Sunday, February 28, 2010

The End of the Month

Well Company, it's February 28, the day that wishes it was Leap Day.  And it marks the end of a lot of things.  It's the end of February, the shortest month.  The stunted month.  It's the end of Black History Month, which no one seemed to notice or particularly care about this year.  It's the end of meteorological winter, which means nothing to anyone except those who collect weather statisitcs.  But it is the first real sign of spring, so that is good.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Valley Girl

So, I was watching Olympic women's hockey, which is about as exciting as Olympic women's hockey can be, and in the minutes leading up to the gold medal game they talked about the bronze medal game between Sweden and Finland, and they interviewed winning Finnish goalkeeper Noora Räty who said the world "like" more than a Valley girl trying to break up with someone that they just like and don't love. Yeah, it was that bad.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Same As It Ever Was

     Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. That is what the Talking Heads told us back in the eighties. And they were certainly correct. Because some things, Company, never ever change. The sky is always blue, unless of course it is cloudy and gray, or maybe it's on fire and it's filled with black smoke or something. Humans will always have lungs, unless we get some gills somewhere along the way. Simon Cowell will always wear a super tight black shirt. And of course, everything will always be like high school.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Falling From Grace

We all eventually fall from grace. It doesn't matter what we do, what we think we should be doing, how long we are the appointed one, or how insignificant the grace might be, we will always take our turn falling from it. It could be something as simple as being good at baseball for a week's worth of games, it could be running a South American country as a dictator for like sixteen years. No matter what, it always happens. Suddenly you can't hit the curve and the fans turn on you. You used to be the man of the people leading you from oppression and now you are standing on your balcony and the masses below look PISSED and that can't be good. Oh, and they have stones, which hurt. I know, because that dick Little Jeffy hit me in the head with one.

So we all fall, and as such we shouldn't really be all that surprised. Yet it always catches us by surprise, and it always hurts. It HURTS! It is almost like we just don't expect it to happen. Well, we can't all be the chosen one all the time Company, so here is what I am telling you: Enjoy it while it lasts, and act in a way that once you aren't on the pedestal anymore, you will be remembered more for how you got there and how you acted there than how you fell from there. That's what I say. Because we all fall from grace sometimes. All of us.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wrong and a Half

Somewhere out there in the world, there are people writing Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction. And not just one or two guys who are putting it in little notebooks hidden beneath the mattress of their twin bed in their parents' spare bedroom. Oh no. The only thing more astonishing than the fact that there are people out there writing Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction are that there are enough of them doing it to form an association.

Have you ever heard of the I.J.P.E.F.F.W.A.? Me neither, until Jimmy James (who just had a daughter recently: Congratulations Jimmy James) alerted me to its existence and a Geekologie article about it. The International Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction Writers Association is the leading advocacy group for those who get sexually aroused by reading and writing about dinosaur, and assumedly dinosaur-themed parks. Let's take a look, shall we?

I clicked on a story called Trannysaurus Rex. And it's pretty much about what you'd think about, except it starts with a raptor threesome, which has nothing to do with a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has changed from male to female. Like a dinosaur RuPaul.

I clicked on another called "Unrequited Promise" which means nothing really and which contained the phrase "its slow, sexy, jurassic munch." That is a sentence which has never been spoken or written before, and there is a reason for that. It might be the dumbest thing that I have ever heard. Or read. I sort of thought this was supposed to be a love story, and it was, but it was a love story in which a guy was in love with a brontosaurus and in which he touched the dinosaur's leg, jizzed himself, and then was crushed when the damn thing picked up his leg an unceremoniously crushed him into future oil. Yikes.

So that's just a taste of what's available at the official site of the International Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction Writers Association. And on the surface everything about what the 225-member association stands for seems to be hilarious. It all quickly conjures up the classic stereotypical nerds doing classic stereotypical nerdy things. And Geekologie sort of celebrates that feeling in the way that a bully would celebrate those who he torments daily on the playground.

I, however, subscribe to a completely different idea when it comes to what for the sake of convenience I will call "the Association." Everything about this site, from the way the updates are written, from the way the stories are written, to the completely absurd and over-the-top page design the no one would think was good - literally everything about this site - is deeply sarcastic. The Association, those who make it up, and the product they put out to me are so tongue-in-cheek that the damn thing is sticking out the other side. I am not sure if that was the intent, perhaps someone somewhere wanted to think of the most ridiculous thing they could and make a go of it, or if maybe this was started legitimately my someone who was truly into Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction and then ruthlessly hijacked by others who stumbled upon it, but that is the way it comes off when you read it today. Hilarious.

And slightly creepy. And by slightly creepy I mean totally creepy, especially once you start to think about people getting off to this kind of stuff. It's just not right, but I suppose it's to each their own, right? They would probably think that boys looking at stories about girls was all messed up. I suppose I don't have to worry until the first Jurassic Park Erotic Fan-Fiction book comes out. Won't that be the day? Although I don't think the stories on this site - masterpieces like "What's 25 Feet Tall and Comes in Pints - are really the right basis for a romantic dinosaur novel. Although the folks at the I.J.P.E.F.F.W.A would probably know better than I do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Redesigning Lunch

There are roughly 300 million people in the United States. I didn't know if you knew that, Company. What this means, among other things, is that there are hundreds of millions of us who have survived childhood in order to become adults. So why people are freaking out so much about protecting our children I am not really sure. Now, truth be told I am not a parent, but it seems to me that for the last, oh, billion years or so, just sort of watching your children and using common sense and maybe taking them to the doctor every once in a while was a pretty winning formula when it came to child rearing. Apparently, those attributes have disappeared in the West, or maybe we are just lazy, because all the sudden our children need to be protected from everything. The latest evil that is lurking in the shadows waiting to brutally murder our children? The hot dog.

That's right, the hot dog. The most American thing that isn't called apple pie is apparently a major choking hazard for our youth of today, who unbeknownst to me have apparently developed a chewing problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics has decided that hot dogs are of the exact size, shape, and consistency that it takes to chock the fuck out of an adolescent. I guess I am not understand how this happens though. I am not sure about you, Company, but I have never seen an adolescent child deep throat a hot dog. I am not sure anyone ever has. In fact, most little kids that I know have their hot dogs cut up for them by their parents, siblings, care providers, whomever. So are those the pieces that they are choking on? I am not sure what is going on here.

The doctors, of course, aren't giving any help in terms of getting this done. It is awfully easy to just come out of your office and make declarations, but the Academy offered no suggestions for how to reshape this terrible instrument of death. They have left that to the manufacturers. And the manufacturers have responded.

The manufacturers of hot dogs are sort of between the proverbial rock and hard place with this one. They have to be pro children's safety, right? They can't just come out and say "Fuck the children. Tell them to chew better." And it's awfully hard to fly in the face of centuries of frankfurter tradition, now isn't it? But then again, they don't want to be stuck with the bill for the whole thing. So what does one say in that situation? Well the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) responded by saying basically what most of us non-crazy people were thinking:

Food safety and consumer confidence is the number-one priority of the food and beverage industry. We applaud the attention the American Academy of Pediatrics is bringing to the prevention of choking among children. We especially agree that the education of parents, teachers, child care workers, and other child caregivers encouraging them to supervise and create safer environments for children is paramount to the prevention of choking among children. We also strongly agree that pediatricians, doctors and other infant and toddler care professionals should intensify choking prevention counseling including providing parents and care givers guidance on developmentally appropriate food selection for their children. We take our working relationships with FDA and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] very seriously and look forward to continuing to work with the agencies to ensure that our products are as safe as possible.

Let me sort of sum that up for you: Hey, we don't want kids to choke but we aren't going to redesign the hot dog. Maybe the parents should keep a better watch on the kiddos.

DING DING DING! We have a winner! Maybe we should be watching our chitlins a little bit more carefully. Now, I am not saying that there aren't going to be some tragic, unavoidable hot dog related chokings, there are, but kids choke on M&M's and peanuts and dice and Barbie shoes and ice cubes and just about everything else too. And we aren't clamoring for a redesign of a die, are we? Or is that in the next issue of Pediatrics? I guess that I understand what the pediatricians are going for here, and their hearts are absolutely 100% in the right place. Our kids need to be safe, but in the end I have to agree with the grocers. How about parents do their job and maybe we won't have to totally redesign lunch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taming the Tiger

"The [Golf Writers Association of America] also believes strongly that its presence, without the ability to ask question, gives credibility to an event that isn't worthy of it."

Welcome back to the real world, Eldrick. Some things have changed since you've been away, as you can see. Last night, embattled golfer Tiger Woods gave a sort of a press conference in the Sunset Room at TPC Sawgrass, the headquarters of the PGA, and not a lot of people were happy. You can get the picture from the preceding quote from the GWAA, who voted overwhelmingly not to attend the "event."

As it turns out, a lot of people have a lot of problems with this so called "press conference." First of all, there wasn't any media there, really. Well sort of. Those invited, and those who cared to attend, were watching live on closed circuit televisions form a conference room like a mile away. Tiger was flanked by only a couple of close friends and some family. Oh, and probably some PGA folks and I am sure some representatives from whatever sponsors he has left. As you have probably figured out by now, the fact that there were no reporters in the room means that there were no questions asked of Tiger. Hmmm...that kind of destroys the whole press and conference aspects of his "press conference," now doesn't it?

So what did Eldrick have to say? Well, he apologized, as we all knew he would. And he said that what he did was unacceptable, which it was. So far so good. It was basically all the things that we all expected to hear. The place where this is getting interesting is with the delivery. There seems to be this very wide and even rift growing throughout the world, between people who believed him, are willing to forgive and forget, and those who are falling into the camp that thinks his apology was insincere and definitely orchestrated. One reviewer even said Tiger seemed "arrogant" while up there, and I have to say that I sort of agree. If there wasn't arrogance in his delivery of his apology there was definitely arrogance in the way he went about presenting it all. I am definitely and firmly in the camp that thinks Tiger should be raked over the coals for this one.

But not for what he did. Let's not get things confused here, Company. I don't think he's a sex addict, I've said that before, I think he is just a guy to likes to score and is successful at it, and think what he did was wrong. However, I don't feel he needs to be vilified for it. I think he needs to pay his dues, then he can come back to the tour and start fresh. Let's be honest, we all make mistakes, and we all deserve a certain amount of forgiveness for the times we falter. But what I whole heartedly refuse to give him is an ounce of leeway for the way he has handled this whole thing. I mean, I understand that this is a stressful incident, and most definitely life altering, but come on. You've got to realize your place.

Tiger, the minute that you smashed that SUV into that innocent fire hydrant this stopped being your show. At that point, you were done calling the shots and you are just along for the ride. All your mystique, all your power, all your good graces went out the window, and the world into which you just stuck your head after those three silent months in rehab (hmmm...living along in a crappy two-room apartment and not getting laid, most of us don't call that rehab, we call it life) having to tug at your own Gentileman's Region, is not the same world anymore. You are not king shit any longer, Eldrick. Devil Ball got it right when they compared you to the bully who has suddenly fallen, and they are going to kick you while you are down every chance you get. That's for all the kicking you have done in the past. If I were you, which I am most certainly not, I would just lie low and very quietly return to the PGA Tour with my head down, and play my way back in. You've already admitted what you did was wrong, and that's a nice first step, but not it's time to realize that, in reality, you are just another golfer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Little Puppy Woof Woof

Well, it's Friday, and between you and I, Company, I am taking a half day off work. I feel a little bit guilty because, quite frankly, I have been burning through my vacation time at a staggering rate, a half day at a time here during the winter and so I won't have any left for when the weather turns nice. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse.

Anyway, the reason that I am taking a little time off is because I am going to my favorite event of the winter, the friendly local dogsled race. See, it's a fantastic time. The city takes all the snow that they have spent tens of thousands of dollars and the better part of the winter removing from the downtown streets and they truck it back downtown and dump it on the street, so the dogsled race can begin right in the middle of the central business district. How fantastic is that?

Really, I love it because it is like a wintertime street fair but with dogs. There is incessant barking all around - it's the noise of a hundred dogs who want to do nothing but run but who are being held back - and there are tons of people milling about. The TV station is around, with some friendly local anchors announcing the start. I just can't explain it, it's a sight to behold and something that you can't really experience anywhere else.

We always start at the bottom of the hill by the curve. See, the neat thing about the course is that it starts downtown, goes down the main street, then goes down a hill at the bottom of which is a ninety degree right hand turn. Back in the day it used to be a true right hander, a real ninety degrees, and with the dogs a little anxious and the effects of the hill, there would always be a musher or two who would take the corner a little close and end up on his side, getting pulled behind his sled and his overeager dogs. It was great. In years past they have widened out the curve a bit, and so now we just wait to see if someone clunks one of the 55-gallon drums that line the course. So that is prime location and that's why we always start at the curve.

Later we will make our way up the hill, and stroll past the shops kept open late, and watch the dogs and sleds as they take off. It's neat. The dogs are there straining at the ropes. The friendly TV anchors are prattling away over a loudspeaker. The musher is digging in with everything: his boots, his break, his dragline. There are about five other people helping to hold the sled back. Then, when the buzzer sounds and the clock starts ticking, and everyone lets go of their ropes, the dogs are out of there like a shot, and they are happy as happy can be to be on their way. It's really neat.

That all happens on Friday. The race ends on Sunday, not far from where it starts, but there is rarely a crowd waiting at the finish. Because of the staggered start and the nature of a dogsled race, the mushers and their crews sort of come in far apart. That is probably my biggest regret about the race: that the mushers who work so hard to finish are greeted with basically silence. Such is like I suppose. We really give them a good show.

So that is where I will be Friday, and you will have to bear with me if I miss Saturday or maybe Sunday. I will be out celebrating winter with hundreds of other people. So enjoy the weekend. I know I will be.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brain Food

So Company, have you ever been hungry? Absolutely starving? Really? I mean, not what you and I are lucky enough to consider starving but actually, literally, starving? Me neither, and I am thankful for that. But there are a lot of people out there who are, you know, out there in the world.

Now, before you go *click* and start looking at OMG or TMZ or Facebook or something else because you think we are getting preachy, let me pose this question to you, because I think you will be able to relate to this one much easier: Have you ever been bored? Like at work or at home or wherever? I know I have. Well, there is a really easy and neat way that you can take the answer to the second question, and but it to use in helping take care of the first one. Because I know that you are good people, Company, and you feel like shit now because there are starving people out there and you are worried about being bored.

The United Nations World Food Program has partnered with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to create the website called Free Rice. It is exactly what the name implies and it works like this: You sit down at your computer, you open your Internet browser, and you type in www.freerice.com, which, through the magic of zeros and ones takes you to a site where you can answer trivia questions. Now, here is the kicker: for every trivia question that you answer correctly, ten grains of rice are donated through the World Food Program to help feed hungry people from around the world.

That is pretty neat, don't you think? The grains of rice that you cook up - pun intended - are donated by the generous advertisers on the site. Instead of paying for advertising they put their advertising money towards the rice. I think that is pretty cool.

Now I can hear what you are thinking, Company, I can hear you all nay saying out there. "Ten grains of rice for each answer? Ten grains is nothing. That's not even a spoon full." Well, that is true. But in roughly a half hour, I donated 2000 grains, and that was while I was on the phone and doing other things at the same time. So that is 4000 grains an hour, 32000 grains over the course of an 8 hour work day, 160000 grains over a work week. So how much is that? That's a little over five and a half pounds of rice. For one week. For answering trivia questions.

Questions on subjects like national capitals and chemical symbols, English grammar, word association, or Spanish vocabulary. Things you already know or things it wouldn't hurt you to know. And you really can learn. When you get a question wrong, it tells you the right answer and then waits like five questions to ask you again. So you get another chance to get it right. And another and another, if you so need, until you get it correct. So eventually you learn the answer, even if just for the short term. Just try it out.

Seriously, Company, just try it out. It's a great diversion of time, and it's a great way to use your unproductive time productively, if that makes any sense. You might not be getting any work done but you are helping out a good cause, run by a reputable organization, and funded by all the things that make capitalism awful - mainly sloth and advertising. So just try it out. I would guess that, like me, you will find it sort of addicting. And when did you ever think that one of your addictions would ever do anyone other than you any good?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let's Do A Line

I have a college degree in geography, with an emphasis on human geography. Did you know that, Company? I bet that you are surprised. And I am sure you don't care, but you needed to know if you plan on continuing to read this post. I can hear you all clicking frantically to YouTube right now. Anyway, human geography is the study of the features that people place on the land: cities, roads, borders, etc. The reason this is important is because it means that as I go through my life I tend to see things in a slightly different light than the average Tom, Dick, or Harry. Or Harry Dick. I look up when in downtown areas to see the real story behind the buildings. I tend to notice more acutely the changes in neighborhoods. And the one thing that really stands out to me are borders.

I have occasion in my daily like to cross the border between two states on a fairly regular basis. I don't do it daily or anything like that, but maybe once or twice a month I get to, and it blows my mind how much different things can be on one side vs. the other. If you were commuting every day from, say, Slab City, NY to Erie, PA I am sure that you would get used to the whole situation and not even notice all the small but important changes that happen when you cross the border at Findley Lake. But I don't cross that often, and I have a geography background, so for me, it usually blows my mind.

The reason we are talking about this today is because over the weekend I had the opportunity to cross the border between two US states on foot, far from the usual signage and warnings of a road crossing. Actually, I was on a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere on snowshoes. It was sort of neat, and the average person probably wouldn't have thought about it blinked twice as they wandered around, but as I approached the stick planted in the ground with the bits of orange plastic ribbon tied to it, and I knew I was approaching where the border crossed the lake, I sort of got all giddy and couldn't contain myself.

Arbitrarily drawn borders - straight lines across the ground - amaze me, because in essence there is nothing substantially different physically between the two sides of the line. For instance, at this lake I was standing on there was swampy lowland on both sides of the border area. If you didn't know there was a border there you wouldn't be able to tell. To me, borders on physical features makes sense. Maybe you can only control up to the edge of a major river. Maybe your territory only extends to this giant mountain range. In that case, borders drawn there make sense to me. Complete sense. But straight lines drawn across the ground, regardless of terrain or circumstance blow my mind.

It blows my mind that I could have stood in the middle of that lake, right on the line, and everything that happened on my right would be subject to totally different rules and regulations than the things on my left. Let's take a house for example. On my left it would have to be built 75 ft from the lake. On my left, more like 20 ft. On my that house would have to be inspected by the state, on my right, by the county if they are into that. Once the house is built, and it's time for the kids get older and it is time for them to go to high school, on the left it's a 30 mile drive south over mostly county roads to a large unified high school, to my right it's 25 miles on straight-as-an-arrow state roads to a much smaller high school. When your high school kid has a heart attack, if you live on the left side of the lake the rescue squad is a mile or so away, on the right: ten miles. That's a lot of difference in towns when it comes right down to it. When you die of your heart attack, the coroner on the left side comes from a county seat 70 miles from the southeast, on the right from thirty miles from the northwest. You're in a different postal district, federal reserve district, appellate court district, region of the US, television market, tax bracket, everything! Major differences all. All because someone shot a straight line across the ground to divide the world.

Now, in practice, it's not the clearly defined. The rescue squads will be able to help one another and the people doing business in the local area are usually licensed in both states. You can drive easily across the border from one side to the other, and people do, for shopping and dining and services and all that stuff. For example, regardless of which ambulance service picks you up you are going to end up at the same hospital. But there are little things, too. The highway signs are going to be different on the left vs. the right. The police on either side will have different names and different designs on their cars. You have to go to a different place to get your drivers license renewed. Just the turnings of everyday life will all be minutely but significantly different, often in ways that you don't understand or realize until you have to deal with it.

It gets even worse with you get into other areas. Arbitrarily drawn lines on a map have caused decades of warfare, poverty and strife. Particularly in Africa. When the European colonial powers sat down in Berlin in 1884 to portion out the African continent among themselves, they just drew lines. They just picked rivers as borders, and more often than not they drew those lines right through the middle of tribal territories, and lumped one ethnic group together with another ethnic group that they can't stand. As a result, 120 years later much of Africa is still trying to deal with the consequences of those straight lines, and is probably worse of for it.

It is most impressive when you see these lines laid out for the eye to see. Along the US-Canadian border in the High Plains, when seen from space, the border is easily discernible because they grow different crops on either side which show up different colors. Same on the island of Hispaniola, where the side controlled by the Dominican Republic is lush and green, while the Haitian side is barren and devoid of trees. Look at the border once between North and South Korea and try to tell me that a straight line drawn across the land doesn't have a startling impact.

That, my friends, is the power of a line. One foot on either side can make worlds of difference as to how things go and how things are done. Between wheat and alfalfa. Between communist and capitalist. Between rich and poor. Between yes and very much no. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will notice the next time you are on your way home to Slab City. It's like a whole different world from when you left Erie.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wave Goodbye

Okay, I understand people's fascination with waves, okay? Well, I shouldn't say that I understand it but I have been there, okay? I have stood on my fair share of shorelines and I have had a wave or two wash over my kayak. Fine. But I guess my question is this: why are people so stupid when it comes to big waves?

I understand that they are cool to watch, and amazingly powerful, but what is it about them that makes people suddenly unable to judge safety and risk. The reason I ask this is because this past weekend at Half Moon Bay, California, 13 people were swept off a seawall onto a rocky beach by a pair of 20 foot waves while watching a surfing competition.

This makes me go cross-eyed with confusion, Company. It really does. First of all, there were warnings about high waves, okay? Officials told the people at the competition that there would be big waves around, although the National Weather Service didn't issue the most urgent and sever type of warning until after the incident. The powers that be though knew things weren't safe because there were firefighters on the way to clear the beach because of the dangerous conditions. Yet these dingus' were out on the breakwall. Actually there were over a hundred on the wall, but only 13 of them were swept off.

I guess that the other thing that sweeps my mind off the proverbial breakwall, is that these people didn't expect dangerous waves on the breakwall. Even without the official warnings, it should just be common sense. First of all, you are at a surfing competition, which generally needs high waves in order to occur. So, using your logical reasoning skills, one should be able to figure out that the competition was probably being held there because of the propensity for big waves. Hmmm...maybe that would keep me off the breakwall. But if not, I would like to think that if I thought about the reason for a breakwall, on top of everything else, that might do it. See, there is one reason why communities build breakwalls: TO GET IN THE WAY OF BIG WAVES and create flat water behind. So the breakwall was built there because, well, that was the best place for it to be to get pounded by waves. I wonder if they don't teach that in California, because these idiots didn't figure it out.

They actually got very lucky. The Half Moon 13 were swept onto a rocky beach, with the worst injuries being broken bones. But they very easily could have been swept into the water and bashed against the breakwall itself WHILE trying to stay above water that was doing nothing but sucking them down. They very easily could have been swept out to sea. Back when the Worldwide Headquarters was located on the shores of the Great Lakes, every couple of years some stupid college kids who were probably from California would walk out onto the breakwall to watch the waves whipped up by an autumn storm and get swept out into the lake. If they were lucky someone would find their body a couple of months later, maybe when the ice went out. If not, they would be prisoners of the lake for time eternal. They were and are as bad as the idiots out in California, just not as lucky.

So I guess what I want to say is to keep your wits about you and don't get enticed by the power of the waves. Oh, feel free to gawk or play safely, but don't forgo common sense for a good view, because the waves will have you if they want you. Just be safe, or else you can just wave goodbye.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents Day (Observed)

I looked on the calendar today, Company, and I saw that it was Presidents Day, which is really officially called Washington's Birthday (Observed). Then I looked around I and found out that nobody really cared.

Well, the Federal employees care, because I am pretty sure they get the day off from work. At least the Post Office folks do. Then, because they are all broke, a lot of the states have joined in, furloughing their employees so they don't have to pay them. Bold strategy. So I guess the state employees care too.

Oh, and the retailers care, because they all seem to be having a sale, which is funny because with nobody having a job anymore and those who do getting a mandatory day off without pay, they can't afford to buy anything, especially not a new mattress, even at deep President's Day discounts.

I thought that maybe the folks at all the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln historical sites, like Mt. Vernon or seemingly all of Springfield, Illinois, would care, but they don't seem to either. See, Presidents Day on today is just when we are told to celebrate George's and Abe's birthdays. Well, Washington was born on February 22, which is still a week away, and Lincoln was born three days ago, well 201 years and 3 days ago to be more precise. So while the Lincoln groupies in Illinois are taking down the crepe paper, the Washington groupies are getting ready to party.

So apparently the only people who really care about Presidents Day are those who either a.) don't have to work or b.) are on sale. Since I have to work I suppose I don't really care, but then again I spent all this time writing about it so maybe I do care a lot more than I let on. Wow, now isn't that a tricky enigma. I just don't know. So cross the Delaware River to watch the Lincoln-Douglass debates or go shopping or do whatever it is you are supposed to do on Presidents Day. Maybe have some cake. Whatever floats your boat I guess.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Defense of Valentine's Day

So, it is St. Valentine's Day and I suppose that I should talk about that. I don't really want to, but I suppose I should. I know that Valentine's Day gets a bad rap sometimes, and I think that is unfortunate. I know that there have been a lot of years where I was a little bitter, a little put off, or a little angry on VD, but you know what? I think I am over that. I have come to the point where I realize that Valentine's Day is fine for those of us fortunate enough to have a reason to celebrate it, but it doesn't need to be demonized by those of us who are not.

I have have a problem when people say that it is a "Hallmark Holiday." Sure, there are certain holidays that I can but into fitting into the category: Sweetest Day comes to mind when I think of that. But I think VD has gone beyond that, because even if it was started by some greeting card company all that time ago, it has long since transcended that. It has become a cultural mainstay in the West, and in a lot of other places as well. It doesn't matter, it is here and it is legit. If you are choosing not to celebrate Valentine's Day because it is a "Hallmark Holiday" then you are just looking for a reason not to celebrate it, in which case you'd be better off just saying that you don't want to do it.

Oh, and for those of you who are trying to cop out and say that you aren't celebrating VD because you feel you shouldn't need a specific day to show someone you love them, that you should be showing it every day, well shut up. Last I looked at the Venn diagram Valentine's Day fits into the category of "all days." So it is one of everyday so make some Goddamn dinner reservations.

Listen Company, if you don't want to celebrate Valentine's Day that is fine. Just don't do it. But it doesn't need to be trashed, does it? Like everything else, VD is all about what you make it. So if you make it a big production, then it's a big production. If you make it a painful exercise, then that is what it will always be. And if you make it a time of bitter hatred, then it will always be that. But the easiest thing is that if you just make it another day, then it's just another day. And that's the grown up way to do it, now isn't it Company? Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fire and Ice

I like big events, Company. Don't you like big events? Well I hope so because two big events began last night, AND it was Abraham Lincoln's birthday, so it was an extra special day. But let us focus on the two big events.

First was Carnival, celebrated around the world but biggest and best down in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro. If you like dancing and naked bodies, then this is the event for you. Down there just about anything goes, but it is all about music and dancing and costumes and revelry. It's fantastic. Carnival is all about letting it snap in the days before the Catholic holiday of Lent, which lasts for 40 days and 40 nights and is all about giving stuff up. So you can imagine why they like to party before. Carnival will meet its end, well, maybe not meet its end so much as reach its crescendo, at Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnival is really a sight when you see hundreds of thousands of people lining the beach and just about every street along the main drag in Rio. It's out of control, and that's what is so great about it. Just millions of people having a good time, and I am definitely pro good time.

The second big event occurred a little bit farther north, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to be exact, and that was the Opening Ceremony for the XXI Winter Olympic Games. I like the Winter Olympics, I have to admit, and I will tell you my favorite sports in the Games are curling, ice hockey, ski jumping, and bobsledding, in no particular order. And while for the most part this Opening Ceremony has gone off without a hitch (well, except one), there are still some interesting things to note when it comes to these games.

First of all, I don't know it you know this, but it rains a lot in Vancouver. If you have ever been to Seattle think about that, because Vancouver has a very similar climate. So, because of all this rain - which doesn't really jive well with Winter Olympics at least in my mind - they have held the Opening Ceremony indoors, in the BC Place Stadium, which is really a dome. This sort of throws me because they must have cranked the air conditioning WAY up for the ceremony, because everyone in there was wearing jackets and hats, etc. Strange scene.

What else was strange was that they had to have two Olympic Cauldrons. See, like we just talked about BC Place Stadium is a domed stadium, and there is a pesky rule with the Olympics that the cauldron has to be visible from like out about town. You can't see a lit cauldron inside of a building, can you? So once they lit the cauldron they had to have Wayne Gretzky run outside, then get paraded down the street in a Chevy truck that had a conspicuously large Chevrolet symbol on the grille, to a second cauldron down the street. It was an exact replica of the one inside, but now everyone could see it. I think that it was cool that Gretzky was able to carry the flame the extra part, but I really think that they should have let Catriona Lemay Doan do it.

The reason why I am coming across as so pro-Catriona Lemay Doan is because this Olympics hasn't been without its glitches so far, and he was the victim of one of them. The Olympic Cauldrons are made up of like four pillars that come together to make the cauldron, all of them on fire and spitting noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Well, when the pillars began to come out of the floor of the stadium, one for each of the four people standing there with torches, one of them didn't work. The floor door (I love things that rhyme) wouldn't open up. So poor Catriona just stood there with nothing to light. Gretzky got to light one inside so I think they should have switched it up and let her carry the torch outside. Or they should have told Wayne not to light one inside, then nobody would have known there was a problem. Genius. I should have been the one there making decisions.

There were other hitches too, most notably the stunning lack of snow at most of the event locations, and the tragic death of a Georgian luger just hours before the Opening Ceremony began. Apparently people were saying that the track was very fast, and during a training run Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control, was launched from his sled and went flying into some sort of light pole or something that wasn't even on the course. He was thrown free from the course. It was tragic and there will be questions I am sure if another athlete gets injured.

All being said though, it seemed to go well and I am looking forward to the Games. I like them and I am sure there will be some sort of inspirational or intriguing story to come out of them. I am, however, unhappy that the games are being carried by NBC, because I hate NBC Sports so much. Before I moved the Worldwide Headquarters I could watch them on CBC, which was nice, but now I am stuck with the Peacock. They sent Bob Costas, who I don't want die but I just want to go away forever, and Matt Lauer, who I thought was Dan Fouts until I found out it was him. That does not bode well for anyone.

Anyway, I suppose I will be watching and I hope you do, unless you are going to Carnival. I suppose you could watch then because you will be up late and Rio is only an hour ahead of like New York and D.C. and Lexington, South Carolina. So tune in or get out and enjoy the Olympic or Carnival spirit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Man in the Sailboat

I did not know the man in the sailboat, I will admit that. In fact, I had never even seen a picture of him. The first time I saw him was on a TV screen, fittingly standing next to his sailboat. I mean, it was on a trailer but still it was there. And so was he. As I stood there watching image after image flicker across the screen I started to get an idea of what the Man in the Sailboat was all about. I saw pictures of family, I saw pictures of the outdoors, and I saw pictures of the work of a skilled craftsman.
The picture continued to come together as I turned around and watched the steady stream of family, friends, and loved ones who came pouring through the doors of the tiny funeral home. Oh all ages, shapes, and sizes, from all over the place, they came to pay their respects. Not exactly Lenin lying in state, but the turnout was impressive.
The comments and flowers were impressive too. The flowers were everywhere, from everyone, with the standard comments on the cards. It was, however, the comments that had been printed out from the funeral home website that sort of rounded out the picture. from friends and family and mostly former co-workers, words like integrity, intelligence, and dedication were seen over and over and over. As those words mingled with the images that were still showing on the screen, the Man in the Sailboat started to come into focus.
It is a testament to the Man in the Sailboat the number and range of things displayed on his coffin. A sail from a sailboat. A cribbage board hand made for the family. A flag folded with military precision. Intricate and beautiful carved birds, and of course a rosary held in his hands. Boating and the outdoors. Devotion to family. Service to community and country. Painstaking craftsmanship and attention to detail. God and religion.
I didn't know the Man in the Sailboat but I wish I had. I think I would have liked him. I know I could have used a dose of him; anyone can stand to get a little more of the things we just talked about in his life. It is all those things that led those legions of people to come out to honor the memory of this man, the Man in the Sailboat, who meant so much to the people around him. The type of influence, the type of consistency and reason and goodness that he provided to those fortunate enough to have known him can never be replaced. But still, a funny thing was happening.
As those pictures continued to flicker across the screen in an endless loop, there wasn't much mourning going on inside that funeral home. Oh there was mourning, don't get me wrong, but overall tone of the day seemed to be perfectly normal. People getting together after years apart. Friends and neighbors discussing everyday issues. There was definitely a feeling that life would go on without the Man in the Sailboat.
I understand this sounds callous but it was true. The feeling wasn't a sort apathetic feeling that life will go on with him, that the world won't be affected by his passing. Not at all. It was a feeling that of course he would be missed, but things will be okay. To me this speaks volumes, because everyone in the building knew that the Man in the Sailboat had done his job in life tremendously. He was able to leave, at his passing, a lineage of family and a multitude of friends who shared the same values and ideals, and who would continue on in the same manner as the Man in the Sailboat had. There was an overwhelming sense of security and stability and timelessness. It was fantastic.
So the Man in the Sailboat will be missed, as well he should be because he was a great man. However, he will continue to be among us because he was able to impart the things he believed in and the things he stood for into those around him. That is the most powerful and lasting thing he did. It was ultimately what was able to make him great, and this world was better for having him in it. Rest in peace Man in the Sailboat, and may God bless you and yours.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

High School Yearbook

So, recently I stumbled upon one of my high school yearbooks, this one from my senior year, and last night I spent some time looking at it. Oh it was all there, the faces, the captions, the names, and the thing that really got me was the signatures. Even though my high school was rather new when I attended and lacked a lot of the traditions that high schools often have, we did have that time honored tradition of signing yearbooks. I mean, we didn't like all gather under the big old oak tree like we were in Lake Wobegon or something, but we did sign and write things.
So that is what I was reading, and about a million and a half thoughts and an equal number of memories came rushing back as if I were standing in the middle of a herd of subway trains, just rushing by in a whir of lights and wind and noise. So that is what it was like. I was reading some of the thoughts and comments that people had written and I sort of had to laugh. I am not doubting the sincerity of the nice things that people were writing, I completely believe in that, but it was sort of amusing to me to hear the grandiose thoughts of 18-year-olds who saw everything ahead of them. It was kind of nice to not have that sort of jaded real worldness to the whole thing. I have to say. And of course we all predicted wonderful things for one another, no one ever says "You are going to make a wonderful inmate when you grow up." Of course not. But it is all ahead of you then and it is all going to be good. And I hope it has been good for everyone.
That being said, it sort of made me just a little bit sad. I am sad because those feelings of admiration and gratitude and love were genuine, and we all had the best of intentions, but for the most part those people are gone from my life, off living their own and doing whatever it is that they do. You wonder where they are and what they are doing. You wonder what happened to those relationships we had all that time back then. You just wonder, and that wonder seems to come with a small twinge of longing and wonder. I guess that I am just not explaining it right. I am not saying that I wish I were still in high school, no not at all. But I guess that I am sort of longing for whatever is represented by those words scribbled in silver and black and blue on page after page of yearbook. I don't know. It was good while it lasted but you always wonder why it didn't last. At least I do. Oh well, let's put away the yearbook until we happen to find it again. Then I can relive the whole thing again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dreamland

So, this past weekend I had a super vivid dream that I still remember all these days later. Let me tell you about it.
I started out back at my high school, except I was my current age. No problem. I was in French class, learning French, and the bell rang, so we got up to go. But I got delayed talking to the teacher, and by the time I got out of the room passing time was almost over. This was a problem because my high school was sort of laid out like the rays of the sun, with a main hallway and lots of hallways extending off of that one. So if you had class at one end of school and had to be at the other end, there wasn't always enough time, especially if you had to stop at your locker. So anyway, I got out of French class and I had to go to biology. And I didn't want to be late.
So here I am sprinting across school on my way to bio, which for some reason was not where biology was located in my school, and I was passing my friends. Eventually I came upon Friend Steven, who lives in another state and who never went to my high school, and I said "What brings you here? It must be important" to which he responded "Important enough for me to drive halfway across the country."
Interesting. Anyway, I continue to sprint across the school until I get to the biology area, and there are apparently three classrooms from which to choose. I, however, don't know which class to go to because it is the first day of school. I can tell you though that I didn't want Mr. Schaeffer because I was scared that he would be pissed that I was late. So I take my schedule or some sort of piece of paper and I started sticking it under the doorknobs, like scanning it or something, and it was showing up as red if it wasn't my class, until I got to the right classroom and it scanned green. So in I went. It wasn't Mr. Schaeffer's class, thank goodness, but I had some sort of pony tail hippie-sort of teacher. He didn't seem to care that I was late. I talked to him for a minute and then I was transported to a completely unrelated place and time, that had nothing to do with where I had just been or what I had just been doing.
Suddenly I was on a bicycle in some sort of crumbling, hilly town on a cloudy, damp day. The town was called Milladore, which is a town is Wisconsin, except that I pretty much am sure that Milladore doesn't really look like that. Okay. I was riding down these streets that were supposed to be highways, numbered like 230 and 120, and I remember thinking that highway 120 did not go through Milladore. Anyway, these highways were going down streets that were too narrow, and with crumbling pavement, and lots of greenery. Not up to highway standard as I navigated them with my bicycle. But soon I got down from like the heights and I was in the center of town. I navigated to a Highway M where I took a look at a map.
Funny thing happened though when I looked at the map. The tiny dot that stood for Milladore was not on any of the highways that I had just traversed. It was on one of those thin gray lines that said it was far off the beaten path. I was confused, but I was able to tell that I was far, far away from the Worldwide Headquarters. In looking at the map, however, I was able to see that there was a town called Big Dave not too far away. I am not making this up. I thought to myself "I should go to Big Dave" but it was the opposite way from the way I needed to go and I didn't want to have to ride my bike the extra distance, since it was already going to have to be like a 300 mile bike ride for me to get back to the Worldwide Headquarters.
So on this gray, damp day, with rain threatening in that sort of spring or early summer way I started riding on Highway M out of Milladore, past a dark brick building with those thick glass bricks for the windows, and towards a heavy equipment yard. They sold things like backhoes and skid steers and the like, and their lot went on on the left side of the road for what seemed like forever.
And that was it. That was when I woke up. Not from the alarm, not from anything especially special since it was on the weekend, just because, which really pisses me off because there was no closure. It just stopped and I can still remember it so vividly. So vividly, in ways that I can't even explain to you. I can still see it all before my eyes. Strange, isn't it? I think so. But that was my dream, I hope you liked it. Haha, that's nuts. Of course you liked it. Let me know if you figure out what it means.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Writer's Block

So Company, I don't know if you have noticed but lately, the last say week or so, I have been struggling to come up with content for the almost award winning Big Dave and Company. I have been struggling a lot. I don't know what I want to write about and then once I figure it out I don't know what to write about it. So I go on and peck away until something comes out, but it has all seemed awfully pained and strained and whatever other -ained words I can think of. So I am sorry, I just don't know what to do. I know that it will pass eventually and I will come up with some sort of brilliant something, but it might be some time. So just to warn you.
All the greats say that the best way to get over your funk is to keep at it. For example, when Reggie Miller was missing threes for the Indiana Pacers in the mid-90s, all he had to do was keep on shooting and he'd find his groove. So they say it goes for the good writers: all they have to do is keep writing and eventually it will all turn around for them. But I wouldn't consider myself a good writer so I am not sure that it applies to me. What if I am tapped out? What if I never write an entertaining word again? What then? I worry about these things at night. And during the day. But mostly at night. It keeps me up, but not as much as my crazy dreams do. More on that tomorrow. I hope that will break me out of my funk.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Long Australian Summer

It is summer down in Australia folks, I don't know if you know that, and I think that the excessive heat must be getting to the Aussies because, well, they have been getting a little crazy lately. Three things, let's take a look.
First there was, or is as it were, the incident at the Olympic Village in Vancouver. The Winter Olympics haven't even started and the IOC had hauled the Australians in to have a little talk. Seems their athletes have hung a gigantic picture of a boxing kangaroo from a balcony. The problem is not that they hung it there - it only covered the balconies of Australian athletes - the problem is that the boxing kangaroo is apparently a registered trademark, and that is a no no when it comes to the Olympics. The image first flew from an Australian yacht that won the America's Cup in 1983, and has since come to be used to promote literacy or something in Australia. But someone copyrighted it, and so it was a problem. Basically what the IOC did was tell them it could stay but that the next time they needed to call ahead and ask permission first. Like the guy next door who gets all pissed off when you go in his yard to get your Frisbee from your super intense game of ultimate Frisbee not because you went in his yard but because you didn't ask first. Man. See what happens when the world and Canada and Australia get together?
Well, it didn't end there for the Aussies. Pretty soon they were in trouble with the RSPCA, and I don't know who that is. I know who the ASPCA is because I have been in trouble with them before, but I am not sure who the RSPCA is. I am sure that if I were to look them up on the Interweb I would find out that they are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Here's what happened: Someone on the Australian version of "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here" killed a rat after they had been put on red beans and rice rations. Later, another contestant ate the dead rat. That, apparently, was not cool, and the RSPCA fined the ITV network some money for the incident. The network apologized, as networks do, and paid the fine, and they moved on. I guess the thing that really sort of threw me here is that the article from which I learned about this incident made it clear that the neither the Australian government nor the government of New South Wales did the fining, it was the RSPCA themselves. This possibly governmental body just levied fines because ti saw a rat get killed on TV. It would have been fine had the red beans and rice not been around, but apparently in Australia you can't kill a rat and eat it just because. The animal lovers will fine you. No word yet on whether or not my plant group will be able to fine them when they brutally murder and devour their next harmless eggplant.
This, of course, is all too much for most of us to take. I sort of want to poke my eyes out. Or stab my throat to bits, which is what Chayne Hultgren apparently tried to do. He recently set a world record by swallowing swords each measuring in at 28.35 inches long. That's 72 cm if you live, well, anywhere but America. And so at 18 of them that is 510.3 inches, or 42 and a half feet. How neat is that? He has been training since he was 16, which is 15 years because he is 31, in order to set his record, which breaks the record which he set. So take that you Australian bastard. Oh wait. Anyway, he trains by putting non-sword things down his throat but he doesn't seem to think it is a good idea for other people to have. Surprise, surprise. I am pretty sure that he just doesn't want to lose his record, don't you agree?
So that is what has been happening in the Australian heat, as the summer continues to boil the Southern Continent. Does anyone call it that? I don't know. Anyway, it's all good as we here in America roll towards spring and the boys and girls down under careen towards fall. Then it's our turn.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Bowl XLMCIIVIXXLIV - That Means 44, Right?

Well Company, it is Super Bowl Sunday and I am watching the wrap up from Super Bowl XLIV, which I am pretty sure is the name of a city in the Ukraine, despite them telling my it is Roman Numerals for 44. Leave it to the Romans to use letters as numbers even though the Arabs right next door had a perfectly good system of separate numbers. Anyway, by virtue of their 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis (neé Baltimore) Colts, I can type something that I never thought I would be able to type in my lifetime: Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
Now, going into this game, I am willing to say that most people were sort of leaning towards the Saints as sentimental and emotional favorites. That being said, 58% of people were picking the Colts as of this morning, so when they had to open their pocketbooks they were laying their Benjamins down on Indy for the most part. And that is fine. I was the same way. I listened to the game on the radio because I am anti-TV (just kidding, I was driving) and so I made sure to catch all the highlights after the game, but when I turned on the TV the highlights hadn't started yet. What was happening on my screen was that the media was interviewing Payton Manning, quarterback for the Colts. And then something strange started to happen.
Much like in a football game, the momentum started to shift. At least within me. There were pictures of Saints fans celebrating everywhere. The analysts on TV were singing about the Saints this and the Saints that. They were screaming "Who dat?" as they jumped on the bandwagon over and over. Manning was being a total class act, but he had this look on his face that was sort of like a mixture of bewilderness and trying not to cry. I had sort of been on that same Saints bandwagon before and during the game but suddenly I was very, very tired of the Black and Gold and I was actually feeling bad for the Indianapolis Colts.
I know, it was strange. It really was. The more I think about it the Colts were really between a rock and a hard place in this game. They really were in a undesirable position. If they win, they beat the popular pick and extend the voodoo curse that has seemed to plague New Orleans for so many years. They quash the hopes and dreams of a city that needed this SO BADLY. Or, they lose and they are the overwhelming favorites getting taken out when everyone had their money on them. Plus, the usual late game heroics that always seem to happen for them just sort of didn't. I guess I don't blame Payton for having the look on his face, because if I were in his shoes I just sort of wouldn't get it anyway. I sort of walked away from the television with a queasy and unsettled feeling in my stomach. It was sort of like we just watched the main character of the movie get killed by the bad guy during the climax of the film.
That being said, I don't begrudge the New Orleans Saints anything, okay? I am happy for them for a lot of reasons. One, yes, that city really needed this after all they have gone through over the last five years or so. Yes, I always like to see a team that had never been to let alone won the Super Bowl get the win. Yes, they totally and completely earned it. The reason that late game Colts magic never showed up was because the Saints wouldn't let it. So good for them, and congratulations to the New Orleans Saints and their fans. Enjoy your victory, you are the defending Super Bowl Champions for the next 365 days or so. Maybe it just seems weird because you've never been this close. Maybe it feels weird because you beat Payton Manning. Maybe it feels weird because I don't live in Louisiana or along the Gulf Coast. Maybe it seems weird because it's like an overturning of the NFL hierarchy. I just don't know. But I bet it feels really good to you. In fact, I know it feels really good to you. So enjoy it. Congratulations to the Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans Saints!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Toyota Has the Pinto Problem 2

Hey, let's rip on Toyota some more. I know it's fashionable and I so desperately want to be trendy, so here are some more thoughts and questions that I have about the car maker who is so big they own their own city:

- If I buy a Toyota will I get everywhere faster because the brakes don't work and the accelerator sticks down?

- Along those lines, wouldn't it stand to reason that Toyota should be winning every race in which they enter? I mean, maybe not in Formula One because those cars are so specialized and whatnot, but all the NASCAR Toyotas are based on Camrys, so don't you think their accelerators sticking down would give them a speed advantage, or at least limit driver fatigue in some way? We should get some college kids to study this.

- Speaking of breaks, the government has begun investigating breaking issues (I did that on purpose you know. I understand it should be "braking issues" but I liked the pun) on the high and mighty Toyota Prius after claims that the brakes do not engage immediately when the pedal is depressed if the car is switching between electric and gas propulsion. Since I never liked the Prius to begin with, let me take this shot across its bow: What does it matter if the brakes don't work right, odds are you aren't going fast enough to run into anything anyway. Am I right?

- I am still waiting on a Toyota to plow into a bridge abutment because its accelerator sticks. Still waiting.

- One of the pieces of advice that was given by Toyota when this sticky accelerator problem was first mentioned was to use a combination of the breaks and the emergency or parking break to help stop the vehicle. It seems to me that they forgot the part where you put it in neutral first. That would be my first instinct especially since Toyota doesn't seem to be able to make brakes anymore either.

- Let's be honest, there is really nothing wrong with your Toyota, or with Toyota itself. The little pickup truck that you bought from them in 1986 that still runs like a champ and gets 41 MPG for you on your way to work; that is the real Toyota. The stuff that is happening now? Those faulty parts were made by a company somewhere in Indiana. Let's hope that Hyundai, Subaru, Honda, BMW, Kia, and all the other foreign car manufacturers building cars here in America don't find that out or they will never buy another part from an American manufacturer again.

- SMASH! There is the bridge abutment thing that I was talking about. Just kidding. Your chances of actually being in an accident caused by this flaw in your gas pedal is very, very minuscule. In fact, I believe most pedals show other signs of problems before they stuck open, for instance they become hard to depress or they don't return when depressed very quickly. So look for the warning signs first. You are way more likely to die as a result of the whole floor mat thing anyway.

- Oh, you forgot about that? Yeah, your accelerator that might already be stick might also be held down by your floor mat. Uh huh. You should probably take that thing out of your car and just live with the dirty carpet for a while. That is common sense. Or maybe purchase an aftermarket floor mat that won't get you killed.

- Just so you don't think that I am picking totally on the poor folks over at Toyota, Honda AND Ford have had major recalls in the past couple of weeks too, so don't worry. Everyone seems to have the Pinto problem lately.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Melba Toast and A Wedge of Cheese

I am not going to talk about Melba toast and a wedge of cheese, Company. Someone just said that while I was trying to think of a sweet title for this post. What I want to talk about is ketchup. Or catsup. Or whichever you want to call it. The reason that I want to talk to this awesome concoction of basically vinegar and tomato paste, is because it is delicious, we can eat it on anything, and we can eat it anywhere thanks to the iconic ketchup packet. It's sort of like the Campbell's Soup can or the McDonalds Golden Arches, you see it and you just know. Well, unlike those other icons of American consumerism (at one of which you can get handfulls of delicious ketchup packets), Heinz is in the process of redesigning the ketchup packet.
That's right, they are totally redoing that design that we have all come to know and love. See, apparently a lot of people, and I do mean a LOT of people, took exception to the ketchup packet. In fact, for all of you Facebook slaves there are actually multiple groups that you can join if you take issues with ketchup packets, like if maybe one offended you one time, or if you were scared by one as a small child.
Matt Kurtz doesn't like ketchup packets because one time on a road trip one spilled on his jeans. One would think that as a 22-year-old student who is obviously male, and who was eating ketchup presumably in a moving car, that he most likely would not care about ketchup packets all that much. And one would think that stain goes good with the chili, beer, nacho cheese, and grass stains that probably already inhabited those jeans. But nay. He does care. He cares a lot. Enough so that he started one of those Facebook groups. His is called "Prop 57" and it is to increase awareness about the shortcomings of the ketchup packet. Well, don't worry 22-year-old student and self-described ketchup aficionado Matt Kurtz who apparently has a lot of time on his hands, Heinz has listened and help is on the way.
Heinz has introduced a new packet, which is currently being used in some test markets, that will make your ketchup world so much better. And when I say new packet, I mean totally new packet. It features a sort of tub-like bottom, off which you can peel one corner of the cover so that you may use it for dipping. Sort of like the little tubs of BBQ sauce or honey or whatever. That would work well for scarfing down fries in the back of your buddy's Ford Taurus while on a road trip. On the other end it features a narrow spout that can be ripped off so you can squeeze out the ketchup in a more traditional manner, so you can have it on the wrapper of your Mc-Whatever with Cheese. That is also the preferred method for those ketchup traditionalists who just can't bring themselves to peel back the cellophane from the tub and dip their onion rings like all the crazy young kids are. And, AND, AND, the best part is that this new packet will hold roughly three times the ketchup that the normal styles do. Oh man, it's on like Donkey Kong.
Are you waiting for the catch? Because we both know that there is a catch. I know there is because I am going to tell you about it right now. The catch is that they are going to cost "a little more" than the traditional packets. Now, the thing that scares me and probably scares a lot of the restaurant folks out there is that is a pretty open ended sort of term. Plus, Heinz makes no plans to discontinue with the 11 million case per year habit that Americans have for the old packets. So vaguely more expensive new packets plus the continuation of the old ones; sounds to me like Heinz isn't quite sure that restaurants are going to be willing the pay the extra price for these packets.
The should though, because unlike many companies in this world Heinz seems to have put a lot of thought, effort, and consideration into this redesign. They have known for year that people have hated the ketchup packet because of it's lack of portability, or should I say lack of easy use while on the move, says Heinz Ketchup Vice President Dave Ciesinski (he is only the vice president of Heinz Ketchup because H.J. Heinz Co. makes tons of other stuff too, just in case you didn't know. Actually, the iconic "57" on their bottles and labels comes from the number of varieties of pickles they once made. True fact. Now you can go on Jeopardy! and be successful). So they have designed this packet with that in mind. In fact, they actually went out and bought a used minivan to drive around in and test their ideas for the new packet. And since scientists always wear white lab coats, you know it was like a double hard test to pass.
So look for those packets out there somewhere in some sort of restaurants. I really do think this is a good idea and I had to applaud Heinz for listening to their customers wants and desired, even if it took them years and years and years to do it. I would like to try one if I get the chance; if not, no big deal. But kudos to you anyway Heinz. I hope your packets are a slam dunk, dip, AND squeeze

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Random Thoughts

I spent like two hours last night trying to cook up something to write for you, Company, but I failed like a college freshman with an 8 am class. So that means you are stuck with some random thoughts:

- I know, I probably could have turned all of these random thoughts into posts of their own, but you know what? I am lazy and that is a lot of work. Plus, I had to put the garbage out which at the Worldwide Headquarters is a surprising spectacle.

- I have always hated the word "enjoy." I am not against the meaning of it, I just don't like that word. Let's add "community" to it. I am going to smack the next person who talks to be about their community, and if they say that they enjoy the community I might just have to smack myself.

- A banker in Australia got caught on television looking at nudie pictures. Not like totally hardcore pictures, but more like soft core stuff. Like a Page 2 Girl in England or maybe something from the calendar your grandpa kept in the garage when your mom was little. So this guy is clicking away, his back to the camera and his monitor very much facing it, as his colleague gives a live interview on Channel 7. Just to the our left of the interviewees head you can see it all going on, especially when he looks at the super big picture. But wait, it gets better. Right about the end, the guy wheels around in his chair and realizes that he is caught, red handed, or probably purple headed is a better description. It's hilarious. Let's watch.



The girl that he is looking at is model Miranda Kerr. Here she is in case you would like a better look.

I can see why he was checking her out. Needless to say, he's in a lot of trouble with his company. A lot of trouble. She just might be worth it though as I look at that picture...

- If I went to the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, South Africa, or one of the other nations that drive on the left side of the road, and I rented a car that was a manual shift and I had to drive around, I would totally fuck it up. I mean, I know that all the stuff is basically in the same place relative to the driver except for the shift lever, and the the shift pattern is generally the same, but I would in my mind try to make it a mirror image, so I would always be shifting the wrong way and I would totally shred the car's gearbox and transmission. Good thing it's a rental, right?

- There has been something going on with Blogger tonight because none of the tricks that I usually use aren't working. I am not sure that I can cope emotionally with that. That is what Dr. J would say in this situation.

- A German guy walked out on the ice to photograph a sunset and couldn't find his way back to shore. This is what happens when we put GPS units in every car: people lose their ability to find their way. I would have assumed that he was following his GPS unit except he didn't end up stranded on a mountainous Oregon logging road in a seven foot deep snowdrift. Because that's where everyone who follows their GPS seems to end up - that was the joke.

- The more I think about it I don't understand why people like NASCAR so much, but then again I like curling so I probably shouldn't talk.

- It is a sad commentary on my food selection that I couldn't make dinner tonight because I didn't have any milk. Seems to me that points to a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, and good things that are healthy for me. Milk is the base of everything cream based, which is the base of everything that ends with the words "high cholesterol." Yeah, I am from the Midwest.

- I have never been to Ohio and I feel like that is the kind of place that I should go. Like down to southern Ohio in the hills and valleys or to Cincinnati to have some Cincinnati chili. Or just like to roll through the countryside on a two-lane. I should probably go to Cleveland or Akron or something too, just to say I had done it. But I am not going to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. That's because everyone can go there. You can go there, Company, because you are part of everyone.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Wild Russia

It is time to talk a little bit about Russia, Company. Not English Russia, which is a pretty cool blog, but Wild Russia, which is a new series on Animal Planet.
First of all, let me say that I have been fascinated with Russia, long before I ever even met The Russian. It always seemed to me that it was about as far away from where I lived as one could get, and I was and am always in awe of the sheer size and vastness of it all. Miles and miles of the most extreme geography and topography possible. I loved it. Well, as one could imagine, in a land as vast and varied as is Russia, there is some pretty cool and unique animal life.
So what some people did was they went out there and spent three years in six different regions taking video. And they were persistent because they got some neat stuff. They got animals that were running around in places where people don't generally go. They got some sweet animal battles on small scales back down in the weeds. They got pictures of animals that I have never heard of, like the jungle cat, who mysteriously was not found in the jungle but in a marshy area next to a lake far from any jungle. They got a picture of an Amur leopard in the wild, and an Amur tiger, which was also cool. They were able to follow a mama lynx around to see what she was up to and watched her raise her cubs. Etc, etc. They even went under the water to get some pictures of those super poisonous Japanese puffer fish and some other crazy underwater stuff. And I have only seen two of the six episodes that they supposedly made.
That is all well and good, and there really are some amazing and impressive pictures. But there is one thing that just hasn't sat well with me as I have watched all this amazing footage is how it has been put together. There are two things really that sort of grind at me. The first is that they are totally predictable about how they cut to commercials. I have only watched the show probably four times since it came out and I am up to roughly a 95% success rate when it comes to calling a commercial. They always try to be sort of mysterious and dramatic about it all: "The adult cranes must sift for clams alone, leaving the chicks to endure the heat alone on the salt flats. It's a race for life and death against the harsh Caspian sun." And then BOOM! they are on about me buying a Dodge Ram or something. And the worst part of it all is that they never revisit what they left off at so you get some sort of closure with the story of the cranes or whomever. I just always assume that they all have died.
Worse than that, however, is how they constantly prattle on about how rare the footage they have is. I can understand some animals, like the Amur leopard of which there aren't many in the wild, but they say it about almost every animal that they video. Like ten seconds after they tell me there are 50,000 of the little deer looking things that they are filming running around, they start talking about how they are very rarely photographed. Hmmm...I would imagine that if there are 50,000 of them hopping about someone gets them in the sights of their Kodak from time to time, wouldn't you? It's not so noticeable at first, but the more you watch the more you notice it, until you are ready to scream. I am ready to scream, and maybe throw a shoe through the TV screen, and maybe I will film it. Now THAT is rare footage if you ask me, please excuse the pun.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

So, it's Groundhog Day kids, and quite frankly I couldn't be more pissed off at Punxsutawney Phil, not because of his prediction so much but because he needs to get a name that is easier to spell and pronounce. I mean, you think that after 124 or however many years, and all the imitators and competitors who have cropped up recently, his brand managers and advertising types would have recommended his moving from Gobbler's Knob (obscene!) to a place with a bit more manageable of a name - like Nearby Clarion or Patton. Now those are towns that everyone can say, and that I don't have to look up every time I have to spell it.
For those of you who are interested, Phil saw his shadow this morning at sunrise, which means that there are six more weeks of winter, which I of course already knew because I own a calendar and a map. These two ancient tools when used in consort tell me that it is only the beginning of February and that I live in the far north. Plus, one of the friendly local businesses around here has a countdown to spring on their sign out front, and last week it said that there was 15 weeks left. So that is a local forecaster who is now in direct opposition to Phil, who lives many hundreds of miles away. So whatever he is buying I am certainly not selling.
Plus, I am a little skeptical about the whole charade anyway, because what my eyes and ears were telling me when I was watching a news report about Phil this morning didn't jive with the prediction he made - mainly in that it was cloudy in Punxatawney, Punksawtawnee - Central Pennsylvania - this morning. And it was not like it was slightly cloudy, because I know that one can still see one's shadow through the clouds sometimes, but this was a thick, gray layer of depressing clouds similar to the ones that are dropping snow on the Worldwide Headquarters. Similar to the clouds that seem to persist for the bulk of February every year. I saw them on the TV, there wasn't a shadow to be seen on Gobbler's Knob. If you asked any of the people in Phil's "Inner Circle," whomever they are, if they had seen the shadows of their gigantic top hats and they would say no, but they would say Phil saw his, which is strange. I didn't see any beam of heavenly light shining down on the drowsy rodent when they forcibly yanked him from his den.
The President of this "Inner Circle" declared that Phil saw his shadow because, well, that's what Phil told him. Son of a bitch, that was simple. Why didn't I think of that. Apparently only the President of the "Inner Circle" can speak with and understand Phil, and even then only when he is holding the special cane that allows him to speak groundhogese, which even then is sort of cryptic, like everyone is living in the movie National Treasure or something. Apparently, according to the President of the "Inner Circle," Phil said something that rhymed with another phrase that vaguely alluded to shadows or something. I am not making this up, Company, I don't have the time or patience for that anymore. And I don't have the money to buy the pot. So now, because some guy in a top hat and tails likes to make rhyming phrases we have to have six more weeks of winter. I just don't understand.
So all that happened this morning before I went to work, and it included a video clip of Bill Murray from the movie Groundhog Day, which is popular once a year on this date much like It's a Wonderful Life is popular once a year in December. Nobody watches that shit in June just like nobody watches Groundhog Day in November. I mean, there is football on why would you waste your time on a movie from 1990-whatever? Anyway, on this the most special of days that is sandwiched right in the middle of my murderers row of birthdays, all video rental outlets should be giving discounts to people who want to rent Groundhog Day or like a nature documentary about groundhogs. Like, give it to them for a week for a buck or something, nobody is going to be looking for those videos tomorrow anyhow. So step to it: this means you Sally Brown. That being said, I hope that everyone enjoys their extended winter. The six more weeks of shoveling will be good for you. And, as BankingPlanes always says, may this be the best Groundhog Day of your lives.