Friday, January 30, 2015

2393 Packed and Shipped

When the Green Bay Packers were sent packing I thought it might be interesting to explore their name.  Obviously, it's a risk when you have a name that can be twisted when you lose into statements like "the Packers were packed and shipped back to Wisconsin by the Seahawks."

So why the name? 

One would think from their paraphernalia regalia that it has something to do with cheese.  Like the great WSU Cougar Cheese we get around here.  But no, they packed other stuff. 

Earl "Curly" Lambeau, of Lambeau Field fame, was a shipping clerk for the Indian Packing company of Delaware, a branch of which was in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  They packed meat.  Their specialty line was "Council Meats."  Earl asked them for money for jerseys in return for sponsorship.  The Packer name was born.

I looked up Council Meats.  Because, you know, canned meats have always fascinated me since my Gerber baby food and Spam days.

I found an old Council Meats ad on the internet picturing a housewife upending a catfood-shaped can and leaving behind a perfectly formed cake of meat product.  The ad offered these options: Corned Beef Hash;  Vienna Style Sausage (people were cringing in Vienna);  Lunch Tongue (I believe I had that once after a peanut butter and banana sandwich);  Sausage Meat (not sausage mind you, just the meat, in a can);  Veal Loaf (because everything's more appetizing in a loaf);  Tripe (no body part goes wasted in Green Bay);  Ox Tongue (even tongue-ier than lunch tongue):  and finally, Ol' Mammy Hash (racistly straight from Porgy and Bess. Or possibly Sambo's). 

But we shouldn't condemn them for their packer heritage.  In all fairness, actual Seahawks feed their young by regurgitating into their mouths. 

Does seem to help develop a stronger defense...  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2392 Oilpocalypse

I read an article about the new expanding economy and was amazed to see an earlier theory of mine confirmed.  The article reported that Americans have about 100 billion extra dollars to spend now that gas prices are going down.  This was when gas prices were around $3.00 a gallon.

It proved what I've maintained since the economic cratering apocalypse: Everything was running along smoothly 'til the gas price surge triggered the implosion.

Sure, there were a lot if marginal mortgages.  Sure, there were a lot of folks borrowing beyond their means.  And sure, there was a huge vulnerable mass of tissue paper mortgage derivatives ready to burst into flames at the strike of a mismatch.

But it can certainly be argued that it was the extra straw on the back burden placed on every camel household and business by obscenely high gas prices that really combusted the conflagration. 

Now if the oil cartel can hold off long enough to give us a good head start maybe we can pick up on lost time a little before they trigger then next oilpocalypse. 

And if the stock market Chicken Littles realize lower energy costs boost every other sector of the economy and don’t totally crash the Dow. 

With an extra 100 to 200 billion stuffing consumers' pockets and stimulating the economy, we can get back to our normal spend 'til we're almost broke habits, and manufacturers can make more, and if they're smart, start paying laborers instead of stock holders more, and maybe that money will get circulating into a boom again.

Still, we did burn less gas while it cost so much, so maybe the oil folks helped slow global warming just a touch.  While they sent the rest of us down in flames. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2391 Hack in Style

I confess. I get a little impatient with the lack of style in our modern world.

Like wheels.  Those big wheels you see on modern cars.  You know the ones, the rims are like 18 or more inches and leave just enough room for some very narrow tires.

They look great on the modern cars because the body designs are so sleek and low slung, like Chevy's new GTO.  That's where they belong.  Because occasionally you see an owner of an old car like, oh, an old GTO, try to trick it up by putting on the same big wheel narrow tire combo.  Not so good.  The old car's body lines make it look like it's perched too high on the wheels.

Like a hippo on high heels. 

Secondly, when did the word "hack" come in style to mean shortcut?  It used to be a secret penetration of code, a workaround, so I suppose you could call it a shortcut.  I'm certainly comfortable with the word meaning just that in that context. 

But lately every news service around feels it's necessary to describe any quick and easy shortcut as a hack.  "Millennials are ditching delivery with this kitchen hack!" said one headline.  "This DIY hack can save you money!" said another. 

Really?  Can we just keep hack in use in computer land and cigarette coughs?  Just saying.

Lastly, if you're a trained reporter, change your Tweet picture to something serious.  I've read too many Tweeters recently, posting about solemn or tragic events, and the stupid profile picture that accompanies the tweet is some happy-sappy selfie they snapped on a pubcrawl. 

It's like kitchen hacks and hippo rims.  Bad style. Incongruous, incompatible, out of place.  Jarring.  

Like Desmond Tutu in an actual tutu. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2390 Tweezerman

I had something interesting pluck at my attention recently.  It was a pair of tweezers.  Actually, it was the package the pair of tweezers came in, and it was its name that really got me.


I guess I've read too many comic books, because for some reason Tweezerman sounded like one of the lesser superheroes.  You got your Superman at the top and your angst-ridden Spiderman.  Philanthropist slash acrobat slash tool inventor Batman, Wonder Woman, of course, and Iron Man. 

Then the second tier, with more limited super powers, like Aquaman.  If the Justice League has an ocean-related supercrime, or needs some really fresh lobsters, he's your guy.

Then towards the bottom you've got heroes like Leatherman.  He's got a harsh tan, skin like jerky and, like Batman, has a handy tool for every occasion.  And is locked in a continual battle for supremacy against his arch-nemesis Swiss Army Man.

Then there's the superhero that doesn't exist that I thought did.  When I first moved to the northwest I would read news stories in which a person was identified as what in my ignorance I read as "Taco-man."  He seemed to be all over the place.  I thought perhaps he was some local character like Blitz or the rainbow-haired fan guy.  Actually, he was neither.  He was just from Tacoma.  The newspapers were simply referring to a Tacoman. 

Better, for sure, than Tweezerman.  Enemy of untamed brow lines, socially objectionable protruding nostril hairs, fluttering like flags at every breath while you sit across the table from the person trying to eat lunch, and ear hair thick enough to mute a trombone.  

Tweezerman and his sidekick Plucky.  Out to shave the world.

Or at least make it look that way.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

2389 Bold Maid

I was popping some popcorn recently and it occurred to me that it was one of the overlooked examples of egregious sexism in our society. 

What, you say, was Orville Redenbacher some pop secret representative of harassment and viewing women as second-class citizens?  A proponent of non-equal rights and women's place being in the home, possibly popping popcorn?

Nothing of the sort.  The last thing I want to do is smear Orville with that greasy pointing finger.  For all I know he was a champion of women's rights.  No, I'm talking about what we call unpopped kernels of corn. There's nothing corny about it.  Old Maids.

I called them that the other day in front of my son and he was surprised.  "What do you mean, Pop?" He said, "Why is an unpopped corn kernel called an old maid?  And what exactly is an old maid?"

A legitimate question, considering we even have a card game around that's called the same.  "Old maid" was what older unmarried women were called in the days of sexist yore.  Because presumably, one's only purpose in life, if one was female, was to get married and have children.

God forbid that you make a name for yourself or be a financial success because you concentrated on your career.  If you were unmarried without children you were sneeringly referred to as a spinster.  Or an old maid.  As opposed to an older unmarried male who has done well in society being referred to simply as a bachelor.  Or a good catch. 

Interestingly, that’s in English speaking countries.  In France the Old Maid card game is about a confirmed bachelor.  It's called Black Peter. 

A nice substitute, but I think I'll just called those popcorn failures "unpopped kernels." 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

2388 Football Package

I was watching football not long ago and reflecting on why it brings in such great ratings.  There are those that sneer that it's because it appeals to the baser side of human nature, keeping us away from more intellectual pursuits.  That it's nothing more than a slightly less fatal form of gladiatorial combat left over from the fall of the Roman Empire.  But I don't think so.

Football is actually a great social bonding enterprise, and broader, a bit of cultural cement.  Bringing disparate folks together to root for their totemic tribes true, but also a larger endeavor populated by many tribes, so an exercise in unity of them all as well.

Plus, you got some cool names for the teams.  Like the playoff match up recently, the Colts versus the Broncos.  By the way, one might argue that the word "versus," one of the few fully intact Latin words to survive the Roman Empire, lingers because of gladiatorial football. 

Anyhow, I remember thinking when I saw the Colts/Broncos match up.  Is this a football game or a horse race?

Or take the Cowboys and the Packers.  Talk about iconic symbols.  The Cowboys, free spirits of the open range, against the Packers, bold symbol of working in a factory butchering and packaging meat products. 

And yet a symbol of unity in a way.  The cowboys, driving that live beef on the hoof up the Great Plains to the packing plants of the North, where they were slaughtered and reduced to edible tidbits to be swallowed by American consumers. 

There's an allegory in there somewhere, poised between free ranging energy, packaging, commercialism, and tailgate parties, but I don't have time to figure it out now. 

There's a new highlight reel I want to watch on the internet. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2387 Zipster

The other day I was using one of those marvelous pieces of modern technology and it suddenly occurred to me I take it totally for granted.  In the sense that it registers zero wonder in my brain.  As in zero, nada, zip.  

Zip is right, because it was a Ziploc bag.

For the word zip meaning nothing, it's amazing how much things that go zip have powered our culture.  The Ziploc bag is used everywhere to keep things fresh in the pantry, fridge, or freezer.  And what a clever idea to manufacture plastic bags with their own seal.  Saving us the effort and potential carpal-tunneling of twisting and untwisting countless twist ties. 

Speaking of ties.  How about those other zip things that make things zip along.  Zip-ties.  From everything to securing speaker wires out of the way on end table legs to lashing the hands of punks and perpetrators, zip-ties are incredibly strong, reliable, and versatile fasteners. 

To paraphrase, or perhaps borrow a little verbal leverage from Archimedes: Give me the zip of a zip-tie and the rip of a roll of duct tape and I could move anything in the world.  Or at least MacGyver it.

How about that other zip-a-dee doodad?  The zipper itself.  How many work hours has the zipper freed up by making it possible to avoid the endless buttoning and unbuttoning of one's trousers?  Letting one shorten one's break, zip out of the bathroom and reengage in productive activity. 

Not to mention inspiring original initialized messages that were years ahead of texting.  Forget LOL and OMG, we had XYZ all the way back in junior high in 1965.

We owe a lot to those things we take for granted, zippers, zip-ties, Ziploc bags.  It's pretty cool that we do know zip. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2386 Model Culture

Recently I was driving behind a fine Ford product and when I looked down at its actual model name I saw it said Taurus.  And my first thought was, they still make the Taurus? That's pretty cool, because I remember when they first introduced the Taurus line back in the 80s and everyone said it was too odd looking to last.  Some even went on to say it was the next Edsel. 

Well kudos to Ford, because the Taurus is now in its sixth generation.  That says a lot about Ford and also speaks to what Ford says about America.

At least if using model names is any indication.

When I was growing up the big Fords were the Falcon, the Fairlane and the Galaxie.  The name Galaxie seemed so aspirational.  It was the era of our quest for the stars.

Perhaps one of those star clusters inspired the Taurus.  Or maybe it was a name that resonated with the partying and singles set coming out of the disco seventies.  The whole “what's your sign” line and its associated carefree swinging lifestyle.  Forget about dreaming as a nation for the stars, we were just dreaming about the next “me generation” moment of hedonistic pleasure.

Which led to the whole comfort-driving getaway SUV era, and its associated model names.  The Escape and the Explorer, the Excursion and the Expedition.  And the luxury SUV if you were the displaced ruler of Panama, the Ford Extradition. 

But as our hedonistic, comfort-driven, aging baby boomer bulge moved, our national obsession switched once again.  To the medical and scientific.  With the Ford Edge, the Ford Fusion and yes, the Ford Probe. 

Ford's been with us boomers all the way.  From aspiring to the galaxy and the stars...

To a procedure. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2385 Flowzen

I've always been attracted to advertisements. I guess that's the point. But I mean in a different way. I've been drawn to them as keys to unlock the mysteries of our culture. Harbingers of our doom if you will, or perhaps the outflowing of our hope.

So not long ago I was perusing a Costco mailer and in it was an advertisement for Huggies Natural Care Plus Baby Wipes. Because, you know, if you have natural care it can be so much more natural if it's natural care plus. What does that mean exactly? If it was organic it's even more organic? "That stuff, man. It's even more natural than nature itself."

But that's not what attracted me. It was the Disney figures depicted on the Huggies box. One of those movie tie-in promotional covers. Which makes sense if it's on a Burger King box or something, you can envision Woody from Toy Story actually wanting to grab a Whopper. But having the two main characters from the movie Frozen on a baby wipe box?

What's the tie-in there? Is it because that one character in the Frozen movie, Elsa, could freeze everything around her like the unholy spawn of Frosty the Snowman and King Midas, and she actually had the power to wipe out the world? 

Or is it because cleaning a baby with an alcohol wipe is really cold? Or possibly that the Frozen person was banished to the nether regions? 

You gotta wonder. The baby certainly doesn't care if its waste disposal needs are Disney-enhanced. Perhaps it's to encourage the older sister to change the baby more. 

I hope it has nothing to do with the famous song that came out of the movie. "Let it go." 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

2384 Jack of

My grandmother, source of all things wise, and purveyor of any number of sage homilies, often tried to straighten out the direction of my young life. Instill good habits that would make me a success. Which frequently meant keeping me on task. 

(“Sage homilies.” Sounds like something you add to turkey gravy doesn't it?)

As I was ADHD before they even invented it, those homilies sometimes resonated well. Like when she said that any work I did below the shoulders would pay me 2 bucks an hour and work I did above the shoulders would get me 20 bucks an hour. Inflation is hell on homilies. Perhaps that well-lodged advice accounts for my obsession with having a good hairdo.

There was one piece of direction I took to my heart of hearts. Jack of Hearts to be exact. But I think I took it in a way she didn't approve. She warned me I was in danger of becoming a Jack of all trades and a Master of none. 

Unfortunately for my grandmother, she also informed me at one point that variety is the spice of life. As I really liked spicy food, I pretty much concluded that being a Jack-Of-All-Trades would fit quite neatly into the variety paradigm. It wasn't my nature to stay on one thing for too long. And I'd much rather be half good at a bunch of things than really good at boring old one.

Speaking of boring. The only Jack I had experience with was my favorite playing card, the Jack of Hearts. Handsome. Dashing. Also known as a knave. The King of Hearts, by comparison, looked stodgy and boring. 

Jack-of-all-trades and Jack of Hearts it was. I wasn't suited for anything else.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

2383 Sue Veed

The other day I decided to see if the old adage, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, was true. I was the old dog.

The thing I wanted to try to teach myself was sous vide cooking. The word sous vide is French so even though it's spelled s-o-u-s-      v-i-d-e-, like souse videe, it's actually sue veed. 

Sous vide has been around for awhile, and you've probably eaten it in an expensive restaurant without knowing. In the past it's required some rather high-priced technical equipment, so you haven't seen sous vide recipes cropping up in recombinant food items a la Betty Crocker. 

(A recombinant food is a food that's made out of two or more other fully prepared foods. Like Rice Krispies and marshmallows render Rice Krispie Treats.)

Sous vide is also part of the molecular gastronomy movement, which seeks to create delicious food by paying attention to the molecular changes in food items using various degrees of heat and or reactive ingredients. Greater flavor by "cooking through chemistry” rather than just adding more sugar butter and bacon.

Sous vide once borrowed equipment from the scientific lab because it required something that would keep an unvarying low water temperature. I used a crockpot and a thermometer. The key is bringing a vacuum-packed piece of meat up to a constant low temperature. 140 degrees if you want a medium rare steak. You soak it in a bath for about three hours or longer. No worries, it can never overcook, as you bring it only to the optimum temperature.Then you sear the outside in a super hot oiled pan. Perfect medium rare steak all the way through.

And all you did was give your piece of meat a fever.

Made this dog sit up with pleasure. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

2382 Smart Chopping

Naturally the U.S. is the point source for many of the technological innovations we see around here. We know what it is we are likely to like in our culture. So it's interesting to note examples of innovations in other countries based on their unique needs.

Take China. Forget about Smart Home Thermostats like in the U.S. Or the Smart Toilets so popular in Japan. China has Smart Chopsticks. And apparently the giant Chinese tech firm Baidu is expecting lots of people to fork over good money for them. 

They unveiled them at their annual technology conference recently. That's an event kind of like Apple's big soiree, but without black turtlenecks. 

What would a pair of Smart Chopsticks do? Help in meal planning? Relay the names of different foods to a culinary app on your smartphone? Identify the mysterious tidbits in fried rice?

The last is actually close to the answer. The Smart Chopsticks have built in sensors whose main function is to detect the quality of the cooking oil used in the meal you are about to eat. They'll also measure temperature and calorie content.

Who cares about oil quality? The Chinese. The sticks are designed to combat one of the country's biggest food safety issues: "Gutter Oil." 

If you think gutter oil doesn't sound too appetizing, you're right. Gutter oil is cut rate cooking oil made from recycled garbage and sewage. It's used by many street vendors. Imagine your local food truck using 10W-40 to deep-fry those wontons. But worse. 

I hope it helps. But I'm not sure. If I was the type of person to lay down some major renminbi for an expensive pair of eating utensils, would I also prowl the back streets looking for a taste treat simmered in sewer oil?

America, ya gotta love it.