Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Kitty Kinnin's North Carolina": Watch out Sarah!

So I was watching "Sarah Palin's Alaska" the other night and it was so funny, I thought it was a "Saturday Night Live" special starring Tina Fey.  But then Bristol Palin…or someone who looked a lot like she does on "Dancing with the Stars" was on the show too and well, I couldn't think of any of the SNL crew that looks like her so I was like "Dude..maybe this is real".   Could it be possible?

After watching Sarah and Bristol getting blood on their hands from the slaughter of a variety of animals and climbing mountains with designer ropes and fleeces, all for the very first time,  it occurred to me that:  1.  North Carolina has more things to do than Alaska and 2. Kitty Kinnin is certainly more versatile than Sarah.  So, why not do a real reality show with someone who has actually done real things here, in North Carolina?

I know for fact Kitty has rafted some of the world's most dangerous rivers, fought her way to the front row of some of the most raucous rock concerts and tasted some of NC's most challenging foods ( I saw her eating raw meat being cut directly off an organic beef carcass…really…no kidding…I have video).  

Kitty has been committed to NC her whole career and never once quit a job to pursue politics/money, a book deal/money or a TV show/money.  So we are thinking this is the time for her to breakout like Sarah but in a substantially different way.  She will not quit her morning show/no money job to do a TV show/no money deal….she will shoehorn the Kitty Kinnin reality show into her already busy schedule doing REAL things in NC.

Among the many exciting things she will be doing on the show includes:  Deer hunting in Edgecombe County.  In this episode, she will be decked in designer camouflage complete with blaze orange accessories all by "Mossy Oak".  Her gun, a semi-automatic 30-06 will be of the Springfield variety….and she will be wearing Doe Urine from "Buck Magic".  Her beer will be "Rolling Rock", her whiskey "Jim Beam" and her smokeless tobacco "Skoal". 

Of course in the event she successfully "bags" a deer, she will be reciting all of these sponsors in much the same way a Nascar driver does after he hits the wall and is interviewed on the way out of the ambulance (this will take some coaching, but there is a company in Charlotte that specializes in it).   BTW, we tried to get a "factory" truck sponsorship for this section but for lack of time choose a local yokel's chopped truck called "Redneck 1".  This vehicle had parts from all the major manufacturers holding it together, but I would say its mostly a GMC.

Shots of Kitty skinning and butchering the deer will be integral to the show if she has any chance of competing with Sarah…who while beating a Halibut senseless with a billy club (really happened) got blood all over her and it grossed Bristol out bad.  In preparation, we had Kitty practice on a fresh pork butt from the Piggly Wiggly (not a sponsor yet but trying…anybody know someone there?).   Even though she gagged a bunch and didn't have an appetite for a few days after the training she thought she could fake it for the camera.  We are however, looking for a body double just in case.

Other shows in the planning stages are:  Surfing with the sharks in Hatteras, eating barbecue in both Kinston and Lexington on the same day (to compare the vinegar-based versus the ketchup-based in close proximity).  She will be walking out on the "Mile High Swinging Bridge" at Grandfather Mountain all by her lonesome and without ropes or restraining devices.  Also, she will driving a race car with Jeff in Charlotte and working out with the Tar Heels and Roy in Chapel Hill.

Since everyone in the US thinks that most NC residents make their living somehow connected to either hog raising or tobacco, we are looking for a farm to do that segment.  Oh yeah, and we're going to shoot a piece called "Rocky Mount: The Birthplace of Hardees".  This one should do well in the California market because they call the chain "Carl's Jr."  out there and most people like to know the history of these sort of things….especially those pointy headed CA liberals.

The show is a work in progress, so if any of you have some ideas please let us know.  BTW, we really do need a body double for Kitty before we can start shooting, so anyone who knows a tall brunette with either Roller Derby or Mud Wrestling experience who isn't working right now should contact us.  Thanks much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leslie Nielson, Nietzsche, and the Metaphysics of "Airplane"

R.I.P. Leslie Nielson.

The seminal film "Airplane" starring Leslie Nielson was treated as slapstick humor in its time, with Nielson's Dr. Rumack serving up deadpan jokes while the plane was "in danger".  But this was where Nielson was having the last laugh because his seemingly funny lines were actually infused with important existentialist thinking, with the stricken crew and airplane serving as a multifaceted flying platform for many metaphysical concepts and unsolvable paradoxes.  Let's explore.

In the dramatic "Airplane" scene in which Dr. Rumack tells brainy stewardess Elaine that: 

"You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital." 

Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it? 

Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now. 

In this passage Nielson's character is signaling that all life is an illusion and that the airplane could just as well be a hospital, but in this case it "appears" to be an aluminum tube flying through the air at 500 miles per hour.  If suddenly, all of the passengers were sick and plugged into medical devices….it would then be a hospital.  

Significantly, no one in this scene attempted to roll down the windows and check if they were actually flying or simply parked….or maybe just in a movie set…perhaps in the back of a large hospital.  Neitzsche would have a lot to say about this. 

In another scene, Nielson adroitly combines existentialism, metaphysics and politics in an interesting paradox….one of his favorite tricks. 

Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it? 

Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious. 

Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

Brilliant!  This one has Nietzsche rolling over in his grave searching for a more comfortable position.  The paradox is obvious…..how can you both fly a plane and land it and the same time?  Landing the plane means that it is on the ground…flying it is in the air.  How can you fly the plane both on the ground and in the air?

This is reminiscent of the "unstoppable object and impenetrable force paradox" that is discussed so frequently in freshman philosophy, unusually in smoke filled dorm rooms.  Striker's response signifies the complexity and absurdity of the question simultaneously, but is still polite.

Nielson deflects the emerging philosophical conflict by immediately bringing politics into play when he alludes to Shirley Chisholm, the famous African American women who ran for president.  He says…."don't call me Shirley".   By making it clear he is NOT Shirley Chisholm, while obvious, he is saying that on this airplane, we are in the moment…we have an issue, i.e. that plane is in trouble and that Shirley Chisholm, while important, certainly can't fly and land the plane at the same time.  Even SHE cannot fix the paradox.

Ah, but as with any great paradox and in the case of the tireless philosopher Nielson, you can never give up the discourse.  Later in the film this scene is telling:

Rumack: I won't deceive you, Mr. Striker. We're running out of time. 

Ted Striker: Surely there must be something you can do. 

Rumack: I'm doing everything I can... and stop calling me Shirley!

Again…its a film…they are not in an airplane, so only in theory are they running out of time.  This is a classic philosophical debate strategy when is comes to discussing paradoxes….you force a decision which will necessarily be absurd…then you ridicule your adversary.   When Striker successfully deflects the debate back to Rumack he bails on the debate yet again by bringing up Chisholm.  

I argue Nietzsche would have loved this style of debate, saying that since it is totally meaningless it necessarily should be both unstructured and illogical…but that is where it gets its meaning.  I think Leslie Nielson totally agreed, and this is what he was going for in this deeply considered metaphysical masterpiece.

It is regretful that "Airplane" is not more respected in academic philosophical circles…although it is talked about with reverence outside the lecture halls by forward thinkers who are not so constrained by the formalistic thinking of the 17th and 18th century icons.

I am convinced that Leslie Nielson and his "Airplane" ilk will emerge sometime in the coming decades as representative of 20th century Nilhilsm…sort of a demonstration of the practical application of that type of thinking.  Nietzsche would have argued passionately that his thinking was not designed to save an airplane in distress…but even he had not considered the possibility that such a man as Nielson could grab hold of such difficult material and ride it like a cowboy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The World's Sexiest Music

For those of you that will try anything to improve your sex life, now there is a list of music that purportedly will help.  So now you should keep an iPod on the bedside table along with the vitamin supplements, the little blue pills with the big V on them, the tequila and the Victorias Secret catalogues.

BTW, the list was compiled by the Fox News Health department which appears to be staffed with some of those ditzy blondes who report “the news” on the cable channel.

FYI, other than this list of sexy songs, the other most read articles on Fox Health were:

1. Doctor Admits to Performing Wrong Surgery (he was supposed to be performing a  sex change but instead replaced the persons hip).
2. Erotica: Sexy Bedtime Stories (coming soon to Kitty’s show), 
3. 10 Ways to Become a Better Lover (one was “don’t get a hip replacement”).
4. Sex Toys at the Drive-Thru (“no..no I do not want fries with that and do not want to try the Frappe!”). 
5.  New Phone App Will Test for STD’s (unfortunately this does not work on AT&T’s network...but of course nothing does).

Since I always believe everything I read or watch from News Corp, the owners of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The National Star (latest headline read while in check out line at the Food Lion, “Jen says Angelina refuses to potty train her kids....Brad furious”),   I tried to download all the songs from Limewire.  I was unsuccessful...they said the service had been “cease and desisted”  by music industry lawyers, in advance of the whole music industry shutting down.  I suggest looking for the music at yard sales...8-track tapes are down to 10 cents in that market.

Meanwhile, Kitty was familiar with most of the music on the list and thought many were “buzz kill” with the exception of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails and “On the Couch” by Prince.  I agree with her, but added that “Shining Star” by the Manhattans reminds me and some of my friends of liquored-up UNC sorority girls, which has some merit in this regard.

Here is the list: 
1. Dreamworld by Robin Thicke
2. When The World Ends by Dave Matthews.
3. Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins
4. Halo and Naughty Girl by Beyoncé
5. Woman Like A Man by Damien Rice
6. Possession by Sarah McLachlan
7. You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
8. Just Say Yes and Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol
9. The Woman in Me by Donna Summer
10. On the Couch by Prince
11. Avalon and Slave to Love by Brian Ferry
12. Summer, Highland Falls by Billy Joel
13. I Love You by BareNakedLadies
14. Shining Star by The Manhattans
15. Every Woman in the World by Air Supply
16. Mozart's Symphony No. 2
17. Zoo York by Paul Oakenfeld
18. Closer by Nine Inch Nails
19. When it's Love from Van Halen
20. Feelin' Love by Paula Cole
21. Little Freak by Usher
22. I Want To by Nazzereth

Kitty, sensing an opportunity,  is working on a collection of sexy songs tentatively titled “Kitty’s House Rocking Love Tunes”, cleverly playing off the famous song, “If the house is rockin’...don’t come a knockin’.  Her love of music, entrepreneurial instinct and knowledge of the subject matter will no doubt have this collection on everyone’s bedside table very soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Driving that train, high on caffeine.....

So what’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?  My back hurts...wish I had slept better...wish I hadn’t drank so much last night...shit...I’m already running late...I NEED SOME COFFEE!  Sound familiar?  (BTW, I don’t think this way but most people I know do...I just jump up and get on my bike for a predawn 25 miler.  However while riding I usually am hearing the lyrics from a Clapton song...”If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on....caffeine”)

We drink coffee habitually to wake up...to energize...to attack the day.  We also drink it because of our addiction to it.  Yep..there’s a reason you wake up thinking about a cup of black coffee from Starbucks...and it’s the driver of the economic engine that has made that company wildly successful.  It’s the same force that has toppled banana republics and is killing Mexican tourism...addiction to a drug...and the business of supplying that drug.

Yes, coffee is legal.  So is Jim Beam and Oxycodone (by prescription).  The active ingredient in coffee, caffeine,  is not only addictive...its dirt cheap to produce.  So cheap, that if you can create a product that successfully hooks people you can get rich quick.  

Its sort of like the potato chip business...if you can get your brand in the store and have reasonable success, you will be garnering around $3.99 for .08 cents of potatoes, oil and salt.

I mean these caffeine dealers are smart...and their product is available at every corner.  And the branding is straight from Madison Avenue.  A partial list includes: Kronik, Jolt Energy, Hype, Howling Monkey, Hydrive, Kaboom Infinite Energy, (Infinite?) Monster Nitrous (also used in drag racing machines), NeuroGasm, (over-rated), OnGo Energy Shot, Rage and Rage Inferno (one cold, one hot), Roaring Lion, RockStar Juiced (If you wanna hang out you’ve got to take her out....caffeine), Speed Stack Pumped N.O., Vault, Who’s Your Daddy and finally Whoop Ass. 

The complete list is at “energyfiend.com” sort of the Physicians Desk Reference of caffeine addiction.

All the big brands are listed there as well including Coke, Pepsi, Sun Drop, Mountain Dew, Starbucks, McDonalds, Venom Death Adder, Zombie Blood Energy Potion, Diet Dr. Pepper and Cougar Energy Double Shot.  This last one is named after it’s target market, who drinks it with high end vodka in an attempt to match the energy level of testosterone fueled 20 year old males and to ease the pain of Botox injections.

She don’t lie, she don’t like, she don’t lie; caffeine!

Just so you’ll know...but you won’t care, here is the science of caffeine addiction. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. This means it prevents adenosine from doing its job. Your brain is filled with keys which fit specific keyholes. Adenosine is one of those keys, but caffeine can fit in the same keyhole.  This is how cocaine and nicotine addiction works as well.

When caffeine gets in there, it keeps adenosine from getting in.
Adenosine does a lot of stuff all throughout your body, but the most noticeable job it has is to suppress your nervous system. With caffeine stuck in the keyhole, adenosine can’t calm you down. It can’t make you drowsy. It can’t get you to shut up.

That crazy wired feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee is what it feels like when your brain can’t its natural dose of adenosine.  When this happens, your brain starts to rewire itself.

Your smart-ass brain creates a ton of new receptor sites. The plan is to have more keyholes than false keys. The result is you become very sensitive to adenosine, and without coffee you get overwhelmed by its effects.

After eight hours of sleep, you wake up with a head swimming with adenosine. You feel like shit until you get that black gold in you to clean out those receptor sites. That perk you feel isn’t adding anything substantial to you – it’s bringing you back to just above zero.

In addition, coffee stimulates your adrenal glands, which makes you feel like you could take a bullet and eat glass. When the adrenaline runs dry, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon, which leads you to look for more coffee to get those glands pumping again.

After a few rides on the adrenal roller-coaster, you crash.
You might think all of this probably takes a while, but it takes about seven days to become addicted to caffeine.
Once addicted, you need more and more coffee to get buzzed as your brain gets covered in receptor sites. Neurologists report seeing patients regularly who drink two or three pots of coffee in one sitting before starting their day.
Coffee also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain which is released when you have an orgasm, win the lottery and shoot heroin.

So next time you are sucking down a tall Starbucks and huffing on a Marlboro Light, perhaps you will feel more compassion for the homeless guy down the street whose hooked on crack.  You have much more in common with him than you ever thought.  At least your brain does.  

What’s really stunning is the profit margin in all those caffeinated drinks...and our willingness to pay the price every, every day.  Well, my adenosine receptors are sort of aching, and I could really use a dopamine lift.  Will end this caffeine addled ramble and go get more coffee...maybe then I can get some real work done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Popcorn's Dark Secret

Let’s go to the movies!  OK...its raining cats and dogs but we don’t mind standing in line for five minutes for the luxury of paying ten dollars for a ticket...cause its raining.   Let’s get some popcorn and treats!  We don’t mind waiting in line another ten minutes to pay six dollars for popcorn, another 4 dollars for chocolate treats and three dollars for a diet Coke (brown drool).  
Uh oh...we're now late for the movie!  But wait...the movie hasn’t started due to a lineup of poorly produced local ads serving as prologue to a string of previews...all of which hurt my ears (and my eyes).   Good thing the sound of crunching popcorn filling my head is louder than the special effects. (Perhaps that is why they make the previews so loud.) 
But through it all, the love of movie popcorn makes  the whole experience worth it....or at least it did until I stumbled upon this latest research on the salty, buttery treat.  A large tub of popcorn at Regal Cinemas, for example, holds 20 cups of popcorn and has 1,200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium and 60 grams of saturated fat. Adding just a tablespoon of butter adds 130 calories. And don’t forget that it comes with free refills, which nearly everyone gets.
Dude...the medium size popcorn, which comes in a bag, contains the same amount as the large!  And even the small, at 11 cups, delivers 670 calories, 550 milligrams of sodium and 24 grams of saturated fat...and I and others have always thought it was relatively healthy snack. 
Actually,  plain air-popped popcorn is low in calories, free of saturated fat and tastes like the styrofoam peanuts that conveniently are included in every UPS shipment.  Movie theater popcorn, however, is popped in oil — often coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat. Add salt to the enormous portions, and your once-healthy snack turns into a health offender.  
“The issue here is quantity,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. “One of those large tubs is three-fourths of a day’s calories.” 
One thing is for sure, those hot actors with their perfect bodies are not eating movie popcorn.  If Jennifer Anniston is eating popcorn, she is choking down her air popped with copious quantities of imported mineral water. (Air popped...air head?  Naw, that’s too easy.)

Well, here we are watching Jen in yet another ultra-light romantic comedy involving either a dog, a monkey or a gold fish.  Good thing we can cut the boredom with a package of M&Ms, the 12 oz movie size.  Mix these with the popcorn and it adds another 1500 calories.  
This salty, sugary mix is very popular with movie goers in eastern North Carolina and LA (lower Alabama) and can replace the daily meal, although it usually augments it.  
The sugar and caffeine buzz from the coke and candy, combined with the blood pressure spike from the sodium creates a sort of euphoria that actors like Hugh Grant count on,  such that you may be fooled into believing he is actually talented.
I sort of hit the wall on all of this when I donned 3-D glasses for a screening of Piranha! and couldn’t see the fishes teeth because of all the coconut oil smeared on the lenses.  

Even worse, I had sworn off movie popcorn, but the glasses smelled of a fresh tub, and made me give in to the urge.  I proceeded to eat an entire tub whilst watching the movie in 2D.  I left the glasses sort of stuck in the sticky goo that comprises the floor in the theater...along with an imprint of the bottom of my sandal. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

The #1 best seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”  by Steven Covey has sold over 15 million copies in 38 languages since 1989.  This means a lot of people worldwide have figured out that they are not effective and will probably fail at what they are doing.  
Like most self help books, living up to the recommendations of the author is all but impossible.  I think that it might be easier to change for the good by trying to pin point the things you are actually doing wrong, and then try to stop doing them....so much.
A useful tool in this regard is “The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People”, which for me is easier to relate to.  It was compiled by Dan Ariely, a Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke.  I assume he located in the Triangle to have more direct access to the large numbers of ineffective people who live here, such as the members of the North Carolina Legislature and the Wake County School Board. 
According to Dan, “The thing about habits is that for good and bad they require no thinking".  (Sort of like watching “Wheel of Fortune” or “Fox & Friends”)  
“An established habit, whether getting ready for work in the morning or having a whiskey after, is a pattern of behavior we’ve adopted—we stick to it regardless of whether it made sense when we initially adopted it, and whether it makes sense to continue with it years later."  (Like letting your dog sleep on the bed).   
“From a human irrationality perspective this means that something we do “just once” can wind up becoming a habit and part of our activities for a longer time than we envisioned.” (Remember, NEVER let the dog on the bed...even once).

Dan did not say that short attention span was a bad habit...it's more of an affliction.  So for the sake of the afflicted, his abbreviated list with a brief comment from me is as follows:
1. Procrastination. Well it did take me a few days to get around to writing this.
2. The planning fallacy. It DID take longer to write this than I thought it would.
3. Texting while driving. OMG...WTF...ACDNT. Will NVR rite blog on 440 again  :-(
4. Checking email too much.  Dan says checking email is addictive in the same way gambling is. All I know is that there is a lot of money in Nigeria and they do have problems getting it out, so its a gamble not to check your email    often...because the offers from there come in fast and furious.
5. Relativity in salary. This one says that its a waste of time and energy to worry about how much you make in relation    to your friends and family...and evidently we do this a lot.  I agree, but it still pisses me off that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates   make more money than me.  We are the same age...and are in the same industry.  Talk about unfair!
6. Overoptimism. However, I still think I have a chance to make that kind of money next year...when the economy recovers.   

There is not a seventh habit...Dan says that “sadly we are often overoptimistic” and that his “most recent example of this was just a few hours ago when I sat down to write an essay entitled:  “The 7 Habits Of Highly Ineffective People.” 
I think there should be an eighth Habit of Highly Ineffective People.  It would be believing everything your read.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It’s a Smart Squirrel World After All

Kitty, I and our dogs love/hate squirrels.  In a previous discussion and blog we sort of deduced that squirrels must be inherently evil, because its the only way to explain their annoying and bizarre behavior.  
We also convinced ourselves that our prodigal dogs, being able to sense paranormal activity (they see auras in black and white) are both fascinated and incensed by squirrels due to a “satanic” connection they have.  This revelation,  which occurred live on her morning show, changed Kitty’s dog walking and gardening habits due to a new and profound fear of squirrels.
However brand new research seems to show that squirrels may not be evil after all...they are just smart.
People who study squirrels argue that their subject is far more compelling than most people realize, and that behind the squirrel’s success lies a phenomenal “elasticity of body, brain and behavior.” 
Squirrels can leap a span 10 times the length of their body, roughly double what the best human long jumper can manage. They can rotate their ankles 180 degrees, and so keep a grip while climbing no matter which way they’re facing. 
Squirrels can learn by watching others — “cross-phyletically”, if need be. (If anyone knows what that means please email me). The researchers described how a squirrel that seemed eager to cross a busy street near the White House waited on the grass near a crosswalk until people began to cross the street, “and then it crossed the street behind them.”  Many humans aren’t this smart...required warning signs and annoyingbeeps to manage a safe crossing.  Begs the question:  Why did the squirrel cross the road?

Even Darwin didn’t get how smart squirrels are.  The researchers say their what with their keen visual system, the sensitivity and deftness with which they can manipulate objects, their sociability, chattiness and willingness to deceive, squirrels turn out to be surprisingly similar to primates. They even act like us! 
We are one evolutionary link above chimps...could we be related to squirrels as well?  Wouldn’t you love to see the opening scene from “2001 Space Odyssey” when the chimps find the “chocolate bar” re-shot with squirrels.  They’d be crawling all over the thing, mysteriously sticking to it.  Later in the scene, one of them would discover a nut cracker.
Squirrels are good family members as well. They nest communally as multigenerational, matrilineal clans, and at the end of a hard day’s forage, they greet each other with a mutual nuzzling of cheek and lip glands that looks just like a kiss.  However, no evidence exists that they can or will mix a martini for the object of their affection.
And they don’t just kiss any other squirrel, since their squirrel’s peripheral vision is as sharp as its focal eyesight, which means it can see what’s above and beside it without moving its head. They also have the benefit of natural sunglasses, pale yellow lenses that cut down on glare.  Cool.
Squirrels use their sharp, shaded vision to keep an eye on each other to aid in their hoarding behavior, which turns out to be remarkably calculated. Squirrels are opportunistic feeders eating cheeseburgers, crickets, gummy bears or a baby sparrow if need be, but they really like grain and seeds. They’ll gather acorns and other nuts, assess which are in danger of germinating and using up stored nutrients, remove the offending tree embryos with a few quick slices of their incisors, and then cache the sterilized treasure for later consumption, one seed per inch-deep hole.
But the squirrels don’t just bury an acorn and come back in winter. They bury the seed, dig it up shortly afterward, rebury it elsewhere, dig it up again. The researchers saw squirrels dig up and rebury acorns as many as five times,”. The squirrels recache to deter theft, lest another squirrel spied the burial the first X times.  This obsessive compulsive behavior is treated with drugs in humans, but is obviously tolerated in squirrel culture.
When squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth.  According to the researchers, this is how squirrels are like us...they are deceptive, cunning, and paranoid.  Explains a lot.

So squirrels scare us because they are like us?  Is believing that squirrels are evil sort of like the pot calling the kettle black?

Kitty tells me that because of this new research she is very much reformed in her view of squirrels.  She gone back to happily gardening her tomatoes without fear of reprisal from above (in the oak tree). In fact, instead of fearing and abhorring squirrels, she is now holding street crossing lessons for her furry new friends.  Her dog, however, is not happy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You Now Can Be in Two Places (or more) at Once

Ok...today, not tomorrow or sometime in the distant future, you can own a robot that IS YOU, and he/she can be located anywhere in the world (with internet), giving you real time video, audio and other information from “your” other location.  This new machine gives you something called “telepresence”

A new company called Anybots is selling the “QB mobile telepresence robot”, which is a moving AV cart of sorts with a LCD screen on top...comprising the head, on which a still or video image of YOU runs in real time.  The head also serves as a control panel for, among other things, a slide show you might want someone to see or maybe the latest from The Weather Channel.
I travel for business quite a bit....and for the most part would like to avoid it.  We have been using web conferencing for a few years now to cut down on our travel, and it does have a positive impact.  However, as they have always said, nothing beats being there...face to face.  So what if you could sort of split the difference...
The QB Bot thing (that is you), is 5-foot, 9-inches, and weighs in at 32 pounds. This is a great weight for a women with an eating problem, but doesn’t do men justice.  Kitty says that the video of your face would allow some Photoshopping for weight loss, but I had to remind her that the camera adds 10 pounds as well.
The rolling QB bot combines several computers, the Internet, mobility, and some “self-awareness and autonomy”.  It is designed to replace the frequent phone calls, instant messages, and even some video conference calls that distant co-workers have to make to stay in touch and keep on top of work and ongoing projects.  
Here's the geeky stuff:  The bot rolls around at up to 3.5 mph (approximately human walking speed) on two, 12-inch wheels and is self-balancing, sort of like those Segway things.  Its got a Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, (making it smarter than the you already) and captures video though its 5-megapixel eye and audio through is super sensitive microphone, delivering it to a browser-based interface on any computer.  

I would order mine with a kick-ass Bose sound system as well.  I want to be heard clearly where ever I am.
One user of the robot says, "We're putting QBs in the manufacturing facility and logging in remotely so we can 'walk' down production lines and meet with engineers and talk with them. It's an interesting use-case scenario—so you can have a remote presence in China or Taiwan," where, obviously, many America companies manufacture products. 
Wow...in this case, you could speak and understand Chinese as well.
Anybots plans to ship QB sometime this fall and is clearly targeting the business market. At $15,000 a pop, they say it's unlikely that anyone would look at as a virtual physical presence for an always-on-the-road parent.  
Au contrare, I think at that price point they will sell all they can make.  Think of all the things you could be doing right now if you had QB bots deployed all over the globe.  
I would keep one in Paris to crawl the museums non-stop and occasionally enjoy a virtual cigarette at a corner bistro with an eye “video camera” trained to the local talent that would be sashaying by.  
I think of would have one of me FedEx’d to large sporting events...surely there would always be room for another monitor and opinion in the press box.
I believe that keeping one of myself in Amsterdam would be a good use of the product as well.
Well I am up to three...maybe I can afford a fourth.  Oh yeah...I would put one in LA in our office there....but mostly just to stare out the window.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Dude Colony

There are a whole lot of ants on the planet, forming 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. (this is more biomass than all of the BBQ eaters in the American South). The colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.
Now, scientists have discovered a single mega-colony of ants that has colonized much of the world. These “argentine” ants are living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan and belong to the same colony...and contrary to the image of ant colonies waging war with each other, the members of this global ant race refuse to fight each other.
Welcome to the real “creeping socialism”.

One Big Ant Family
Researchers actually mixed different members of the colonies together in several experiments. These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another. In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans. It would be like an American arriving in Japan, and already knowing everyone and the language.
According to the scientists, “The most plausible explanation is that ants from these super-colonies are indeed family, and are all genetically related. When they come into contact, they recognize each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles. Its kind of like they all like the same perfume.
In fact, ants communicate with each other using pheromones or smells. These chemical signals are very developed in ants, and they use the smells to transmit all sorts of messages. They mark trails, they send alarms, they even have “propaganda pheromones” to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves. Something can disturb the ants on one side of the colony and the other side, miles away can get the message almost instantaneously.
This combination of propaganda and speed easily outdoes Fox News or CNN on any day.
In Europe, one vast colony of ants is thought to stretch for 3,700 miles along the Mediterranean coast, “The Garlic Colony” while another in the US, known as the “The Dude Colony” extends over 560 miles along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan, “The Sushi Colony” and even in the US South, the now famous “Bubba Mound” is dominate. My favorite is the huge “Eurotrash” colony that stretches from Spain to Siberia.*

What’s so wonderful about these ants is that in contrast to the people from those regions who could not be more different, can barely understand each other’s language, and like to wage World Wars against each other, these ants when mixed together act like old friends.
All of these ants get along by acting collectively en masse, for the good of the whole. Many scientists believe these behaviors will enable ants to survive long after humans are gone. Many believe that ant behavior is analogous to “collectivist” societies like China that have colonized all of the WalMarts.
Most American’s, however have an aversion to this type of societal organization, preferring the rugged individualism taught by Ann Rand, pure market driven economies as explained by Adam Smith and the deification of wealth as demonstrated by Donald Trump.
Perhaps the best way for societies to survive is for individuals to behave somehow halfway between collectivism of “The Dude Colony” and the comb-overed extravagance of “The Apprentice”. BTW...I stayed at a Trump Casino one time and the service was great...the hired help swarmed all over the place like ants on candy...the candy of course being the rugged individualists hammering scotch and dropping coins into one arm bandits.
*Please note that I renamed these colonies such that the geographical significance of their location would be enhanced for the benefit of my readers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do We Really Need to Sleep?

My droopy eared bloodhound, just like Jed Clampett’s, sleeps around 20 hours a day.  My wife needs around 9 hours and I do just fine with 7.  Albert Einstein got by on a couple of hours a night...and some animals can sleep for months...then stay awake for weeks at a time.   Most humans spend roughly one-third of their life asleep, and researchers still do not know why. 

Yep, the purpose of sleep remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science. Leading theories suggest it has to do with memory consolidation or other to benefit other physiological or neural functions. But a new theory holds that sleep is merely a good way to increase an animal's efficiency, by hunting only when the hunting is good, for example, and minimize its risk: The risk of an accident goes down when you're sleeping.  

While sleep is often thought to have evolved to play an unknown but vital role inside the body, the new theory now suggests it actually developed as a method to better deal with the outside world.

Scientists also wonder why their so much variation in sleep patterns. Newborn dolphins and killer whales and their mothers show an almost total lack of what might be called sleep for several weeks after birth, when these animals normally migrate. Birds can fly for days on end.  It raises the question, if sleep has a vital universal function, how are they able to survive without it?
So let’s consider our favorite morning personality,  Kitty Kinnin’s view of this.  Because Kitty gets up at 4:30 am to do her show...and has a busy social calendar  at night, she considers herself  chronically tired from lack of sleep.  This new research would seem to indicate that Kitty doesn’t really need sleep, she just thinks she does.  
Maybe this explains why people have insomnia.  Perhaps they really don’t need the sleep...they just think they do.  So they have tremendous anxiety because they think they need 8 hours and aren’t getting it.  Sleeping pills and other strategies are next, adding yet more stuff to worry about...thus making sleep even more difficult.
I think humans sleep because they are bored.   Before TV there was literally nothing to do...they couldn’t even hunt at night for lack of night vision goggles.   Even reading books was hard because the lighting was bad.  And for hundreds of thousands of years there wasn’t even a book to read.  
TV has been blamed for us NOT getting enough sleep...because it is actually something to do when the sun goes down.  People did get more sleep before its invention. So now most people go to bed after the 11 o'clock news, but thats because there nothing good on late night TV except for Letterman...and even he is getting old.  
Some people do stay up all night all the time.  Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci and almost every software coder I have ever known did not sleep much...they had too much to think about.  So sleep is just a learned habit, like drinking a beer at five o'clock or brushing your teeth the wrong way.  
So the way you feel when you consider yourself sleep deprived may be more about withdrawal symptoms than actually being tired.  Jeez, this whole issue makes me fatigued....I think I'll take a nap.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Gulf Oil Disaster is Our Fault

Everyone is furious at BP for causing the worst man made environmental disaster in history.  The logic is that somehow BP was negligent, irresponsible, even criminal.  Maybe.   But it was we, the people, who gave them the right to drill offshore in the first place.  It was we, the people, who  ignored the ramifications of an offshore drilling accident.  And it is, we the people, (and the animals) who will suffer the consequences.

Anything humans can conceive of and build will be imperfect and thus will eventually fail.  Witness the computer on your desk, the car in your driveway, the ice maker in your fridge and the lawnmower in your yard.  If any of those things fail...and they most certainly will, at most its an inconvenience and a pain in the butt.  Certainly no one would consider your overgrown yard an environmental disaster (although the garden club would appalled).

Even the most technically advanced things we build fail.  Space shuttles blow up, airliners crash, the cable TV goes on the blink.  How did we ever think that something as risky as drilling 18,000 feet into the ocean floor for oil would be just another day at the beach?

The next time some politician on TV blathers "Drill Baby Drill" or emphatically claims that your economic future relies on giant concrete plants and such being located in your community, think about the last computer crash you had.  In that case, you picked up the phone and called the "Geek Squad".

In the case of oil spills and mercury poisoning that will affect your children and their children, ....who you gonna call?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Facebook status: Having sex...do you recommend any products?

A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults who use social networks revealed that 30% of Facebook and Twitter users check their accounts every time they wake up during the night. Another study showed that 46% of women and 30% of men would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up Internet access for the same length of time.
Well, it appears some folks are mashing up these seemly conflicting activities into a single act of public/private sex.  A recent published survey found that 7% of Facebook users would look at messages and/or text during sex. What the actual content of these messages and posts were not part of the research, but you can just imagine (yes you can...keep trying).
As stunning as that sounds, other studies have shown that 25% of men think about baseball statistics during coitus, while 19% of women check the condition of their cuticles whilst making love.  So multitasking during sex is not new...but using your “Droid” during the act has some new weirdness to it.
Combine this trend with Facebook’s new behavioral advertising targeting system and some really interesting things can happen...especially for those who want to sell you something.  
Here’s how their new system works:  Facebook takes every little thing you say about yourself in your “Profile” settings and puts it into a giant database, which then blends you with millions of others who have similar interests.  
For example, if you list “Dr. Strangelove” as one of your favorite movies, you are now in a giant population of folks who also love the movie.  If a company were to design a product especially for Dr. Strangelove fans, such as a custom wheel chair or even a special “atomic glove”, then ads for said products would pop up on the home pages of the movie’s fans.
Even if you haven’t listed the movie in your profile, if you mention it in a message or post, you are also put in the pool of fans.  In fact, if you text the words “strange love”  while you are having sex, you will probably be getting custom wheel chair offers the very next day, but I suspect the “atomic glove” would be more appealing in this case.
Many people think these targeting capabilities from Facebook are an invasion of their privacy...yet these are the same folks who will post the details of their wild night out complete with the horrible symptoms of their ensuing hangover.  Rule of thumb in the Internet age...do not put anything on a website or even your email or texts that you don’t want someone to see.
With that said, is it so bad that companies can target their advertising to folks who are actually interested in their products?  To me, nothing is more irritating than having to endure an advertisement for a product I would never buy.  
Case in point: Dr. Pepper, “I’m a Doctor” ads.  To me Dr. Pepper is liquid candy and concentrated caffeine suspended in what appears to be brown drool.  There is probably no drink on the market that could be worse for you, yet they have the nerve to have “Doctors” recommend it.  
Of course, you say, no one believes these people are real doctors....but these are the same people who are stupid enough to drink Dr. Pepper.  This is the old style behavioral targeting which basically says, “Let’s make a stupid product and aim it at stupid people...and then market it on stupid TV shows with ridiculously inane spots.
In contrast, in today’s world, the ads are focused on exactly what you like and want.  In a strange new way, it unclutters your life, and surrounds you with you (and the several million people who are just like you). 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The (Junk) Science Of Sex Addiction

Sure has been a lot of celebrity dudes checking into sex addiction programs lately. First, Californication star David Duchovny checked into rehab for specific kind of sexual addiction that he developed after an alien abduction. Evidently, every thing those aliens do to your body after they take you on a tour of the universe ain’t all bad.   
Then Tiger Woods checked into the “Wilt Chamberlain Sex Addiction Spa and Grill”  after a string of women went public with claims they were his mistresses.  Tiger claims that he had not had sex with 20,000 women as the “Wilt Chamberlain”  facilities’ namesake is famous for...but Woods said he’s “still got the sex addiction bad”.
So Tiger is participating regularly in a 12 step program with a room full of other sex addicted men who are sitting in a big circle facing each other somehow working it out.  

Wouldn’t you love to hear those discussions...what with the addition of crowd psychology layered on top of an odoriferous level of testosterone saturation?  It would be like telling a room full of 18 year old boys to avert their eyes from a video of Samantha Fox checking the oil on a ’67 Firebird.
Actually,  the idea of being addicted to sex is actually quite controversial, since according to Forbes Magazine (which is the favorite reading of sex addicts other than porn),  “ No such diagnosis is even recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), psychiatry's Bible.” In fact, “The DSM-IV assiduously avoids the word "addiction," preferring to talk about dependence, withdrawal and compulsion.” 
They say a new condition, called hypersexuality, might be what’s wrong, but some psychiatrists do not like the idea about human sexuality as an addictive force unto itself. "I don't buy it as a disease ... it is an excuse," says John J. Lucas, a forensic psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College who BTW, has never needed an excuse for sex addiction. 
In modern society, "we have an unfortunate practice of proliferating illnesses ... in response to various practices in terms of reducing the stigma of certain behaviors."  In other words if you got “the sex addiction bad”,  it’s not much different than the flu...its just that the symptoms are different.  For example, there are no aches and pains, just localized pressure and your temperature rises and falls based on what you are doing, if you catch my drift.
Another idea is that because sex releases dopamine in the brain and provides a momentary high just as many drugs do such that problematic sexual behavior could be understood as being very much like a chemical dependency. In other words, in much the same way that you desire a Bloody Mary at Sunday Brunch, a sex addict might be driven to sex on the beach (not the drink...you alcoholic). 

Some say compulsive sexuality is similar to pathological gambling or even compulsive shopping, however a recent brain-imaging study says maybe not. Researchers at the University of Minnesota showed that the brains of so called sex addicts did not react at all like other more accepted addictions. For example: people who were suffering from “Rachel Ray” addiction had similar brain reactions as the unfortunates who were addicted to the books and films of Nicholas Sparks. 
Then there is the example of my WASPish friend in NY (who shall remained un-named) who enrolled in a sex addiction program after his wife caught him in a string of affairs with Latino girls.  He confided to me that he was NOT addicted to sex...but IS in fact addicted to gorgeous chicks from Puerto Rico and Peru. 
Finally there is the Darwinian, survival of the fittest rational that says that sex addiction is nothing more than a behavioral characteristic of a category of men occupying the top of the food chain that are driven by the hidden forces of evolution to spread their seed far and wide for the general benefit of the entire human race.

This is the most widely accepted explanation by men...especially those who participate in pro sports.  Wall Street types, politicians and preachers have also widely ascribed to this view as well, but their other addictions to such things money, power and cheap perfume cloud the research...making a clear cut diagnosis all but impossible.