Thursday, May 07, 2015

2461 Shigella Shake

The world of rock and roll offers up interesting takes on our language sometimes.  I was reminded of that the other day when I read of the emergence of a drug-resistant form of the bacteria that causes what’s erroneously called Montezuma's revenge.  Dude, ease up on Mexico, the disease is linked to traveling to foreign lands generally.  The bacterium is known scientifically by the name Shigella.

I'm not entirely sure how to pronounce it but Shih-GELL-ah seems right.  When you look at the way it's spelled, s-h-i-g-e-l-l-a-, it could easily be SHIH-guh-lah.  Which, you gotta admit, sounds like one of those Thousand Dances in the Land Wilson Pickett sang about.  Right up there with the watusi and the boogaloo. 

Not least because shigella causes various unpleasant symptoms, among them muscular cramps and spasms, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  So going to a foreign land and dancing the fox trots is not out of the question. 

I've also learned from Lorde, teen phenom from down under, that the pronunciation of a word can shift if you need it to.  And I can appreciate that.  Tone and meter sometimes require screwing up the actual language.

Lorde does it in the song Team to the word "reveled."  Which she pronounces rah-VELLed.  Unless she's talking about hair shampooing being the cause for celebration.  Then again, it’s quite possible Reh-VELL is how they say REH-vel down under in the billabong, Mite.  G'day.

The worst rock and roll word screw up I've ever heard is in the old Rod Stewart song, "I was only joking."  Perhaps he was, when he sang about his song being sung for "prosperity" instead of "posterity." 

He was right I suppose.  He did make money on the song. 

Even though you couldn't dance to it. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2460 Oddible

Do big companies not understand how words connect to alternate meanings?  It's like when I was a kid. I seem to remember the Hostess company, who'd had such a success with its marshmallow spongy-frosting Sno-Ball cupcake, trying to introduce a new color.  They were doing so well with the pink Sno-Ball. It was such a bad idea to try to market the yellow Sno-Ball.

So it is with Amazon.  Not long ago I was attempting to buy something online.  And I was a little dismayed.  Because Amazon has certain default settings for options.  Those selection buttons like "add to my cart," and "check Prime and get it by Tuesday," and "New" and "Used."

The item I was buying was a personal product.  Let's say toilet paper.  Amazon still had the "Used" button as a choice.  Eewww.  I clicked it and there was nothing there, thank goodness.  They've since changed it.  But they still have the button that says "New."  At this point why not just say "Buy"?  Even bringing up New makes you think of the other option.

In the book section, there’s another problematic option.  Because lots of folks like audio books.  And Amazon now gives you two choices.

One choice is just a regular old audio book like you buy at any bookstore.  The other one is a special audio book produced by Amazon.  Unfortunately, the brand name they've chosen for their product is Audible.  Not audible like you can hear the brand name.  The name itself is Audible.  You see the confusion. 

"Yep, I'd like to order an audible audio book."  I should hope so.  If it's non-audible its not a very good audio book is it?

Maybe it's a football thing.  I think Peyton Manning bought the audible book Omaha Omaha. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

2459 Sweatphone

We've heard before that it's highly likely human sweat contains pheromones, those personal chemicals that convey varying degrees of sexiness.  It certainly makes sense, most animals, from bears to bees, exude some sort of scent that sucks in the opposite sex. Why not humans?  We gotta procreate too.  Survival of the species and all that.

Great pick-up line in an off campus bar, "Want to study Darwin?"

Scientists now say that human sweat does even more.  It can communicate whether you are happy or sad.  Researchers gathered a group of men, and carefully vetted them to make sure they didn't have any psychological disorders, weren't smokers, hadn't used alcohol nor engaged in sexual activity recently, consumed smelly food, or had a serious workout. 

You know, ordinary people.

They had the men wash their armpits and wedge an absorbent pad in them.  Then the men watched movies, some happy, some scary, some sad. 

The researchers recruited 36 women, also with the aforementioned prohibitions of behavior, to smell those sweaty pads.

Why the men did the emoting and the women did the sweat smelling wasn't discussed in the research paper.  Either because women are better smellers and men are more smelly, or because women always get the sucky jobs in the male-dominated scientific and tech world, that's the way it went.

In any event, researchers concluded that happy films watched by the men were detectable as happy pads when the women smelled them.  One woman actually said she smelled fried green tomatoes.  Fear and negative emotion were also detectable. 

My conclusions.  Dad was right.  Dogs really can smell fear on you.  And two, how can we harness this in a smartphone?  Sweat communication!  Forget texting.  We can have scented sweat emojis. 


America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

2458 App-liance

I don't really want the internet of things the tech world is predicting.  That's where all of your household meters, appliances, and products communicate constantly with the web.  The idea of an appliance that talks to the cloud, or an app-liance if you will, is supposedly the next big thing.  

Amazon recently made a move in that direction with little product-specific stick-on buttons you stick to places around your house that automatically communicate with your smartphone when you're out of detergent or toothpaste or milk. 

Not sure the milk stick-on would stick out with all the magnets I currently have on my refrigerator.  They may be high tech, but they're still little buttons with product brandnames on them that bear an astonishing resemblance to refrigerator magnets.  My decor is eclectic already, I'm not sure festooning the entire house with refrigerator magnets would be an improvement.

And really, I don't want my detergent bottle to remind me to buy a new one.  That seems so demeaning and pitiful. Hanging around at the coffee shop, getting a vibration on my smartphone, thinking, "Oh cool, someone is texting me."  Then finding out it's my detergent bottle reminding me I haven't yet made my laundry purchase. 

There's some existential angst.  Talk about feeling friendless and isolated.  I only communicate with a detergent bottle.

It's like the digital message that scrawls across the readout area of my microwave.  "Enjoy your meal," it says.  I've always smirked condescendingly.  "Meal, huh?  It doesn't even know I only zapped a cup of coffee."  The internet of things will change that.  The message will probably read, "Enjoy your coffee, now on sale at Fred Meyer, shall I order right away?"

There's nothing that makes you feel more pathetic and alienated than being nagged by an appliance. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

2457 Tech-No

Despite what you may have picked up from these essays, I am not anti-technology.  Technology has its place, I'm just wary of technologies that, under the guise of helping ease our frustrations, actually supplant our connection with life.

That said, I'm not so good when it comes to even old technology.  Like I never give my car an oil change.  After all, my oil drips out and I have to replace it.  So I figure I'm just constantly giving it a very slow oil change.  One quart at a time.

Likewise my car has one of those automatic headlight turnoff features if I accidentally leave them on.  It takes about 6 hours.  Then my battery is dead for some reason.

So I shouldn't criticize this company I saw promoting their services in a video commercial.  They apparently provide cellular phone and data service and the commercial showed all the ways that could come in handy. 

The bad thing was the final scene in the ad.  They showed a father figure hooking up a tiny projector of some sort to a smartphone and streaming a movie on the inside of a tent.  The tent wall acted as a screen.

Then the point of view drew back so you saw the tent from the exterior.  The family in question was out camping.  It drew back even further and you could see the glowing tent, glowing because of the movie playing inside.  Sadly, the final scene also showed an incredible background of trillions of stunning stars in a heartbreakingly beautiful sky.  

Which the technology-addicted family inside was completely ignoring.  Because you know, we go camping to get away from it all.  And enjoy the wonders of nature. 

Or is that technology?  "Nature's boring Dad.  Can we stream a movie on our tent?"

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

2456 Pre-Disconnect

I worry that our society is suffering from a vast case of disconnectosis. That's when you use words that are disconnected from common sense.

Like in one of those emails I got from a car dealer the other day.  Periodically they send out reminders that it's time to come in and buy a car.  I'm okay with that, they don't overload my email inbox with constant suggestions for buying stuff I just bought because their algorithm told them too.  But the offer they offered me was a little odd.  The subject line said, "Top Pre-Owned Deals of the Month." 

Naturally I wondered.  How does one pre-own a deal? 

It was classic example of a word having an original meaning and being modified.  A car being a pre-owned vehicle, using pre-owned as an adjective, and now it's called a "pre-owned" as a noun.  When they use that modification in a different context it makes it sound like a nonsensical adjective.  A pre-owned deal.

Likewise the new term I heard, "teaser-trailer."  The studios and media are calling them that now.  Which is okay in one sense, I've complained for years that calling a film preview a "trailer" made no sense.  It really is a teaser. 

But calling it a teaser-trailer now seems repetitive.  Unless it's a subset of the whole film genre.  You have your film, and you have your trailer (which is actually a preview), and you have your teaser-trailer, which is actually a teaser of the real trailer they'll put out before they put out the actual film. 

I think I'll just wait for the DVD. 

Hey.  Maybe I can connect up to a deal on a pre-owned DVD.  One with all those special features, like the formerly distributed teaser-trailers. 

Formerly distributed teaser-trailers.  Are they called pre-runs? 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2455 Cheater Pan

The "smart everything" revolution, or as I like to call it, the "dumb people" revolution, has gone out of the fire and into the frying pan.


Because the newest in the smart gadget line-up is none other than a smart frying pan.  Don't burn your meals any longer because you forgot to turn down the heat.  Don't screw up a delicate recipe because you went one degree over or under a crucial simmer or boil decision.  The smart frying pan is for you.

New York City-based brother-sister combo Rahul and Prachi Baxi have invented a new product they call SmartyPans.  You know, for your smartypants phone.  It's bluetooth-enabled of course, which is nice since actual teeth will soon be involved in masticating the product of said SmartyPans. 

Also, it will be able to connect with your smartypants phone to access recipe apps, where you'll be provided with step-by-step cooking instructions.  Because you know, God forbid that you should read a recipe on a silly old-fashioned piece of paper.  You want to put your expensive extreme-heat sensitive phone right next to the frying pan.

The pan supposedly warns you if you need to adjust the temperature and uses built-in sensors to track both the weight and the temperature of the stuff in the pan.  It also uses that data to track caloric information and can sync with fitness apps to tell you if you're cooking something that will blow your diet. 

Inventor Rahul says it's like GPS for cooking.

Cool.  GPS can get you lost if your phone's battery runs out.  Now you have the chance to go hungry too.

In a related story, inventors have come out with a "smart hat."  It uses GPS to determine if your head is still attached to your shoulders.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2454 Sports Figures

We love our sports.  That's a good thing.  I was talking with a friend about it and we concluded that even though there are a lot more serious things in the world to worry about, we still need to indulge our sports passion.

That's natural.  Kind of a yin and yang thing.  The world is pretty ugly sometimes.  You need to balance yourself out from the onslaught of bad news.

That's why it's so sad when you hear bad sports stories.  Players involved in murders, or scandals.  What was supposed to balance out the sad has now become the sad.  What's a karma equalizer to do?

I read a little factoid that puts the whole thing in some sort of perspective.  Americans spent about $9 billion illegally gambling on the NCAA Tournament this year.  The tournament where not one original bracket survived the 3rd round.  That's $9 billion lost by my reckoning. 

That's some bad sports news.  But hey, here's the good.  That was significantly more than the $3.7 billion spent to influence the 2014 midterm elections. So at least we're willing to gamble on our sports figures more than we're willing to gamble on our elected officials.  Because that's what campaign contributions are in the larger scheme of things.  Money down on your horse to win the race.

Then again, the March Madness money was bet by 12.6% of our nation's population.  Only 0.2 percent of our fellow Americans actually made contributions to the elections.

It's obvious sports are more important to the rank and file.  Maybe because we think teams reward us more often than we think our elected officials do.  But maybe that's because we don't bet enough on candidates. 

Really.  Why do you think sports has such high caliber players?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

2453 Misappellation

I've written before about the tendency to jump to certain conclusions when you hear certain words.  Usually because the words themselves bring up mental associations that lead you down the bridle path.  Like that one.  When you hear it, it could mean bridle as in horses or bridal as in there's a wedding in the future.  Which metaphor works in which context?

So it was recently when I heard someone say he was going to throw something straight into the circular file.  Or perhaps he was going to arc it in.

In any event, it made me wonder, do we call it a circular file because trashcans are circular?  Or do we call it a circular file because what we normally throw directly into the trash are circulars? 

Another word that got my attention was the new flavor Starbucks is offering.  It's called Veranda.  Is it really so important to Starbucks to have Italian-sounding names that they're now naming drinks after parts of a house or yard?  Yeah, I'll have the Portico please, and I'll need room. 

Great.  Room for your room.  Can I have a Tall Lanai please; I'm expecting some basketball players later on.  Call me old-fashioned, but I guess I'm just not that up for ordering a drink that's named after a porch.

Finally, I heard that TV has a competition called the Cupcake Wars.  I'm told it's a cooking contest.  Though I suppose it could be clowns dueling it out with something other than pies. 

I'm just thinking it sounds weird.  The words cupcake and wars do not go together.  Like a soufflé skirmish.  Or a marzipan mêlée.  Too much soft for too much hard.  Like creampuff combat.  Or the Battle of Big Cotton Candy.

Best viewed while snacking on grapes of wrath.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

2452 Administrative Earth Day

If you like holidays, April had a great one in store for you this year.  On Wednesday, April 22nd there was a rare calendrical twofer.  Earth Day and Administrative Professionals Day fell on the same day.  Hallmark had to scramble to print up the cards.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Dash off a letter, Earth Day's for you.

By the way, not to be color anal retentive or anything, but aren't violets actually violet?  Seems to me violet is on the purple end of the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple rainbow thingie.

Of course Administrative Professionals do way more than dash off letters.  That's why they renamed the day from it's original appellation, Secretary's Day.  The term secretary was seen as somehow demeaning.  You know, like the Secretary of Commerce or the Secretary of Defense. 

I don't know though, maybe certain office holders would rather be called the Administrative Professional of State. 

But this combo date was great.  Especially if you're the Secretary of the Interior.  Think of the budget enhancement possibilities.  Or even better if you want to run a cost efficient business and have an administrative professional who is also a tree-hugger. 

That would be a good thing.  At least if you want to use less paper.  A conscientious environmentally conscious administrative professional would put the E in Eco, making sure that just about every document was an e-document.  Electronically insuring they cut down fewer trees just to print off reams of meaningless paperwork.  And putting more green in your pocket. 

So whether you're an eco-filing clerk or the bookkeeper for Greenpeace, this day was for you.

Roses they are pretty red, at least all that I have seen,
And they won't be brown and dead, if we keep the planet green.

America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2451 Polled Apart

I like reading those polls that various organizations do. Mostly because they're little windows into our culture. Or at least the culture of folks that answer polls. Having rarely taken the time to take a poll, and even more, actively avoided those instant polls that pop up in the flashing margins of internet surfing, I'm not sure any poll I read about afterwards has any validity whatsoever to the common person.

Or disturbingly, maybe it does.

Here are some I found worthy of note.

Only 38% of Americans approve of Obama's handling of Israel and only 37% approve of Netanyahu's handing of relations with the US. Disapproval, one piece of common ground they share. I'm sure peace isn't far behind. 

Speaking of disapproval, another US poll showed that Canada is the foreign nation we like best, scoring 92% favorability. Actually when poll respondents were asked how they would grade Canada, most replied, "Eh?"

Great Britain and France were second and third with 90% and 82%. Which I suppose makes sense, Britain being our most consistent ally and France being the home of not just wine but the originator of our fries. 

North Korea scored lowest, with only 9% favorability. My first thought was, "Great, look how low they are." My second thought was, "They still polled 9%?" How can they have nearly one out of ten people like them? Is this the percentage of Americans who never ever ever read the news? Or does Dennis Rodman have that many followers still? 

This final poll may offer a clue. 49% of Americans think that standardized testing in schools has done more harm than good. 20% said it has done more good than harm. 31% aren't sure. 

Actually, it turns out 31% said, "Is this a test?"    

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2450 Grass Trimmer

Sometimes things just sound funny.  On the face of it there's a level of normalcy, but because of the inherent concepts behind the words you just get a little hiccup in your brain waves.

Like the job I heard about the other day.  Bud Trimmer.  If you've known a lot of people in your life nicknamed Bud, you know what I mean.  It's like a very, very specific barber.  Talk about niche employment.

"Yeah, we got your Bud trimmer here, and your Buster trimmer in the second chair.  The third chair is the guy that does Hey You.  He's for walk-ins."

The bud trimmer job is actually for marijuana groomers.  It's their task to trim the tiny lower-in-THC leaves away from the premium bud. 

Must be fun sorting the work in the morning.  "Hey Smitty, I got mine picked out already, so this bud's for you."

Bud trimmers can start out at $15 an hour and have the opportunity of working up to higher paid jobs in the industry such as gardeners or concentrate makers.  The job itself is low stress and amounts to wielding a small pair of scissors and meticulously trimming away tiny things that stick out.  So if you're a poodle groomer, or OCD and always using cuticle shears to trim away dangling threads, mustache hairs, or hangnails, this is the job for you. 

There must be a shortage, because various marijuana processing employers are advertising to fill the positions.  I don't know about you but I'm thinking those bonsai tree people would be a great labor pool.  Just to fill the enormous amount of time between tiny tree trimming.

Apply today.  This is a very crucial part of the process for providing excellent quality.  Otherwise the product will go to pot.    

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2449 Namey Stuff

Names, names, names.  They mean so much, and help lead us in some many unexpected directions.

Like the other day.  My friend Ron and I were talking about his inability to find .22 caliber bullets.  "Too bad you can't get those online," I said.

"Not possible," he replied.

"What?"  I said.  "There's no such thing as Ammo-zon dot com?"

He laughed. "That would be great.  They could even deliver it using drones."

We thought we had the next big thing idea there for a bit, but like most good ideas, a search of the interweb showed someone else had already thought of it.  Oh well.

Another name someone else had already thought of was on this sign I saw.  It kind of reflects our changing ideas about things.  It was a sign over a wrecking yard.  You know the places, also called pick-a-parts and pick-and-pulls and junkyards.  Loaded with derelict autos in various stages of fluid dripping cannibalization.

This place summed up the new "going green" ethos.  It's not environmental blight and rusting junk anymore.  Because the place was named Auto Recycling.  Yeah!  Eco-Excellent. 

Although auto recycling does sound a little like a reposted selfie.

Finally, I saw an advertisement for a new product from Cheerios that seems to indicate they're making another push away from being a children's cereal and into the sophisticated healthy grains adult market.

Their new product is named Cheerios Ancient Grains.  Which is good, I suppose, as it invokes a dollop of the paleo craze with a dusting of foodie respect for indigenous eats. 

But I have a little cognitive disconnect.  Which is the new name for confusion.  Because I looked at a box at the supermarket.  Does it seem right that Ancient Grains Cheerios has a freshness date?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

2448 Whisker Pickin's

I went to a local supermarket recently and was struck by a number of things I found odd.

One thing was a little hanger hanging from one of those aisle hooks they have in supermarkets.  You know the ones, you'll be going down the nut and cracker aisle and there'll be a little hook on one side holding out a quantity of scouring pads, or mini-egg whiskers, or something totally unrelated to the merchandise close by.

This thing was called a "Nana Hanger."  Wow, I thought, poor grandma.  Or perhaps poor babysitter, because I couldn't for the life of me figure out what else something called a "Nana" hanger would do, except perhaps lynch a pesky mother-in-law.  Turns out it was for hanging ba-nanas.  To keep them up and away from other ethylene-producing fruit so they don't ripen so quickly.  And go black in a nanosecond.

Later I found myself accidentally wandering down the petfood aisle because I was looking for a can of tuna and was drawn in by the shapes of the containers. 

There I saw an odd catfood product.  It was called "Whisker Lickin's."  Ewww.  I can't imagine that sounds appetizing to any animal, much less a picky eating pussy cat.  Whisker lickin's.  Like slurping off the dried crustules on my mustache from that last fancy cupcake I ate with the frosting piled so high.  Or the giant muffin I ate from Costco.

Final odd thing was the peanut butter making machine they had, where you could grind your own nuts to extrude peanut butter.  Good, except the last person that ground and extruded his left a big peanut butter goober hanging out of the spigot of the machine. 

Looked like a larger version of my whisker lickin's from a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

2447 In a Glaze

I like that folks are so resourceful when it comes to naming days.  I don't just mean Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.   Or specially named holidays like Christmas or New Years.  Or fun ones like Mardi Gras or April Fools Day.  Or even Hallmark Holidays like Mothers Day and Grandparents Day.

Always interesting that mothers and fathers get a whole day to themselves but grandparents have to share a day.  I guess there aren't enough of them left to generate sufficient sales to redo a whole section of the store.

No, I mean days that give you good ideas, like International Talk Like a Pirate Day or National Coffee Cake Day.  Or the one I heard about on April 6th, Plan Your Own Epitaph Day.

What a great do-it-yourself thing to do.  People talk all the time about making pre-funeral arrangements.  Dispassionately and coldly deciding whether to be buried or cremated.  What plot you want to finish the story of your life.  Why not the words you want on your tombstone, or read at your funeral?

I already know what mine is.  I'd like my funeral to have pictures of all the wonderful times and family trips we had together with all my kids and all my divorced wives and have a big banner over the top that says: "It seemed like a good idea at the time." 

Then I'd like to be cremated.  But here's the cool thing:  Afterwards I'd like part of my ashes used to make a ceramic creation.  Like they did with Mt. St. Helens ash when it blew. 

I could be both the cremains and the vessel used to hold them.  Talk about a metaphor for my self-sufficient life.  Be your own urn. 

That would really make my day. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2446 Unpleasant Name

I like that our world both revolves and evolves.  It's like traveling down an old street you used to go to when you were a kid and seeing it completely transformed by new curbs and sidewalks and modern houses.

On the one hand it's progress.  Gone are the weeds and the trash on the gravelly pot-holed verge.  On the other hand it's totally strange and unfamiliar. 

I thought about that the other day when I passed a road sign that said, "26th Avenue."  Because it also had one of those extra road signs attached underneath it that said, "Formerly Pleasant Glade Road." 

Was this just a visible evolution of the naming process or something else? 

I'm not sure why cities change names and yet still post the old ones like that.  Is it to help old people find their way around?  Piloting their ancient and giant Oldsmobile Delta 88s without benefit of GPS, how are they going to know where they are if you suddenly change a street name on them?

Perhaps it's because the municipality wants to invoke an air of history.  The gravitas a community needs to help its branding and identity.  "Sure we were just incorporated in 1999, but look, we had really old roads way before then."

Or it could be that 26th Avenue sounds more modern.  After all, the Frenchy sounding "avenue" is so much more sophisticated than a dirty old "road." 

Or there may be another reason.  A perhaps more insidious one.  It could be that 26th avenue now has so much development there aren't any trees along it like there were in its primitive condition.  So it doesn't make sense to call it Pleasant Glade Road.

Because there's no longer a pleasant glade anywhere close. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2445 Quick Confusions

Words can be challenging sometimes.  And deceptive.  And confusing.  I'm glad I'm not an immigrant trying to learn the language.

Take that guy Don Quixote.  The fictional figure, not the immigrant.  The one that was also known as the Man of La Mancha.  He was the classic model for the sort of person who tilts at windmills and slays imaginary dragons.  The knight errant who errors in his judgment of things that are attainable.  Who fights the unbeatable foe, and goes where others dare not go, and dreams the impossible dream. 

You know, Quixotic.

Why do we pronounce his name Quixote with the "kee" and the "oh" sound, but pronounce his actions with the "quicks" sound, as if they're a bowl of Trix?  Kee-oh-tic is certainly sayable.  Or even Don Quicks-oh-tee.

But no.  We have to go confuse people to the quick for no reason whatsoever.  

Another confusion.  I wondered why they keep calling the wife of Prince William Kate Middleton.  Isn't she Princess Kate now?  Or at least Mrs. Tudor or whatever the royals' last name is?

I looked it up.  Her last name would be Mountbatten-Windsor, so I guess I understand the press's reluctance to use it.  Hyphens are in short supply and Mrs. Mountbatten-Windsor gets a lot of ink. 

Another confusion.  Because by "ink" I mean printing in the newspapers, not princess tattoos.  

The world moves on the meanings of words sometimes and shifts them underfoot so we slip on them. Like I was driving by one of those E-cig Vape places the other day and their sign said, "We have the latest Vaporizers available at the best prices!"

I wonder how many grannies are going in looking for a deal on an inexpensive machine to steam up their Vicks Vapo-rub. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2444 Washingday

One Wednesday a friend and I called it "hump day."  My friend had spent some time in Germany and, as I had taken some German classes, we discussed how the practical German language referred to Wednesday as Mittwoch.  That translates quite nicely into midweek.

The word Wednesday, it turns out, is from Norse origins.  It's a permutation of Wodansday.  Wodan being the king of all Norse gods.  Interestingly, he's not the only Norse god in our weekly line-up.

There's also Tuesday, which comes from the Old English Tiw, spelled T-i-w-.  But which originally came from the Norse god Tyr.  Tyr was a one-handed god associated with exhausting single combat.  Maybe that's why we use the term tired to say we're worn out.

Thursday comes from the Norse god Thor.  He of thunder-flinging, hammer-wielding, and Marvel Comics fame.  I think for some reason he's also the patron god of carpenters.

Friday comes from the Norse god Freya.  It was also the name for Venus in the Scandinavian languages.  She was the Nordic goddess of beauty and love, and the origin of the phrase, "Thank Goddess it's Friday."

Sunday we revert to English, but it was Sonntag in German, which was Sunnudagr in Norse.  Any way it's named after the sun.

Monday and moon day likewise. 

Odd that while many of our English words come from our German origins, suddenly when it comes to days of the week we revert to the language of Vikings.

Even weirder that on Saturday we completely shift gears. Saturday is named after the Roman god Saturn. He was the father of Jupiter, the king of the gods in the Roman pantheon. 

Perhaps it's because the Norse word for Saturday is laugerdagr, which means, literally, washing day.

Guess the Vikings could be practical too. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

2443 Hoedown

Every now and then a word will come up in conversation and I'll stop to think about it because it sounds a little funny.  Like the word hoedown.  Where the heck did that word come from?

On my way to the internet to check it out, various possibilities danced through my thoughts.  Did its origins involve some sort of gardening or farming implement?  Is it related to hootenanny in some way? 

I remember the Hootenanny show on TV when I was a young folk.  Like many of those shows of the era it led to similar productions.  In this case Shindig, if I recall.  Odd because "Shindig" sounds quite painful to the leg.  And "Hootenanny" calls to mind an owlish babysitter. 

Both of them were more folk than country music even though the word hootenanny definitely has a country folk feel to it.  Like yee-haw and hoop-de-doo.  Phrases you expect some chaw chewing rangy fellah to shout out when a good-looking cow wanders into the pasture.

So hoedown seemed like it was of similar origins.  The wiki-net said something not far off.  It was first a particular folk dance, and then it became synonymous with a dancefest generally. 

As far as what the dance looked like, the infoweb was not as forthcoming, although it did offer comparisons to other dances from the era, saying it was most likely related to a jig, reel or clog dance.  Somehow I never would have pictured a hoedown being similar to a clog dance.

A hoedown was also a dance with a succession of dancers trying to outdo each other for dancing supremacy.  Like a breakdance competition perhaps, or the Brooklyn boogie-ers from Saturday Night Fever.

Sadly, nowhere did there appear to be any garden hoes involved.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

2442 Misrepresented

I'm worried we may be on the brink of a communications disaster.  Caused by a seemingly innocuous thing.  We may be about to have a text-o-pocalypse because of, you guessed it, misinterpreted emojis.

If you are uninitiated, emojis are those little distorted happy faces you can add to your messages when you text on your smartphone.  They are not emoticons.  Emoticons are when you manipulate symbols on your keyboard to make approximations of faces or expressions.  Like a colon and an end parenthesis can make a smiley face.  Or a semicolon a winking smiley face.

Emoticons are fairly straightforward and hard to miscommunicate, as keyboard entries are universal.  Emojis, I have only recently learned to my consternation, are different depending on your phone's manufacturer.  They're even different between Facebook and your phone. 

I had a friend send me a text from her Samsung smartphone.  According to her dropdown list and the emoji itself, she also sent a "smirk."  When I received it, my Blackberry interpreted the "smirk" picture as a "huh" picture.  The emoji I saw was a face with a question mark coming out of its head. 

I know it's not world shattering but there's a big difference between a knowing smirk and a clueless huh.  Who knows what other emoji mismatches are out there?  Texting is a dicey way of communicating anyhow, as subtle nuances of meaning get lost in the terseness.  Do we want to now add outright misrepresentation of emoji faces? 

Her phone is Korean.  Mine is Canadian.  Emojis were originally Japanese.  Write your congressperson now.  It's obvious we need a universal emoji standard.  If not, I think we're going to stress quite a few relationships.  Leading people to feel lost, and hurt, and out of control.

They'll be having an emoji-nal breakdown.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

2441 Ex-asperating

Allow me a pet peeve if you will. It's the word, or I suppose more accurately the phrase, "et cetera."  You know.  The thing we abbreviate e-t-c-period.

Et cetera is Latin for "and the rest," and is what we say when there are more examples of things we could use to illustrate a point but really don't want to go to the effort to do so, or there are too many to do so, or we know full well our readers or listeners are going to get bored if we do so, et cetera.

My peeve? It is not pronounced "ex cetera."  Unless of course you are talking about a boring list of my ex-wives.

Now I know there are regional variations of certain words.  And I particularly know that one's upbringing contributes to how we pronounce things.  But the other night I was completely appalled by a woman who was the keynote speaker to a large group using said inexcusable rendition of et cetera.

Maybe it was because the woman in question took great pains to inform the audience members how she had 3 --- count 'em 3 --- Masters degrees and a PhD as well.  At what point, I wondered, in that vast vaunted amount of education did she not see or hear the correct pronunciation of et cetera?

I suspect it was her putting on airs about her educational achievement that put me on edge.  I like to think I'm a pretty easygoing guy languagewise.  Language is a living thing and stuffy grammarians often desiccate the world around them with their dry, sterile, and intolerant pontifications.  For shizzle.

But if you spend a lot of time bragging about your education, you better be sure you're prepared to use it with wisdom, knowledge, competence, et cetera.

America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

2440 Director's Cut

A couple of tag ends today.  Leftovers from other ideas I wrote about but couldn't squeeze into earlier essays because time was too short.  Mental clips from the editing room floor.

Yep, this is America Ya Gotta Love it, the director's cut.

One of the ideas had to do with an essay I did recently on tipping.  How we tend to tip more at coffee bars because a real 18% tip for a $2.29 drink is just 41 cents and that seems a little cheapskatey. 

But the other thing about tipping in a coffee bar is they have conditioned us to tip before we actually get the drink.  Which I think is odd.  Because a tip should be conditional. 

I was brought up to believe a tip was an extra reward for exceptional service, not an obligation to pay because an employer chose to make his employees exist on slave wages. 

There's another director's cut.  Slave wages.  Meant to mean really low wages.  But, of course, slaves make no wages at all.  Because they are, um, slaves.

Anyhow, if you pay the tip first it's more demeaning to both parties.  Demeaning to the payer because he's forced to fork over whether his coffee drink has a perfect leafy thing poured into his foam or not.  And demeaning to the barista because it's more like a bribe, or even worse, like the coin paid to the organ grinder monkey to make him dance.

Another cut.  Recently I mentioned a weird ingredient listed in Starbuck's coconut milk: "Coconut water concentrate."  How does one concentrate water?  Somehow make water less watery?  If they meant less of the coconut part, why not say coconut solids? 

Perhaps the coconut water concentrate contains shards of ice.

Cutting indeed.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

2439 Coconutty

I was in a Starbucks recently and noticed a huge sign proclaiming they were now offering drinks made with Coconut Milk made exclusively from Sumatran Coconuts. Naturally I was intrigued. Or as it turned out, unnaturally.

The intrigue was because I didn't know whether there was something special about Sumatran coconuts. I figured there must be because Starbucks was making such a big deal about it. Were Sumatran coconuts more eco-friendly? Hard to believe, if they were transporting the milk all the way from Sumatra. Lotsa jet fuel involved...

Were the Sumatran coconuts full of more milk, with less pesticides, and harvested with sustainable, non-monoculture, coconut forestry techniques? Not so much. Did they take better care of their laborers? Hard to verify.

As it turns out, most of these points were virtually moot anyhow, since Starbucks coconut milk has just a tiny amount of actual coconut milk, wherever it came from. 

The ingredients list lists the first and primary ingredient as water. Then coconut cream, cane sugar, tricalcium phosphate, coconut water concentrate, natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, gellan gum, corn dextrin, xanthan gum, and guar gum.

All I can say is, for a product whose major purpose is to avoid the allergens of milk or soy, Starbucks sure put in a lot of questionable additives. As much as non-dairy creamer.

Carrageenan, particularly, is known to cause gut inflammation and distress not unlike the allergic reactions coconut milk is meant to prevent. And with the addition of three, count 'em three, gums -- gellan, xanthan and guar -- you'd think the product was manufactured by Wrigley.

But the nutty thing is, or perhaps I should say coconutty thing: I wouldn't have even checked if Starbucks had just had a small subtle sign saying, "coconut milk now available." 

Coco cuckoo. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

2438 Communication Breakdown

As I reflect on the many ways we have to communicate these days I can't help but wonder if it's actually progress.

Take tweeting and texting.  I guess I understand texting.  Many times phone service is sketchy and you have no choice if you want a message to get through without dropouts or garble.  Many is the miscommunication and subsequent crisis that has come from a broken up cellphone conversation.

It's like cellphones are the 60s come back to haunt us.  "Turn on. Tune in. Drop out."  And that drop out thing is just plain crazy, dude.

But texting has its own problems.  Among them that people are generally poor writers and can't get their ideas across without, if not miscommunicating, badly communicating.  Although certain text shorthand thingies, like using the two letters u-r- to refer to both y-o-u-'-r-e- and y-o-u-r- are quite good at side-stepping the whole grammar and usage issue.

Twitter is even worse, as it adds a certain narcissism to the whole process.  All my followers want to hear about me and my thoughts.  In badly written English.  And a terse snarky undertone. 

Not to mention Twitter bullying, the only recently banned Twitter revenge porn, Twitter hoaxes and associated Twerrible Twaits of humanity enhanced by the Twitterverse. 

Good news though, Twitter can now show your exact location when you post something.  It's supposed to be only for those you allow, but if it's there, you know there's someone to hack it -- advertiser or government spy organization.  This is going to play hell with the Twitter revolutionaries who've twitted up protest flashmobs and exposed stories from overseas oppressors. 

Thanks Twitter. For letting my Twitter big brother know exactly where I am.  And for taking the next step in modern communication: Twitter surveillance. 

Ah progress...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

2437 Phone Home

Recently I got a telephone call at home.  On my brand spanking new, bell and whistle encrusted, smartypants phone that can do so much.  I can even expand the size of the font on the text function.  (I guess since it's on a phone you should call it phont.)

I can also get good audio quality FM radio on it.  What I can't get is good quality phone coverage.

The call was something of an emergency, and as I struggled to communicate, I went outside to get better reception.  It was pouring rain.  So here I am with an expensive phone, soaked and freezing to death, standing in the rain out at the end of my driveway, trying to resolve a minor emergency. 

I wonder if there's an app for pneumonia. 

Here's the thing.  All my neighbors are in the same boat.  Many's the time we encounter each other out in our yards yelling into our phones.  It's like the new party line, but with echoes bouncing off the landscaping.

I thought, what we all need to add to that landscaping is a little kiosk or phone pergola.  My friend Kris recommended a different solution.  Bring back the phone booth.

Excellent idea.  Forget that our houses are already wired for an old-fashioned reliable phone thingy that plugs into the wall and gets excellent reception.  Let's all build a fake phone booth in our front yard.  Plant a rhody next to it.  Some perennials.  Trick it up.  A dry place we could get less bad reception and not stand out in the rain. 

Sure it's like were going back in time, but why not?  Just make it look like a Tardis. 

I wonder if my homeowners' association would allow it? 

I'll give 'em a call. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

2436 Sri-righteous Flavor

Every now and then you see two things come together and it's interesting.  Like the guy I knew who was so ambidextrous he could catch and bat and throw the ball with either hand.  He told me he didn't actually think of himself as ambidextrous.  He preferred to think he was an incomplete set of Siamese twins.

Speaking of Siam, or what is now Thailand, it appears the taste sensation of their sriracha sauce is really hitting the mainstream of condiments.  At least if by mainstream you mean a flavor of ketchup. 

That's the news.  Heinz, of 57 variety fame, has added a 58th.  Heinz Ketchup with Sriracha flavoring.  It may not actually be 58th.  They may have done like Baskin and Robbins and rotated out one flavor so they could rotate in sriracha.  Maybe Heinz liver-flavored ketchup or something.

Anyhow, from a cultural and historical standpoint this is another step towards world peace.  Because ketchup, so all-American we embrace it as a vegetable in school cafeterias, actually started as a spicy sauce in a place not too distant from Thailand -- Malaysia.

They called it kay-chap there.  British folk brought it back to England and eventually the American colonies.  British ketchup was originally concocted with mushrooms rather than tomatoes.  Yum.  Pureed mushrooms on a hot dog.  Be still my beating gut.

Heinz's move follows the use of sriracha by various fast food restaurants in fun and flavorful offerings.  As it adds a spicy kick from it's base chili paste it's really a natural for tomato ketchup.  Like Siamese Salsa.  Or a chili smoothie. 

Sriracha is also called rooster sauce by the way.  So big question: Should we rise to the occasion and use Heinz Ketchup with Sriracha on chicken?  One food expert replied, "Cockadoodle do."

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

2435 Mystery Mountain

Food is an ingrained part of our culture.  That's why Lady Gaga made such an impact a few years ago when she appeared at an awards ceremony outfitted in a dress made from raw meat.

Perhaps that's why everybody was so surprised at the Oscar's this year when she appeared in a simple white gown to sing songs from the Sound of Music.  What they didn't know was her dress was actually fashioned from bleached pork rinds.

So when a person gave me a Brown and Haley Mountain Bar recently I was curious.  I haven't had a Mountain Bar since I was a kid.  My idealized golden glow of memory promised a treat.

Not so much.  One word: Bland.

The chocolate and peanut concoction seems to have had a bit of a recipe alteration.  It still claims to be "a mountain of chocolate flavor with crunchy peanuts over a creamy vanilla center."  But adding the word "flavor" to the word chocolate has made less room for actual chocolate.  The peanuts?  Pulverized to tasteless powder.  The vanilla cream?  Wouldn't stand up to the lard in an Oreo.

Wonder if the flavorlessness is related to the partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, invertase, dextrose, or egg albumen.  Or the sodium laurel sulfate added as a "whipping aid."  Sodium laurel sulfate is the ingredient that makes your hair shampoo lather.  Yum. 

Maybe its unidentifiable blandness is because or the trace flavors engendered by the Mountain Bar being "manufactured on shared equipment that processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. 

Or it could be because the word they use to describe how they make it is, "manufactured." 

Delicious candy concoction? No. Something dry and tough enough to make a dress out of? Yes. 

Even better as a hockey puck. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2434 Resigned

I guess I'm resigned to the little not-so-surprises I see in the news.

Like when GOP wunderkind Aaron Schock decided to resign after certain discrepancies surfaced in his mileage reimbursement figures.  Funny, because he'd suddenly became a millionaire after taking office and going into real estate deals with his campaign contributors and was weathering that storm.  It was bad math on his reimbursed mileage that took him down.

The little surprise that got me was that not only was the whole thing not shocking, because, you know, the term "honest politician" is an oxymoron, but because his name Schock, even though it's spelled s-c-h-o-c-k-, kind of prepared us for the whole thing on a subliminal level.

Another political non-shock was when a social media expert resigned from Presidential Candidate Scott Walker's campaign.  What was not-so-surprising was that the cause was over a bad tweet.

Tweets are notoriously bad methods of communication.  At least when it comes to nuance.  The professional tweeter --- yes there is such a thing --- said she apparently came across as snarky.  Let me just say, professional tweeter, snarky is defined as terse and direct with no attempt to pull punches.  That's pretty much a tweet right there.

Or take the headline that was tweeted about her stepping down.  It said, "Scott Walker Social Media expert resigns."  Having just read about football players renewing their contracts I misread that as re-signs.  Not re-zines.  Too few words can trip you up twitter-people.

Were I a presidential candidate, or president, who hired someone to do social media for me, I'd maybe have a pre-tweet or tweetaround failsafe system in place so every tweet was sent to me first, before it actually got out to the twitterverse.

Imagine if World War III gets started with a tweet.   

America, ya gotta love it.