues

A couple of random thoughts to share with you today that for the life of me I can't segue together into any sort of coherent theme. I know. Banner day in commentary land.

First random thought. Aren't you getting sick of those flag signs businesses keep planting in their yards next to the road? You know, the ones flapping in the breeze to get your attention, but incredibly hard to read. 

Hard because either the business only printed one side of the flag and the wind has whipped it around backwards, or because the business has so much to say they print it sideways. So the only way you can read it is to cock your head. Ouch. Taco neck from a flapping banner. 

Second random thought. I think I finally figured out why we see so few dead birds. Thousands of birds must die every day but where are the bodies? Recently I hit a bird while I was driving and got a clue.

The bird had suicidally flown under my car and when I looked in the rearview mirror afterwards, I saw it wriggling on the road and flapping like a roadside flag sign. Then suddenly it was surrounded by a gaggle of similar-looking birds. The rest is too gruesome to report. Suffice it to say I nearly got whiplash turning away in horror. 

Bird corpses aren't found because their fellow birds eat them. The great pecking party in the sky. Cannabirdism. 

Last random thought. Saw a great headline recently that epitomizes the perils of govspeak. In reporting on a fire that had been raging in the mountains this is what a government spokesperson said: "Goat Rock Fire exhibiting reduced fire behavior." 

I think they mean it's dying down. 

Or is it flagging? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2277 Sitting on Deceit

When was it we got to the point where it was okay to be outright deceptive? Seems like I read something about a court deciding recently that someone in a campaign ad was not legally required to tell the truth, but I think it was before that. The court opinion, by the way, used the justification that folks hearing the ad had no unreal expectations that politicians were honest.

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised recently when I came home and a yellow notice with black printing was taped to my garage door. I reacted angrily. "What!? I've paid all my utility bills!" Because that's exactly what the notice looked like, a shut-off notice for lack of payment. Or something more alarming, like a gas leak.

Turned out it was neither. It was an advertising circular telling me a gutter and driveway cleaning outfit was going to be in the area tomorrow and for me to check off the services I wanted. Funny, there was no box to check for "Don't tape misleading notices to my garage!"

Stuffing my mailboxes with junkmail isn't enough? Now they're actually coming up and taping stuff to my house?

The other deceitful thing that got me recently was a vitamin package. It had printed in huge letters that the vitamin in question "Supports Strong Bones and Teeth." And "Supports Neuromuscular and Immune Health." Each of those phrases had an asterisk. In tiny letters on the back of the package, the asterisk was explained thusly: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration." 

So basically, they're just saying it. Who knows what the truth is? 

Though I've heard the truth is a hard pill to swallow. Falsehood apparently goes down easy.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

2276 Hyperbol-E

Let's talk hyperbole. Or hyper-bowl as I used to pronounce it when I first saw it in print. Hyper-bowl. Sounds like some sort of product offered at the new Washington cannabis stores.

I mean hyperbole in the use of the initial "e", as if just the use of the letter conveys exaggerated fantastic claims for excellence in the world of e-commerce. 

Like recently, the state of Washington felt required to announce to the event-planning public that if one of them had acquired a Food Handlers permit online then it probably wasn't valid.

Some scammer company had set themselves up as an E-Food Handler Permit source and not bothered to tell the state and seek any authorization to do so. Or any certifications either. Nonetheless folks signed up and paid good money, figuring it must be real because it had an E in front of the name.

No wonder the test was so E-asy. 

Likewise I saw a place the other day. A new business that called itself e-Tattoo. The E in their name looked like the lowercase "e" we often see associated with e-businesses. 

Very clever. Because the first thing everyone thinks is, "How the heck do you get a tattoo online?" Once you think that the e-Tattoo name is permanently lodged in your brain. Excellent marketing and great branding. A tattoo place that understands branding. What are the chances?

But the concept may not be a long way off from e-fruition.  If you can get physical stuff online from downloading data into your 3-D printer, can an e-tattoo be far away? Just convert those jets in your printer to tiny needles and voila. 

Final thought on hyperbole. It means a hyper-exaggerated statement. So is an ordinary statement just a bole?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

2275 Hot Error

It must be climate change. People are either getting crazier or dumber from the heat.

Then again, people have always been pretty crazy. Like it's crazy to expect some people to believe in science in the first place. Science is so upsetting to their beliefs. Take this one group of believers who just got some bad news from the scientific folks.

The sasquatch believers. 

An Oxford university scientist decided to analyze the DNA of 36 hair samples purported to come from yetis and bigfoots. Sadly, the DNA indisputably linked the hair to bears, cows, sheep, and other animals. 

If you ask me, that completely shows how clever bigfoot really is. Purposely leaving behind bear hair to discredit the people who are hot on his tail. Bigfoot probably forged his birth certificate too.

Speaking of wingnuts. One guy is getting even wing-nuttier. Oklahoma Republican Timothy Murray is contesting the results of a primary that he lost to rival Frank Lucas. The basis he is using to contest the results is that according to Murray, "Lucas is no longer alive and has been displaced by a look-alike."

No word why the look-alike would even want to run for office.

Finally, sometimes folks is just plain dumb. Like the vendor at a Pennsylvania gun show. He accidentally shot a woman customer in the leg while he was demonstrating a concealed carry holster. Oops.

I'm not sure about the gun show flea market atmosphere, but at least when I worked retail in the mall it was more or less considered bad form to wound customers. 

Maybe climate change doesn't have anything to do with it after all. Looks like all these stories just go to prove that old adage. 

It's not the heat, it's the stupidity. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2274 Gone to Pot

As folks slowly adjust to the legalization of cannabis in Washington and Colorado, various issues have started to crop up. That's usually the problem with legislating by initiative. Grassroots campaigns are long on desire and short on implementation details.

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the Cheetos. 

Especially in Washington State. Colorado was able to convert from medical to recreational marijuana fairly easily because they had a well-regulated medical marijuana system. They essentially just had to change signs.

In Washington the medical cannabis industry grew more organically and loosely, so lots of folks purveying the product were not as licensed and bonded as one would have hoped. Bottom line, a lot of the issues are still pretty cloudy, but people are being assured that the state will eventually hash them out.

Funny though, for the last few years, a big push by the tourist industry in our state has been for the benefits of agri-tourism. Who would have thought the "agri" in question would be pot. 

There's already some indication that this is so. Certainly in Colorado, where they've made millions of dollars in tax revenue to date. Just like folks go to Las Vegas because gambling is legal, now they're flocking to Colorado and Washington to sample a different semi-licit thrill.

Sadly, there's also been an effect on organizations seeking to promote other things entirely. The International Rotary president, who chooses the overarching theme message for Rotary every year, recently came up with what turned out to be a controversial one, considering there are so many Washington and Colorado clubs. This year's motto is, "Light Up Rotary." 

In his defense, he's from a different country and the motto may have got lost a little in translation. It actually means, "Fire up a Fatty..."

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2273 Techno-Chauvinism

I write a lot about the technological changes in our society. Or more often the techno-illogical changes. Like something I call techno-chauvinism.

Chauvinism is loosely defined as assuming your point of view is the preeminent point of view and lording it snootily over others as a result, or just blithely thinking your point of view is the only point of view. It's not quite as intense as racism or bigotry but falls into the same family of blissful arrogance. 

An example of techno-chauvinism is assuming other people have the same technology you do. Like Outlook. Outlook apparently offers a way to send calendar appointments to other people on Outlook. You enter it into yours, and it emails it to your selected list of recipients. 

All well and good unless your recipient doesn't have Outlook. Then they get a blank email. One that looks like spam or a virus. Look out, I think, the outlook doesn't look good.  

Oh well. I just email the individual back and ask them to resend whatever it is they sent. But lately a new piece of techno-chauvinism has been cropping up that's more worrisome. People texting to landlines. 

I've had folks say, "I left you a message" and when I drill down to why I didn't get it I find that they've left a text on my landline at my place of work. They didn't leave a message at all because no message came through. And since there is no fax rejection or busy signal when one texts, they know nothing about it. 

I even got an actual follow-up call from a company who had left such a message, asking me if I wanted to buy their service. Their service? To provide text capability for my landlines. 

Even they were techno-chauvinists....

America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2272 Social Ramifications

A couple of stories today about variations on the law of unintended consequences. And/or social ramifications.

First story. Analytical folks will appreciate this. Social media purveyors make a big deal about all the data, called analytics, they can supply advertisers in order to sell them ads.  

Analytical personality types who are advertising buyers love this as it's easier for them to make a decision to buy the ads for their companies if they have some sort of data to back them up. It's basically a corporate variation on the CYA syndrome. CYA meaning Cover Your Ass. 

"Sorry I screwed up boss, the analytics told me to." 

So it was with a certain amount of glee that I read the analytics from a Gallup poll. It said that while U.S. Companies spent $5.1 billion on social media advertising last year, only 5% of U.S. residents said social media had a great deal of influence on their buying decisions. 62% said there was no influence at all. Might want to tweet or post that to your analytical business friends.

One of the means folks use to access social media though has been proven to have a very great influence, even unto the next generation. Or the generation of the next generation in any event. I'm talking about smartphones. And front pockets. 

A new study has shown cellphones in front pants pockets radiate low-level electromagnetic radiation, which hurts sperm production, lowering sperm movement by 8% and viability by 9%. 

I know, it sounds nuts, but the scientists have the analytics to prove it. Then again, for some guys 9% non-viability is worth the risk, as not having a cool smartphone at all reduces their dating viability by 100%. 

My analysis? We need a cool factor for a belt clip. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

2271 Private Tryin'

I notice that privacy is the new black. For years the social media mavens have been bragging about how great they are about getting data they can use to target consumers. Now, between NSA snooping and Facebook emotional slapping, consumers seem to be fighting back.

Interestingly, Facebook still doesn't quite get it. In a nod to the new ethos, they made an uncharacteristically transparent announcement recently. But it was that they would be tracking you even more. They said in order to make your ads better, they would be tracking your web and app browsing habits. 

Like they haven't been doing that all along? Transparent schmansparent, that's what they founded they're platform on. Luckily, this time Facebook allows you to opt out. You can do that most easily by going to Digital Advertising Alliance at to do so to Facebook and other outlets. Unfortunately, you'll have to redo it every time you clear your browser.

So you still gotta keep tryin' to be private. Private tryin' as it were.

But privacy is gaining popularity. Both Google and Microsoft recently announced they're adding kill switches to their phones. Kill switches automatically wipe out your phone's data, making them less attractive to phone muggers. 

Great idea, but only if everyone does it. Whatcha gonna do, shout to a mugger that your phone has a kill switch? It worked with iPhone kill switches, but iPhones are a recognizable piece of hardware. Thieves still won't know for sure about other brands. 

"Is that a Samsung Galaxy? Hand it over or I'll stab you. IPhone huh? Hand over your password too. Cool, it has the tap-to-pay app. Even if you remotely kill it, I'll still have time to use your private identity while you find try to find a public payphone to call the cops..."  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

2270 Drone Nut

I'm thinking drones are not integrating into our society as well as some had hoped. The drone nuts were wrong. Example: Recently a drone flew into an Independence Day fireworks display and got shot down. I hope it wasn't allegorical. A Chinese made rocket shooting down an American drone. Or ironic, said drone being shot down during a patriotic display.

The truth is, for all the vaunted wonders of drone aircraft they are still pretty accident-prone. In fact, a recent study showed that more than 400 drones have accidentally crashed since 2001, slamming into homes, farms, runways, highways and waterways. One even crashed into an Air Force transport plane in mid-air. Ouch.

That's something to consider since the FAA has just said it's okay for private drones to take to the air. Since so far they've only approved private use to take aerial surveys over north Alaska, we're probably safe from Amazon package droppers accidentally dropping into our living rooms, but you might want to make your voice heard in protest. The private company the FAA just allowed to fly drones in Alaska is none other than safety superstar BP. 

At the same time, the FAA is telling others to stand down. They recently issued a warning to the real estate industry that using drones to get birds-eye pictures of homes, and then using those views to help sell real estate, was illegal. 

Which is good. Nip that bud right there. I'm not sure I'm ready for the next wave of Google streetview cameras flying through the air filming all and backyard-deck-nude-sunbathing sundry. Or Coldwell Banker Coldwell banking into an accidental turn around my property. 

Then again, if I put up my home "For Sale By Owner," I could take a drone selfie. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2269 Dire Business

It's interesting to see some of the new stories coming out about the bad business of lack of control with controlled substances.

Like I read an article recently about how a new liquor store owner is about to go into bankruptcy because he can't compete with Costco and other big box stores. The case is similar across the state. I was sorry to hear it but not surprised. The little guy didn't bankroll the "privatize hard liquor sales" campaign. The big guys did. Why wouldn't they write the bill to benefit them? 

That, my friends, is capitalism. You might as well try to go into the milk business against the grocery stores. Or the cheap Chinese doodad business against Walmart. Privatization means breakneck, cutthroat, take-no-prisoners competition. You have my sympathies. But that's what entrepreneurism is all about. Pre-assessing risks before you jump in and have someone else hand you your assess.

Likewise a story I read about a guy up north who lined up and rented a number of locations to sell pot but then didn't win the lottery for a license. He thought he could just sub-lease a license from someone else, but no go there either. Now he's complaining. 

Um, did anyone ever say it was going to be easy? What are you doing counting your spliffs before they're toked anyhow? Another thing is worrying other pot-epreneurs --- supply. Getting licensed growers lined up and their product certified is dragging.

It's just hard to get some folks to hurry for some reason. 

So much so that a KOMO news headline said the situation was "dire." Dire? Really KOMO? Dire is when someone's life is at stake. Not if weed is ready to sell. 

Using the word dire is a perfect case of high-perbole.   
America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2268 Ad Subtract

I read an article recently about the demise of journalism in our country. Good journalists been thrown out of work because of the preponderance of blogger-opinionators and the crash of ad revenue at print newspapers.

Not much I can say about bloggers, except an opinion isn't news, but the ad revenue thing is interesting. Because part of the newspaper ad revenue disappeared when businesspeople fell under the spell of the new "targeted ad" paradigm. 

For years one side of the advertising camp has been saying if you only directly target ads to the consumer that needs your product the most, you'll virtually guarantee you'll make a sale. Why broadcast your ads willy-nilly, when we at Facebook and Google can monitor your potential customers' demographics and buying habits and use our special scientific algorithms to predict what they need to buy?

Like most urban myths that turned out to be scams, it looked good on paper. Not the papers who were destroyed by it, but electronically anyhow. It made sense in an aliens-constructed-the-pyramids sort of way.

Well, the facts are in. It doesn't work. Turns out people don't like having ads tailored to them appearing next to the content they go online to consume. According to a new study of paid ads on eBay, companies' digital ad efforts actually result in negative returns. They're losing money. Kind of an ad subtract.

"Why?" You ask, "How can that be?" 

My opinion is it’s three reasons. One, people are naturally contrary. They like to not do what you think they'll do, just for spite. Two, people like to self select. And three, when an ad appears that cuts too close to what they just posted, emailed, or online-searched about, it just creeps them out. 

No one likes a stalker. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

2267 Twofaced Book

There's been a big furor recently about how Facebook has affected people emotionally. Not just invaded their privacy. Invaded their emotional space. Wow. My space invaded by Facebook, what's the chances?

When friends ask me why I'm not on Facebook they hear my tirade about how every time Facebook changes something they automatically opt everyone back in so your private info is briefly exposed to the whole world. 

Privacy info like identifiers that could help criminals find your address, your children's birth dates to harvest for identity theft, your mother's maiden name and suchlike. Do you post such stuff?

But what Facebook has done recently is a new low. They secretly helped a researcher conduct a social experiment on emotions. 

Now this would have been marginally okay if they were just harvesting metadata already out there. But instead they actually altered people's newsfeeds to conduct the test. Yes, they got in and altered your newsfeed. Like intercepting and altering your U.S. Mail to tell you your cousin Hattie didn't like her new baby. 

That's bad. They painstakingly altered "emotional modifiers" in posts sent to you by other friends on your newsfeed, then monitored your following posts to determine if happy posts made you happy and/or sad posts made you sad. The stress here is not on the monitoring, which is bad enough. It's that they manipulated your friends' posts before they sent them to you.

I hope no one got sad enough they killed themselves.

In summary: You can't trust Facebook to not suddenly expose all your private data. You can't trust Facebook to not spy on your posts and sell other companies data based on that spying. And you can't trust Facebook to even send you unaltered emotionally accurate posts from your friends. 

Sign me up.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

2266 Browbeat

Some evolutionary biologists have an interesting new theory. They're saying men have evolved to take a punch in the face.

They wondered why it is that men tend to be a bit more brutish looking than women. How it is, from a sexually attractive point of view, that they evolved. Since most of evolutionary theory revolves around traits developed for propagating the species, from peacock's feathers to buck horns, how does a big brow fit into the equation?

The scientists say that more robust brows and cheeks, bigger jaws, and tougher teeth evolved for protection during fights over mates, as well as food and other resources. 

This seems to say we didn't evolve from the peaceful bonobo side of the primate tree, like some idealists hope, but the aggressive chimpanzee branch. And used that branch to bash each other over the head.

Comparing the bones of our ancestor Australopithecus with those of modern apes, it appears the parts of the face that became stronger were those that most often break when modern humans fight. Since evolution takes a while, it looks like they were fighting for a long time. They must have been australopithed off. 

The new theory also builds on an earlier conjecture that the modern hand is perfectly evolved to form a fist, what with its flexible thumb, squared palm, and shorter fingers. Researchers noted that the modern fist hand showed up in the fossil record about 4 million years ago. About the time we thickened our faces. 

And here I thought our modern hand evolved to text while holding a smartphone. 

I'm not sure such simultaneous fist and brow timing works out. Evolution takes eons after all. Still, it's great to see that science is finally facing up to human aggression.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2265 Rule Challenged

There's been a disturbing trend in our culture. I suppose I'm guilty of it as much as anybody when I cruise along at the "accepted" 5 miles over the speed limit. It's the tendency to only follow rules when it's convenient to whoever it is to only follow the rules when it's convenient.

Like recently there was a big furor when a bank in Montreal decided to put nubs on the pavement in their outside alcove. The alcove was in their doorway, outside the swing of the door, where certain vagrants would grab a night's sleep. 

The bank, tired of rousting them every morning, decided to embed two-inch blunt nubs in the concrete close enough together to make that sleeping process uncomfortable. Naturally there was a huge outcry over this antihuman behavior on the part of the bank.

The key question, once the rhetoric has died down, is whose space is it? If it's the bank’s, then the bank is free to close off the alcove with a wall, install an iron gate, or yes, put nubs in the pavement. 

Ultimately, the person doing the sleeping is the person who's choosing not to follow the rules by attempting to sleep there in the first place. Should trespassing be it's own reward? 

Apparently so. Because likewise there's an area organization seeking to turn some private property into a park rather than see it developed into a neighborhood similar to the area organization's neighborhood which spawned the neighborhood organization that's trying to make the park. 

Their defense is that they've used the private woods for years for hiking, biking, picnicking, and suchlike. Essentially, they've trespassed. Now they're indirectly admitting they broke the rules. 

What should we call this rules-are-so-inconvenient trend? 

I believe I will coin the term "anarchy lite." 

America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

2264 Paleorific

We all know that health and diet are intertwined. And that the quickest way to a best seller is to write a convincing book about the next great diet craze. Good sex and good eating compete for satisfactory reading sensations and publishing success.

So it was with interest I read an article recently about a guy named Roland Sturm, a senior economist at the RAND organization. He postulates we're all obese because food is so cheap. 

RAND researchers concluded that Americans spend a smaller portion of their income on food than in previous decades. In the Thirties, 25% of Americans' disposable income went for food. Now it's just 10%. But we're eating 20% more calories.

The answer, Sturm says, is not to make food more expensive, but to make healthier food, like vegetables and such, less expensive than junkfood. Then again, if other scientists are right, (I don't know I'm not a scientist) global warming should take care of the food cheapness problem as crops fail worldwide from shifting regions of droughts and floods.

Another recent anti-obesity craze has been the paleo diet. Essentially a riff on the Atkins diet, it says that eating the way we did when we were cavemen will lead to better health. Oddly, recent science indicates that previous science was wrong about the no-fat diet. At last as far as eating no fat meant adding sugar to compensate for the lost flavor. 

The paleo diet has a certain appeal. Why not eat hanks of smoking fire-roasted animals dripping with fat? And a gather or two of fruits, roots and nuts? Personally, I'll embrace the paleo diet, as long as someone will assure me that cavemen ate Oreos and Doritos. 

But remember, paleo-anthropologist scientists tell us the average lifespan of a caveman was 37. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

2263 Hauling Ache

Every now and then I find my mind just riffing on stuff. I'm sure there's some name for the disorder but I'd rather not find it out.

The old brain went riffing the other day when a friend and I were talking about the early 80s and the subject of Jordache jeans came up. You remember, those first truly designer jeans that captured the market, amidst a whole glut of names from Liz Claiborne to Calvin Klein to Anderson Cooper's mom Gloria Vanderbilt. 

I confessed that when I first saw the name Jordache in a print publication, I pronounced the last syllable not like "ash" but like "ayke." Jord-ayke jeans not Jord-ash jeans.

In my defense, it made sense. We normally only see it the "ash" way in words like "panache." Otherwise the a-c-h-e- combination is pronounced like the pain it is -- headache and earache for instance.

When was the last time someone told you they had an "ear-ash?" Only if they had one of those weird new age ear candle treatments that were popular with the in crowd until some of them realized residual hair spray was flammable and hair and ears occur close together on the head.

Then they had head-ash to. As well as a headache. 

My head also aches from riffing when I see things like I recently saw in the Trader Joe's circular. Like their offer for "Turkey Dogs." I guess they're bigger than turkey wieners, which always sound so tiny for some reason, but it's confusing too. Is a turkey dog kind of like a sheep dog?

Another thing: Trader Joe's also advertises that a lot of their products don't contain GMOs -- AKA Genetically Modified Organisms.

Does they mean they don't approve of designer genes?  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

2262 Part Time

Cars in the news again. Some bad some good. The bad is pretty scary. And this time it's not about Chevy. It's about airbags.

There's a huge recall on because Japanese airbag maker Takata made airbags whose explosive stuff may prematurely explode. The problem is even worse because Takata makes airbags for seven major automakers.

Airbags have always been a bit of a tradeoff. Die or suffer severe whiplash from an injury, or have the crap beat out of you by an airbag. Those things deploy quick. And to anyone who has had one do so, it's pretty clear it's not like diving headfirst into a pillow full of marshmallows.

At least in a crash you are arresting a lot of forward momentum. Imagine if one suddenly went off while you were cruising merrily down the street.  

But apparently with this defect you wouldn't just get hit by an airbag. The malfunction, which is exacerbated in more humid climates, actually explodes the inflator canister, causing metal shrapnel to shoot through the car's interior. Yes, the article I read said shrapnel. 

They also said the recall identifies inflators that Takata made in Mexico and Washington State. Ah, international quality control...

On a happier note, Ford Motor Company just inked a deal with Heinz to buy ketchup byproducts so they can use them to make car parts. They'll use the stems, peels and seeds from 2 million tons of tomatoes Heinz processes each year. 

Dried and processed tomato skins can be made into cupholders and wiring brackets. Pretty cool that two American icons are now together. Ford and Ketchup. Maybe they can make something out of apple pie too.

And good that Ford is making cars out of recycled tomatoes. Chevy, meanwhile, is looking for ways to recycle lemons. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2261 Light Bulge

Words words words. I get caught up in them, especially in advertisements, because I'm not sure the writers of them fully understand their power.

Take Starbucks. A fine organization in many ways, ranked in the top five in fast food establishments nationwide. Which is odd, as I don't put them in the same category as McDonalds. Somehow an Egg McMuffin isn't the same as a triple Trenta macchiato. Although the latter probably contains as many calories. 

In any event, Starbucks is going after the wimpy coffee market these days. Not content to just harvest in the dark roast types, they're offering lighter alternatives. Starbucks "blonde roast" they call it. "Blonde" after the color not the roaster.

In pursuit of that, they have a commercial that features a barista pouring a light coffee from the spigot of one of those mega-thermos things. Then the announcer talks about a new blonde roast flavor. And says it's "...available only where you buy groceries." 

Based on the spigot image, does that mean they think you can buy groceries at Starbucks? Is that what they call their eatable offerings? Not sure I can live on rich pastries and biscotti but I suppose I can try. If it really means only where you buy groceries, what if I buy my groceries at 7-Eleven, or a mom and pop convenience store? Or Trader Joe's? 

Which, by the way, had a disturbing item for sale in their most recent circular. Why is it, also by the way, that circulars are shaped like rectangles? Anyhow, the item was "Carrot and Cilantro Bulgur Grain Salad." 

Bulgur grain. Yuck. Sounds like a combination of bad and vulgar. Or that it will make you bulge. Not the least bit appetizing. 

Maybe if they offered it in Bulgur blonde.... 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

2260 FireSpy

It's no secret I'm concerned about techno-folks finding out my secrets. Whether it's the long nose of the NSA, or the infiltrators of Chinese hackerdom, our devices make us vulnerable to the malcurious.

Two articles I read recently confirmed my paranoia. The first was about the new Amazon Fire phone with Firefly technology, which will make it easier for you to, you guessed it, shop.

One of the ways it will do this is by using its four forward facing cameras to track your head movements. Part of the multi-camera setup is so it can rearrange the pixels on the screen to make it look like you're viewing a 3-D image of whatever it is you're viewing.

But another use for the cameras is so you can just nod your head or swivel your phone to, as Amazon puts it, "...reduce the amount of activity and input that users have to do to get results." Because, you know, pinching, swiping, and tapping are so labor intensive. You could get carpal thumbal syndrome.

Still wondering about how incredibly lazy our culture has become, I read another article a friend sent me about new generic smartphones that hit the shelves in Germany. Turns out they are manufactured in China but have no name of the manufacturer anywhere on them. And guess what, they have spyware built right in.

Yep. The cheap Star N9500 phone comes pre-loaded with spyware that can, among other things, turn on your phone's cameras and activate its microphone, for a total eavesdropping experience.

Of course I'm not intimating Amazon would do such a thing to monitor your buying habits even more intrusively. But hey, ain't new technology great? With the Fire phone, now I can be spied on in 3-D!

Like a firefly on the wall...

America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

2259 Free Usage

I get a kick out of some advertisements. They seem to say one thing, but if you think about them a little bit, they don't make sense.

Like this fast food ad I heard recently. It was about a new sandwich the company was offering that they really wanted to promote, so they were giving it away "free." The disclaimer said "free sandwich with purchase." 

Which I always like because if you rearrange the sentence you are saying, "Sandwich, free with purchase," and that's ridiculous. It's not free if it's with a purchase because you are having to purchase something to achieve your result and therefore it's not free. "Additional sandwich with purchase" is more accurate. Maybe they're just using the term free freely. 

Then there are the car dealers who advertise a car at the "incredible deal of only $19,500" and then say, "a negotiable $150 document fee may be added at time of purchase." If it's only $19,500 then it's only $19,500. Not $19,650. 

And if the fee's "negotiable" they're essentially saying you don't have to pay it unless you cave in and let them bully you into doing so. No wonder so many people like the car buying experience. It just sets you free. 

Then there was the Trader Joe's Flyer I got in yesterday's mail. You may remember poor Trader Joe had to recall some hummus awhile back. Not their fault, their supplier had a listeria issue. I guess their hummus made people falafel. 

Anyhow, that was near the front of my mind when I saw the heading on one of their flyer's front page offers: "Uncured Turkey Dogs." So... Are they still sick?

No. But they are in the "free range product" category. 

You figure it out.  My brain hurts.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

2258 Strap On

The other day I was at a public event in an outdoor space. The kind of space where you would bring a chair. The kind of place you used to bring a blanket.

Nowadays almost no one brings blankets. Because portable chair technology has gotten so amazing. Very elaborate devices that fold out into the equivalent of a living room recliner. 

The reason I noticed was because I was positioned near a bag check area and got to see everything from chairs folded and put into tubular carrying bags to chairs that were their own carriers. Actually the people carrying them were carriers. And how.

The ones in bags had a shoulder strap. The new carrier types had two shoulder straps and were carried pretty much like a backpack. And heck, if you're going to carry it like a backpack why not make it useful that way too?

This was accomplished by putting zippered compartments in the chair. When the chair was unfolded, the compartments were still available to the user. A great place to store sunscreen, snacks, bug spray or a couple of beers. 

Which would be easier to drink when you folded out your chair because it also included a fold-down elbow desk. Embedded in the middle of that truncated tray table was, you guessed it, a cupholder. Did I mention the chair was also a recliner?

So you go to a place. And don't want to expend energy standing up for a couple of hours. So you bring an elaborate comfort-enhanced chair which is so laden with amenities that you have to heft it like a backpack, complete with shoulder straps. 

Result? When you get to the place you're so exhausted you have to sit down in a recliner. Lucky you brought one.

America, ya gotta love it.