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 clich├ęs: 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.

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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?”


“Nope”


“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”.


“Speedweek?”


“Yeah, you know…in Daytona Beach.”


“Gotcha”


“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.”


“Whatever”


“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 advice...you 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!