Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fear of Christmas

With the holiday gift giving season upon us, most men start to feel a tightening of the chest and a moistening of the palms as they contemplate what to give their significant others. We are absolutely terrified of this chore (sorry…labor of love). Every man has experienced at least once, if not repeatedly, the wrath of a female who has been inappropriately gifted.

Men just naturally believe that a great gift does something valuable, has a practical purpose, and maybe creates the opportunity to enjoy a hobby or pastime together. Gifts in this category are kitchen and lawn items, bikes, skis, surf boards or scuba equipment. Obviously, these are gifts we would like to receive as well.

Kitty tells me that women want gifts that make them “feel” special. In other words they want stuff that shines, and has no purpose, (other than produce profits for jewelry stores and inhumane African diamond mine operators).

This desire, according to female logic, makes gift giving even easier, since all you have to do is visit a jewelry store with lots of credit left on your card and trust the judgment of the sales person, because you haven’t got a clue what is good or bad, although you somehow know the more expensive the bobble, the better.

The chain store J.C. Penny recently highlighted what happens when you misgift in a video called the “The Doghouse” which is where you are banished to in the certain event that you will screw up.

This video is supposed to be funny, but is mostly a horror film for men. It dramatically reinforces the jewelry/bobble myth, and promotes actually going into the J.C Penny jewelry department to purchase said items. (The only thing redeeming about this is that you can buy yourself an eight dollar digital watch that keeps time in 4 time zones and tells you whether its high tide or not. Now there is a good gift!)

So assuming you will probably make a mistake, and you will probably end up in the proverbial doghouse as a result, how do you recover without having to go Jac Penne’s. ? How do you extract yourself from the doghouse in time to enjoy Christmas turkey and booze, without feeling like you are a prisoner on work release?

I found a website that purports to have the solutions.

The article starts with what seems to be the best and most logical way to deal with the problem. “Sit her down. Explain what happened. Apologize”. The author then explains why logic and good sense never works in these situations and provides ten ways to get out of the dog house with specific instructions on each methodology. The broad categories of strategy include:

  1. A major ass kissing session
  2. Flowers
  3. Gifts (ironically) of the appropriate kind presumably from Penny’s
  4. Poetry (you can find some on the Internet)
  5. Food
  6. Social sacrifice (this one involves not doing something with the guys that you really want to do and doing something with her like going to the Penny’s jewelry department, which you really do not want to do)
  7. Sexual favors and/or cuddly affection.
  8. Clean the house (this one has its own traps however, since there is no way you can do it right)
  9. Public humiliation (they recommend that you tell everyone what a jerk you are in your Facebook profile)
  10. Ten lashings. (whatever)

The best way to avoid all of this of course is to make damn sure that you gift her properly.

Remember the sage words of Jack Nicholson when asked how he can identify with women so well. “I think about a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” When buying a gift, make sure there is absolutely no reason for it to exist other than it is a thing that has no reason to exist and because it has no purpose or practical use, it provides no accountability.

According to Jack, it works every time. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Great Squirrel Recession

The economy is pretty bad now for humans around here, with some people calling this deep recession the new Great Depression. Well, now even the squirrels are hitting hard times due to a dramatic shortage of acorns. From Virginia to Pennsylvania to New York to the Midwest, naturalists are reporting a startling loss of acorns, according to the Washington Post.

People are reporting, that even on their own properties, oak trees that were dropping acorns like crazy last year are bare this year. According to experts, the squirrels are at risk of starving this winter due to this shortage.

Without their normal foodstuff, squirrels are on the rampage, according to the story. Calls have come in to animal control offices reporting “crazy squirrels” that are “eating garbage, inhaling bird feed (and) greedily demolishing pumpkins.”

“Let’s hope it’s not something ghastly going on with the natural world,” said one naturalist.

Wow…this appears to be serious stuff…especially since Raleigh is known as “The City of Oaks” and the symbol for the town is a giant acorn that drops from sort of a contrived oak tree to mark the beginning of the New Year.

I have always believed that the squirrel, by way of their dependence on acorns and sheer population in this area should have some official status as either Raleigh’s animal ambassador or worst pest. (This is a real dilemma…The River’s program manager, Brian Taylor tells me that squirrels are just tree rats with a good PR firm…and he knows about these sorts of things.)

Some quick ideas from said PR firm: Raleigh, Where the Squirrels are Fat”. Raleigh, Land of Happy Squirrels” or better yet, “Raleigh, Where the Dogs are Always Entertained”. (This last one works for me since I have always believed that the common yard squirrel was placed here solely to give dogs something to occupy their time and thoughts.)

I did some looking around to see if any organizations that are concerned with squirrels had any insights into the squirrel recession. Instead, I found mostly organizations that wish the worst for squirrels. Besides wanting to eradicate them, some of these groups, such as the Anti Squirrel Coalition believe that squirrels “are satanic, non-American, non-apple pie loving, non-smoking, communist tree rats!”

The ASC believes that squirrels “deliberately try to make drivers crash their vehicles by suddenly running across the street. Most people slam on the breaks and/or swerve their car erratically in such scenarios. It's a natural reaction and Squirrels know and exploit this, especially on wet or frozen roads.”

The ASC believes you should ask yourself the following questions when confronting a squirrel on the road: 'Is avoiding a squirrel who is running across the highway worth swerving to avoid and in the process dying in a fireball explosion as my car skids off the pavement and plummets into a 2000 foot deep chasm of doom?' This is the same group that says that the reason that the proverbial chicken crossed the road was to show squirrels (and humans) it could be done successfully, thus proving that squirrels are screwing it up on purpose.

Anyway, back to this claim that squirrels are satanic. My mother-in-law, who is deeply religious, spends most of her free time sewing and doing wonderful arts and crafts. Her other pursuit is killing squirrels in her back yard with a pellet rifle. She absolutely hates them.

According to the biblical expert Tim Rowland, the Bible contains a possible clue. It is written: “And thoust shall knowest it is the end of days when thine acorns driest up from thine mightiest oak and thine squirrels shall freakest out.”

So maybe this whole acorn shortage is some sort of biblical event. Or perhaps it’s just nature’s way of saying that the squirrel population is out of balance. You know people used to eat a lot of squirrel. In fact the original “Brunswick Stew” that you can get at almost any barbecue restaurant was made with squirrel. (Now they use chicken, which taste like squirrel…which begs the question: What came first? “Squirrel tastes like chicken” or “chicken tastes like squirrel”.

We actually served squirrel pizza at a recent party….and everyone loved it. (Of course they didn’t know it was squirrel). Quick recipe: skin the squirrel, remove head and boil whole for at least an hour. Then strip the squirrel meet off the bones and dice into small pieces. Then sauté the squirrel in olive oil, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Spread the meat thinly over a store bought frozen three cheese pizza and cooked until bubbly. Bonn appetite!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Russell Wilson: Rookie First Team All ACC Quarterback

I was sitting between my brother and my father in the home section at the recent UNC vs NC State game in Chapel Hill. The State offense, let by freshman Russell Wilson was dismantling the UNC defense, and Carolina fans were stunned. Many were loudly blaming the UNC defense…who at the time was one of the top rated in the NCAA.

Most UNC fans don’t go to State games…but I am required to so by my wife, an ardent State fan. (This ain’t so bad, considering the fun that State fans have tailgating versus Carolina fans…more on that later.) So I had already seen Wilson do miraculous things in several games. Because of this, I felt the need to disabuse the angry UNC fans around me of the idea that it was a faulty defense that was allowing State to march up and down the field…Russell Wilson was the problem….for UNC or any team for that matter.

So now State fans are euphorically envisioning three more years of Wilson’s magic, as I am. (UNC will figure something defensively by then) Many think he is too small for the NFL, so he probably would not be leaving early for pro football. Instead, unfortunately for all of us, (and I mean that) Wilson may be lost to professional baseball instead; because he is a prodigal second baseman…this being one of the reasons he came to State in the first place.

So why would he do this to us? We want to delight in his quick feet, laser vision and rocket arm for years to come. Well, money talks and non-football players walk, usually without a limp. If Wilson was to go to pro baseball, he would earn a minimum of $350k and possibly up to $4 million his first year. That is serious coin, especially in the middle of whatever you want to call our current economic conflagration.

Other things start to figure into the equation as well. College football has the highest injury rate of any sport…ten times greater than baseball and six times greater than basketball. The injury type is many times a concussion, which Wilson has already had, and a fairly serious one at that.

The prevailing opinion in sports medicine is that there are only so many concussions an individual should take before giving up contact sports. Too many concussions can lead to all kinds of problems including depression, confusion, short term memory loss and an affinity for Rush Limbaugh.

If you actually survive college and make it to pro sports, the numbers speak loudly as well. The average career length for a pro football player is three years. For major league baseball it is 5.6 years which is about the same as basketball. So if you have a choice, you would take baseball due to it providing you on average twice the income earning potential as football. (This math becomes more difficult with too many concussions.)

The last thing I would factor into Wilson’s equation is what I would call “the fun factor”. This relates to how much fun, or not, it is to play these sports. I played football and basketball in high school, and baseball until the 9th grade, and I can say from my own experience is there is a huge difference in how much fun a sport is to watch versus to play. For example:

Football: Really fun to watch. Painful and arduous to play, even if you win. You can barely get out of bed the next day and you do not want to get near a football for several days afterwards.

Baseball: Sort of fun to watch for a dwindling audience…sort of an acquired taste that many young Americans aren’t acquiring. Sort of fun to play but includes long periods of boredom punctuated by the terror of screwing something up. Why do you think they chew all that tobacco…they need the nicotine to stay awake.

Basketball: Fun to watch, especially in March. Really fun to play. Basketball players will get out of bed the next day and go find a pickup game. Even if you lose, you can have fun doing it.

So you start to see why Russell Wilson might not be around for three more years. We fans don’t play…we just watch…so we all hope he sticks around regardless of the risks…but I also hope he makes the best decision for his future….which could be baseball.

I’m not a baseball fan so I would probably never to get see him play anything again…which makes me sad.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Original Thanksgiving Versus Now

The great American Thanksgiving holiday has always been an opportunity for the citizenry to travel way too many miles, on roads with way too many cars, with kids who are way too impatient, to eat a meal with way too many calories among families that usually comprised of way too many jerks. Sorry...couldn’t help my self.

Anyway, today’s affair barely looks like the original that occurred back in 1621 when Edward Winslow wrote about the first Thanksgiving in the New World. Not only has the menu changed significantly, but how the meal was served and by whom has been turned on its head. (Read about the new way to conduct Thanksgiving).

“Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels ... at our doors.

Whoa…lobster, eels and mussels. No golden brown turkey, at least at this first feast.

“Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of tree sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed…”

I did find another source that said “besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys”.” Even though this seems to validate the existence of turkey at the first meal, it might just be modern marketing that got it turkeys so firmly in Thanksgiving. (More on that in a minute).

Without getting into a lot of detail, hunting for wild turkey is one of the most challenging of all game…even with modern shotguns, camouflage and decoys. wild turkey’s have the keenest eyesight in the entire animal world, and getting within 20 yards of them to successful bag one with a bow and arrow, spear or one of those Pilgrim muskets that looked like Louis Armstrong's trumpet would be exceedingly difficult.

How and why would modern marketing try to create an image the original Thanksgiving that was not true? It called money. Just like every Hollywood actor needs to be in a Christmas movie…sort of as an annuity…food companies had to have a dish that is served for Thanksgiving.

For example, the ubiquitous green bean casserole with that gloppy mushroom sauce and fried onions on top was by no means something the Pilgrims ate, but instead was concocted by the folks at Campbell's soup in the mid-1950s and weaseled in to the standard practices of the holiday.

Consider all the concoctions made with the sweet potato, which was believed to be a potent aphrodisiac back in the day. (Yes, Puritan’s, despite their name and reputation were obviously attracted to that sort of thing). Now we put marshmallows, brown sugar and all sorts of corporate products in those dishes that did not exist at the time.

The original Thanksgiving did offer some nice organic veggies. According to sources “The produce from the gardens of New Plymouth included what were then called “herbs:” parsnips, collards, carrots, parsley, turnips, spinach, cabbages, sage, thyme, marjoram and onions. Dried cultivated beans and dried wild blueberries may have been available as well as native cranberries, pumpkins, grapes and nuts.

This next section is where the most change has happened to the Thanksgiving tradition. According to the custom in colonists' homes in those days, “children used to wait on adults as they sat down to eat”. How on earth did this radical change occur?

In our family, the children have their own table and are waited on hand and foot like little kings and queens. Each parent sort of puts on a show for the other on how well they coddle their children, cut their meat and butter their bread and it becomes fodder for intra-family gossip when one parent doesn’t seem to do the job either better or as well as the other.

At the original Thanksgiving, the food was served “according to the social standing of a person and the best food and dishes were placed near the most important people in the gathering and people did not get to sample all the dishes on the table but had to eat only what was closest to them.” In other words, the children usually didn’t even get any turkey. (Or eels).

Dogs in those days were of course for controlling rodents, and protection. They were not allowed anywhere near the dinner table. These days the dogs have somehow not only worked their way into the Thanksgiving celebration…they are also part of the entertainment.

At our house, all family members bring their dogs and everyone gets to marvel at how such a diverse cross section of breeds can fight, knock things over, get slobber on everything and everybody, and scare the bejesus out of the really young kids, (sometimes biting them, of course accidentally or because “the child provoked the dog”).

Some of the dogs actually sit UNDER THE TABLE during the meal, where you can feel their hot breath on your lap and pressure of their furry bodies on your feet…while they wait for you to accidentally (or not accidentally) drop some food. By the end of the night, the dogs and children are passed out all over the beds, while the adults awkwardly wedge themselves onto the couches, pretending to care about the Detroit Lions and whoever they happen to be playing.

Anyway, we all love Thanksgiving…kids, dogs, jerks and all. Ya’ll have a Happy One!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

North Carolina People More "Dutiful and Agreeable" Than Rest of the Country

Certain regional stereotypes have long since become clichés: The Stressed-out New Yorker. The Laid-back Californian.

But the Conscientious Floridian? The Neurotic Kentuckian? The Dutiful North Carolinian?

You bet -- at least, according to new research on the geography of personality. Based on more than 600,000 questionnaires and published in the Journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, the study maps regional clusters of personality traits, then overlays state-by-state data on crime, health and economic development in search of correlations.

According to the study, Dutiful states -- an eclectic bunch that includes North Carolina, New Mexico, and Utah -- produce a disproportionate share of mathematicians.


Hmm...There must be a correlation between math proclivity and manufactured home living, another category in which we lead nationally. (Quick theory: since we are such good mathematicians, many of us have calculated the overall savings and economic advantages of living in manufactured homes and are taking advantage of these discovered efficiencies. However, I wonder if this math contains the more exotic calculations involved when predicting the path of tornados, or the ratings of the Jerry Springer show?)

North Carolina also rates very high in "Agreeableness" which could be the “Southern Hospitality” thing. This myth about North Carolinians is that we will invite you into our house for tea and scones, even if we don’t know you….and we might even ask you to stay the night such that fried chicken, collards and sweet tea can be served and family legacies can be compared. Ironically, I have never known anyone from this state that would actually do that. (And I grew up here).

However, California which ranks 38th in Agreeableness is sort of the headquarters for this type of behavior, where almost anyone will invite you in and tell you their life story…but one must be careful not to eat or drink what you are offered.

The other exceptions to this Agreeableness thing in North Carolina would be when discussions of politics or religion come up where we, (witness the latest election) are somewhat divided and opinionated. Even the Baptist and Episcopal churches in the state have split into different factions respectively. And the rancor surrounding college choices and the personality types associated with them does not fit into what I would call Agreeableness.

With all that said, I for one am very proud to be from North Carolina…especially when you look at some of the statistics from other states.

One in particular is Alaska. The home state of the latest political star to fire up the ratings at Fox and CNN alike is ranked 49th in Openness, 47th in Neuroticism, 49th in Extraversion, dead last in Contentiousness, and dead last in Agreeableness. No wonder many Alaskans wanted to succeed from the US…they must prefer the company of Caribou.

Anyway, you can read about how we match up in other ways at The Wall Street Journal Online article called "The United States of Mind". Make sure you click on the interactive graphic that comes along with the article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New Carolina Blue

The Carolina Tar Heels ran out into the baby Blue Heaven of Kenan Stadium on Saturday wearing (gasp) some sort of dark, navy, God forbid, Duke blue jersey’s. While the fans were sort of thrown back, especially since their own attire didn’t match the team’s, the players seemed to be energized by the new color and proceeded to kick Georgia Tech’s butt.

In the post game interview, Woody asked coach Butch Davis about the new color. Coach Davis said “the kids acted like it was Christmas morning when they came in the locker room and saw the jerseys.” Coach Davis went on to say that “the guys got really charged up and the color will be good for recruiting”.

I was wondering about that whole concept and it occurred to me that perhaps Carolina or Baby Blue might not be pugilistic or martial enough for your better football players and that some top recruits might choose another school over Carolina because of the colors…could that be? Could it also be that the “Tarheels” team name is not somehow menacing enough for the same players?

Pugilistic or martial colors go all the way back to the ancient Romans who wore the color of dried blood into battle. This was mostly a sensible thing to do since they didn’t wash their clothes for up to three years and they mostly soiled their uniforms with the blood and viscera of their victims. The result of all this carnage was that the dried blood color became fearsome in itself and many football teams use it even today. (USC, Washington Redskins, Alabama, etc.)

Let’s consider some of the other schools that Carolina recruits against and how their colors and mascots might give them some sort of recruiting advantage.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Really evil people running the local Baptist churches. Colors: Black and Gold. The color of black death robes combined with a special gold scythe and booty taken from the congregation. Terrifying.

Duke Blue Devils: Really evil people who are alternatively very depressed and/or work for the porn industry. Blue color comes from the color of the Federal troops under Sherman who burned the entire south, (focusing on Chapel Hill) during the Civil War.

NC State Wolfpack: Based on blood thirsty natural born killers that work in packs to isolate and kill the weakest of their quarry, which are then eaten in an orgy of violence and blood. Colors: The red of fresh blood.

Clemson Tigers: Based on the most dangerous man eating animal on earth that can tear your head off with one swipe of their razor sharp claws. Usually attack quarry from behind (sort of like clipping) such that the victim doesn’t even know what hit them. Color: Orange and black like the color of the vicious animal and the look of a ruined knee.

ECU Pirates: Based on the ruthless criminals of the sea who would just as soon kill you, rape your loved ones and steal all you money as eat a live blue crab like a crunchy potato chip. Colors: Purple and gold…the colors of bruised skin and booty.

South Carolina Gamecocks: Based on a pea brained chicken that’s too grisly to eat. These KFC rejects will fight to the death, usually by pecking the eyes out of its competitor. Colors: Crimson and black, the colors of dried chicken blood and disemboweled chicken eye balls.

Appalachian Mountaineers: Based on the characters from the movie “Deliverance” that drink moonshine, then hunt and rape their quarry using civil war era weaponry. Colors: Black and gold: Black is the color of old gun powder and bad teeth. Gold is the color of moonshine made in a ‘57 Chevy radiator.

UNC Tarheels: Uh…let’s see. Based on a civil war story about some guys from North Carolina who fought so hard in a battle it was like they were stuck in tar. (This can actually be a recruiting problem as well based on which side you pulled for in The War of Northern Aggression). Colors: Baby blue. This color suggests a new born baby boy who will fight you viciously with his rattle right before nap time. It also suggests a really nice day for a football game. (Carolina blue sky). OK, so they get a Ram to make the whole thing seem more pugilistic, but then they paint the ram’s horns baby blue. They look like two baby rattles glued to Little Beau Peep’s pet lamb.

Kitty Kinnin speculated that Carolina’s name and colors led to sort of a “Boy Named Sue” effect, named after the Johnny Cash song. This relates to how a boy with the name Sue would actually fight harder and be manlier that a guy named Dick. If you believe in the Boy Named Sue effect, a mean dude in a uniform the color of a baby bib would run faster and hit harder than a guy dressed in a blood red jersey with a picture of a spear on their helmet. Not sure about this…

I saw this problem first hand this weekend when I took my daughter went to a Carolina football game for the first time. She was really excited when she first walked in the stadium…the team was coming on the field, the band was playing, the crowd was cheering and fireworks were going off in the Carolina blue sky. Then the game settled into a 3 yards in a cloud of (blue) dust affair and my daughter commented that she was getting drowsy. “Dad…everything is just so blue…the sky, the crowd, the field…I think I need a Red Bull”. (Not a Blue Bull). She went hunting for one but none was for sale in Blue Heaven.

So now you start to see the problem that Butch Davis is trying to overcome. He must have some research that shows that some of the meanest, knarliest players in the land are somehow put off by playing football in the colors of a baby blanket. So he has endeavored to find a more pugilistic Carolina Blue as to assuage these players concerns.

Let me just say this, the new Carolina Blue is not the same as Duke blue, although there was a rumor on Saturday that the start of State vs. Duke game was delayed for thirty minutes because Duke had to wait to get their jersey’s back from Chapel Hill. Simply not true.

After conducting some quick research I discovered the new Carolina blue is actually a Ralph Lauren wall paint color called “Victory Blue” which is a good name, even if it doesn’t really relate to anything. I also found out they had asked Alexander Julian to come up with a new color of blue, but instead he sent a football jersey over with argyles running down the sides…which is OK for the basketball team, but was seen to just add to the problem for the football squad. (The basketball team could wear actual baby rattles on their jerseys and would still have no problem recruiting).

I personally think that if the Tarheels keep playing the way they have been, they will be able to recruit good players no matter what the colors they wear. But what do I know?

I think the next big trend in pugilistic football uniforms will be to wear camouflage like modern soldiers do. Can you imagine the team running on to the field, sort of invisible. How about 70,000 fans, all dressed in mossy oak, faces painted like Martin Sheen in “Apocalypse Now”. The firing of 155 howitzers after every touchdown. Quarterbacks with real “rocket arms”.

The new slogan, “UNC is looking for a few good men”. Now that’s a great recruiting plan.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Conversation between Chip the Geek and Joe the Plumber

I met Joe the Plumber!

I was standing in line to vote on election day, sort of minding my own business, contemplating a country where the president actually was a rational thinker who relied on empirical knowledge and logic to make important decisions…instead of a superstitious ideologue with a testosterone problem and lo and behold, Joe the Plumber was standing right behind me in line. Not one to shirk the opportunity to speak to a celebrity I introduced myself to Joe and made the snap decision to identify myself in the lexicon that he has grown used to.

“Hi Joe, I am Chip the Geek and I must say I admire the body of work that you have brought to the country in such a short period of time”.

“Thanks Dude…hey what kind of geek are you anyway?”

“I am a computer geek…the worse kind….however I am not big on playing computer games.”

“Not even Grand Theft Auto?”


“Dude, you really are a geek”

“Yep…but can I ask you some questions about the plumbing business, because I really would like to make $250K a year, and it sounds like you have got that whole thing wired”.

“Yep…I’ve still got a way to go to get to the magic 250…but I’ve got a plan and I don’t want some friggin’ politician screwing it up for me”

“So Joe, it’s kind of hard to make that kind of money by yourself unless you charge customers a lot per hour” Joe nodded in the affirmative. “I mean jeez…how many hours do you have to work a week to get to that number?”

“Dude, I ain’t working no more than 30 hours a week…you can only turn so many valves in a given week.”

Being the geek that I am, I immediately start doing the math on my Casio Calculator Watch. “So let’s see, 30 hours a week times 52 weeks in a year”.

“Dude, I take a week for Thanksgiving and two for Christmas, and one for Speedweek”.


“Yeah, you know…in Daytona Beach.”


“So let’s see, 52 weeks minus 4 equals 48 times 30 hours a week equals 1538 hours a year”.

“Dude that is a lot of hours”

“Word. Anyway, we divide $250k by those hours and your hourly rate is roughly $165.00 an hour. Jeez, that’s good money to unclog a toilet!” (bad joke)

“Wow…that is good money…do plumbers make that?”

“I don’t know…you are the plumber”

“Oh yeah…well now you see why I am so concerned about the top tax rates.”

“I gotta say Joe, I thought the whole deal about you was sort of overblown, but I see how you could be making that money at some point. However, as I say this to you I am already thinking about some problems with the model”.

“The model…we are talking about plumbing”.

“Oh yeah..sorry, us geeks talk about things like business models and shorten them to “the model.”


“So for the model to work you would have to instantly move from job to job and not have an hour here and an hour there for transportation and paperwork”.

“Right you are Dude... I guess out of an 8 hour day we can actually bill about 4 hours.”

“So I guess what your saying is that you would have to charge more like $330 an hour to get to $250K.”

“That’s right ….now you see why Obama is targeting people like me…”

“Yeah…I think I get it now…my lawyer, my doctor and even my broker are voting for Obama…but they don’t make $330 an hour…so they obviously are not being targeted”

“Exactly Dude…you know, you are a geek and you still get it. You should consider becoming a plumber”.

“Joe…thanks for the know computers and the Internet are sort of a big collection of pipes and fittings…so maybe a geek like me would be natural.”

Joe the Plumber nodded sort of knowingly at my last comment, we shook hands and wished each other good luck.

Whether or not I decide to become a plumber, I do know we will be seeing Joe down the road. This is a man who has conquered his chosen avocation and is moving on to politics and television. I have a feeling we will be seeing him standing next to very hot Alaskan chick (you know who I am talking about) in four years carrying his tax message to the masses. A very compelling ticket indeed!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pimp My Prius

I have been in Hollywood all week attending the Digital Hollywood conference. My company is presenting a keynote speech regarding how best to get movies on the Internet quicker and in a way that consumers want. I love coming to this conference because I get to hang in LA and check out the latest trends and thinking.

LA is the driving capital of the world and Hollywood is the fad capital of the world…since they are one in the same place, it follows that the latest car fads are always on display here.

How times have changed…just last year the vehicles of choice were big, blinged out SUVs. The shiny black Cadillac Escalades, paramilitary looking Hummers and sort of prissy looking Range Rovers were all the rage. Of course the ubiquitous Porsche, the LA people's car was and is still always in style.

Move forward to 2008, and there is barely a SUV in site. They seem to have all been replaced by the Toyota Prius Hybrid, the most well known and recognizable of the new gas/electric automobiles that save gas by essentially switching back and forth from a gas engine to an electric motor. In Hollywood, it is as if everyone drove their SUV into some kind of wierd car wash looking thing and drove out the other side in a Prius. (Could be a movie plot..."Car Wash VIII...the Transformation")

For most Hollywood types, the switch to Prius was only necessary to show their concern for the environment, since saving some money on gas is not all that important to their tax bracket. I am told that driving an SUV in Hollywood is now considered "career suicide" and driving one would destine you to a role in a Chuck Norris film or YouTube missive.

But the switch to Prius has created a new problem for Hollywood types…how to you customize this little Japanese wedge to show your individuality? How to you hang bling on something that looks like a sideways drop of water?

Enter the car-customization business, which is big in LA, and it's an easy matter to add a bit of style - some blue racing stripes, beige leather interior - to an otherwise anonymous Prius. Thus, the Prius Hackers have been born.

According to Andrew Tilin, a well know automotive writer, the Prius Hacks can be classified in the following ways.

The Electricity Fiend: This hack adds 260 pounds' worth of lead-acid batteries and channels the extra juice into the car's propulsion system. This Prius can now run on just electricity at up to 34 miles per hour for 10 miles.

The Paranoid: If the grid goes down - by dint of natural disaster, terrorist strike or a spike in demand – there is a Prius that can supply power to your home. They have spliced a heavy-duty outlet right into the car's electrical system and made it so household appliances can be run by a Prius via a standard computer-backup system. When the car's own potent battery loses too much energy, running the engine recharges it. They say "If you are frugal, one tank of gas can power the house for a couple of weeks."

The Fuel Watcher: This hack involves a super accurate fuel gauge. This works with a pocket-size computer, mounted on the car's dash, which displays the precise percentage of fuel remaining and calculates - based on the drivers unique driving habits - how many tenths of a mile they can still go.

The Video Jockey: This really popular Hollywood hack turns the car's monitor into a video screen that plays DVD's or, from a rear-mounted camera, broadcasts an image of what's directly behind the car. It can also feature the drivers best camera angle and, if required, custom lighting from their favorite lighting director.

The Prober: This hack enables the car to drive for about a mile on battery power alone. This helps if you run out of gas…thus the name. They say many Prius users have installed this option.

The Pariah: I learned about this hack from Chris, the sommelier from "Flask Fine Wines in Studio City". This hack involves dropping a Chevy 454 V-8 into the cavity that remains when you pull both the electric motor and wimpy gas engine out of the Prius. Although not as quiet as a regular Prius, this hack is rumored to have saved many spandex clad cylclists on Mulholland Drive (who can't hear the electric version of the Prius coming). Most importantly, the typical driver of the Pyriah hack revels in the look of shock that comes from smoking Porsches from stop light to stop light on Ventura Blvd.

I believe these Prius hacks are just the beginning. Hollywood does not tolerate mediocrity (except in primetime) and a new blinged out generation of Prius are just around the corner. There is even a rumor of a Porsche hybrid, which presumably would be the next big thing. However, as someone who used to own an old Porsche , I would hope that their version of a hybrid would involve the mix of gasoline and nuclear power.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Fever for Kids is Not Bad

If you have been the parent of a small child, no doubt there have been sleepless nights worrying about your child having a fever. All kinds of old wives tales and misinformation have led to unfounded fears about fevers. We feel that we have to “bring the fever down” using all kinds of over the counter medicines, poultices, incantations and prayers. Most of these reactions are totally unnecessary, usually ineffective and sometimes even dangerous.

Fever by itself is not harmful or dangerous, and unless it is very high (over 106 or 107 F), it is unlikely to cause brain damage or other problems. Fever is not a disease, instead, it is a symptom that can accompany many illnesses, especially infections. In general, you should call your pediatrician if your infant under three months of age has a rectal temperature above 100.4 F, if your infant aged 3-6 months has a temperature above 101 F, or if an infant above 6 months has a temperature above 103 F.

For most older children, it is not so much the number, but rather how your child is acting that is concerning. If your older child is alert, active and playful, is not having difficulty breathing, and is eating and sleeping well, or if the temperature comes down quickly with home treatments (and he is feeling well), then you don't necessarily need to call your doctor immediately

Kitty’s Indian Sweat Bath

When Kitty lived with the Mescal Indian tribe near the Peyote Mountains of New Mexico, she popped a fever one night after an especially trying day of ritualistic activities. The Indians decided to treat her with a sweat bath.

Although the sweat bath has ceremonial functions, sort of like a modern day hot tub party, it also is used in the treatment of rheumatism and fever. Usually the sweat lodge is a small domed structure with a framework of arched poles and a cover of hides or bark. Rocks are heated and rolled into the lodge. Water containing plant medicinals is then sprinkled on the rocks to form steam.

The sweat bath was usually followed by a plunge into cold water. This was NOT Kitty’s favorite part of the treatment.

For little ones, the medicine can be worse than the fever and the illness behind it.

Parents have long relied on fruit-flavored cold medicines to relieve the sniffles and fever. But concerns about the over-the-counter medications marketed for children have led the Food and Drug Administration to study the safety and effectiveness of these products. (In fact many of these medicines are behind the counter now…due to their use in the manufacturing of Crystal Meth…definitely not a children’s medicine).
Pediatricians and others want the government to require labeling that says these medications should not be given to children under 6.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in January that over two years, 1,519 children under 2 were treated in emergency rooms for adverse effects and overdoses associated with cough and cold medicines. The medications were also the cause of death for infants who were found dead in their homes. The babies, all less than 6 months old, had levels of the decongestant pseudoephedrine that were 9 to 14 times the dosage for children 2 to 12. (The babies were essentially on a high dose of speed)

Drugstores said to be confusing

Parents sometimes don't read labels and then become confused by all the products on drugstore shelves. (Remember: Apply directly to the forehead…and repeat 30 times). Many of the most popular cold medicines contain up to four active ingredients, any of which can cause side effects.
Decongestants, for example, are stimulants that can raise the heart rate and cause insomnia, loss of appetite or irritability, said Dr. Joel Steinberg, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"I see a lot of small kids who are really fussy," he said. "The parents think it's the illness but it's actually the medication they're taking." (and you wonder why the kid can’t sleep)

Antihistamines, often found in cold medicines, can cause drowsiness, but children can also have a paradoxical reaction and become hyper, said Dr. Maria Fisher, an Arlington, Texas, pediatrician. Multi-symptom cold medications often contain acetaminophen, but some parents don't realize that and unknowingly give their children more of the drug for a fever, she said.

Too much acetaminophen has been associated with liver toxicity. (These are the same parents who quaff a handful of Tylenol Extra Strength capsules to kill a hangover…the absolute worse thing you can do to your liver. Take an Advil or Aleve instead…better to risk your stomach than have your liver fail.)

No proof of effectiveness

Not only do these drugs have side effects, there's little evidence that they work, Steinberg said.

"The standard cough syrup has no effect on coughs," he said. "And you shouldn't take medicine that has no effect." (Duh)

Physicians say the safest approach is to skip the medications and use saline drops, a cool mist humidifier and nasal suctioning to help with congestion.

If a parent feels they must use OTC medications, doctors recommend giving the smallest dosage possible. It's better to give the medication during the day before administering it at night, so any side effects can be observed, Fisher said.

"Usually a cold or virus lasts a couple days and runs its route," she said. "But if it lasts, we go to the doctor."

Read more on this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Most men assume that shopping for clothes creates sort of a high for women, because they seem to like it so much. But research shows the opposite.

Trying on clothes brings most women low.

This is a story for every woman who has frowned at her image in a dressing-room mirror and wished for a better body. Most women have felt the same, and some have even been brought to tears, according to a poll for Fitness magazine.

The survey of 1,001 women finds that when they try on clothes, they're not only deciding whether to buy the outfit, but they're also critiquing their bodies and finding flaws.

Most (88%) say a trip to the clothing store has made them re-evaluate their bodies, and if they could magically change one part, 42% would target their waist; 23%, hips and thighs; 10%, rear; 10% chest; 4% arms.

So it's no wonder that 64% say shopping for clothes is bad for their self-confidence. And 10% have cried in the dressing room, (while 100% of their husbands are crying at the credit card bills.)

More findings:

• 39% have purchased something that was too small, hoping it would look good once they lost weight. (Don’t worry, I’ll wear this outfit next summer)
• 62% say they own a pair of jeans that no longer fit. (Miracles happen...keep them)
• 34% have a skinny outfit to wear only when they're at their ideal size; 51% have an outfit for when they are feeling flabby or bloated. (explains why women need large closets)
• 14% have refused help from sales personnel so they wouldn't have to reveal their size. (It’s OK…I’ll just break into the dressing room)
• 15% have accidentally ripped or gotten stuck in a garment that was too small. (Sir…now I actually DO need your help)
• 75.6% of women try on just one outfit in the morning at home, 16.7% average two outfits. Slightly less than 8% try more. (up to 47 outfits)

The good news is that 41% percent of these women started working out after a shopping trip. (which probably meant joining an expensive health club, or buying a treadmill from Sears)

Connect this with another study that shows that men become happier than women by midlife. According to the study, women start out as happy young adults but by midlife wind up the sadder sex.

Let's examine this more closely. When men shop, they usually go to places like “The Men’s Wearhouse” where they “Guaranteed you'll like the way the look”. That’s what men like… a good warranty. It makes them happy.

In these places, you’ll notice that the men rarely try anything on. They just go to the XL or XXL pile of shirts and pants…find the blue, red or white version of the "guaranteed" style…and buy it…all the while being confident that they "will like the way they look."

Maybe we could conclude from these studies that women should stop shopping so much and they would be happier. Although this might be true, it is the exact wrong thing to be considering in the economic situation the country is in. It would be a disaster for the economy if women stopped shopping. So I say to all women, it is your duty to the country to shop, so just buck up, and go shopping...just grin and bear it for the good ole USA.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What are the most successful parasites on earth? Dogs

Dogs trade unconditional love for food.

“Calling dogs parasites is fighting words, but what can I say? Dogs have got us exactly where they want us, and we, idiotic grins fixed to our faces, go along with it all....from The Truth About Dogs: An Inquiry Into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits, and Moral Fiber of Canis Familiaris by Stephen Budiansky.

“Dogs are a brilliant evolutionary success almost without parallel in the animal world, and they owe that success to their uncanny ability to worm themselves into our homes, and to our relentlessly anthropomorphic (definition: attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings psyches) that let them do it. “

Translation: for some reason us humans want to believe every animal thinks just like us…which explains why my friend’s hermit crab named “Peety” is just shy…not cowardly. (according to my friend…who is just cowardly) People think their dogs are sort of dumb downed four legged humanoids that just need to be talked to in a high squeaky voice so they can understand English. (Visit the Dumb Friends League website)

Further proof of this comes from a different study that show that “Dogs Can 'Catch' Yawns from Humans” and the results suggest domestic dogs have the capacity for a fundamental form of empathy, the researchers say…and empathy is extremely important in showing unconditional love. (You gotta read this article, which also details how the researchers figured this out.)

Budiansky goes on to say that “for all the myths and tales of the dog's service to man, only the smallest fraction of dogs that live off human society today earn their keep. No one has done an actual study of this, but there is reason to be suspicious even of the most common rationalization of dogs' utility to man, as guardians of property or intruder alarms; for every tale of a dog successfully frightening off burglars, there are thousands of dogs who bark incessantly at every friggin’ thing that moves and then sleep blissfully through a crime in progress.”

Perhaps our dog, a large loping bloodhound named Maggie is the exception. She earns her keep (according to my wife) by informing us daily that there are squirrels in the yard, which she does by howling, drooling and sort of crying until we feed her breakfast. Then she sleeps until dinner when she informs us yet again that there are squirrels in the yard. My wife sees great utility in this behavior and feeds the dog gratefully.

Kitty Kinnin tells me that her dogs, which are both Pomeranian/Black Bear mixes, earn their keep as well by converting dog food to wool for black sweaters.

The researcher goes on to say that, “Owners who think their dogs are conscious of their guilt when they poop on the oriental rug, owners who try to reassure and comfort and reason their dogs through their fears, owners who desperately want their dogs to desperately adore them—these are the owners of dogs that more often than not are maladjusted and miserable. (How many wacky people do you know that have equally wacky dogs?)

“Punishing a dog for defecating even seconds after the fact is futile, for dogs do not make such connections over time and space; but dogs will earnestly search for some connection between events in their immediate world and the immediate consequences, and a dog who is punished whenever his owner returns to find poop on the rug will very quickly learn to fear his owner's return, period. (Jeez your dog seems terrified of you…Yeah well it’s because he poops everyday on the rug….Did you every think he might poop everyday on the rug BECAUSE he is terrified of you?)

“A dog that is rewarded with petting and soothing words when he trembles during a thunderstorm will quickly learn to tremble all the more, and on more occasions, in pursuit of such rewards.” (Awe sweetie …don’t tremble…its OK to poop on the rug everyday…I was just kidding when I threatened switch you from organic dog food back to Alpo)

“A dog whose owners want love at all costs quickly learns to be a domineering bully—such is the nature of the wolf-dog social structure. It can be worse: his owners can actually achieve their ambition, and the dog can become neurotically dependent on them and go into hysterics at every parting.” (Neurotic dogs…no way…they chase their tails for very rational reasons) Read Article.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

People will be marrying robots by 2050

While the idea of human-robot marriage may seem far-fetched now, it may one day come to pass if artificial intelligence researcher David Levy's theory is correct.

The British researcher that by 2050, robots and humans will be able to marry legally in the United States. He predicts that Massachusetts will lead the way as it did in 2004, when it became the first state to allow same-sex marriages between humans. (North Carolina will of course oppose it)

As robots become increasingly human in appearance, he believes that people will begin to have sex with robots -- as soon as 2011. Physical attractiveness, coupled with the advances in robot programming that will allow human-like emotions and intellect in robots, could produce artificial mates that some humans will want to marry.

They consider this "inevitable" Check out this Japanese Robot!

He concluded that all of the most important factors that cause humans to fall in love with one another could be programmed into robots. Do you like your women to be coquettish? Your robot will be programmed to be demure and to flirt. (and no mother-in-law to deal with)

If you are a women, does a strong, sensitive man who likes to build premium furniture light your fire? In the not-too-distant future, say some researchers, your perfect man will be available for purchase. ( "Honey, please knock out the wall between the kitchen and the living room before you come to bed." )

They don’t believe all humans will go for robots. Instead, Levy thinks that robots will offer a few people a viable alternative to being unable to find their ideal partner. For example shy people who are uncomfortable meeting others could potentially benefit from marriage to a robot. So, too, could the mentally ill and people who "have unpleasant personalities" ( Presumably, many politicians would be married to robots. )

I question why people would marry a robot when they could just live with one. Cohabitation is very acceptable these days, even in the most conservative states. Of course some states have laws regarding common law marriage that in effect cause you to be classified as married after a certain period of cohabitation....not sure how they would be enforced with robots. Read more about this. Listen or get podcast.