Friday, February 27, 2015

2412 Oh Well

In the good old days, George Orwell wrote a futuristic book called 1984 that predicted technologies that could spy on you.  Privacy would become a thing of the past, as Big Brother would be watching us to maintain peace and security for all.

Smart as Orwell was, he never predicted the rise of Facebook, nor the tendency of folks to hand over their privacy in return for free apps.

Nor did he see freely embraced things like Samsung's new TV, that when its voice activation function is activated, can eavesdrop on your household conversations.  I'm betting if you get "gesture activation" from other companies, they can see into your living room too.

Mr. Orwell predicted Big Brother's takeover because of our desire for security.  He never foresaw it'd be because we're too lazy to get up off the couch or press a remote control button.  Heck, just wave at the TV, so what if Apple-Sony-Microsoft-Samsung-Comcast sees what chips we're snarfing down on the couch.

That's just privacy invasion from private industry, when I heard the new government plans to create a DNA database I was even more alarmed. 

The Obama administration announced the government would fund a project to collect and store the genetic profiles of one million willing Americans.  In addition, I assume, to the presently incarcerated unwilling 2.2 million. 

Ostensibly, this database will help healthcare providers and scientists to prevent disease and such like.  Then again, anything that can be collected and stored on a computer can be hacked.  So I hope the administration's other initiative, to create a robust cyber-security department, goes forward first.

Peeping into my living room or data-mining my smartphone's bad enough.  But possibly hacking my DNA to sell to third-parties?

Oh well George, that's the price of health and security...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2411 Holy Mole

I like reading economic factoids about us folks in the US.  I guess because it offers a little peek into our underlying culture. And priorities.

Like how in the last few weeks more than a third of workers have stayed home sick with the flu.  But 70% of workers come to the workplace when they're still sick.  I guess we just need to share.  That whole misery loves company thing. 

Another misery shared: The median income for young adults today, adjusted for inflation, is $2000 less than what their parents earned in 1980.  Though higher in Washington state, New York City and San Francisco, over the past 3 decades young workers' earnings have declined in 35 states. 

Some good news for the candy and flower people, however.  Americans spent more money on Valentines Day.  An average of $8 more than last year, or $142.31.   "Look honey, I added $8 more of flowers to your bouquet this year.  Cause you're worth it."

Then again, as in most Hallmark holidays, I'm guessing the biggest increase in prices was in the cards.  Since I had to buy a new computer this year, my $142.31 got used.  So I'm sending email notes to all my relationships.  Nothing says you care like free digital electrons. 

20% of Americans also planned to spend Valentines money on their pet.  I wonder if there's a Valentines snausage.  Cause you know, pets love those cards and flowers.  I don't have pets.  But I did spritz my indoor plants with rosewater. 

Lastly, more good news.  Americans ate nearly 4.25 billion tons of avocados last year.  Yes, someone's keeping track.  It was more than double what they ate in 2005. 

Priorities.  Young people are making less but we've increased spending on our pets.  And dang it, we're eating more guacamole. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2410 Fulgeaters

There was an interesting news item not long ago that speaks to why education is a good idea.  Especially education in the classics.  It also spoke to how sometimes internet trolls really need to think first and flame later.  Then again, it's fun to see how dumb they sound when they're calling other people dumb.

Not that they'd ever get the irony.

The story: In the state of Vermont a young person submitted a motto for consideration to be added to the one Vermont had already, which is "Freedom and Unity."

The one the student suggested was in Latin: Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat.  Which means The 14th Star Shines Bright.  Because Vermont was the fourteenth state in the United States in case you're wondering.

A local TV station ran the story and it wasn't long before the comments section on their website lit up with vitriol about those damn immigrants and their damn language being used instead of our number one American language English, and so on. 

Any intelligent person who has ever been fascinated by the amazing hate being spewed for any inane reason whatsoever in a comments section can easily supply their own dull receptive content here.

Suffice it say, it didn't occur to the fulminating haters that Latin is a dead language that's the foundation of much of our own language and it comes from early Italy.  Not Latin as in Latinos, who speak Spanish or some derivative therefrom.  

Latin, BTW, is not entirely dead.  It's still used by scientists and those who study the classics in education. 

Latin or no, when they said the 14th star shines bright, they meant bright as in blinding your eyes, not bright as in intelligent.  So Vermont haters don't need to feel threatened.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2409 Better Butter

One of the many themes I've come back to over and over, as I plumb the cultural minutiae of this great land of ours, is food.  Most notably our obsession with food.  Especially the food that is rich and the food that is fast.

You'd think that just by virtue of efficiency and time economy fast food would also be simple food.  A handful of carrots perhaps, or a tub of steamed broccoli. 

But no, we are a land of ingenuity, and we take pride in making our food elaborate as well as fast.  And in that elaboration we are not afraid to festoon every fast offering with plenty of dangerously unhealthy accouterments.  Deadly is part of fast food's appeal.

So I'm worried about the latest offering from Jack in the Box.  Not because it isn't loaded with rich decadence, but because the medical world just issued a new declaration.  Cholesterol is no longer bad for you.

It's true.  Scientists are now saying they got it wrong when it comes to cholesterol and eating.  The body makes its own cholesterol and good or bad, it's going to do it with little regard for how much cholesterol you actually eat. 

So if you're contemplating trying the new Bacon Swiss Buttery Jack Burger, too bad.  You'll have to do so without feeling you're living on the edge of cholesterol danger. 

The Buttery Jack, BTW, adds melted herb butter to your burger experience.  That's right.  You got your burger, sizzling with beef fat, and you got your bacon, sizzling with pork fat.  What's missing?  Sizzling butter of course.  Beef and Bacon and Butter, the three B's of a bodacious belly-busting diet. 

Everything's better with bacon they say. Even better with bacon and butter. 

Just what the doctor ordered.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

2408 Selfing

My friend Bobby tweeted an interesting observation the other day.  It was that we once wrote our most personal thoughts in a diary and got upset if anyone read them.  Now we post them online and get upset when people don't read them.

Through all the irony shines a tarnished truth.  Public self confession is a human need.  I would also argue the lack of privacy that folks allow themselves by posting this and tweeting that and instagramming the other is not only a function of the desire for social togetherness but also the flaring up of the spark of creativity that makes us human.

Rembrandt, great 17th century Dutch Master, was most known for his amazing self-portraits.  Which, if you think about it, were nothing more than selfies. 

Sure, he had to actually work hard to make them.  And his version of Snapchat was to get out the turpentine, commence rubbing, and start over.  But it's the same thing in concept.

Or take Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.  Wasn't it a form of the constant and annoying Facebook postings we get from our over the top "friends" today?  Lovely, lovely, I'm glad you woke up and brushed your teeth. 

Let me just say.  I tried to read Remembrance of Things Past.  Four words: Early 20th Century TMI.

I think a case can be made that most novels are semi-autobiographical.  So they partake of the same impetus as well.  But again, they require more work. 

That, I think, is the main distinction between the spark of creativity then and now.  Unfortunately, what the social media revolution has foisted upon is for the most part lazy dreck.  Unedited, unreadable, uninspired, and unmistakably and unarguably universal.  And ordinary. 

Rembrandt and Proust were artists. 

Social media is a reality show. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

2407 Hack Car

There's been a big ballyhoo about the eavesdropping potential of Samsung's Smart TV and me and the other club members of the Foil Hat Brigade are saying, I told you so.

At least Samsung warned us in the fine print of their service agreement, saying voices overheard when the TV was on Voice Command may be given to third parties. 

When I wrote about the Amazon device that sits around your house always listening for commands to search the internet or whatever I just speculated it had that power.  Only recently have interweb folks starting comparing the Echo to an Orwellian device. 

Unconcerned-with-privacy people are repeating the same refrain they do about Facebook privacy encroachments.  So what if someone is peeping through my phone or listening through my TV.  Who would care about what I say or do? 

I'm so boring.  Who would want to steal my identity?

Um. Yeah.

Down the road, we'll soon have more to worry about.  Literally. I read two articles back to back that got me concerned.  First was about the new driverless cars and how they'll take the boredom out of driving long stretches of highway.  Because if you're not bored enough driving, you'll get to enjoy even more boredom just sitting. 

The other article was about how automakers have made no attempt with their new computer-intensive WiFi- and 4G-enabled cars to protect them against hackers. 

That's right, your car is vulnerable to be hacked.  Your car with dashboard voice recognition, four exterior cameras and soon, computer-assisted autopilot control.  What could go wrong?

What do you wanna bet Putin's got a team right now working on how to hack Chevy.  And how about all those electronic car parts made in China?

Time to cover my car with aluminum foil.

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2406 Fine Time

As football gasps out its last puffs of exhausted air in final post-season deflation, it's interesting to note the preponderance of fines this year.  Or at least how unusual they are.

Like how Marshawn Lynch appears to get fined for not talking to the press but Roger Goodell allows himself to not do so fine-free.  Sort of reinforces the owner/wage-slave paradigm.

Marshawn got another fine for his obscene gesture, when he appeared to touch himself "down there" in celebration after a touchdown.  Never mind that it was a symbolic touch-down gesture.  Or that he appears to communicate quite well in mime.  The league still wants to fine him, in either the non-verbal or verbal arena.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  Multiple paid endorsements either way, thanks to the publicity. 

Odd too, that his gesture was mild compared to the crotch grabs Michael Jackson once punctuated his songs with, or that the same action is repeated a thousand times each outing in your typical baseball game, as no one has yet designed a cup that doesn't require "adjustment."

Other players suffered fines as a result of a fracas at the end of the SuperBowl.  Seahawks Linebacker Bruce Erwin got hit for $10,000 for hitting an opponent.  Teammate Michael Bennett got $8,268, as did Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui. 

Not entirely sure why the NFL has odd numbers for fines.  $8,268 for a jab and $10,000 for a full roundhouse?  $9017 for a kidney punch perhaps?  Maybe they were per bruise.  Then again, how much fist damage can you do to a guy in pads? 

Doug Baldwin, meanwhile, got fined for his non-verbal celebration, as after a touchdown he mimed defecating on a football.  That fine was $11,025. 

Imagine if he'd mimed it fully inflated...

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2405 Tri-ence

I like keeping up on the advances science makes that make our lives better.  I'm no scientist, but I'm smart enough to appreciate the great things science does for us.  Though I wonder sometimes.

Like this new waterproofing technique they've come up with.  It makes surfaces superhydrophobic, all one word.  Not sure if it's expialidocious too.  The water just bounces off.  It helps keep the surface clean too because when the water bounces it grabs dust particles with it.  So it's also less slippery.

What they do is etch the surface of a material with teeny-tiny cuts.  Cool.  Science has finally discovered something the tire world has known for sometime.  Microscopic grooves.   Basically they're taking a surface and siping it.  Les Schwab would be proud.

Science is also recommending that you get off your keester.  A comprehensive study of other studies has shown that people who sit for long periods are 24% more likely to die from health problems then those who sit less.  I wonder if that counts sitting in a doctor's office waiting room. 

Exercise routines help counteract the effect, but not much.  Scientist's advice is to get up often and move around.  Which works well at my office, as I drink a lot of coffee and the bathroom is on the other side of the building. 

And that's the final piece of scientific advice I read that I'll share.  Lay off sitting.  Walk more.  A new study has concluded that a gentle lunchtime stroll has huge health benefits.  Even a 30-minute walk three times a week.

Most importantly, from a business standpoint, it improves your mood and your energy level.  And happier and enthusiastic people are more productive. 

So don't freak out too much if your boss tells you to take a walk. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2404 Hype 360

I find myself reflecting on how we go round and round these days with hype and suchlike.  Sometimes to the point where we lose actual meaning.  Or at least perspective.

Like all the much ado about not much that appeared after the Seahawks loss in the big game.  I saw a couple of our regional newspapers with big headlines that said "Last Call" and "Deflated."  The headlines themselves reached their normal goal, relatively bad puns on recent events.

It was the size of the type that got me.  Each of the papers in question had the letters in 4-inch tall type.  I don't know what that is, 360 point or something, but it was big.  I guess you could call it Hype Type.  Whatever.  I've seen historical headlines when we got into World War II that were smaller. 

I'm not saying sports aren't important.  114.4 million Superbowl viewers can't be wrong.  I'm just saying we should reserve the really big headlines for the really big things.  If go to that degree and waste 4-inch tall type on a football game, what are we going to do when we have a real apocalypse? 

Then there's the other type of degree thing.  As when people change their minds.  A magazine writer I read described a flip-flop of opinion of a politician and he called it "your basic 360-degree fiasco."  Wait a minute. If a person changes his opinion to an exact opposite opinion, he would be going 180 degrees.

Hey, math is important.  And so is geometry.  It helps us keep things on track and in perspective.  If a person went 360 degrees he went a complete circle.  So he was right back where he started.

Maybe the newspapers and politicians all need a spin doctor. 

America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2403 Gategate

When all the controversy came out about the New England Patriots deflating their balls it was funny to see all the brouhaha about it.  Especially the attempts by the media to name the affair.

One group tried to call it Ballghazi.  That's a little much.  The Benghazi scandal involved loss of lives.  I think you trivialize it by using the -Ghazi suffix for anything else. 

Deflategate was better.  Because naturally the "-gate" thing came up right away.  Gate is the go-to suffix for scandals ever since the first -gate of the Nixon years, Watergate.

In fact, there are so many "-gate" names that Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to them.  They range from Nannygate, the controversy when Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood were nominated for office and it was revealed they'd hired illegal immigrants for house help, to Troopergate 3, when Sarah Palin fired a commissioner for not following her demand to fire her brother-in-law, a state trooper. 

Troopergate 1, in case you're interested, was when Arkansas State troopers said they had arranged sexual liaisons for then governor Bill Clinton.  

Then there was fajitagate, when three off duty San Francisco police officers allegedly assaulted civilians over a bag of steak fajitas, which were mistaken as drugs.  And who can forget donglegate, which caused two people to be fired and triggered a DDoS attack following a double entendre on the word dongle being overhead at a programmers convention. 

As my colleague Bob pointed out, it's funny we use the "-gate" suffix for every scandal, because the first one, Watergate, actually involved no water. 

BTW, this is Bill Belichick's second "-gate."  He went through spygate in 2007 when he cheated by videotaping defensive signals during a game. 

Like Bill Clinton, I'm sure he learned his lesson. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

2402 Pasquinade

Words is funny.  The way we use them.  The way we think we know what they mean.  The many times we don't.  How little difference it all makes.

Two examples.  Sarah Palin recently appeared at a conference in front of Iowa Republicans and her teleprompter malfunctioned, so she didn't have the words in front of her in the exact order they were supposed to be.  Undeterred, forthright, and roguish person that she is, she launched into an incoherent and rambling rant.

Conservative attendees called her speech "coarse" and "bizarre.", no slouch in the conservative department itself, though apparently with a larger vocabulary, said that Palin had collapsed into "self-parody" and "ignominious pasquinade." 

Harsh words indeed.  I think. I, like I'm sure many of the Review's reviewers, had no idea what pasquinade meant until I looked it up.  It means "public satire or lampoon" in case you're interested. 

Whatever.  Sure sounds cool though.  Ignominious pasquinade.  Kind of like a review for a wine.  Or a delicacy in a fine restaurant.  Yes, I'll have the ignominious pasquinade, please.  Medium rare if you don't mind.

No matter, as a Harvard researcher recently proved, most people believe whatever nonsense you put out there.  According to The Week magazine, he used a random text generator to write a phony study and then had the gibberish accepted for publication by 17 medical journals.  You know, the ones they always use as reviewers in the phrase "a journal reviewed study."

For some reason, even the study's title didn't give it away: "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." 

Hmmm.  I wonder if the study was accidentally placed in Sarah Palin's teleprompter and it didn't malfunction after all.

When it comes to describing Sarah Palin, I like Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs way better than ignominious pasquinade. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2401 Top Woes

There's some good news on the economic horizon.  The top one percent has finally crossed a new threshold in their quest for security.

They now have more wealth than the entire rest of the world combined.  I know.  Congratulations.  The top one percent now has as much value as the other 99 percenters all put together.  That's 100% amazing.

But hey, don't think that burden rests easily.  Those poor 70 million people have it tough in ways us easygoing regular people will never face.

Poor people get to pay 11% of state and local taxes because they don't have to pay tax preparation specialists to make sure they only pay 5.4%.  Nor do rich people get to not have checking accounts so they can pay hefty fees for cashing checks and buying money orders. 

Nor can they avoid things like the big to-do in Davos Switzerland.  It's called the World Economic Forum.  It brings together the crème de la crème, CEOs, Political Leaders, you know, just folks.  Unfortunately for them it just got a whole lot more expensive.

The Swiss National Bank recently decided to remove the cap on their nation's currency, so the franc suddenly jumped in value, making everything that was already very expensive way more expensive. 

For example, a bottle of champagne at the Belvedere Hotel which is apparently the Davos hostelry of choice, seems downright hostile now as they'll charge $400 for it instead of the paltry $343 they charged a couple of weeks ago. 

Plus, the annual Summit registration charge jumped up quite a chunk.  Last time the top corporate membership fee was 600,000 francs.  It's now 673,000.  Oh, the humanity.

Still, that's just 67.3 times the annual income of the average worker in the world. 

So.  Quite a deal. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2400 Quartile

We live in a world of quantities.  That desire to measure things is one of those traits that make for being human.  I don't believe I've ever seen a crow, no matter how clever, use any device to determine the length of the French fry he is yanking out of the litter on the roadside.

Nor has a chimpanzee, certainty intelligent in being able to select a stick to fish for termites, ever been observed measuring that stick before plunging it hopefully into the hole.

But sometimes we're a little obsessive about it all.  Maybe six out of ten people too obsessive. 

Then there's the marketing folks.  Not content to use well established measurements, they keep foisting new ideas and words on us.  "Family size" and "economy size" on the large end.  "Mini" and "fun size" on the tiny.

I heard one the other day: Quartino.  I read it in an article on wine and the writer was downright puffy in his sense of self important knowledge posturing.  A quartino of wine is an amount, less than a carafe, that two people can still share without buying an entire bottle. 

It means roughly a quarter liter.  It allows restaurants that want to do even more than triple the street value of a bottle of wine to do so.  It's also an E-flat clarinet. 

You'd think quartino would be a little quart.  Or maybe just a little shy of a quart.  But part of some measurement names is to obscure reality.  Like Starbucks' Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta.  Venti is Italian for 20.  Trenta is 30.  Even though the Starbucks Trenta is actually a 31-ounce drink.  Or one ounce short of a quart

Trenta sounds so much more elegant than short quart.  Or Big Gulp. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2399 Har Binge

I was writing something recently and I used the phrase "harbingers of doom."  It had a nice ring to it.  I guess I must have seen it used that way before because I've always used the full phrase as a complete thought.  Harbingers of doom.

But for some reason this time I wondered.  What is a harbinger?  And are they always harbing doom?  Or is that harbinging doom? 

Are there harbingers of hope or joy?  Happy harbingers?  I think so.  Because I've also heard the phrase "the green buds were the harbingers of spring."

So harbingers aren't necessarily negative.  Are they then like the three Fates of Grecian lore, just destiny, with neither good nor bad implied?  The three Fates were the Spinner, who spun your life's thread, the Allotter, who measured it, and the Cutter, who snipped it off. 

There used to be the Waxer, who gave the thread of your life waterproofing and a nice sheen, but she ran off with Hercules after  getting rid of his unsightly back hair.

I digress. 

Harbingers, according to the etymology dictionary, were originally persons sent out to arrange lodging.  Usually for some noble or royal personage.  It comes from the Middle English herberger, which meant innkeeper. 

The 15th century verb version of the term "to harbinge," actually meant to lodge, or to provide shelter.  At some point the mission became the person, so to send a person to find shelter meant to call him a messenger to the shelter keeper and, you know, language is weird. 

In any event harbinger is essentially a word that's more of less synonymous with both messenger and message.  Harbingers of spring are a message and a messenger that spring is on the way.

It's now fully harbinged in my brain.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

2398 3-Death

3-D.  It's an American obsession.  From Microsoft's new HoloLens to just about every blockbuster movie, we seem to want our entertainment to provide the reality we already experience everyday.

Because, you know, everyday life is 3-D. 

I don't seem to be so inclined.  I like that the silver screen is big and larger than life.  The 2-D aspects of it make it more, not less entertaining for me.  Plus, 3-D glasses give me a headache.

How is the new HoloLens pronounced by the way?  Is it Hoe-loe, like HoHo the snack treat?  Or hah-low?  Like a pipe.  I'm guessing hoe-low as a treat sounds better than hollow.  Like the hollow feeling you get when your expensive entertainment device doesn't live up to its hype.

And what's all this nonsense I hear about Liberace coming back?  They say they're putting together a show in Las Vegas where a hologram of Liberace performs in all his glory.  He'll walk, he'll talk, he'll slither like a reptile.  Tupac Shakur in ermine and rhinestone.

Which, if you ask me, makes him a very difficult subject for the projective technology they use to put on their supposedly 3-D performance.  Rhinestone glitter would be hard to fake.  Lights bouncing off real rhinestones, each one a tiny disco ball, would bounce all over the room.  Bouncing off a ghostly wisp of fog, not so much. 

I find the Liberace tour distasteful.  Let the dead have the dignity of death for God's sake.  This all goes back to when Natalie Cole first did a technologically facilitated duet with her dead father Nat. 

Necro-Karaoke was born.

Now we have a Holo-spirit of Liberace in this misguided attempt to transcend mortality.  He was always larger than life.  Are we trying to make him larger than death too?

America, ya gotta love it. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

2397 Stuffy Knows

Back in the day, whenever one was ill they utilized the folk remedies handed down from grandmas and mothers.  Eat chicken soup.  Feed a cold, starve a fever.  Don't get your feet wet.  And my favorite: Cover up, you'll catch a cold.

Our generation was too smart for that nonsense.  What do you mean, cover up you'll catch a cold?  Colds came from rhinoviri not weather.  You could get as cold as you wanted.  That didn't mean you would get a cold from it.

Wash your hands, don't touch your moist places and cough into your elbow pit were the new mantras.  And don't forget to use copious amounts of hand sanitizer. 

Well, it turns out mother was right.  Not only has using copious amounts of hand sanitizer helped create antibiotic-resistant superbugs, people still get colds with astonishing regularity come winter time.

Scientists have finally figured out why mother was right.  That common cold virus we talked about, the rhinovirus, is always with us.  About one in five people carries it in his or her nasal cavity.  Which is no problem because most of the time the body's natural immune system keeps the virus checked.

However, researchers at Yale University found that when the temperature inside the nasal cavity drops by five degrees, the immune system is weakened.  So those germs can start replicating.  That means stay out of the cold.  And wear some sort of nose muff when you do go out. 

When word gets out, I'm guessing ski masks and those football player style black balaclavas will become high fashion.  Look like a terrorist and prevent the common cold. 

Funny that this nasal discovery came from snobby Yale University.  Because that's the very place where we think people are always looking down their noses. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

2396 Faux Roar

I was reading an article the other day about the sounds coming from under your hood.  Hood as in hood of your car not hood as in where you grew up.

The article said if you have a very modern car the engine noise you hear may not actually be engine noise.  It could be a recording.

No, you don't have to be driving a Chrysler Milli Vanilli. It could be any car.  BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Porsche, and Ford are all actively working on making the sound sound as authentic as possible. 

The article said that for the 2015 Mustang Ecoboost, Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an "active noise control" system that amplifies the engine noise through the car's speakers.  They then surveyed Mustang fan clubs to ask which "sound concepts" they most enjoyed. 

Volkswagen has a similar idea but uses something called a sounddaktor, a hockey puck shaped device that plays sound files in the GTI and Beetle Turbo.  Lexus worked with Yamaha sound engineers to direct sound towards the driver seat. 

All this because auto designers have made the interior of cars so soundproofed and, with superior engineering, the noise of the engine so quiet.  But it turns out the smooth-running, hyper-fuel efficient, super silent cars we've sought for so long don't offer up an "authentic driving experience."  So you know what to do.  If consumers want authentic, then find a way to fake it. 

Get that new slick fifteen-speed bicycle and clothespin a playing card to the spokes. 

What the heck, everyone uses enhancement these days, to get that modeling contract, or even sweeten out those vocal flat notes in a Top 40 hit.

But in a car?  Gives a whole new meaning to the term auto-tune. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

2395 Impacted Fish

It's nice when you read heartwarming stories about people and their pets.  Even when their pets are cold-blooded.  Me, I'm a mammal man.  I figure if you're going to totally support another living creature they ought to at least be on the same limb of the family tree.

Not so a United Kingdom man who sought to save his goldfish.  He paid a veterinarian $465 for life-saving surgery for it.  Because it was constipated. 

Putting aside for a moment how much attention he needed to be paying to his goldfish to even notice, constipation is no joke.  It's a big killer of horses, who sometimes slurp up sand when they're eating hay off the ground and end up with fatal blockages.  They call it being impacted.  The impact is severe indeed. 

Likewise, on the other end of the animal scale, the face mites I wrote about recently, who die when they fill with feces because they have no anus.  You'd think an anus would be one of those things nature would automatically include in an evolved genetic package but who knows.  Nature's always experimenting with different ways to limit lifespan or we'd have one very overpopulated world, so dying when you fill up with waste might be a good approach.

Think of all the politicians and pundits we'd not have to put up with because they're so full of you know what. 

Anyhow, the UK dude got his goldfish back unimpacted and feeling the freedom you can only feel right after a colonoscopy.  The vet said, "The actual operation is straightforward, administering the anesthetic is quite complicated." 

Harder, presumably, than giving a fish a colonic.  

Thank goodness the guy didn't have some other aquatic pet, like a sea anemone.  Imagine giving an enema to an anemone. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

2394 Mitey Odd

I've written a few commentaries over the years about mites, notably dust mites, and their contribution to the creation of dust bunnies as they chew and process our skin flakes.  Dust mites have it easy.  Not like the face mites I read about in National Geographic.  They are mitey odd.

Face mites?  We have face mites?  Yep.  As author and scientist Rob Dunn puts it, "They are so small a dozen of them could live on the head of a pin."  So how many do you think could live on your head? 

They actually live in your hair follicle pores.  Why not?  Certain species of mites live in feathers, others in rabbit ears, making the rabbits scratch and then drinking the fluid the scratching causes.  You mite say they go on an ooze bender.

There are currently 2 species of face mites known to science, but nature in its infinite wisdom has certainly come up with more. 

There's no reason to be alarmed.  Another researcher says that mites are just one example of the wild life we all carry with us everyday in our body's different ecological niches.  Or is the ick-ological?  Tiny creatures are crawling on us and in us from brow to bowel every minute. 

I feel sorry for the face mite though.  Even though living on its host's sebum seems like a good gig, nature evolved a nasty way of dying for the poor little boogers. 

After mother mites give birth, in their pore home, the young mites grow.  When they're adults they only live for a few weeks.  Rob Dunn says, "Death comes at the precise moment when the mites, lacking an anus, fill up with feces, die, and decompose on your head." 

Gotta love nature.  But I'm sure glad we evolved differently. 

America, ya gotta love it.