Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2318 Potted Pet

I recently emceed a Pet Day event. Americans have a love affair with pets and it seems to be good for them. Numerous studies have shown that the presence of pets can be beneficial to the psyches of pet owners. Or in the case of cats, pet co-residents.

But that's just another example of my pet peeve: chauvinistic animalism. The tendency to be prejudiced in favor of just one branch of the tree of life, the animal kingdom. What about plants? 

Oh sure, you can't take them for a walk, or get them to roll over or fetch. Or even get them to give you a feline sneer as they walk away to rub their scent glands on a delicate piece of furniture. 

But many a bachelor without the time to devote to an animal pet knows moments spent talking to his plants can be therapeutic. The weekly process of watering and dead leaf picking feels like pet-like grooming behavior.

So, can you pet a plant or can a plant be a pet? Maybe. At least English and Dutch researchers recently identified and confirmed a pet-like psychic connection. 

They found indisputably, scientifically, and even statistically, that workers in offices that have even a few leafy plants are 15% more productive than workers in plant-free workplaces. 

15%! Amazing! That kind of increase in productivity should have Warren Buffet buying up the philodendron industry. Invest now in high yield Dieffenbachia. Potted Palms for impressive profits.  Chia Pets stock surging to new highs.

Garden centers across the nation are welcoming the news. Paving the path to productivity with the new green revolution.  A 15% increase in worker output, all for the price of a fern. 

Let's hope it's real news. And not some pseudo-scientific factoid the nursery industry planted. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

2317 Media Heavy

I'm a media consumer. And like many consumers, I notice the changes that slip by or crop up in the ordinary course of events.

Like the other day I was listening to a traffic report on the radio and the traffic person said the traffic was starting to "heavy up."

Heavy up? When did "heavy up" become a phrasal verb? I can see "clutter up" because you clutter something. Or even "butter up" because you butter something. 

But heavy up? You heavy something? I don't think so. Something is heavy but you don't heavy it. My suggestion: Before it catches on perhaps we should lose the Y and heave it from our language.

Not long after that, I was watching one of those morning news and gossip shows on the TV. I'm not sure if it was the Today Show or Good Morning America or what. Whichever, it had Al Roker as the weatherman describing the path of a hurricane up the Baja peninsula.

Here's what got me. He was pointing to the moving graphic of the hurricane like you'd expect, but he wasn't standing in front of a green screen with the video computer-synched in. No, he was just pointing at a big screen TV. 

It was like the same primitive video/human interface I used to employ on my comedy show on cable access TV back in the 80's. Sure, TV's are a lot better these days. Bigger, more HD dense when it comes to pixels, and no refresh cycles of electrons causing screen flicker. But still, he was pointing at pictures on a TV and then playing it back on TV. 

How far we haven't come. 

Another thing: Al Roker looked different too. He's really starting to heavy down. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

2316 Darn Gluten

From time to time I encounter marketing ideas that cause me to pause. Take my hairspray. I wrote a commentary not long ago about how they'd changed the packaging and formula so it now contained "Active Botanicals." I suppose this was to capitalize on the energy and buying power of the organic food movement or possibly just eco-stuff generally.

Though "Active Botanicals" sounds like it could function as a hairspray for your chia pet.

So recently I looked at the can again, and I noticed an item on the label separated from the rest that said the hairspray was paraben free and gluten free. Hmm, I thought, another attempt to capitalize on recent buzztrends?

Paraben is viewed in some circles as a carcinogen, so I suppose that makes sense. It's also a bactericide and a fungicide so it's in pretty common use in the personal products industry. I guess I don't see much use for a fungicide in my hair so I'm cool with the manufacturer’s decision to omit it.

"Gluten Free" makes me wonder though. I was under the impression, probably misguided, that gluten was an issue when it was eaten. Those who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance need to avoid it in their digestive tract. But in their hairspray?

Is there a problem with people sucking hairspray from cans, like basement trolls do with whipped cream and Cheez Whiz? Or using it for its vaunted frizz control on flyaway angel hair pasta? 

When do you have an opportunity to actually eat hairspray?

Perhaps it's for folks who do their personal grooming in the kitchen while cooking at the same time. That explains the other warning on the can that's always made me go, "duh." 

"Don't use hairspray next to open flame."

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2315 iPlant

It's pretty amazing how science keeps offering newer and more interesting ways to fix our aging bodies. But we don't just need to be thankful for techno-materials in our hips and knees or pacemakers in our chests, we can now have high tech implants in our corneas too.

By the way, isn't it interesting how the hard-driving folks that had alloy wheels in their youth are now getting alloy joint replacements? 

Back to eyes. There's lots of folks who've had Lasik surgery and survived the process with remarkably better vision. Some have actually had Lasik more than once, as the aging process continues to make their eyes worse and they need to go back in to be re-Lasiked. Like another face tuck after each decade of progressive turkey neck.

Well Lasik has always fallen short in the reading glasses department. Correcting either far-sightedness or near-sightedness doesn't address the bad all-sightedness of getting older. ReVision Optics has designed a solution. It's called the "raindrop" inlay. 

It's no larger than the head of a pin and it's inserted directly into your cornea in a virtually painless procedure that takes just 10 minutes. If approved by the FDA it could replace laser surgery for the age-related flattening of the cornea known as presbyopia. Which I always thought was a malady exclusive to Presbyterians. Raindrops are actually made from the gel they use for contact lenses. 

Amazing. Bifocals implanted right in your eyes. No more wearing granny glasses around your neck so you don't misplace your readers. I think marketing-wise, instead of "Raindrops" they should call them something like "Insights" though.

Just another step in our path to the cyborg. Micro-computer fibers embedded in the Raindrop will be next. And creeping toms won't have to wear dead-giveaway Google glasses anymore.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

2314 Digital Pinch

One of my personal fascinations is the way words evolve in our wonderful language. The advent of new technologies often drives this process.

So we have words like "post" and "tweet" being redirected to new actions. "Tweet" is only rarely used these days to indicate a sound emerging from a bird, but used in practically every sentence when referencing some hard or soft news item about world events or celebrities.

Likewise, "posting" has evolved to mean exposing yourself on the internet in a variety of safe and unsafe ways, whether by you or someone you know, or a malicious hacker just looking for something bad to do when he finds your honeymoon night pictures on the cloud. Mooning on your honeymoon and actually taking a picture and storing it on a supposedly safer remote server is no longer safe.

"Cloud," BTW, still means something insubstantial and unreliable. Which can sometimes cause a flood of destructiveness.

Anyhow, I heard a guy talking the other day about the motions his fingers use on his touchscreen devices. Tablets or smartphones, you still have to use certain digital gestures to get action. "Digital" in this sense being the original meaning, involving actual digits we sometimes call fingers. 

The words for those gestures are "tapping," "pinching" and "swiping." I intuitively grasped the meaning of "tapping" right away. "Swiping" is also pretty self-explanatory. You swipe your finger across the screen to open, close, and move stuff around.

"Pinching," however, is problematic. When you pinch an image on a digital device you make it smaller. So what is the word for when you do the opposite of pinch and make it larger? 

Spreading? Not so good. But it's alternative, "anti-pinching" is even worse.

Sounds like a wine-guzzling family Thanksgiving dinner gone bad.   

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

2313 Alternative Retaility

I like seeing the alternative businesses that have opened and developed. Although what was alternative once is mainstream now. It's nice to see them thriving as we come out of the great recession.

"Great recession" seems to be the agreed upon expression for the economic destruction we just came through. Not sure I'm comfortable with it. What's the difference between a "great recession" and an "average depression?" Or perhaps a mild depression? It certainly had all the hallmarks of a depression to many folks I knew. Maybe by calling it a recession we feel like we don't need to seek out medication.

Anyhow, I saw a couple of alternative businesses sharing the same building. It was kind of interesting. Not that businesses shared a building. That's been a great adaptation to the mild depression. It was the businesses themselves. They were an acupuncture place and a tattoo parlor. 

Hmm. Kind of got a needle theme going there. Wonder if they share. There's still an empty space in the same building. The leasing agency should call up an embroidery outfit.

Speaking of outfits, sales of yoga apparel rose 45% last year. You'd figure that means folks are trying to get healthier. But no, apparently that assumption is a stretch.

The truth is, actual yoga participation only increased by 4.5%. Turns out people don't want to be healthier so much as look healthier. Maybe they wear Spanx under their Lululemons. (To the uninitiated, those are fashion alternatives.)

Speaking of yoga, my favorite sign ever was in front of a yoga place. It said they were "the oldest and best yoga place in town." The serene and meditative practice of yoga being such a competitive business and all. 

Though I'm told it's a great alternative to fighting mild depression. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2312 iGadgets

Since the iPhone has become so ubiquitous in our culture, there are lots of entrepreneurs who are making big bucks fashioning interesting applications or "apps" for them, taking advantage of the fact that Americans wear them constantly attached at the hip, stuffed in pockets, or slung like the albatrosses they are around their necks.

One of the biggest markets right now is for external accessories. So perhaps they shouldn't be called "apps" but "accs." 

One company, Candy Shell, skipped the whole programmed app thing altogether, and just designed a snap-on case that doubles the volume of a phone's speakers. Another company, Poppy, has a snap-on external device that allows smartphone users to snap 3-D pictures. It uses cleverly placed internal mirrors to create the effect, which looks like one of those old Viewmaster toys we had as kids back in the 50s and 60s. 

In fact that's one of the selling points, that it offers a "picture experience that's like the old-school Viewmaster toy." In fact, since no internal electronic apps are involved, the device is the size of one too. Basically you slip your trim, easy to carry iPhone into a 4-by-4 inch box with eyeholes. 

Go progress.

But my favorite external iPhone acc is the Breathometer. As you probably guessed, it’s a portable breathalyzer, so you can use your iPhone to determine whether or not you are too drunk to drive. They aren't saying, but who knows, maybe the NSA will share that information with local law enforcement computers, in case you ignore it. 

Ironically, the same phone that imitates the effects of drunkenness when used to text and drive will now help stop you to actually be drunk and drive.

So who wouldn't want to purchase a DUI-Phone?  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2311 Zombie Fungus

I wrote in a commentary recently about the fungus conspiracy. The amazing not-so-coincidental proliferation of fungoid entities around the earth. I mentioned the giant 4-square mile humongous fungus in the Oregon forest. And the addictive qualities of the yeast extract junkfood makers seem forced to put in our processed foods.

Naturally folks scorned me as some sort of wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. Perhaps destined to join the basement trolls extolling the supposed "facts" of 9/11 government involvement or Katy Perry being a member of the Illuminati. 

I confess, I do own a Blackberry and from time to time I sport an aluminum foil hat, but only for fashion purposes.

So if you doubt me, let me tell you about the "zombie ant fungus." This is a true story. Parents cover your children's ears. Once the zombie ant fungus infects its carpenter ant host, it compels it to climb a tree and then attach to the underside of a leaf

Okay so far, cats have been known to lead their masters outside late at night for no apparent reason. But the fungus, once the ant host dies, sprouts a long stalk through the dead corpse and then sprays spores down on the ant nest below. 

The fungus does this because, as scientists found, if the infected ant is left to die in the nest, other worker ants remove its corpse and no spores are spread. The zombie fungus countered the social immunity in the ant nest by evolving a very smart workaround. 

An indication of a higher power up to Intelligent Design? Simply an effect of a gajillion years of blind evolution? Or one small Fungus actually showing sentience? 

One thing's for sure. A zombie fungus doesn't sound fun at all.

BTW -- Aluminum hats block spores too.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2310 Robo-Scheduler

Sometimes I'm of the opinion computers are a scourge on humanity. That's, of course, why I wrote this commentary on a computer, emailed it to the office, and posted it on the internet while someone else used programs to edit it and insert it on the air.

Still. A recent story about robo-scheduling hits the point. Starbucks, to their credit, has realized that having a computer automatically do employee scheduling may need some tweaking. 

Because when the computer program tries to optimize employee coverage with data-determined busy and slow times, a lot of baristas end up holding the bag. Human schedulers have more empathy.

From an employer's point of view, especially one who serves at the whim of impersonal bottom line driven stockholders, such robo-scheduling makes sense. Employee downtime is a waste of money. 

But you can't have folks being sent home and called back every 15 minutes either. Employees have lives. Maybe they have children's schedules to attend to. Educating your children helps the economy too. Then there are the employees themselves. Perhaps they're taking night classes to improve their worth to your organization. 

Irregular hours suck. They suck even worse than low wages because you can't make any plan to supplement those low wages because you can't get another job to fill in with your irregular hours.

A solution's probably right around the corner. I'm guessing some uncaring corporate type will soon enlist Silicon Valley to create a new program altogether. A computer will solve a computer-created problem with a new personal employee hour-management app. 

An employee could get this smartphone app and then land 4 low-paying robo-scheduled jobs. The app would synch up with the various company's robo-schedulers and work it all out in the time it takes to tweet, "Oh the humanity."


America, ya gotta love it.

2309 Smaste

Our sense of smell is intricately linked to our sense of taste. There are after all only 5 types of tastes that our tastebuds can detect; salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. Umami as in, "Oooh Mommy, that tastes savory."

The rest of what we call flavor originates in our nose. And just about every scientist knows that means the olfactory bulbs in our nose. They are capable of detecting a trillion variations in scent.

Impressive as that is, dogs have even more. By comparison their noses can smell in Super-HD Blue-Ray 3-D and our noses are like regular VHS.

Well recently a company has come up with a way to exploit that tendency for the mind to confuse smell and tastes. Their product is called the Aromafork. Each fork comes with 21 small jars of aromatics and a medicine dropper. 

There's a small depression in the fork's handle that has a little bit of absorbent blotting paper. One puts the oils on the paper and voila, any scent you want can be added to your meal as you eat. Because now your schnoz will trick your mouth into a slip of the tongue.

Which means you can have an orange and vanilla-flavored bowl of oatmeal without the work of grinding vanilla or peeling and sectioning an orange. Or the expense of buying them. Likewise any number of flavor variations on a grilled steak. Garlic and onion. Pepper and tomato. Or, as the article I read on the device put it, maybe you're crazy enough to try a smoked cheesecake or a bubblegum-flavored pork chop. 

I'd like my basic grilled cheese to taste like it had broiled bacon and fresh avocado in it. Or heck, why not live a little? I've always wanted to try a salmon milkshake.

America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2308 Bug Spray

Chances are you bug people. You even bug the whole territory around you. Turns out your microbiome, as scientists call it, extends a lot further than anyone ever thought. It can take over a room. 

Science has recently begun to concentrate on the microbiome, the study of all the tiny bacteria we carry around with us and the role that horde plays in our health and well-being. 

Gut bacteria have been found to contribute significantly to a person's health, both in food digestion and fighting off other bacteria that cause sickness. Wide-spectrum antibiotics often do more harm than good, because they kill off the beneficial bugs in our system. 

What surprised researchers recently was how we carry our bugs with us on vacation too. And distribute them in rooms we inhabit. They determined that when you stay in a hotel room, you needn't worry about the icky germs the previous resident left behind. Within 24 hours your own bacteria will have taken the room over. Check-in day is bacterial D-Day in the war to conquer a room. 

Sneezing, coughing, and passing gas are like your personal bug spray. 

Scientists think police will be very interested in this, since a person's microbiome is intensely individual. A bacterial signature that's more identifiable than a fingerprint. Kind of a germ selfie. 

A CSI guy could go into a room where a crime was committed and sniff out the perp's bug I.D. in no time. They'd better hurry. You'd have to be careful the police don't infect the room as soon as they enter. Or the maid that discovers the body. 

I see lots of legal wiggle room. If the bug don't fit, you must acquit. 

Question: If the microbiome originates in the colon, does that mean they colon-ize the room? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

2307 Lawn Caring

Last summer I was about the only person in my neighborhood to follow the admonitions of the various county and city jurisdictions to not water my lawn.

The theory is, your lawn will stay healthy even if you don't water it all summer. Sure it will get brown, but come the first rain it will bounce back. So why waste all that money on precious water that could better be used for, oh, drinking? 

Most plants use a lot of water. Especially the plants or plant products we eat. So it makes sense to conserve water for them and not blades of useless grass. Of course the whole concept of an ornamental lawn becomes questionable when it's a dry brown eyesore, but what the hay? 

Speaking of plants consuming water, I read an interesting factoid the other day. California now grows 80% or the world's almonds. It's a crop that uses enough water to supply 75% of the state's thirsty population. Definitely a drought conundrum. Especially with the crazy folks in California. Which nuts do you satisfy?

Back to my neighborhood. My neighbors caught on. Just about every yard is brown this year. Everyone has turned off their sprinklers to save water and money. Outdoor decor-wise, it almost works. The straw color of the lawns complements the tan tones of the houses.

So when I drove by a municipal median strip the other morning and saw sprinklers saturating its perfect lush emerald green grass it made me wonder. Aren't these the government folks who instructed me to conserve?

And even if they're sprinkling with purple pipe recycled water, which in this case I doubted, wouldn't it still be good idea to set a brown lawn civic standard? 

This lawn caring citizen would feel better.

America, ya gotta love it. 

2306 Fungi on the Prowl

I was driving out by Hawks Prairie recently. It was one of those beautiful northwest mornings. The air was warm and very still and I realized I could close my eyes and know exactly where I was. Because the place smelled like the mushroom farm.

Interestingly, it didn't smell that bad. Not like the fertilizer they use to nurture the mushrooms but a little like the mushrooms themselves. A little like umami. Yes. Hawks Prairie smelled savory.

Umami, that fifth taste bud that allows us to taste savory and for whose stimulation a new additive is added to just about every processed food there is as a substitute for MSG. Mushroom extract or yeast extract. Natural glutamate. Fungus.

The fungus among us which is taking over the world. Foods with umami are more addictive. Look at the ingredients list on all the flavored chips and savory concoctions filling up supermarket shelves. There are fungus byproducts everywhere.  

Coincidence? I don't think so. Because fungus spores can last forever. Fungus spores have been found in space and they spread the fungus among us and beyond. 

Scared? You should be. The largest living organism on Earth is a humongous fungus. It lives in Oregon and covers over 2000 acres of forest. 2000 acres! Four square miles. It survives by breaking down the organic tissue of the dead and dying trees. But what's to stop it from eating living things too? 

All fungus is connected. Yeast infections proliferate. On the skin and in the gut. And you never want toenail fungus to get a foothold. Now the Great Fungus has tricked us into spreading it all over the world because we like its flavor. 

The mushroom conspiracy is, well, mushrooming. Soon there won't be any room for anything else.

America, ya gotta love it. 

2305 Hair East

I'm a bit of a skinflint. What some call a tightwad but what I prefer to refer to as penurious. Which I think is Latin for penny-pinching.

It's not that I can't and don't spend lots of money on things I really want, but for ordinary household generic items I tend to veer on the side of economical. Okay cheap.

So, since my flyaway hair is occasionally in need of restraint, I employ the use of White Rain hairspray. It's hard to get much cheaper without diluting and atomizing Elmer's glue.

But I noticed that dear old White Rain has changed the look of their can recently and in fact says so on the can. "New Look," it proclaims redundantly. And with that new look apparently an ingredients change as well. 

It's old label said, "For extra boost and hold with shine enhancers and softening agents." Its new can says, "For long lasting hold, shine, and frizz control. Frizz Control? Wasn't he one of the superheroes in the fashion Justice League?

The label also says the new White Rain comes "with Active Botanicals." Naturally I was intrigued, as the only active botanical I could picture was a Venus Fly Trap of some sort. 

But no, further hype on the can tells me they use, "a unique blend of botanical ingredients specially selected for their nourishing, conditioning and protective properties." They then go on to list those super plants: White lily, green tea, and rice protein.

Ah, I said to myself, obviously going for the botanical wisdom of the Far East. Frizz control with hair product feng shui. Great. But white lily, green tea, and rice protein? 

Why do I feel like I'm about to spray my head with a misted version of chiang mai salad?  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

2304 Class Ride

I saw an interesting product recently. I guess it speaks to why I will never think like someone from the upper class. Because I just didn't get it.

It was a foldable bicycle. The write-up on it said it was the “perfect” foldable bike. It collapses small enough to fit in a suitcase and yet feels "almost" like a normal ride. 

It has features like a lightweight aluminum frame and a grease-free carbon drive-belt. It also sports BMX-size wheels. And it's all available for the low, low price of $5499.

Because, you know, if you're rich enough to afford a bike like this, pricing it at an even $5500 may be deal-breaker. 

So my question: Who is this bike really for? If you're rich enough to afford a $5500 foldable bike, you're rich enough to buy a nice full-sized one when you arrive at your destination and have it shipped back when you're done. Or vice versa. 

And really, if I had enough folding money to plunk down a wad on this folding bike I sure as heck wouldn't actually fold it and pack it into a suitcase. 

Maybe I'd have someone do it for me. "Jeeves, be a good man and fold up my velocipede and pack it into my portmanteau would you?"

I kind of understand buying a big RV so you don't have to use other people's beds and bathrooms. But to be so paranoid of hoi polloi germs that you don't want anyone to ever share a bike seat with you? Rich enough to have someone shave your legs for you, and you lug around a foldable bicycle?

With a carbon drive-belt of course, chains are so déclassé, and grease marks on your silk boxers could give folks the wrong idea.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

2303 Ausgezeichnet

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious, I've always wondered what it might mean.

It certainly sounds like the most superlative of superlatives. A word like the German "ausgezeichnet." Which means wonderful. Or out of human imagination or comprehension. Or out of this world.  Conveniently, for translation purposes, ausgezeichnet actually sounds like out of sight. 

German's like that, a practical language that often easily disassembles into its component syllables. Like their word for telephone. In its Latin syllable components tele-phone means distant sounds. In German the word for telephone is fernsprechapparat. Which literally translates this way: "fern" means "far," "sprech" means "speaking," and "apparat" means "machine" or "apparatus." Fernsprechapparat: Far-speaking-machine. 

Likewise German is pretty straightforward about the whole seeing and hearing thing. Like when someone texts you and then says as he or she is closing, "good to hear from you," when in fact no sound was ever exchanged. Or like when right before you hang up the phone and are saying goodbye you say, "See you later."

See you later in German is auf wiedersehen. "Auf" meaning "on" "wieder" "again" and "sehen" "see." "On" in this case can loosely be translated as "on the occasion of" or "when" or "until." So Auf Wiedersehen is “'Til I see you again."

But when German folks hang up the phone the say Auf Wiederhören. Hören has an umlaut over the "o" and means hear. If we in English were to do that, instead of saying "see you later" when we say goodbye on the phone we would say "hear you later."

Actually it sounds pretty cool. So if you're reading this essay, see you later. And if you're listening to it on the radio or a podcast, hear you later.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

2302 Expect Less

Many years ago, somewhere between my second and third divorces, (I believe I've mentioned elsewhere that I've successfully completed three marriages) someone asked me the secret of the happiness that I had at the time apparently found in my third connubial go-round.
I said, "The secret is pretty simple, keep your expectations low."

So I was particularly interested recently when I read an article that science has now said the same thing. Except in their case, it's the secret to happiness generally. 

Forget self-help books. Tell your psychologist to take a hike. Scientists at University College London have unequivocally proven that the secret to happiness is low expectations. People who don't expect much from life are more content and get greater pleasure when things go well. 

For the study, the researchers hooked up volunteers and scanned their brains as they played a game. They found that the degree of happiness players felt when they won a reward depended on how much their reward matched up to their expectations. The lower the expectations, the happier they were. 

So it follows that in the real world, people with low expectations get greater pleasure from receiving a gift, having a delicious meal, or going on vacation. As researcher and neuroscientist Robb Rutledge concluded, "Happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected." 

Or as other great thinkers have put it, it pays to be a pessimist. Pessimists are always happier than optimists. When things actually go better, they are pleasantly surprised. 

Newlyweds take note. Keep your expectations low. Yes, the honeymoon's over. But as another great person said: "The glass isn't half empty or half full. There was just too much glass there to begin with."  

America, ya gotta love it. 

2301 Shakebot

Recently I was driving along the road and noticed a sign shaker. They're officially called "human directionals." He was jumping around and boogieing down. Totally animated and into his low-paying job, listening to his iPod and into the moment. There was another sign shaker on the opposite corner doing essentially the same thing. Animated, waving his sign, the whole nine yards. Except his sign was regular cardboard and said, "Will work for beer."

Ah, street corner life in America.

But I saw another version of the same thing on another corner and it scared me. Similar scenario, a sign shaker moving a sign. Except this one seemed listless and lackadaisical. As if she wasn't focused on her job at all, just going through the motions. And minimum motions at that, just moving her sign in a small circle while the rest of her stood pretty much stock still. 

She was attractive though. Blond, apparently in her early 20s, athletic figure dressed in a sports outfit. Like she just came from the fitness club. But still, just going through the motions. Then I realized what was wrong. She wasn't a human directional. Because she wasn't even human. She was a manikin. Or perhaps womanikin in this case. 

Yep, an animated manikin, an automated sign shaker. Like a noodle man without the noodle. Or a 3-D gif. The final lowest-paying, thankless, non-skilled job in America, replaced by a robot. And not a very good robot at that. Just a department store manikin with rotating arms. 

How sad. And how distressing for the sign ordinance folks. If sign shakers are legal, are they legal by virtue of their motion or their humanity? 

Even more alarming, will we soon see a sign being shaken by a robo-hobo?

America, ya gotta love it.