Greatest Hits: Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions
More recent 'Musings' postings can be found here.
This Bizarre Idea ... of "fixing" the economy by spending more money on various 'stimulus' packages is akin to curing diarrhea by taking more laxatives. (posted 10/1/10, permalink)
My Web Spam-Ad Résumé: I majored in Pop-up Ads at the University of Phoenix and now work for Netflix. (posted 6/9/10, permalink)
Perfect Fit: So, 78 year-old Liz Taylor wants to get married for the ninth time and 76 year-old Larry King just filed for a divorce from marriage number eight. Why don't the two of them get together and tie the knot?
Think of the savings just from being able to buy Depends in bulk. (posted 4/16/10, permalink)
A Fool And His Money Are Soon Parted: The silliest product I've seen this year is a super lightweight $120 carbon fiber license plate frame. If saving vehicle weight is that critical, don't put any frame around your plate.
The same company offers carbon fiber valve stem caps for $25 per set. Or a key ring for $40. Ridiculous. (posted 11/23/09, permalink)
Politics Made Simple: After every election, pundits dissect the meager leavings of the election post-season and issue proclamations. Don't believe the hype. Or spin.
There's nothing profound to learn. Here's the simple truth:
• 40% of the nation (weekend golfers, bankers, general contractors, embezzlers and insurance salesmen) votes Republican.
• 40% of the people (welfare recipients, schoolteachers, Manhattan socialites, felons and postal workers) vote Democrat.
• The other 20% (middle managers, CPAs, engineers, ornery geezers and sociopaths) are Independents. They vote for whoever appeals to them at the time.
Therefore, the Independents are the swing vote; they determine who gets elected.
Some Independents are deep thinkers; most are issue-oriented pragmatists, skeptics and cynics.
In 2008, independents looked at McCain in '08 and saw Bush III. Therefore, they leaned toward Obama, especially since the Republicans were perceived as not "fixing things." These voter-skeptics had been frustrated by the Katrina response, dysfunctional TSA employees at airports and the Iraq war. But the 2008 election Hot Buttons became the September financial meltdown and collapsing real estate market, which pushed Independents solidly into the Blue Lane.
By 2009, they were unhappy with Obama and other Democratic officeholders who seem to have made little progress ("Change") in improving what ails the country. To those candidates who wanted to solve problems with more taxes and social programs, the Independents voted 'Nay'.
2009's vote was all about taxes, lack of jobs, the lousy economy and increasing frustration with government interference, micromanagement and incompetence, including - but not limited to - the Health Care Circus which was then performing under the Big Top known as the U.S. Capitol Building.
If - by the 2010 elections - the stock, job and housing markets have substantially improved, most Independents will vote for the status quo (mostly Democrats). Otherwise, they'll throw the bums out and vote Republican. (And, because the economy was still in bad shape on November 2, 2010, they did.)
The same rules will apply to the presidential election of 2012.
Bill Clinton was right: "It's the economy, stupid." (posted 11/6/09, permalink)
My Million Dollar Business Idea: It taps into the the big three: 1. Nostalgia, 2. Thirst, 3. Human Stupidity.
Coincidence? Or What?! Peter Paul Reubens painted great, fleshy mounds. Peter Paul Mounds tastes great after a Reuben sandwich. (posted 10/23/09, permalink)
World's Shortest Book: During a recent visit to Costco, I discovered that investment bozo Jim Cramer has a new book out: 'Getting Back To Even'. I didn't read it but I assume it's two sentences long: Build a time machine. Go back in time and do the opposite of whatever Cramer says.
Actually, you'll probably do a lot better than break even with such a strategy. (posted 10/21/09, permalink)
I'd Like A Set Of Old-Growth Firestones, Please. An Oregon State University researcher has found a way to use wood fibers to make car tires better for the environment. Microcrystalline cellulose can partially replace silica as a reinforcing filler in the manufacture of rubber tires, reducing the energy required to manufacture tires, lowering costs and providing tires that better resist heat buildup.
That could be good news for Oregon's timber industry, which needs new uses and products to sustain demand for the state's timber harvest. Because, let's face it, the construction industry is in the dumper, there's only so many kids to pull around those wheeled, whimsical, overpriced wooden toys and oak toilet seat sales just ain't what they used to be.
And now that the Indians have casinos, they've cut waaaay back on totem pole carving. (posted 7/22/09, permalink)
Steinbeck Would Be Amused. Tom Joad would be bemused. The July-August issue of Oregon's AAA magazine, Via, asks its readers to vote for the Best Road Trip Movie. The choices are: 'National Lampoon's Vacation', 'Rain Man', 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' and ... are you ready? ... 'The Grapes of Wrath'. (posted 7/10/09, permalink)
Truth In Packaging Needed: If hobo stew were made with real hoboes, surely we'd have far fewer homeless people. (posted 6/19/09, permalink)
Oxymoron Watch: This week, as my thoughts turned to financial planning, it occurred to me that the term 'Variable Annuity' is much like 'Unsafe Volvo'. (posted 6/17/09, permalink)
Cortizone-10: Yeah, I use it sometimes. But only because they won't sell me Cortizone-15. You know they have it. They keep it locked up in a subterranean vault, right next to the 100,000 mile tires. And those 200 mpg Fish carburetors. (posted 5/18/09, permalink)
You Try It: See if you can spray for only 1/3rd of a second. 1,057 servings per container, my ass.
If This Were A Movie-Of-The-Week Storyline ... people would laugh at its sheer unbelievability: The UAW is buying Chrysler in order to make Fiats. (posted 4/28/09, permalink)
Unnecessary Worry: Before my first visit to Ireland, I had nightmares that everyone would sound just like Enya and I wouldn't be able to understand a word they said. It turned out that I had no problems during any of my trips.
The bizarre echo technique Enya uses is called 'voice layering'. She also sometimes sings in Lothian, a fake language invented for her.
I do find it ironic that Enya won the 2001 "Echo Award" for best selling international single in Germany. (posted 4/22/09, permalink)
"How Did He Do Such Fantastic Stunts With Such Tiny Feet?!" Last week, I followed a red, topless MGB. I had forgotten how narrow the tires were on most sports cars made 40 years ago.
Somehow, Hedley Lamarr came to mind. (posted 4/14/09, permalink)
Kim Jong Il - Before & After: I don't care what the hell Marie Osmond says, that NutriSystem crap'll kill ya. - I didn't even know they sold the stuff in North Korea.
Oh wait, maybe it's our new secret weapon.
On the other hand, Kim appears to be in good spirits. He reportedly has said, "I've lost 57 pounds and I look fabulous. My friends say I've gone from 'cute' to 'stunning'. See me on 'Dancing With The Stars' next month with my partner, Fidel Castro." (posted 4/14/09, permalink)
Power Dome: New General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson certainly has the corporate look. His forehead resembles the hood of a 1953 GMC COE truck.
Fact Of The Day: Every year, there are 11.73 million 'replica' watches sold worldwide. I have received a spam e-mail ad for every single one of them. (posted 3/27/09, permalink)
Conserve This! Are you as tired as I am about those preachy, sanctimonious messages in hotel bathrooms about water and towel usage? If these establishments were really serious, they'd offer deals: "Reuse your towels and we'll knock ten bucks a day off your bill." "But nooooooo!" as John Belushi used to say.
Instead they put up signs trying to make people feel guilty so that they can get suckers to engage in Towel & Washcloth Conservation and the hotel can lay off five more Mexican housekeepers.
The whole idea of using less water is baloney anyway. Here's a hotel bathroom sign I'd like to see:
How Much Worse Would It Be? Maybe we should let investment bankers build cars and auto workers manage money. (posted 12/15/2008, permalink)
Just Wondering: Exactly when did order takers stop saying "the computer is down" and replace it with "the system is down"? (posted 12/12/2008, permalink)
Another Of Catholicism's Mysteries: Does the Pope's speedometer have Roman numerals? (posted 12/10/2008, permalink)
Proof That People Still Have Too Much Money: Regardless of the economy and/or the stock market, people are still buying stuff like this from Hammacher Schlemmer:
$1,500 and it doesn't even have a battery. (But I guess it's still a bargain compared to ... say ... the Chevy Volt.) Hard to blame HS, though. They know their customers and are successful at what they do.
The company has been in business continuously since 1848. In 1878, the firm was among the first companies to install a telephone in their store as well as one of the original subscribers to the Bell Telephone Directory, setting a precedence of innovation. In 1988, Hammacher Schlemmer became one of the first retailers to go on the Internet with CompuServe. (posted 12/1/2008, permalink)
Repeats: After watching about two dozen episodes faithfully captured by my DVR at some ungodly hour, I remain convinced that ten+ year-old reruns of 'Homicide: Life On The Street' are better than 96.3% of the current offerings on television. (posted 11/26/2008, permalink)
Just Wondering: What do vegetarians keep in the meat drawers of their fridges? (posted 11/12/2008, permalink)
Drop-Dead Gorgeous: Fashion critic Mr. Blackwell has died in Los Angeles. His passing was described as "quiet but tasteful." At the time of his death, he was clad in simple yet elegant silk burgundy pajamas with gray piping. (posted 10/22/2008, permalink)
I Don't Want A Plug-In Hybrid ... that has a cord requires a wall socket. I want one with a charging dock that you drive up to. A dock that will also act as a bump-stop so that I don't hit the garage wall. One with a blue charging light so I can impress my friends.
And a little depression in the center where I can place cheese and electrocute garage rodents.
Dance, Mickey, dance. (posted 9/24/2008, permalink)
Dealer Incentives: Photos of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid have been released. Unfortunately, you won't be able to purchase one until the 2011 model year. Maybe. Several people have wondered why the car features large unpleasant matte black sills beneath the side windows. Especially since GM's 1980s window frames always lost part of their black coating on the third trip through a car wash.
Here's the answer: it's for the dealers. Car dealers can sell and install high-profit, meretricious accessory trim to cover it up. Things like padded vinyl (for elderly drivers), polished diamond plate (for rednecks), cane pattern (often applied to the window sills of 1949-52 Buick hardtops and convertibles), fake wood (welcome to 1971), gold anodized aluminum - first seen on the '56 Plymouth Fury (now known as a Gold Package - one that matches the front bowtie emblem) or fake zebra skin (a favorite with early 1950s customizers).
I think I'll have my Volt fitted with faux leopard skin.
In case you've forgotten, here's what the Volt was supposed to look like:
(posted 9/10/2008, permalink)
How I Saved The Volt: As you know, the Chevrolet Volt is in crisis - overhyped, late to market and overpriced. And still waiting for someone to develop a low-cost, lightweight battery.
My wife just bought a big-button calculator at The Dollar Store for a buck. It even came with a battery - a nice compact little disc-shaped one that weighs almost nothing. And it works!
I think General Motors should head for the nearest Dollar Store and buy millions of these calculators. Take out the batteries out and use as many as needed to power the Volt. If it takes 1,000 of them, who cares? They're cheap. Take the plastic cases (which are pretty decent, by the way), grind them up and injection mold some nice interior trim. Then use the LCD readouts for gauges.
See? I've just cut the cost of the Volt from $45,000 to probably $20,000.
Who says America can't compete? (Well, yeah, the calculators are made in China ... but everything would be stripped-out and reassembled into a Volt in the U.S. Using UAW labor. That's got to count for something.)
Note to GM: You don't have to send me a thank you letter. A bonus equal to Bob Lutz's annual paycheck will do nicely. (posted 9/4/2008, permalink)
Word Of The Day is pomprius: (adj.): Exhibiting an attitude of excessive self-importance because you own a hybrid car; pompriusly (adverb). (hat tip to my brother, who invented the term and does not own a hybrid) (posted 8/29/2008, permalink)
Olympic Conclusion: I didn't watch the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony but was told it was very brief. Mr. Tuong Lu Kim, proprietor of South Park's City Wok, appeared and said loudly, "Show over. You go now."
Party On, Garth. Something I learned from '101 Cars You Must Drive' on Speed TV: Richard Petty, Conway Twitty and Mitt Romney owned AMC Pacers. (posted 8/12/2008, permalink)
Design Lingo: Car designers have a special vocabulary - C-pillar, greenhouse, beltline, backlight, sail panel, tumblehome, etc. I just found out that designing the nose of the 2009 Acura TL is called 'doing a Karl Malden'.
That Lucky Ol' Sun ... Got Nuthin' To Do ... A recently published paper claims that global warming is racist. Greg Gutfeld has written, "To almost quote the report, African Americans make up thirteen percent of the U.S. population, yet emit nearly twenty percent less greenhouse gases than us crackers. ... While rich white fat cats drive around in air-cooled gold-plated limousines immune to searing outside heat caused in part by sorrow of the homeless, the rest of the world must settle with a gentle breeze created by a pair of swinging oversized fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview."
Now wait a minute. Everybody who has ever taken Thermodynamics 101 knows that black bodies are net absorbers of solar heat, while white bodies are reflective, indicating that black people cause global warming.
Why do you think Africa is so #@%& hot? And Scandinavia is so #@%& cold? Furthermore, the only air-conditioned gold-plated limousines I've seen belong to black rappers on MTV's Cribs.
And how can anything solar be anti-African American? The sun is a black dude. In every cartoon I've ever watched, the sun always has a big smile, gold teeth, sunglasses and claims to "make all the ladies hot." I rest my case.
And if you disagree with me, sir, then you are worse than Al Gore and Idi Amin combined. (posted 8/8/2008, permalink)
Little Known Facts: In January 1943, the sale of pre-sliced bread was banned to reduce bakeries' demand for metal parts during the war. Later in the year, canned food and shoes were rationed. (posted 7/30/2008, permalink)
Handicap This. Because they can be nearly silent, hybrid cars pose a serious threat of injury and death to blind and visually impaired people, says the American Council of the Blind, which is pushing the auto industry and government officials to develop ways to reduce this danger.
I don't understand this. Other handicapped people have animals to assist them. Why can't blind people use Helper Bats?
Of course, I may be a little biased. I once bought a broom from a blind guy and it was ... like ... a total piece of crap. (posted 7/24/2008, permalink)
Oversaturation: I visited the remodeled Safeway supermarket yesterday. It now has a Starbucks. As does the Fred Meyer across the road. And the Albertsons up the street. That makes three Starbucks in little (pop. 16,684) Battle Ground.
No wonder Starbucks is in trouble. Reminds me of an old headline from The Onion: 'New Starbucks Opens In Restroom Of Existing Starbucks'. (posted 7/23/2008, permalink)
Exclusive: Meet the team in charge of designing the latest Honda and Acura grilles:
Beware Of False Gods: A recent article claims that God drives a 1985 Nissan Maxima. I think not. God is obviously a Plymouth man.
The Bible states that he drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden in a Fury. (posted 7/11/2008, permalink)
Industrial Art: Simple design often yields elegant, minimalist art. A piece - unearthed last week from a forgotten storage box - is a square bin with a hinged lid made from clear Plexiglas. I designed it and my company built it some 20-25 years ago to display colorful candies. Six of these were placed inside a custom-fitted rectangular Plexiglas case, which was sited on a retailer's countertop. When a customer wanted to buy some candy, a clerk removed the appropriate box using the handle and opened the lid, pouring the desired amount into a suitable bag or carton.
The entire design is water-clear transparent acrylic, including the hinge for the top. Such hinges are commonplace today but, at the time this item was manufactured, were brand new. My firm was the first to use them commercially.
Because clear acrylic has no color of its own, it doesn't compete for attention with the product offering. But as an empty vessel, when the light is just right, it becomes something more than a mere container - an eye-catching, light-reflecting industrial sculpture. (posted 7/3/2008, permalink)
Face Like A ... Columnist George F. Will once described a 1957 Chevy's grille as "Teddy Roosevelt's grin in chrome." I dunno. I'm thinking 1953 DeSoto. Or 1950 Buick.
Geezer Joke: A little old man shuffled slowly into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool. After catching his breath, he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, "Crushed nuts?"
"No," he replied, "Arthritis." (posted 10/26/2007, permalink)
Still Wondering: Is Stewie Griffin related to the Travelocity gnome? (posted 9/19/2007, permalink)
My Latest Great Idea ... but six years too late. The people who make Silly Putty should have purchased a fleet of Honda Insights for their sales staff and painted the cars the color of the SP egg. (posted 9/10/2007, permalink)
Try Not To Sound Like A Moron ... if you're interviewed by the press. A local woman "executive" said in a newspaper interview that her first job at a now-defunct drive-in theater in Longview, WA "gave me a taste of what it's like working for the entertainment industry." This is like saying that a job at Burger King "gave me a taste of what it's like working for royalty." (posted 6/20/2007, permalink)
Is It Just Me? Or does Allison Janney sound like the name for a manufacturer of diesel engines? (posted 5/18/2007, permalink)
Junk: We used to get a lot of junk mail. It dramatically slowed the day I turned 60. When my wife turned 60, it virtually stopped. These days, much of the mail consists of invitations to Grand Opening Receptions at retirement villas.
Last week, my wife received an invite to a wine and cheese thingie at one such place. I didn't fare so well ... the very same day, I got a pamphlet from the Neptune Cremation Society. Do they know something I don't?
And shouldn't the Neptune Society be in charge of burials at sea, not cremation? (posted 5/7/2007, permalink)
Cats - Ingrates Of The Animal World: James Richards, a renowned cat veterinarian, former president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and author of the 'ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats', died while swerving his motorcycle to avoid a cat in New York.
If you die, your dog will lay at the foot of your casket and whimper sadly. Your cat, on the other hand, would prefer to be transported to the morgue with you so that it can amuse itself by batting around your toe tag with its paw. (posted 5/1/2007, permalink)
So What? "Bill Cosby drinks a triple tall nonfat extra hot no foam latte. He can't be bothered to come get it himself, he sends the event coordinator for our local venue who calls ahead of time to make sure it takes no longer than necessary. He instructs her not to tip."
Since when did we start tipping order-takers at counters? Am I now supposed to tip the NAPA guy when I buy taillight bulbs? How about the helpful folks at Radio Shack? Or at the paint store?
People at McDonalds don't expect a tip - they stand behind a counter and you wait in a line. Just like you do at Starbucks. This is not my idea of 'service'.
I've never tipped soda jerks for a soda-to-go. So, why should I tip the jerks at Starbucks? Particularly some self-styled 'barista' with a soul patch and an attitude. (posted 4/11/2007, permalink)
Four Reasons Why ... I don't 'get' the whole gay thing:
1. Responding to complaints from gay groups, Disney has changed its policy to allow same-sex couples to participate in a popular Fairy Tale Wedding program. But if you refer to gays as 'Fairies', they get very pissed.
2. "We are updating our Fairy Tale Wedding guidelines to include commitment ceremonies," Disney Parks and Resorts spokesman Donn Walker said. Gays also get very pissed if you imply that gayness is a mental disorder, yet they have "commitment ceremonies", which sounds like a series of welcome parties at a mental institution. (Of course, one could make the argument that anyone - gay or straight - who pays $8,000+ for a brief ride in a glass coach with a mouse is nuts.)
3. Gays are supposed to be exceptionally creative as a group yet they can't come up with better and more clever names than "commitment ceremony" or "marriage".
4. The vast majority of gays are liberal Democrats yet its the Republicans that are known as the 'Grand Old Party', which sounds like something fabulous that Truman Capote might have hosted. (posted 4/9/2007, permalink)
Puzzle: There's toast ... and there's Texas toast. There are English Muffins ... but no Texas Muffins. What's up with that? (posted 2/5/2007, permalink)
Crafting Dough: Recently, I was reading an ad supplement in the local newspaper. It seemed like every product featured was described as "artisan". This term used to be a noun, meaning a skilled craftsperson. Then it became an adjective, referring to something produced by a skilled craftsperson in very small batches.
One would think, therefore, that producing Artisan Bread would involve some kind of skilled craft tools. A jeweler's loupe? Chisel? Glassblower's tongs? Nope. According to artisanbakers.com, "An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. They understand the science behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients and know how to provide the best environment for the bread to develop." Aha! So, all non-artisan bread is Sloppily-made Bread. Thanks, artisanbakers, for the enlightenment. (For lunch, I'll think I'll have roast beef on Careless Jewish Rye.)
7-11 now offers sandwiches made with Artisan Bread. I immediately pictured a sallow, bearded man in a stark SoHo loft, sculpting a loaf of Wonder Bread into the shape of the Guggenheim Bilbao.
Artisan has now become a word I despise because it has been hijacked by the advertising industry. These days, it describes any product which looks like it might have been made in small batches. The 'looks-like' is accomplished by using homespun graphics on the label or by making the product deliberately uneven - muffins or breads baked in lumpy-looking tins which produce an artificial 'each-one-is-different' effect - even though they're banged out at the rate of 1,100 per hour on a large commercial bakery assembly-line.
Artisan is also used by inept craftspeople to explain away the flaws in their creations. Or to get a higher price. Or both.
Soooo ... we are now offered Artisan Beer, Artisan Chocolate, Artisan Bread, Artisan Wood, Artisan Coffee, Artisan Pizza and Artisan Cookies.
What's next? An Artisan Proctologist? (posted 12/12/2006, permalink)
Start Early: If you give your child a sense of style early in life, maybe he/she will purchase an Alfa someday. Or a Figoni et Falachi-bodied something or other.
Presenting the 'Brevetatto', a 1950s-vintage Giordani Bambino Carriage made in Italy. Yours for only $2,200. (posted 9/21/2006, permalink)
Another Missed Marketing Opportunity: You'd think that the makers of Imodium, the anti-diarrhea pill, would sell a pill for constipation called Modium. (posted 10/16/2006, permalink)
Think Globally; Act Locally: Driving around Portland last week, I ended up behind a twenty year-old beater (1980s Acura Legend, if you care about such things). The rear end of the car was full of bumper stickers. Liberal ones. Proposing two and three word solutions to all the world's problems. 'Impeach Bush', etc.
The car had no working brake lights. And either the turn signals didn't work or the inattentive (count to five after the light turns green, then slowly begin forward motion) driver was too lazy - idiotic - stoned (pick one ... or all) to use them. The vehicle was last washed in preparation for the Millennium celebrations.
Before you fix the world's problems, fix on your own. Get your lights working. And pay attention while driving, jerkface.
My observation, based on almost fifty years of driving experience: The more bumper stickers, the worse the driver. (posted 8/23/2006, permalink)
It's A Bird, It's A Plane ... The hummingbird hawk moth is a day-flying moth with a wingspan about two inches, found in the UK and elsewhere. The insect looks remarkably like a hummingbird.
Hmmmm. I thought that the Hummingbird Hawkmoth was a small British sedan imported to the U.S. in the 1950s. (posted 9/1/2006, permalink)
How Come ... if e-mail spam really works, you don't see guys walking down the street with a fake Rolex, a giant erection and a newly-financed mortgage?
And with all that Nigerian reward money, why would you need any mortgage at all? And wouldn't you buy a real Rolex? (posted 9/1/2006, permalink)
A Conspiracy Theory Begins: You give your two cents worth. But all you get is a penny for your thoughts. So, where's the extra money going? I mean, it can really add up over time. (posted 8/23/2006, permalink)
We All Have A Face That We Hide Away Forever: George W. Bush read 'The Stranger' by Albert Camus while on vacation. Hmmm. While on vacation, I sometimes play Billy Joel's 'The Stranger'. Coincidence? Or what?!
In 1960, Camus had a fatal auto accident while in a Facel Vega. Forty-four years later, Billy Joel had an auto accident in another French car, a Citroën 2CV. Coincidence? Or what?! (posted 8/16/2006, permalink)
Word Play: Boffins, strumpets, puffins, muppets - they all sound like things you might have for breakfast. (posted 5/1/2006, permalink)
Is This The Next Batmobile? Yesterday - on the freeway, I spotted a '60s-era black Checker eight-door Aerobus with a giant (six-foot) aluminum fin sticking up out of the center of the roof! Checker used to call its Aerobus "The Fleet-Proven Station Wagon 'Limo' That's Built-To-Last!" I guess this one did.
Quick Time: MotorWeek did a 25th Anniversary show and pointed out that the 2005 Kia Spectra recorded a better quarter-mile time than the '83 Pontiac Trans Am. (posted 2/8/2006, permalink)
Just Wondering: Do you still have to worry about Trans Fat if you drive a Trans Am? (posted 12/19/2005, permalink)
Heart Attack: It's The New Gay: After I announced to the world that I had a heart attack and I started receiving e-mail from a lot of my old friends who came out of the closet with reports of their own formerly-secret heart troubles. One wrote, "What?!? You've only got two stents? I've got five!" Hmmmmm. I didn't know it was a #@&* contest.
I can't post any more details because ... the First Rule of Stent Club is ... don't talk about Stent Club. (posted 1/16/2006, permalink)
Multisyllablic: In an interview last week, Andy Rooney told Don Imus, "I have a problem with the term African American ... The word negro is a perfectly good word. There is nothing wrong with that."
My first reaction was shock, because I thought both of these old geezers had died several years ago. But there is an nano-element of truth to Rooney's comment.
'African American' is a seven-syllable word. Too long. People need to be described in two syllables or less. Keep it simple and easy to pronounce. Even when drunk. (That's why drunks never describe themselves as 'inebriated' - too difficult to pronounce.) Simple characterizations: Black. Jew. Irish. Smelly. White. Drunk. Moron. Polish. Asshole. Asian. Muslim. Jerk. Bitch.
We only call them 'police officers' when we're under oath in front of a judge. Otherwise, they're 'cops'. And cops don't refer to the person in cuffs as an alleged but yet-to-be indicted criminal. He or she is a 'perp'.
Black people should pick a new word and stick with it. I'd recommend the monosyllabic 'black'. When the votes are tallied and the matter is settled, we can move on and begin voting on replacements for Hispanic, Presbyterian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Catholic. (posted 11/11/2005, permalink)
Death In The Family: Last week, our Sharp Carousel microwave passed away at age four. It probably had a fatal myocardial infarction from all the greasy junk food it had cooked during its brief life. Healthy food always seems to be prepared in an oven, stove or grill, while the unhealthy - albeit tasty - stuff gets zapped. There is something tantalizing about watching grated cheese melt over a rotating pile of nachos. It seemed almost ballet-like - a 35-second performance of 'Cholesterol Lake'.
Our late microwave had a 3-inch LCD screen which counted down the time. When the cooking was done, a little chef appeared on-screen (with chef's hat, funny mustache and 'OK' hand signal) with the message "Enjoy!" Neither of us were watching when the Sharp bit the dust, but I suspect the chef grimaced, grabbed at his chest and produced the message "Aaaarrrrrgh!"
Cheffie, we hardly knew ye. (posted 8/22/2005, permalink)
Chromania: I love chrome. Therefore, I'm jealous of those 1950s Canadians who could buy cars which looked like American ones but had 23 extra pounds of shiny stuff. Compare the 1956 Ford Fairlane with the 1956 Meteor Rideau:
Yes, yes, I like the clean look of the minimally-chromed '53 Studebaker Starlight coupe, 1956-57 Continental Mark II, '61 Lincoln Continental and 1963-67 Corvette Sting Ray. And all those classics designated as design milestones by the Museum of Modern Art.
But there's just something about lots of chrome ... come to think of it, the Museum of Modern Art would look a lot better if it were chrome-plated. It would also make it easier to clean off all the pigeon droppings. (posted 8/5/2005, permalink)
Getting Even: After decades of purchasing legal music in many forms, I'm now open to illegal downloads, bootleg CDs, whatever. I am soooo sick of spending half my life trying to remove all of the tamperproof anti-shoplifting devices on CDs. And why do these need to be on products purchased by mail? I figure that - even at prevailing minimum wage - the recording industry owes me thousands of dollars. So, RIAA, come after me. I plan to counter-sue. (posted 7/29/2005, permalink)
Just Wondering: Do you think any of the people who bought '70s cars with opera lights ever actually went to an opera? (posted 7/22/2005, permalink)
Unsafe At Any Height: The tragic death of a Wal-Mart heir in an ultralight aircraft made me realize that summer news reports are usually peppered with ultralight disasters. No one seems to get injured in these mishaps - they always die.
I would wager that twenty times as many people have piloted go-carts than ultralights. But when was the last time you read about a go-cart death? Go-carts are made by small businesses (or home-made) using tube stock and small engines. So are ultralights - except they have wings. In my mind, ultralights are flying go-carts. I'd guess that they are two hundred times more dangerous than land carts. (Statistics are a hard to come by because ultralights and go-carts are generally outside the government's jurisdiction.)
My conclusion - go-carts are OK; flying go-carts are very unsafe. Stay away from them. If Boeing or Honda ever gets in the ultralight business, I may change my mind. (posted 6/29/2005, permalink)
Faux Comet: I hate it when marketers slap a celebrity's image on stuff that has no relation to the star. Oxford Diecast recently offered a split-screen Volkswagen van with 'Bill Haley and His Comets' imprinted on the sides.
I was sure that Haley, a rock and roll pioneer ('Rock Around The Clock', 'Crazy Man Crazy', 'See Ya Later Alligator' and many more hits), didn't use a lowly, underpowered VW for his cross-country touring.
So I did a little research and found that Haley had a 1950s Ford F-100 panel truck for hauling equipment.
The band usually traveled in nice cars. This tribute site states that "in 1956, they bought several Cadillacs. Finally, they bought a bus, although Bill still often preferred to ride in his own pastel pink Cadillac." (posted 6/7/2005, permalink)
Wipe Out: Growing up in the 1950s, I never accepted the futurists' visions that, by 2000, we'd have flying cars with Plexiglas bubble tops and three-foot tall stabilizer fins. But I didn't expect cars to still have windshield wipers in 2005. The very idea of a motorized reciprocating device that mechanically wipes water from a glass surface using a vulcanized squeegee seems very Rube Goldberg - circa 1925. I expected 2005 cars to be equipped with hi-speed air curtain devices to keep the windshield clear. Or a force field.
Rain is endemic to the Pacific Northwest but it is usually slow drizzle or a fine mist. (The Irish refer to such weather as "a soft day.") Last week, I encountered the heaviest rainfall I've ever seen - bucketsfull - when the Jaguar's windshield wiper quit. (The Jag only has a single wiper - so, when it doesn't work, it's a big deal.) I drove very slowly and keep waaaay back so I didn't get excessive road spray from other vehicles. By the time I got home, the sun was out ... so I fixed it - a loose shaft nut which needed to be tightened. Problem solved in 10 minutes.
I now know that the nut wasn't properly tightened when I bought the car seven years ago. It's tight now and I can lift the wiper to clean the windshield without it feeling rickety. But I'm still wishing for a force field. (posted 5/26/2005, permalink)
Things You Can Do With A Sponge: Several car dealers in the area installing a "special micron air filter" in the passenger ventilation system of new cars. This and other "questionable" (I'd write 'completely useless' but I don't want to get sued. Or firebombed.) dealer-installed items (pinstriping, paint treatment, etc.) are placed on a special mini sticker next the normal window sticker info.
The "special filter" costs $75. It's probably an old kitchen sponge shoved into the A/C duct. (posted 5/22/2005, permalink)
There Is Little Correlation Between Talent And Success. Why isn't MST3K still on the air? Why is Robert Byrd still in the Senate? How come Frank Sinatra made six thousand times as much money as Jack Jones? Why is Pauly Shore still alive? Or Carrot Top? Why does James Lileks still have to work while Dave Barry can retire and spend his days clipping bond coupons while newspapers across America rerun his old stuff? And continue to send him money for the privilege of doing so. (posted 5/23/2005, permalink)
The Adventures Of J. Wilbur Worker: Recently, I visited the Social Security office to present my "proof" documents - birth certificate, etc. (I had already filed online last week.) The office was outfitted like a bank in a high-crime neighborhood. Personnel were stationed behind bulletproof glass. The waiting area was overseen by a uniformed guard.
In the process of looking for documents, I came across the original brochure I received from Social Security back in 1959, with my "new" Social Security card instructing me to "TAKE CARE of your card!" The brochure featured a hapless character named J. Wilbur Worker. The entire pamphlet, originally created in 1953 is shown here. (My copy is a 1956 revision.) (posted 5/10/2005, permalink)
Making It Stick: I use epoxy for lots of repair jobs. But epoxy is a rigid adhesive and doesn't always lend itself to flexible items or dissimilar materials exposed to temperature cycling. For those applications, I used to use Hob-E-Tak - available at most hobby shops. It was sticky, smelly and flexible; it cured in less than an hour.
Recently, Hob-E-Tak got reformulated and the new version is a shadow of its former self. It doesn't stink and it doesn't stick very well either. I've now switched to Amazing Goop and am very pleased with it. It has good holding power and a mild-but-genuine glue odor. I get mine from the Church of Lowe's. (On an early Sunday morning, there are more cars in Lowe's lot than at most churches.)
Last week, I repaired the plastic tray on our 15 year-old Canon copier. I had tried using clear packing tape to mend it but to no avail. Time to bring out the heavy artillery! I filled the cracks with an old tube of Weld-On 16, a pungent industrial clear plastic glue from my plastics days. The odor permeated the house. It is probably either off the market or has been heavily reformulated as the EDC/MDC (dichlorides) have now been banned. But, boy, does it bond!
Then I took a few tongue depressors, trimmed them to size on my bandsaw and epoxied them to the bottom of the tray as reinforcements. I used so much epoxy I practically embedded them. Success! I hope the tray holds another 15 years.
Many glues have been reformulated in recent years because the ingredients that made them bond were found to be carcinogenic. The new formulations are virtually odorless and have poor bonding power. Plastic model cement now smells like oranges and won't hold worth a damn. Good ol' Barge Cement would glue almost anything to anything. It stunk like a poorly-ventilated shoe repair shop and rightfully so, as many cobblers used Barge Cement to apply half soles to leather.
Glue safety is a philosophical thing. The question is - do you really want to live in a cancer-free world where everything comes loose? Of course, if something falls on your head from a great height, you'll die instantly, which - to some - is a better way to go than the Big C.
Me? I think I'll choose a tight, odiferous, stuck-together world where my tombstone will carry the inscription:
Out Of It: I had some heavy-duty dental surgery and am drugged and feeling 'under the weather.' It hurts to blog. Hell, it hurts to Google. But I'm taking these wonderful pain pills. At first glance, they look like Flintstone Vitamins but, upon closer inspection, I've found they're actually in the shape of Courtney Love. (posted 4/12/2005, permalink)
Bad Dreams: The cancellation of the TV series, 'American Dreams', is being mourned by Rachel DiCarlo of The Weekly Standard. I won't miss it; I could never get into it.
In 2002, I watched the first episode. It was full of errors, which I gleefully pointed out - as they happened - to my wife and daughter. Finally, I quit because I was becoming an annoyance. The show was set in early November of 1963 and begins with a snowstorm raging. Wrong! In the 1960s, there was never snow on the ground in Philadelphia before Thanksgiving. Then, a PTC bus pulls up to take on passengers - a correct 1950s GM 4502 Transit Coach but in the wrong colors with an incorrect logo. Wrong! And things continued downhill from there.
My kids bring me a lot of videos to watch, because they get a big kick out of watching me go nuts finding historical inaccuracies. "This movie is supposed to be set in 1958. What’s that 1960 Falcon doing in the driveway?" Or, "Hey, this TV show is supposed to be from 1953, but they’re playing a 1959 Bobby Rydell song on the jukebox!"
It has been suggested that, in this age of specialized TV channels, I start my own: The Nitpick Network. (posted 4/7/2005, permalink)
Just Wondering: Do oncologists in New Zealand talk about removing tumors the size of kiwis? (posted 4/5/2005, permalink)
Unbelievable Turnout: The National Atheist Convention drew only a little over 100 people in Philadelphia last week. I guess the agnostics couldn't decide whether or not to attend. (posted 3/30/2005, permalink)
New Seat On Throne: The British government has revealed that, when Charles becomes King, his wife, Camilla will automatically become Queen of England. I'm puzzled. Doesn't Elton John have to abdicate first? (posted 3/25/2005, permalink)
Phone Tips: If you're calling a company, don't know anybody and the phone screener is giving you grief, ask for "Brad in Sales." There's a Brad in every Sales Department. If that doesn't work, ask for "Chris in Tech Support." (posted 2/27/2005, permalink)
Misunderstood Music: Between the awful car audio systems of the '60s-70s (I use the word 'system' as an act of generosity; for many cars, it was an AM receiver and one, cheap, tinny speaker.) and my loss of hearing (resulting from running noisy injection molding machines, saws and routers in those manly, no-earplug, pre-OSHA days), I've probably misunderstood half the songs I've listened to.
Last week, I was losing myself in the sublayers of a Google search, when I came across the lyrics to 'Let 'Em In', one of those trite but can't-get-it-outta-your-head ditties from the mid-1970s. By Wings. You know the one. With the McCartneys warbling, "Someone's knockin' at the door ..." I always thought it was some kind of bizarre religious/political statement:
"Sister Suzie, Brother John,
Martin Luther, Falun Gong ..."
Well, Google informed me that there is no reference to the China-outlawed spiritual group, Falun Gong. The correct phrase is "Phil and Don" - a nod to the Everly Brothers, who were an inspiration to Paul in his early years. So ... to Phil and Don Everly, my sincere regrets.
I'm still not yet ready to apologize to Neil Diamond over that 1978 song about the pseudo-hip preacher, 'The Reverend Blue Jeans.' (posted 2/25/2005, permalink)
It Was Probably Rump Roast: The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that an unexpected slap on a woman's bottom (aka - pacca sul sedere) at work could not be labeled sexual harassment as long as men didn't make a habit of it.
I swear I saw 'Pacca sul Sedere' on the menu at the Olive Garden. On the 'Taste of Tuscany' page, I think. (posted 2/25/2005, permalink)
Pat Goss Is An Idiot. I enjoy MotorWeek on PBS; I've watched it for years. But the Goss' Garage segment has run out of things to say. Last week, Pat Goss discussed "Things You Should Always have In Your Car."
First one - fuses. Hey, I haven't replaced a fuse in a car since I owned my 1963 Beetle. (I sold it in '65.) In my present cars, I don't even know where the hell the fuse boxes are.
Second - a hose repair kit. In all my years of driving, I've only had one hose leak - on an aging collector car with 150,000 miles on the odometer.
Third - an emergency fan belt kit. The kit Goss showed would only work on old-style V-belts. Most cars today have multi-grooved flat belts. And in 46 years of driving, I've never had a belt fail.
In my opinion, the only things you need in a car today are - a charged cell phone, a valid AAA membership, a first aid kit and a bottle of wine with a screw top - to consume while you're waiting for the tow truck to arrive. (posted 1/19/2005, permalink)
The Myth of Halo Cars: Jerry Flint wrote recently about halo cars - the Chrysler Crossfire, Ford GT, Chevy SSR, Dodge Viper, etc. While I have great respect for Jerry, I feel that there are no real halo cars. I do not believe that anyone goes to a Dodge showroom, gawks at the pricey, sporty Viper and then turns and buys a lowly Dodge Stratus coupe because "if ya squint, it kinda looks like a Viper from the front."
Listen, if your cataracts are so bad that a Stratus looks like a Viper, you are legally blind and won't have a driver's license anyway. And, you'll need a "guardian" to write checks and sign contracts. Halo cars? Baloney. (posted 12/28/2004, permalink)
A Grave Issue: My grandson's elementary school had a fundraiser offering flower arrangements, including a cross-shaped cemetery pieces. One of the parents in this very PC, liberal, university community objected, saying that her sense of secularity was offended.
This raises a larger issue - the need to develop appropriate grave-decoration symbols for seculars. Some religions are already covered - crosses for Christians, six-pointed stars for Jews (although this particular town of 45,000 had only seven Jewish families last time I heard), crescents for Muslims.
I don't know what to use for Confucians, Hindus or Buddhists, but may I suggest a question mark for agnostics and a zero for atheists? Memo to Floral Industry - get to work! (posted 12/1/2004, permalink)
Trick Or Treat: I still remember Halloween trick-or-treating as a kid. You could tell a lot about adults based on the treats they gave out. First, there were the really-great folks who gave out full-sized candy bars. Then there were the cheapskates who gave out Klein Bars, a cheap knockoff of Hershey Bars - a little smaller in length and width and micro-thin. But wrapped like a Hershey - even the lettering was similar. Except the slide-off wrapper was dark green instead of brown. (Like they could fool anybody above idiot level that these were Hershey bars. What were they thinking?) In those days, a Klein Bar cost 3¢; a Hershey Bar cost 5¢.
Then there were the 'creative' cheapskates who gave out little candies wrapped up in a paper napkin folded up 'hobo-style' and tied with cheap ribbon. Always containing disappointing contents - a couple of forlorn pieces of candy corn and some cheap hard candies fused together. Fooled no one - underneath the paper and ribbon - they were still cheapskates.
Finally, there were the jerks who gave out a single penny ... or didn't open their doors at all. Luckily, most people were nice ... and generous.
Halloween - a time when children can become judgmental and learn to separate adults into specific categories. (posted 10/30/2004, permalink)
Just Asking: Have you noticed all of the commercials/infomercials for cleaning products and devices are hosted by fast-talking Australians? Is Australia that dirty? (posted 10/25/2004, permalink)
Progress: We received the J. C. Penney Christmas Catalog this week; it has almost 100 pages of toys, dolls and games. It's amazing how toys have evolved over the years. All of the little girls' kitchens are now made of blow-molded polyethylene instead of lithographed sheet metal. No more sharp edges to cut dad's hands to pieces during assembly.
I remember putting together an avocado-colored metal set for my daughter in the mid-1970s. I had bandages on every finger by Christmas morning.
I wonder if any dads ever hit an artery and exsanguinated on Christmas eve? "Merry Christmas, honey. Daddy's dead!" (posted 10/20/2004, permalink)
Great Dessert Name: According to the print issue of Forbes, New York restaurant 'David Burke and Donatella' offers a spectacular desserts, including Cheesecake Lollipops.
Sounds like the name of a 1970s Saturday morning kids' show! Or an '80s girl band! (posted 9/10/2004, permalink)
Straight Talk At Church: Over the weekend, we visited the Church of Lowe's. It carries that appellation because we once stopped there on the way home from church, having passed several additional houses of worship along the way, and none of them had as many vehicles in their parking lots as Lowe's. Do-it-yourself - the biggest religion in America!
We purchased some long fence stakes and other items and needed a big trunk to haul them. So we took the '39 business coupe. The Plymouth is a great conversation starter and, sure enough - as we were loading up - an eighty-something guy stopped by to admire the car and tell us about his old cars. Regarding engine choices, he remarked, "I'm a straight-six man, myself." This got me to wondering - do gay car enthusiasts have a special, alternative name they use for inline engines? (posted 9/7/2004, permalink)
Unreliable Coffin? Fiat Chairman Umberto Agnelli has died at age 69. I wonder if Fiat is making his casket? If so, I'd worry about the handles falling off and the metal rusting out on the way to the cemetery. (posted 5/29/2004, permalink)
Real Life Mundane Adventures: There's a very large concrete turnaround area in front of our house. Whenever it rained heavily, it used to flood as the water had nowhere to go but the side lawn which quickly became saturated. Eight years ago, we had a drain system put in with a ground level gutter at the lawn-concrete interface. The gutter feeds a length of piping that directs the water elsewhere.
The gutter eventually gets clogged with silt and has to be cleaned. The gutter is topped by slotted black drain covers which, at first glance, look like cast iron but are actually injection-molded structural foam plastic. When the gutter doesn't drain properly, it overflows and the buoyant plastic covers float away.
We had several intervals of pounding rain last Saturday night and I awoke to a driveway full of displaced covers. I spent some Quality Time on Sunday scooping out silt from the gutter and disposing of it. Cast iron covers wouldn't float away but the plastic ones act as an Early Warning System indicating problems beneath.
Is this Thoughtful Progressive Technology at work or just an Unintended Consequence/Benefit? Just wondering. (posted 5/25/2004, permalink)
Intersecting Data Points: Recently, we purchased a new washer and dryer. Our faithful, almond-hued, 20-year-old Maytag duo were exhibiting end-stage behavior - operating erratically, leaking, making bearing-noises, etc. A couple of brand-new, sterile-white Maytags have replaced them.
Reflecting upon Consumer Reports' appliance-life charts and the Life Insurance Institute human mortality tables, these may be the last such appliances we ever purchase.
Gives one pause. (posted 5/24/2004, permalink)
Apparition: I watched 'CSI Miami' Monday night. I honestly believe that David Caruso is channeling the ghost of Jack Lord from 'Hawaii Five-O'. (posted 5/18/2004, permalink)
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