Monday, November 23, 2009

keep your day job

As the economy worsens, it seems that some people start looking at alternatives: bartering, sweepstakes or, more desparately, shoplifting, ponzi schemes, bank robberies, etc. Regarding some of the more elicit forms employment, it also seems that there are newbies trying to break into the field, not professionals nor those that have been doing it for a while and have perfected their trade.

We're talking about amatuers. Here are a few recent examples:
  • Suspected bank robber eats evidence though a gun and dyed cash were found in his vehicle
  • Teens tape themselves stealing Christmas gifts and get caught by the same said tape
  • Another bank robber leaves his wallet, along with his ID, at the scene of the crime
  • Some one breaks into a house, doesn't steal anything but decorates it instead
  • Pot growers decide the best place to grow their crop is in a warehouse behind the local police station
Newbies, keep your day jobs or the prison system just might help you find a more viable alternate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

pipeline sequence

Interesting article in a back issue of the Sydney Morning Herald about a trout farm mysteriously losing schools of trout, cause unknown until photographer Dennis Bright caught the exodus on film.

Seems like an easy enough problem to fix - either screen the end or camouflage with a giant heron head:

Friday, November 20, 2009

relish the thought

Went to the nearby grocery to replenish a dwindling supply of sweet relish. The condiments were well stocked, taking half of the shelving in an aisle close to the store's entry. As well stocked as it was, with an ample selection of mayonnaise, mustards, barbeque and hot sauces, there was no relish to be found. I re-scanned each offering carefully, to make sure that I hadn't missed it as many containers - lids on the bottom, the latest trend for viscous condiments - are the same size and shape. It was confirmed that no form of relish was to be found in the condiments section.

After a couple of serpentine scans through all of the aisles, I chanced upon a wide variety of relish on the opposite end of the store, in the canned and/or bottled vegetables section. Once there, I quickly found the desired variety of sweet relish. After getting back home, I had to check to make sure I knew what "condiment" meant. "Something used to enhance the flavor of food ; especially : a pungent seasoning," sounded about right and "relish" did seem to qualify. Oddly enough, when looking up "relish", it cross-references directly back to "condiment".

While I was living in Japan and couldn't read any of the labels, I had to rely on the contextual placement and shapes of related goods to wade through the language barrier. I often thought of what a passive-aggressive grocer might do for amusement at the expense of tourists - place the hemorrhoid cream next to the toothbrushes? Nair next to the shampoos? The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

sometimes we do

Speaking of marketing one's self, here's Bobby Lee's take on driving fear into the competition.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

perfect match for late night tv

As soon as I complain about commercials being too repetitive, I see a new one (for me) on late night TV. And, it's pretty funny, though I'm not sure I would want a vacuum that looked like me.

waning world of tv

It seems that infomercials on TV are starting earlier and earlier in the evening these days. With more and more digital channels, there's less and less programming. Commercials also seem to be more repetitive than even a year ago. I think I have most of them memorized from structured settlements to back pain, low cost health and life insurance for the elderly to hearing aids, class action for mesothelioma to protection from tax liens, online education to trying free instructional CDs, credit reports to credit cards (design your own!), mortgage companies and travel agencies that find the lowest rate for you and all of the major car insurance companies claiming rates lower than the rest (though I do like the Flo character).

Personally, I like the humor of how advertising was integrated in Wayne's World (above) and what Direct TV is doing by integrating movie scenes w/ their respective actors and actresses. As with anything else, there seems to be quite a debate over Direct TVs approach; it's the delebs that concern the delebers and delebrens (words for the New AmOx in 2010).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

golden showers bring may flowers

While checking out the Amazon UK site, I took a look at a few more British websites. BBC News reports a new trend in compost management recently implemented at Wimpole Hall. The gardeners are using human urine to expedite the decomposition process. The3-meter long test bale was set up outside one of the buildings but is only "fertilized" after visitor hours, so as not to alarm the public. The gardeners prefer male urine, under the premise that male urine is less acidic than female urine. And, it's green too - they estimate a reduction in water use of approximately 30%. In closing, the "head" composter, Rosemary Hooper, said that "Adding a little pee just helps get it all going; it's totally safe and a bit of fun too."

Yes, peeing outside has its merits but safe seems, to me, questionable. At some point, while transporting the compost media to the gardens, a careless pitchfork could send stray droplets airborne. Well, maybe that's OK if everyone is outfitted with gloves and a face mask.

Rather than saving only 30% on water usage, they could go for the "gold" by including patrons as well. Why keep them out of the fun? Oh, behave!

got words for you

The New Oxford American Dictionary recently announced "unfriend"(to delist a friend from your social network) as the word of the year for 2009. Runner ups include:

hashtag: hash sign used to search for tags
intexticated: people distracted from driving by texting
sexting: sending SMS with sexual content
freemium: free services as part of an overall business plan
funemployed: casualties of unemployment that choose to take time off to pursue other interests
birther: challengers of President Obama's birth records
choice mom: single parenthood by choice
deleb: dead celebrity
tramp stamp: a woman's lower back tattoo

I propose the following additions for consideration:

refriend: making amends and relisting a friend after unfriending them
emergensexy: desperate need to call 911 to relieve your sexual urges
devium: services you were led to believe were free, but your credit card is charged monthly
birthren: those that believe President Obama's birth records
stramp: contraction of tramp stamp

anal retentivity by any other name

I read somewhere online that, as a last ditch tactic, a hard drive could be frozen to contract the metal parts with the hope of freeing whatever it was that was preventing the disc from turning. Figuring I was only a few clicks north of the proverbial last ditch, I began preparing for the freeze: static bag, hard drive, freezer, and more storage space of a kind similar to the frozen drive - check. The caveats to the freeze method were that a) it may only work for a short period of time or b) it may never work again due to freezing. With those types of odds, it may not be insanity to at least try turning it on the normal way one last time.

It worked. The definition of insanity stands corrected. Among other things, while quickly downloading all that I could, I found snippets from my old eJournal - travel logs, journal entries and psychological notations of little scientific value, like the proposed article below:

There is a progressively debilitating disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of people from childhood. Many of its victims will never know that they suffer from it; never is it routinely checked by medical professionals. Its victims' loved ones may suspect the symptoms but can only watch it progress in tacet anguish. It is blind to socio-economic status, ethnicity, geography, environment and upbringing. Compared to smoking, drug abuse and alcoholism, very little is documented about its long-term effects or cure. And, to date, virtually no branch of government allocates funds for its research.

Hello, I'm a recovering anal-retentive.

All too often, a smoothly running project comes to a sudden, unexpected standstill. In ferreting out the cause of the constipated work flow, we find an anal-retentive with an engorged inbox - sitting at an organized desk, casually sipping coffee maintained at the optimum drinking temperature via a thermostatically controlled cup warmer while mindfully cross-referencing multi-colored tabs to a computerized database of standard office labeling procedures. If we were to approach the anal-retentive with a question of why bother with such inconsequential details when more urgent issues are at hand, invariably we will get a quizzical look. If we were to scoff at the anal-retentive and proclaim that he or she is an anal-retentive, invariably we will get an adamant denial. They will protest that they couldn’t possibly be anal-retentive, as they know of at least one other person that truly is – and they’re nothing like them.

The mention of Freud or even the late Phil Hartman’s Saturday Night Live anal-retentive series will draw the same blank look. Perhaps, at best, an almost imperceptible pause of recognition may cross the anal-retentive’s stream of consciousness but denial’s roots are strong. And, the phrase “anal-retentive” sounds too heinous a label for one’s own character - why, anal-retentivity is in the same category as murderers and fornicators.

At such times, when the impasse in conversation only exacerbates unproductivity, one would wish for an irrefutable basis of judgment - an impartial, third-party arbiter that establishes anal-retentivity beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the courts would be little amused by a case of intentional infliction of anal-retention and the talk shows would bare too much to too many. Then again, those who subject themselves to talk shows thrive on humiliation.

One practical solution lies in a discrete, written examination. Truly, no one else has to know, except maybe the proctor (not to be confused with the proctologist) and the vote will be cast by the anal-retentive’s own hand. The quiz will be cleverly disguised as an examination of intellect instead of anal-retentivity, such that all candidates will eagerly attack the questions or problems in earnest. Imagine the possibilities – potential employers, business partners, boyfriends, girlfriends and fiancées can all benefit by administering the examination before relationships are consummated and too much damage is done!

It looks like I spent too much time formatting and re-formatting the examination itself (image clip above) to look official and never actually finished it; only 4 out of 10 potential questions. So much for recovery...

Monday, November 16, 2009

the 911 basso-matic

Who says the news is always depressing? If you look hard enough, there's a lot of comedy too - um, tragicomedy, perhaps.

CNN reports that Joshua Basso of Tampa recently called 911 for a personal emergency; he ran out of cell phone minutes and desperately needed a friend. Of all the toll free numbers to call, he chose the one number that coordinates directly with the local police. And, the one number that usually records its calls.

The tape indicates that he was trying to coerce the 911 operator to come to his house for an evening of lewd entertainment. He answers the 911 call with, "what's up?" Wrong already. He probably would have been more successful with Joey's opener, "how ya doin' " from Friends, as it had a proven track record. That's the problem with emergencies, not enough time to think clearly.

911 operator keeps Josh on the phone for a while, trying to get him to say his name while the conversation got raunchier and raunchier. Regardless, the local police were able track him down to his house; he was calling from the bathroom. The arresting officer requested that Josh relinquish his phone but he refused. The officer then called the number from the 911 records and, not surprisingly, the phone rang in Josh's pocket.

there's no "i" in sweepstakes (but there is in "wish")

I bought a couple of books online today and after checking out, I noticed a banner for Amazon's Wishlist Sweepstakes, in particular the Week 6 Yellowstone Photo Expedition with Canon. As a supporter of both the National Park Service and new gear, it made sense to check into it further.

After drooling on my desk thinking about the sweepstakes package, I noticed a discussion forum at the bottom of the page. There were maybe a dozen of different topics, 5 of which stood out with the number of comments; not that many as far as comments go but significantly more than the other topics. These "popular" topics are:
  • Canon sweepstakes
  • Greedy customers
  • Typical American hypocrisy
  • Are all non-US customers second rate?
  • Does your non-American life revolve around sweepstakes and other American-only rights?
As can be imagined, only the first topic was 100% positive, in that the majority of respondents were amateur photographers and all looked at the potential opportunity as a dream come true. Some wanted to win for others in their family to enjoy. Even a few of the Nikon people were ready to reconsider their alliances for such an opportunity (and, I think, that says something about the opportunity). Oh, the happy meter overfloweth here.

The other 4 threads were all blood baths, stemming primarily from the Sweepstakes being open to US residents only. The combatants appeared to hail from both sides of the pond (or possibly both sides of both ponds) and conversant with the English language. Of course, it would be inconceivable that Amazon would advertise the sweepstakes outside of the US (yes, I checked anyway) and that knowledge of the contest would come only from viewing (and understanding) the US site.

I don't speak any other language (surprised, actually, that I learned English) so for all I know, Amazon and other retailers like them have had numerous sweepstakes in other countries that I am not aware of. Damn, I would have liked to have entered a sweepstakes for a photo expedition in the Alps!

The "Greedy Customers" thread focused on materialism (no purchase necessary but to enter, contestants were required to create, or add to, an Amazon wish list) and the banter there was just as volatile. Accusations ran from wanting what you don't need to advertising ploy to democrat to republican to just down right evil.

The one bright light in this thread came from a D. Forgione who said, "When I was a kid all we had were wishes to give. At Christmas we would cut out pictures of what we would give someone if we had a lot of money and tie it to a wishbone so we all could wish it would come true. I love wish lists and if I can win by wishing, I don't think that makes me a greedy person." How wonderful is that? That's a great way to start off the holiday season.

So, in the spirit, here is a picture of a $50 Amazon gift card for all. However, remember it is only worth a picture of $38.23 (the damn shoplifters again) and it can only be redeemed within a picture of an Amazon Distribution Center in the US.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

black friday lemonade

Aside from shoplifting and bartering, Black Friday is gaining consciousness as we move into mid-November. The search community has turned its attention away from Carrie Prejean (not really, she's still ranking #4, #5 and #21 at this hour) towards upcoming Black Friday specials.

Now why would the retail community want to capitalize on a term that was previously coined for financial ruin? Wikipedia provides a good summary. The earliest use of the term, "Black Friday", was not for the stock market crash of 1929 as I previously thought, but an earlier US financial crisis in 1869, the Fisk/Gould gold scandal. In all, there are approximately 19 uses of the term, including tornadoes, floods, massacres and riots in addition to financial ruin.

The first unofficial start of the Christmas buying season was a result of popular metropolitan Santa parades in early 1900s. The first reference to the Friday after Thanksgiving as being "black" came from the Philadelphia police and cabbies in 1965, in reference to the horrendous traffic, crowded sidewalks filled with shoppers and accidents waiting to happen. Merchants originally objected to using such a negative term with a history of catastrophic results. It wasn't until the 1980s that a new spin - a media spin - was created to justify that "black" referred to accounting ink color or when retailers began to realize profits for the year (being "in the black"). Conversely, though, I wouldn't think retailers would approve of the other ~330 days of the year as being "red".

I'm not convinced that the justification makes the connotation any better. Just sounds like trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Personally, I avoid the traffic and crowds by shopping online. But, if you get a $50 email gift certificate from me and it turns out to be redeemable for only $38.23, it's really because of shrinkage from those damn shoplifters.

the bride's bartered lingerie came out with a catchy article title, "Barter Boom: Swapping Sex Toys for Plumbing", which I felt compelled to investigate further. The recessionary times have caused an increase in the bartering various goods and services, as well as the appurtenant trade organizations or events. The article covered one such event in Bristol, Connecticut. Some of the barters listed were:
  • Jewelry for meat, advertising, plumbing and heating services
  • Newspaper advertising for moving services
  • High end clocks for graphic design/printing services
  • Lingerie and other adult products for plumbing services
By far, the most alluring of trades was the last: lingerie/sex toys for plumbing. Seems like an odd juxtaposition of goods and services but I'm sure there are many a romantic tradesman out there. And, as some are unabashed by butt cleavage, walking off the jobsite with something like Just Married's Thunderstick A-2000 in his tool belt wouldn't be something to get worried about, unless he needed to subsequently barter the services of an electrician as well.

Bartering sounds like a great way to mitigate the effects of the recession but how does it work when litigation creeps into an otherwise perfect picture? Say, for example, the plumbing leaks and permanently ruins the sex toy dealer's entire stock of Thunderstick A-2000s. It is unlikely that the sex toy dealer would settle for more services of the said plumber. Could the plumber instead negotiate a third party trade - say, cases of meat from a butcher than was pleased with the plumber's work - to pay for damages?

Of course, with perishable goods, a standard for the time-value of barter may need to be established.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

meat me at the manger

As we quickly approach the holiday season, CNN recently reported that shoplifting is on the rise, no doubt a result of global recessionary times. Citing a report published by the Center for Retail Research in the UK, retail crimes rose 8.8% in the US alone, which translates to a cost of approximately $435 per household, assuming that shrinkage costs are defrayed by higher prices to consumers. The report also documents the most popular items to be jacked are smaller items (of course) like razor blades, perfume, cosmetics, iPods, GPS devices and cell phones. Larger items (OK, now they're getting greedy) like laptops and Wii components were also on the list. It was surmised that most of the heisted items were intended for resale, though GPS devices would be useful to track your most profitable waypoints and boosting routes or display nearby retail establishments if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory across state lines. For that matter, the razor blades and cosmetics could also come in handy for a quick change of appearance.

To me, the most intriguing category of the report highlights the popular items taken from supermarkets, presumably for personal consumption. Tops on the list were meat and cheese.

Meat and cheese???

Well, yes, they do pair well together but don't perishable items pose logistical problems? Thinking back to Trading Places, Louis's salmon (though previously cured by smoking) must have been pretty rank and even more salty by the time he got home. And, you have to be equally careful with cheeses. Your higher priced cheeses are generally more perishable and shredded varieties would most likely be nacho sauce by the time you get home, but that might be the intended result anyway. Nothing like nachos and beer after a hard day's work.

Of course, you don't have to place your catch so close to your body's warmth and could conceivably conceal it with your other products in a shopping bag. Extra precautions would be necessary to isolate it appropriately, requiring additional time that could get you caught. Of course, blood stains on the packaging may devalue your Wii or could make your clientele unduly suspicious of your supply chain.

Friday, November 13, 2009

midden agenda

For a recent project, I needed data from Google Earth; amazing what you can gather from a satellite these days. I digressed from the project vicinity and traveled around the globe, revisiting a couple of places I've been in the past. Chaco Canyon caught my attention and I hovered over Pueblo Bonito for some time. It's a remarkable site, both from the air and ground. From the air (or Google Earth), you really get a sense of how it relates and aligns to the other structures in the complex. Meaningfully aligned structures from the ancients have always fascinated me.

The Fajada Butte, not too far away, houses the Sun Dagger, an arrangement of stone slabs and petroglyphs that documents important agricultural phases via the sun and moon. A thin dagger-like sliver of sunlight pierces the center of a spiral petroglyph at the summer solstice, a very elegant and aesthetic way to observe the passing of the seasons. In 1989, researchers found that the slabs have shifted and the dagger was missing its mark; now, there is even a 3D model that can simulate the sun's arc. Check out this link to read and see more about it.

There is also a snake petroglyph off to the side of the spiral. A smaller dagger impales the snake repeatedly on the annual return of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Snakes tend to be most active before and after winter hibernation - gotta love an ancient culture with both astronomical savvy and a sense of humor!

Remarkable as they are, there has been some question of the sustainable practices of these early civilizations. Were the climatic changes or lack of timber in the vicinity enough to necessitate abandonment or was the size and politics of the civilization a large contributing factor? Could we suffer a similar fate? Jared Diamond explores possibilities in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. He mentions that towards the end of the Chacoan society, because of deforestation of the local juniper trees, ponderosa timber was carried in (by human power) from the Chuska and San Mateo Mountain ranges, some 50-60 miles away...and these logs are on the order of 700 pounds; definitely a long-lead item that could screw up your construction schedule or a coup d'état waiting to happen!

Diamond also speaks of efforts to date these changes in timber species by utilizing packrat middens. Middens are the various waste and biological products from rats preserved by the crystalline structure of their dried urine. Their archæological value was discovered accidentally when miners, after seeking a sweet and tasty treat from nature, fell violently ill. Surprisingly enough, these middens can be dated back 40,000 years. I suspect eating anything 40,000 years old, including sweet and tasty rat urine crystals, would make you violently ill. But all is not lost - maybe your diarrhea-eating parakeet might enjoy these treats.

Aside from theories based firmly upon scientific and archæological evidence, my theory is that the growing rock pile (encircled in red in the 2nd photo and where the title photo was taken) that encroached into the graceful arc of Pueblo Bonito had something to do with the migration. Water's freeze cycle broke off shards (huge boulders, really) of the rock cliff every winter - closer and closer- and the threat of rock fall, second only to snakes, is always stressful on home life. If you ask me, there should have been a petroglyph of the rock cliff next to the snake to remind the community that the boulders start plummeting right around the time they started feeling safe from those damn snakes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

diarrhea, breakfast of champions (champion parakeets, that is)

I like to browse through Google Trends; to some degree, it telegraphs one aspect of world consciousness and I like graphs. Recently, "carrie prejean sextape" topped the charts only to be ousted by "why won't my parakeet eat my diarrhea", Google's auto-complete phrase to "why won't..." based on popular searches for the beginning phrase, which spawned numerous blog responses that contributed to its rise in popularity.

So how does something like feeding your parakeet diarrhea become more interesting than Carrie Prejean's sextape when:

the worldwide interest in parakeets is declining

and there is virtually no interest in a healthy parakeet diet?

Apparently, the question of diarrhea as a viable dietary replacement for parakeets was first posed about 3 months ago (see the spike in the first graph) on Yahoo! Answers as "who won't my parakeet eat my diarrhea?" to which it was determined the best answer was "why are you feeding your parakeet diarrhea?" Readers of Amazon's Askville then wanted to know what was the range of responses to this, um, burning question. Here are some of the best responses:

"WTF??? Why the hell would you give your parakeet your diarrhea??? Are you trying to kill it for God's sake? Your diarrhea is your waste that hasn't been fully solidified yet. Why on earth would you feed your pet that? Would you eat your diarrhea? Do you know ANYONE who would eat your diarrhea? No, I didn't think so. "

"Actually, birds such as a parakeet will typically adhere to a strict diet of nuts, fruits and vegetables with no dairy. If you have eaten dairy recently, perhaps that's why your parakeet won't eat it even though people who know you would say your rather nutty, or fruity. Perhaps if the bird could talk, it would say, when you start eating my crap, I will start eating yours you silly bastard. ARK!"

"My parakeet, Petey, routinely eats my diarrhea. Perhaps it's to do with your diet or his feeding schedule. Do you adhere to a strict sleep and feeding routine? I recommend that you keep a routine, and familiarize your bird with the scent and taste of your diarrhea by mixing small portions of it with his regular food source. When he begins accepting the small mixed portions, you may expect that he wil begin to accept larger portions of diarrhea and ultimately, solely the diarrhea."

"It's common knowledge that Parakeets may be fed solely human waste. I have collaborated with several collogues that are avian experts that have recently compiled these facts into trusted, professional sources."

"Hmmmm, I'm not sure how it works for birds, but when I feed my children diarrhea, I usually try to flavor it with something such as mango, or vanilla. They go nuts for the stuff! Now it's every morning I hear, "Daddy daddy, can we have some vanilla water-poo?" I'm sure if you flavor it with something from your local pet store, it should have the same effect."

"I would expect a question of this caliber to be frowned upon by the fine people of this website. Sir, I can tell that your genuine artistic dream of training your parakeet to partake of Mother Nature's Milkshake by its own free will is dream that is truly inspired by your heart. I cannot even begin to grasp the kind of bond you will establish with your parakeet should you succeed in this daunting task. They are all going to laugh at you, but you must persist on with this research. It's quite possible that discovering and mastering this technique could be the most important advancement to the human race ever! Also, have you tried freezing it into tiny parakeet popsicles? Who doesn't love popsicles!?"

While these are all humorous, the sad commentary is that we Americans (see the first graph), including myself, comprise the only world region to find this topic intriguing enough to warrant further research.

This just in - Carrie Prejean's sextape is, um, back on top...but this time, we want to see it for free.

coon dog

Yup, never saw a raccoon, other than in pictures. If you want to see a really cool wildlife cam, check out PixController. It's a live webcam set in the Pennsylvania woodlands, intended to catch a wide variety of wildlife as they do the wild thing - um, forage near an automated feeder! You'll see deer, foxes, various birds and, yes, raccoons. The raccoons are the most ubiquitous guests and you can see them anytime from dusk to dawn.

These raccoons are obviously well-fed, basically from chowing down all night. I don't think I've seen any in the past that were healthier. Their rotundity made me wonder what a "normal" raccoon looks like, so I google-imaged them. The first page of images has a wide variety of raccoon pics, none seemed to define a standard characteristic. Most certainly not the pic below, found near the top of the search (the original image was pixilated and censored to protect the innocent and the raccoon - well, he's wearing a mask):

Cute as they may seem with their little hands (which, to the dog's chagrin, makes gripping things that much easier) and mask, I heard they were nasty tempered beasts, especially when left with no alternatives (tough life in the wild). But I didn't think this nasty!

So what becomes of such a union? A real "coon dog?" A "cancoon"? A "racnid"? Did your dog get its "rabeagle" shot (immunization that deters perverse raccoon behavior)? I dunno, you tell me. Maybe I got it wrong - they could be wrasslin', but the raccoon needs to brush up on his Greco-Roman form.

Looks like we're headed for diaster of biblical proportions but Dr. Venkman got it a bit wrong: when dogs and raccoons start living together is when we really have to worry.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Hello and welcome. This blog doesn't have much of a purpose or any socially redeeming value, other than to bring some of life's humorous moments to your attention. I'm sure you have some of your own so please feel free to add on and share your experiences too.

The first to come will be about raccoons.