Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2381 Stolen Minute

I get hung up on numbers sometimes. Those little episodes of everyday mathematics they didn't warn you about in school. Math is hard they say, or mathematics can be fun. Either way, there's a 50/50 chance consciousness of numbers will annoy you.

Like parking meters. Recently I was using one of those new parking meters that allows one to slide in one's bankcard to pay the appropriate fee. Absolutely fantastic for those of us who don't like change rattling around in our pockets.

I noticed the meter had a button you could push for a free initial 15 minutes. A great courtesy the official parking folks offer to downtown patrons. Always anxious to take advantage of a deal, I pressed that button. 

I then slid in my card and pressed the buttons necessary to pay for an additional hour of parking. The computerized machine displayed a little digital message saying to wait, that my transaction was being authorized. And I waited. And I waited. Finally the machine said that the transaction was accepted and then displayed the time I had on my meter. 

It was only one hour and 14 minutes!

They robbed me of a free minute! For some reason I was really mad. All that effort on my part to be a conscientious pay for my parking citizen, and the process itself robbed me of a minute. 

I'm not sure what was worse; Contemplating that they robbed me of a minute I paid for in the hour my bankcard was credited to, or the free minute they so graciously offered and then yanked away while their pokey contraption practically pick-pocketed my parking payment.

Not to mention the number of minutes I wasted being mad over such a tiny travesty. If only I didn't know math...  

America, ya gotta love it. 

2380 Skin Bunnies

Recently I was cleaning my house. I believe I've mentioned in an earlier essay about the persistence and annoyance of holiday glitter. My friend Rick jokingly suggested I employ a leaf blower to get rid of it. I jokingly replied that it would be good for the hair balls too. That's when I noticed something. No hairballs.

It led me to an interesting observation. For some reason there is less dust to clean up, in hairball form or otherwise, when fewer people live in your home.

Someone with pets wouldn't notice this. Pets are hairballs in their own right. Or at least hairball factories, what with the dog scratching them off and cats hacking them up. But if you don't have pets, the people factor is more evident.

There were once five people living in my house and granted, three of them were teenagers, with their associated slovenly approach to all things spic and span. But they still didn't track in a whole lot. And the same HVAC system was moving air around the house.

I read an article somewhere that gave me a clue. The average human sheds about a million skin cells in just a single day. 365 million a year. That's cool, you say, cells are really teeny-tiny, so who cares? Well, it adds up. In a year to about 8 pounds of skin cells. 

But no worries, your house is also filled with dust mites who work very hard to eat them up. And of course what they can't fully process they get rid off. Dust mite excrement. 

Bottom line, five people annually create 40 pounds of skin cells and dust mite poo. Hmm. I guess dust bunnies are actually organic. They're made of skin flakes.

I wish dust mites ate glitter.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

2379 Glitterror

December is the season of giving and joy. Festive parties and dazzling decor. Gifts and cards and ribbons. And that most dread holiday item of all. Glitter.

I hate glitter.

Because I can't get rid of it. Christmas also brings us pine needles, horrid little organic shafts that stick to anything and embed themselves in carpet until they are displaced by their artificial nemesis and/or replacement in the spring: Easter grass. 

But at least those items have size, and are relatively visible from any light angle to help facilitate their removal. Glitter is randomly and invisibly insidious.

In Sisyphussy effort, you think you vacuumed it all up or wiped it away with a damp cloth, then the morning sun hits your table at its low southern angle and suddenly glitter is everywhere. 

As I wear contact lenses, glitter holds a special threat for me. Excruciating pain. A little glitter in a contact lensed eye goes a long way. And you know you have a glitter problem when every excrement from kitty to baby shimmers in the light with speckles of festivity.

Sadly, it's hard to buy a Christmas card or gift wrap that doesn't have glitter crusting its outer surface, ready to spring loose all over your house like an alien mushroom bursting with spores. 

I get so I'm extremely cautious when I open a Christmas card envelope. Will this one be loaded with glitter? Should I even take it out of the envelope? Should I just eat it now or wait until its glitto-nano-particles mysterious waft into my turkey gravy later? 

I try to wedge open the card and read it at a slant. What's that say? "Merry Christmas, and may your New Year be happy and filled with constant vacuuming."

Ah, the season of giving... 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2378 SLOW Coffee

A while ago I commented about the interminable wait I experienced at a coffee shop dedicated to the craft of making the absolutely perfect cup of coffee. Let me say, kudos to them.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with really good personal service is being second in line. 

I guess I was just being optimistic. Because a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee had Comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Fred Armisen encountering even worse. They went to Portland. 

Portland is, apparently, the epicenter of the handcrafted personal service movement. Or perhaps I should say the Service Lovingly and Organically Wrought movement. SLOW.

The Seinfeld show even had an animated graphic on the screen called a Hiptster Wait-o-meter. Their coffee took 7 minutes and 5 seconds to prepare. And they were first in line. A similar experience at a Portland food cart took 14 minutes and 23 seconds. 

Obviously, Portland is the city of the young. The anti-fast food movement is predicated on good philosophy to be sure, individuality, quality, attention to detail, but all of that requires something us old baby boomers have too little of -- time.

I like a good cup of coffee, but I also like to have time during my coffee break to enjoy it. 

Not that the furniture they put in coffee snob shops encourages actually sitting and enjoying the brew they so lovingly and organically wrought. To prevent other hipsters from plugging in their devices and batteries, and camping for the day, hipster cafes have had to resort to fast food restaurant tactics. No electrical outlets, tiny tables, and hard chairs.

Still, the experience is perfect for time-on-their-hands young folks, with their heads bowed anti-socially over their smartphones anyway, as they inch closer to the front of the line. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2377 Fowl Discharge

It's usually around Thanksgiving that most Americans encounter a relatively whole bird creature that they're about to devour. Gone are the days when little Billy was sent into the backyard to behead one of the farm chickens and hand it over to Ma to pluck and fry for dinner.

Turkey looks kind of whole and its body cavity often contains mysterious bits identifiable as having once come for the turkey body. Necks and organs, like liver and kidneys, affectionately known as giblets. As for chicken, these days most folks buy that in a bucket. 

So where do the other chicken parts go? In a recent issue National Geographic had a graphic on it. 90% of US chickens are cut into pieces before they hit the market. But American chicken tastes are kind of bland. In order to utilize the whole chicken and get complete chicken sell-through profits a lot of stuff is exported.

Not to mention the political benefits of a little chicken diplomacy.

China, for example, imports 118,980 tons of chicken wings, although the buffalo wing craze domestically has clipped some of those overseas revenues. 

Indonesia imports some 210,000 tons of feathers to use, which they grind up for animal feed and use as plastic fortifiers. I love feather-fortified plastic. Great for toy airplanes.

South Africa is a big importer of chicken viscera. Again, ground up and used for fertilizer. Also for pet food. "Fifi? Would you like some chicken viscera?"

Russia gobbles up over 2 million tons of leg quarters. Apparently, they got a taste for them during the food shortages of the USSR breakup. The first President Bush donated chicken legs to help. Russians now call them Nozhki Busha. Or Bush's Legs.

Talk about an historical accomplishment. Or is that legacy...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2376 Gas Ratings

I get most of my news at the Google news page. As I know they're tailoring it to my preferences I make a special effort to sample the news delicacies from many different sources, hoping by that strategy to make sure I'm staying in touch.

Online news headline writing has evolved to encourage folks to click on a particular story, using intriguing words and then making sure it tails off after a few words so you have to click the link just to get the whole headline.

So I was worried about the trends Google would try to establish yet intrigued enough to click the link when I saw the headline, "Nine things you didn't know about farts." I prefer the term flatulence but as I'm reporting the facts here I believe I'm allowed the fleeting use of the word fart.

Anyhow, according to researcher and Gastroenterologist Purna Kashyap, poofs are a very normal part of the digestive process in that they're a healthy result of your gut microbiome digesting carbohydrates and making various nutrients available to your body. The bacteria doing the digesting give off gas as a byproduct. 

They digest mostly complex carbohydrates. And outgas a certain normal volume in a 24-hour period. One of the interesting factoids discovered is that an average human flatates about a liter and half of gas a day. Compare that to a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew. 

Another interesting fartoid is that 99% of said flatulence is odorless.  It's only when you eat sulfur-containing food like beans and broccoli that elevator sharing becomes a dangerous event. The noxious smell comes from the hydrogen sulfide our bacterial friends produce. 

BTW --This was all tested by having research subjects wear gas-tight Mylar pantaloons. 

Science is a gas.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

2375 TV Watchee

Perhaps 2014 will go down as the year of the hacker. From department stores to banks to the malicious things inflicted upon Sony it seems as if the hacker folks of the world are flexing their mental muscles.

Since we're all so interconnected, we're all vulnerable. Worried about your real identity? Here's another area of concern. Even Sony's Playstation network has been hacked, so it's entirely possible our virtual identities are also at risk. Damn, my avatar hates technology too.

So, knowing that Playstation consoles can also stream regular video, a recent story I read about Netflix got my foil hat twirling.

The article started out telling about the Netflix show House of Cards and how successful it's been but was actually about why that was so: Because Netflix harvests data to create programming. Hackable data I might add. The most interesting phrase in the article was that "streaming is a two-way street."

Netflix uses that data to not just study what you watch, but how you watch it. It can tell whether you fast-forward through certain parts or if you pause the show for some reason. Creators of Netflix programming use this data to determine things as basic as color palettes and scenery. 

This feeds into today's biggest data lie: That you only like things like you liked before. 

Whether news aggregators tailor your news sources to news like you read before, or Pandora offers you playlists based on what you heard before, Big Data is slowly narrowing the range of your experience and robbing you of the surprise of the new. Surprises that psychologists say are absolutely necessary for mental flexibility and growth, and warding off early Alzheimer's.

Surprises I like. 

Except when I find out my TV is watching me.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

2374 Neckst

We've all heard of various problems associated with smartphone usage. Traffic and pedestrian accidents and sometimes deaths associated with folks dividing their attention between their phones and the harsh reality of reality. Carpal thumbal syndrome from tweeting too much. Now scientists have confirmed a different hazard.

Text neck.

Yep, text neck, a physical condition that can result in cramps, pinched nerves, herniated discs, and early degeneration of the spine. 

From Generation X to Degeneration Necks, oh the perils of technology. The techs sending texts wreak wrecks to their necks. 

If it's not one thing it's another. Like the whole world is a pain in the you know what. First we had to worry about taco neck. Now we have to worry about text neck. Massage therapists and chiropractors take note. Smartphones are calling business your way. 

Here's the basis of the scientific theory. The human head generally weighs 10 to 12 pounds. That's fine when you're balancing it on the top end of your backbone. But when you tilt it forward you increase the force and stress exerted on the spine. 

Using computer models, researcher and back surgeon Kenneth Hansraj measured the amount of that force as the head bends forward. We're assuming he used good posture instead of hunkering over his computer.

He determined that a head bowed at a mere 15 degrees adds about 27 pounds of pressure to the spine. When the angle increased to 60 degrees, which is fairly typical of a person looking down at his or her smartphone, the strain swells to 60 pounds, which is comparable to the weight of four bowling balls. 

Dude! Four bowling balls on the end of my neck! That kind of pain is not up my alley. Is there an app for that? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2373 Echo-Illogical

I know I'm more obsessed with privacy than your ordinary paranoid. Maybe because my big brother and I shared a bedroom when we were growing up and he'd always eavesdrop on me. When he told his friends, it'd get all over school.

So whenever I hear about new spying technologies it bugs me. Like Twitter's recent announcement that their app would now be able to rove around your smartphone and check out your other apps. So it could tailor a more pleasant advertising experience for you, of course. They're so thoughtful.

Twitter isn't the first at this. Other apps have been doing it secretly for years. Free Flashlight apps are the worst. They don't just light up your room, they shine a little light into the dark secret corners of your smartphone too.

Remember, if it's free, you're not the customer, you're the product.

So when I saw Amazon's new Smart Speaker innovation for the home I naturally got suspicious. It's called The Echo. And its job is supposedly to act like a home Siri, ready to answer questions, provide news updates, and set personal reminders. 

It uses far-field microphones to pick up distant voice commands. So you can say, "Remind me to buy some Cheetos," or "What's a hen weigh?" while you're standing across the room. Amazon says you just need to utter the word Alexa and it'll turn itself on. It'll adapt itself to your preferences too. And, oh yeah, it's connected to the cloud. 

You know, the cloud that got hacked for nude celebrity pictures. The one that hackers used to bring down Sony. And NSA and the Russians use to remotely turn on computers. 

How convenient. For only 200 bucks you can voluntarily bug your own home.

Big Brother's going like this...

America, ya gotta love it. 

2372 Sock and Roll

From time to time I find myself using phrases that have become passé while I wasn't paying attention. Words that are so old younger folks look at me with a blank stare when I say them. The blank stare says a lot itself, as it seems to include their silent thoughts that I am old and out of touch.

Take, for instance, the term "sock hop." Many young folks haven't had to encounter it in any real way, but I come from an era when we actually went to said shoeless celebrations.

Sock hops were, simply, school dances. They came about because Junior Highs and High Schools needed a large place in which to hold their school authorized parties. That place was the gym. The gym, unfortunately, at least for ordinary footwear and dancing purposes, had a polished and waxed hardwood floor for the basketball players. A floor that could, we were told, be ruined by hard-soled shoes.

So your choices, should you wish to go to such a dance, were to wear either tennis shoes, which was what we called cross-trainers in those days, or socks. The scuff making, hard leather, black, shiny, and pointy-toe shoes favored by beboppers were pedestra non grata.

Amusingly, and somewhat ridiculously, for formal dances girls dressed in their prom finest had to shuck their elegant high heels in favor of bare nylons or tennis shoes. The boys usually settled for black socks. For the regular fun dances, held after football or basketball games, we all wore thick white gender-neutral gym socks. 

As far as I recall none of us actually hopped, though the old chaperones, with sour spasms of disapproval clenching their lips, may have characterized our teenage gyrations as some sort of animalistic leaping, bounding, and/or hopping.

Ah, youth.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2371 Merry Christmas Tree

I know you've heard about the War on Christmas, that rallying cry about the loss of traditional values in the holiday season.

I'm worried about the war on Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving Thursday was eaten by Black Friday. Kind of like the Grinch that stole Christmas, except it stole Thanksgiving instead. 

Seriously, family time is pretty limited in this around-the-clock working-two-jobs kind of world we live in. Is it a good idea to take one of the few traditional family time holidays left and truncate it so some parts of the family have to run off and shop and other parts of the family have to run off and work the retail stores to wait on them? 

"Yeah, we had great family time on Black Thursday. I bought a 50% off doodad from Uncle Frank. Man what a jokester he is. He asked me which half I wanted off, the doo or the dad."

And forget about the War on Thanksgiving. And the War on Christmas. How about the War on Christmas Trees? I thought about that recently when I saw an ad for Scentsicles. 

Scentsicles are pungent little ornaments you hang on your artificial tree that smell like real trees. So when you set up the environmentally safe artificial tree, it can now smell like you hacked down and butchered a real one.

And hacked down is right, the War on Christmas Trees this time of year takes thousands of good carbon eating trees out of the wild woods. I'm not talking about responsible and the beneficial managed Christmas tree farms. 

Hey, if the President can pardon a Thanksgiving turkey, why can't he pardon the White House Christmas tree? Let's leave it in the woods, capturing carbon for all, for a happy new year.   

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

2370 Butting Heads

'Tis the season for raging opinions on what's important for the holiday season. A time when most religions call for extra tolerance and many of their followers become more intolerant.

So in some ways I should be heartened by the fascination some folks have with the Kardashians. It keeps them out of trouble, I suppose. To follow with near-religious zeal the staged and sordid lives of manufactured celebrities whose only contribution to society is their own narcissism is its own reward, and/or punishment.

Not in the category of ascetics who used to flog themselves with barbed whips while they wore hair shirts, but certainly the psychological equivalent. 

And narcissism is definitely the new religion, with selfies galore littering the interweb and tweets and Instagram and Facebook pictures causing hackable clumps in the cloud to rain destruction on all and sundry.

So it wasn't much of a surprise that Kim Kardashian's recent hope to "break the internet" with her nude photoshoot in Paper magazine generated so much digital proliferation. On the “hope for humanity” side, it was positive that more people posted on Twitter about the Philae probe landing on a comet with 479,434 tweets. What wasn't too hopeful was that in the same 24-hour period KK's naked protruding posterior got 307,782 tweets.

So basically, that's only 172,000 more people that had some sense of perspective.  Still, if 35% more total tweeters see a robotic mission that lasted ten years and took an incredible amount of planning, execution and precision as being more important than a naked set of buttocks there's hope for this world yet. 

Then again, there's something a little odd, and a little scary, about posting pictures of people's posteriors. Might be fine on Twitter.

Butt on Facebook?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2369 Pixel Nation

There's no doubt we've become inextricably linked with our technology. If the Borg doesn't exist yet in terms of hardware, it's certainly there in terms of software. When you see the addictive behavior evidenced by folks and their smartphones it's only obvious.

So why? I've long maintained the fascination of smartphones is in the sparkle factor. Like crows, we're attracted to the shiny object of the small TV screen. But it seems to work with people I know who are not so ADHD too. Or in this case ADHDTV. One of my colleagues, Chris, could've captured the underlying culprit. 

Pixels are the new Prozac.

I think he has a point. Smartphones and Pads are our pixilated pals. They are there for us like a drug. Triggering our endorphins in pleasure when we get a little ping telling us someone has texted, emailed or tweeted.

The pseudo-connectedness no doubt opens up our oxytocin gland too. Spreading the secretions of comfort and companionship throughout our brains and bodies.

Who needs Prozac when the tiny vibrations of a phone in your pocket can let loose all those fine feel-good natural chemicals in your neural network? 

And when today's technology has a malfunction, watch out. Our dependency shows immediately. I lost my email for a few days recently and found out how much. It was like I was sitting on my hands and my hands had restless leg syndrome. 

My friends and relatives were worried. I actually got live human phone calls from people asking me if my email was broken when some of them got kicked back. The emails not my friends. 

Later I got asked, in a very concerned way, "How's your email? Is it okay?" Like I'd had a heart procedure or something. 

Society is addicted to pixels. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

2368 Roget's Trove

From time to time a word will get stuck in my mind and the resulting backup and blockage to my stream of consciousness forces me to discover it's mysterious origins and how it ended up getting buried in our language.

I encountered such a word the other day. It was "trove." What snagged on the splintery mizzenmast of my brain was the fact the we apparently never see the word "trove" used with anything other than its companion word "treasure." It's rare that we see a trove of oranges, or weasels. It's always a trove of treasure or a treasure trove. 

So I turned to the etymology dictionary to see what I could dig up. Turns out trove means "found." It comes from the French trove' which is the past participle of trover meaning "to find." 

So treasure trove means treasure found, as in a hiding place, or unburied from a hole. As such treasure was often found in quantities, events eventually retro-morphed the word into meaning something like "hoard." We now use it to mean that. A treasure trove is a hoard of treasure, and often, of course, with piratical and redundant connotations. "Yarr, matey, it's good to finds me a treasure trove." "Finding a trove" being a bit repetitive, even for a pirate. Yarr.

Speaking of treasure, as is often the case when I look up one word, I discover and learn something about a bonus word. In this case the word "thesaurus." Apparently it's the Latin word for treasure. So when you pick up a copy of the famous Roget's Thesaurus you are actually getting Roget's Treasure. 

I wonder if on his travels in the sea of language looking for that trove of words he flew a flag called the Jolly Roget. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

2367 Beanie

Part of my bag of DNA is the characteristic of wanting to plumb into the mildly amusing minutiae of life. By amusing I don't mean hilarious, as these essays have proven over the years, but a mild relief from the otherwise crushing boredom of existence.
So I reflect on things like beanies. 

I was at a running event recently and the organizers were handing out souvenir caps to the volunteers. And they were calling them beanies. Which I found notable in that they were knit caps. When, I wondered, did the term beanie come to mean knit cap? 

In my callow youth, beanies were woven cloth caps, round, with triangular panels. Cartoon characters who were meant to indicate naiveté or nerdity were drawn wearing such a beanie, often with a nonsensical propeller sticking from the top. Perhaps because college freshmen of the time, or fraternity pledges, were forced to endure the indignity of a beanie.

Knit caps were called knit caps. Sometimes we called them ski caps. The Canadians called them tuques. Or so we found out when the characters Bob and Doug hit the television airwaves. Bob and Doug swilled beer and adorned themselves with tuques. Some with poms on the top, what the Brits call a bobble hat.

Navy folks, and now The Edge, had a streamlined version, often in black, known as a watch cap. We called beanies "stocking caps" as well, as they sort of looked like someone had a giant stocking on his head.

Turns out "beanie" comes from British Crown countries other than Canada. Perhaps because you wear it on your British bean. To complete the minutiae, other names include sock cap, toboggan, burglar beanie, wooly hat, chook or snookie.

Apparently I'm the only one who calls it a head sweater.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

2366 Wrong Texter

Seems like the more technology we get, the greater the opportunity for error. I'm not talking about just the big things, like when your email server servers decide to service their service.

Those kinds of things are endurable, though barely, even though you know the I.T. guy you complained to hours ago is sitting at his distant keyboard playing World of Warcraft and using his customer service politeness manual to prop up his Cheetos. 

Perhaps things would work better if we were allowed to tip our server.

I'm actually talking about the mundane error of calling a wrong number. In the early days, it was fairly obvious that that was what you'd done. The wrong person answered the phone, you realized your error, mumbled a courteous apology, and were on your way.

Then the phone answering machine "improved" that technology. Again, you could tell pretty quickly who you'd accidentally called and could either hang up, or apologize if you didn't want to keep them wondering from whom the mysterious call originated.

Then the anonymous answering machine improved things worse. "The person at 555-555-5555 is not available, please leave a message." That could be risky, so you left a message to someone, hoping it was the right one, or hung up.

Then we got what I got the other day. My first wrong-texter. Some woman sent me an intimate text about her and her daughter testing negative for something and her not letting her daughter go over to another teenager's house again and so on.

And she had no idea she'd missed a digit or two when she texted my wrong number with this very personal message.

When it comes to magnifying human error, technology is great!

Hope I never get a wrong-texter from Anthony Weiner...

America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

2365 Nayo Maze

Sometimes you wonder about the larger corporations. On the one hand they do a lot of good. Like Boeing has a building at its plant in Washington that's so big you could put all of Disneyland and California Country inside it. Lots of folks working there. And they certainly boost the local economy.

Then there's Hellman's Mayonnaise. Their corporate parent, consumer goods giant Unilever, is suing a small San Francisco startup called Hampton Creek for unfair competition. Like an elephant suing a mouse for being able to fit into a mouse hole. 

Because Hampton Creek has found a little product niche it can slide into that Unilever has apparently overlooked. Vegan condiments. The suit in question alleges that the small company, whose spreadable condiment is named "Just Mayo," is unfairly misleading the public with that name as their product contains no eggs and is therefore not mayonnaise. 

The Food and Drug administration requires products marketed as mayonnaise to have "egg-yolk containing ingredients." "Just Mayo" makes their spreadable product out of yellow peas instead of eggs to promote a cholesterol-free plant based alternative. 

Hampton Creek maintains nothing is wrong as they do not use the term mayonnaise. Just the term "Just Mayo" in their name. And it is, as you can tell, indeed just "Mayo." 

Nothing wrong with the term Mayo itself. Perhaps it refers to a company founder, like Walter Mayo. Or it's a clever cutesy way of saying the month of May. Maybe a reggae interpretation thereof. "Deyo, it's the month of Mayo..." By the way, Hampton Creek also sells nothing with a creek in it.

Let's hope the lawsuit fails. It could set a dangerous precedent. Not sure I'm ready to have my iPhone or computer contain an actual Apple. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

2364 E-Bull

I read a passionate article about how us folks in the US are overreacting to the Ebola threat. Which is ironic. So much of the hype about the threat of Ebola has come from the media whipping folks into a frenzy of fear about this deadly disease. And now the media is doing stories about the frenzy itself that they actually caused with their hyperbole? Or is that hype-ebola?

Let's face it, to the ordinary person a few months ago, Ebola sounded like e-coli, a threat sure, but a manageable one. Even more innocuous, it reminded one of some kind of online bowling game. "Dude, I won 40 bitcoins in an e-bowler competition!"

Until the media got involved, it didn't measure up to real threats, like the damage done to humanity everyday by the ravages of malaria or typhoid, or obesity.

Then there was and is the hype of being "Ebola free." One country in West Africa was the first to declare itself "Ebola free" when the last known person with the disease died or moved away. Likewise a couple of weeks ago the US declared itself "Ebola free," which seemed an empty boast, as the only Ebola victim we had most recent to the declaration was flown in voluntarily for treatment. 

To put the hype in perspective, the Washington Post published a comparison. Given current infection rates, Americans have, roughly, a 1 in 3,934,300 chance of dying from Ebola. They have a far greater chance of being killed by an accidental discharge of a firearm, 1 in 6,492. 

For those of you who can't sleep at night for worry of Ebola, worry about this: You have a greater chance, 1 in 983,574, of having your pajamas catch on fire. 

So where's the media hype about flaming pajamas?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

2363 Wormen

Recent research on the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" mystery has discovered some differences that are really down to earth. At least if you consider roundworms earthy.

Yes, roundworms, scourge of dogs and best friend of scientists, since they make it very easy to study certain things. This is because their simple nervous system can be plumbed for clues into the higher animal kingdom.

Earlier studies had shown that female roundworms prioritize getting food over mating, whereas males would leave a food source to find a mate. Even if that meant they might starve to death as a result.

Ah, love.

Perhaps this is the origin of taking your date to dinner and buying her candy. Or the ability of males to do really self-destructive and stupid things to get in a prone position. 

In any event, to further prove this observation, scientists used new technology to genetically modify male roundworms so they were more like females and proved conclusively that they spent more time eating and less time mating. 

They probably could have saved the money on all that expensive technology and just arranged for the roundworms to be married for about five years.

Naturally, human behavior is a lot more sophisticated than roundworms, the key scientist in the study cautioned, what with cultural factors and a fully developed brain and all. Unspoken was the reality that you look for research money where you can, and hey, you gotta feed the kids. 

Not sure how accurate an assessment this is though. Because the other scientific reality is females of the roundworm species are actually hermaphrodites and able to fertilize themselves. That being the case, why would they want to leave a food source to seek out a mate. 

They already are one. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

2362 Cola Decrease

There was a time when the soda pop industry portrayed themselves as the key to energy and vitality. A certain soft drink claimed the whole baby boomer generation. Another wanted to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. And while they were at it buy one another a soda. The cola wars were about purveying peace.

That was then and this is now. Story after story has the soft drink makers against the wall for causing the obesity epidemic. Too much sugar causes obesity. Too many artificial sweeteners trick the body into causing obesity. What's a poor soda pop maker to do? 

Now there's another blow. Scientists have determined that sugary soda causes premature aging. Yep, they speed up the aging process.

The researchers determined this by looking a test subjects' telomeres, those end caps on their chromosomes that shrink with age. A test of 5300 Californians found that those who drank more sodas generally had shorter telomeres. 

Those who drank 20 ounces of soda a day, far less than a 64-ounce Big Gulp, had telomeres reflecting an additional 4.6 years of aging. That's approximately the same effect smoking has on one's telomeres. Good news for diet soda drinkers, there was no change in telomeres there. Nor from fruit juices. The effect was true independent of weight gain. Skinny sugary soda slurpers had shorter telomeres too. 

It used to be one drink maker said their product had a lot to give and you've got a lot to live. Now, apparently, not as much to live as they had hoped. As for it's cola war competitor --- bottom line boomers, if you'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, you'd better hurry.

You just had your plans shortened by a half decade. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2361 Love Statistics

Statistics surround us. It's as if we can't express ourselves without numbers to back it up. 75% of people are more likely to use false statistics to bolster their argument.

It makes things seem so sad. Like the statistic I heard on the radio that said 40% of new marriages involve at least one spouse who's divorced from a previous marriage. On the one hand that seems like a hopeful statistic; these folks are picking up their broken hearts and moving on with their lives, giving the proposition of marriage another yes vote.

Then you hear the statistic that marriages involving someone who was married before are twice as likely to end in divorce. And even more likely if one of the parties was divorced more than once. Again, could be a hopeful statistic. The person who has successfully completed more than two marriages now knows he or she doesn't have to settle for less and can get by just fine as a single person.

Or is that singleton? Why does singleton sort of sound like simpleton. 

I read another marriage statistic the other day that put a more modern spin on things. Married couples who meet online are three times more likely to divorce than those who meet face to face. Online daters are also 28% more likely to split from their partners in the first year. Oops. Unfortunately, it's harder to divorce people than unfriend them. 

So much for all the exhaustive questionnaires of "find-my-perfect-mate-dot-com" sites. Turns out meeting in a bar ain't so bad after all. Go beer goggles.

Forget the numbers. There's still something to be said for heart, instinct, and gut reactions. Especially if you feel good about yourself. Nothing like dating a new someone when you're feeling 100%. 

America, ya gotta love it.

2360 Vegetile Dysfunction

I was reading about some interesting advances in products for vegans recently. I must say, the movement is really catching on. And not just because nude models are willing to put a little skin in the game.

I think part of its success is people like the idea of sustainability, and it seems like the vegan movement means less domestic animals to raise, feed, and slaughter with all the petrochemical global warming resources that entails. Then again, there's no free lunch, vegan or otherwise, so I'm not sure.

Take some of the vegan products I read about. One was a BCBG Max Azria vegan leather top. The copy said "A sweet blush tone takes the edge off this boxy faux-leather tee." Sounds captivating and oh so saucy.

But really, faux-leather? Vegan Leather? Didn't we used to call this Naugahyde? Oh sure, it's not Naugahyde, but it's from the same family. Can the new Naugahyde be chic? What's next, a hip new hairdo called a mullet?

Then there's Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar. Yes, there's a makeup company called Obsessive Compulsive. Me, I use Bipolar personal products. 

Anyhow, OCC's lip tar softens your lips all day, animal cruelty free, with peppermint and hemp oils. Hemp huh? (Not to be used by vegan smokers in most states...)

Then there's the Wonderfelt coat by Vaute Couture. Vaute being a combo of vegan and haute. It's made from recycled pop bottles. Which, finally, is good. All the other faux-Naugahyde-leather is made from petrochemical sources, so they're not as carbon neutral as you’d hope. 

Still, you gotta like all the advances they're making in vegan offerings. And not just in wearable products. In the accuracy of food taste simulation too. I like the new vegan veal.

It's made from very young tofu...

America, ya gotta love it.