Monthly Archives: August 2012

More Stuff You Didn’t Want to Know

Ignorance is bliss for a reason. Try as hard as you might, tidbits of knowledge might still cross your path that you really do NOT want to know.

Like the best reason never to swim in the Amazon is NOT piranhas, it’s this.

Or what castoreum really is.

Or that tiny creatures live in your skin during the day, coming out at night in search of hot, steamy mite sex before crawling back into a sweat gland to die.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Because it turns out the mites have no anus, which means when they die, everything they’ve  stored up since birth “is released in one go.” Inside your skin.

And this happens all that time. With millions of  microscopic mites. In your skin.

Which is why next time you see an article like “Tiny mites on your face may cause rosacea“, don’t read it: go get a root canal instead.

Oops!

Bad: trying to change channels on your television with your cordless phone.

Worse: pounding on the keys while shouting assorted bad words because the blankety-blank doesn’t work and throwing the phone across the room, before realizing it’s not the remote control you blockhead, it’s a cordless phone.

Warning: Do NOT Try This At Home

People debate the worst job in the world (castoreum collector, or perhaps deer urine distiller) but nobody has ever mentioned what I seriously believe must be the worst possible career choice ever: Expiration Date Tester.

Haven’t you ever picked up a can of chili, read the “best by” date, and wondered, “How do they know?”

How do they pick that date instead of the day before or the day after?

And why not just have a “Whatever you do, do NOT use after January 10, 2018” or better yet: “Fatal after …”

Which still doesn’t answer my question: how do they know? Unless somebody, somewhere, has the job of Expiration Date Tester, taste-testing jar after jar and can after can and bottle after bottle of consumables, day after day, until the plateau of taste becomes a cliff drop to death and they wake up in a hospital recovering from food poisoning. And then have to start all over again.

And what about the “sell by” date (the last day the grocery store clerk can safely bag the item without wearing a hazmat suit).

“Sell by” is meaningless to the consumer.  Great, just great: “sell by.” How am I supposed to know what’s the last possible cutoff date for actually ingesting it? Granted, some things come with their own indicators: lumpy milk, green sour cream, glow in the dark lunch meats, a bulging, leaky can oozing black goo.

But what about the rest of it? What if you find something really, really old in your fridge that looks okay and smells okay? What then?

I’ll tell you what – you eat it.

I found a box of tofu in the back of my freezer. It had a “use by” date on it. In 2001. But then I realized it had been frozen since well before that date, so couldn’t have spoiled before being frozen. And it was sealed in its original light-proof protective wrapping, locked away from bacteria and air.

How could it possibly have spoiled?

So I went to the frozen tofu experts at google. And learned that the number one rule for tofu is to never, ever freeze it. Followed by the number two rule, which is freeze it and it keeps forever.

So I decided to try the number two rule and become an Expiration Date Tester.

I thawed the box. Opened it. Smelled the contents. Didn’t die. Took a taste. Didn’t die. Cut it up and put it into a stir fry.

Still didn’t die.

It did, however, taste like tofu. I remembered I don’t like tofu. Which is why it was still in my freezer after a decade.

Next test: that old can of tuna. At least I like tuna.

The American Taliban: A Cult of Hate

Manhattan, New YorkChicago, Illinois. Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Aurora, Colorado. Tucson, Arizona. Fort Hood, Texas.

The United States has the honor of being the global leader in mass shootingsat least 60 in the last 30 years. Most of the killers got their guns legally.

And it will continue.

We have created a perfect storm for slaughter: unregulated weapons and a cult of hate.

Conservative leaders, almost all fundamental Christians (and all of them members of the Republican party), have identified their enemy – anyone who doesn’t share their faith or narrow world view: Muslims, illegal aliens, members of the LGBT community, minorities, progressives – even teachers and first responders are demonized.

And they tell their followers how that enemy should be neutralized.

Republican Sarah Palin’s motto is: “Don’t Retreat, reload!” She created an online campaign push against Democrats from 20 conservative districts (“Take back the 20”) who had voted for the health care bill, including a map of the United States complete with crosshair targets located over those districts. One of those districts was (now former) Rep. Gabrielle Giffords‘.

Rep. Giffords’ Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, held an event in June 2010 promoted as “Get on target for victory … help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Republican candidate Sharon Angle suggested that “Second Amendment remedies” should be used to deal with a “tyrannical” U.S. government as well as to replace her opponent (Democrat) Harry Reid.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann wanted her supporters to be armed and dangerous.”

Joe the Plumber, currently a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio, announced that the way to solve the country’s immigration problem is to station troops along the border and have them “start shooting.”

A (Republican) Texas judge is preparing for civil war if Obama is re-elected.

Republican Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and now candidate for U.S. Senate, laughingly and enthusiastically called for making Scott Walker protestors “black and blue.”

Republican Governor Scott Walker himself, good Christian that he is, was taped laughing about beating protestors with a baseball bat with his name on it.

Gun-toting Republican musician Ted Nugent recently implied that he would assassinate President Obama if he is re-elected.

These are not isolated incidents. These are a systemic and systematic effort among conservatives to incite hatred, to prevail over those they oppose or dislike (or with whom they merely disagree) with extreme measures in a stand your ground, make my day, let anyone buy whatever kind of killing machine they can carry anywhere and anytime because by God they have God on their side.

These are fanatics.

On August 1, 2012, The National Hispanic Media Coalition and UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center released a study showing that the conservative media consistently spews the same hate-filled vitriol as conservative leaders. “The findings reveal that the hosts promoted an insular discourse that focused on, for example, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and pro-Tea Party positions and that this discourse found repetition and amplification through social media.”

“The social network surrounding conservative talk radio and Fox News has spread to social media websites resulting in ‘an echo-chamber of voices, both online and off, that promotes hatred against ethnic, racial and religious groups and the LGBT community on social media web sites.’

Using hateful rhetoric, these hosts have cast immigrants as disease ridden, equated pro-immigrant organizations with neo-Nazis, called Islam an ‘evil religion,’ claimed the Obama administration is promoting ‘race riots’ and made fun of the ethnicity of Asian-American politicians.”

And they all oppose gun control.

Not surprisingly, the NRA supports them.

Word of the Day

Castoreum.

Is it:

a. a building which houses old casts;

b. the main ingredient in Castor Oil;

c. an ancient city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea which was the summer residence of  Roman emperors from 350 to 108 B.C.;

d. a food additive made from beavers’ anal scent glands;

e. none of the above?

Yes, I know you are desperately hoping the answer is anything but d. I won’t keep you in suspense.

It’s d.

Or, as the NIH likes to call it, “a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.”

Think about that the next time you see the words “natural ingredients.”

Tomorrow’s word: “cochineal” also called “carmine.”

Is it:

a. a small bone in the inner ear;

b. an extinct species related to trilobites;

c. the lead female role in The Barber of Seville;

d. a dye made from ground beetles used by the food and cosmetic industries;

e. none of the above?

Don’t bother hoping.

Yes indeed, we really are that stupid.

In case you didn’t believe me the first time

“A national survey by FindLaw.com, a legal information Web site, found that nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name any of the nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In fact, results show that only 34 percent of Americans can name any member of the nation’s highest court, and only one percent can correctly name all nine justices.”

But then, these are the same people who believe President Obama is Muslim, women who have been raped can’t get pregnant, global warming is a hoax, want English as the official language (even though they can’t spell it) and that Elvis has not left the building.

Maybe we should require an intelligence test to vote instead of a photo ID.

But that’s not my baby!

Yesterday I got a package from Subaru of America containing one each of:

Contigo Autoseal® West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug (Vacuum Insulated) – 16 oz. (Silver $20.99)
Subaru Ice Scraper Mitt (Gray $10.00)
Subaru Fleece Throw Blanket (Tan $24.99)

They were thanking me for buying a new Subaru. It wasn’t what I had expected.

Buying a new car is, for me, a momentous event because it only occurs about every 12 years. I don’t play around. I’m not a tease, jumping from one car to another. I make a major commitment. My old vehicle had reached the venerable age of almost 250,000 miles (that’s 143 years old in people years). It was time to move on. So I took the plunge, I made the leap from mom van to sporty mini-SUV. I bought a Subaru.

But not just any Subaru. I ordered a new one, a Forrester lovingly assembled on the factory floor in Japan by dozens of short, Japanese speaking people, built to my specifications in the color I wanted with the interior I had to settle for because it’s not like I was buying a Mercedes with personalized color schemes designed by Christian Dior even though I was rather shocked by how expensive new cars have gotten in such a short time and just a couple of decades ago I could have purchased a new Mercedes for the same price.

And I was okay with that because this car was my car, built just for me: dark Marine Blue Pearl with the exact options I wanted.

After waiting almost eight weeks, the big day arrived: it was time to meet my new car.

I arrived at the dealership. Entered. Filled out paperwork. The salesman handed me a key. It was different from the ones I was used to: I could now unlock the car without putting the key in the lock. On the back was a panic button. I looked at the salesman. “What happens if I push this? Will something blow up?” He told me to push it. I did. Outside his window a car’s lights started flashing.

I looked at the salesman. “Someone’s made a mistake and given me the wrong key. That’s not my car”

“Oh yes,” he smiled, “that’s your car.”

“No. That’s not my car. My car is dark Marine Blue Pearl. That car is light Sky Blue Metallic.”

Something in my expression must have frightened him because he quietly backed away.

Of course the sales manager had ordered the wrong color. And the general manager pretended alarm and concern. And I needed to compromise because my other car was 143 years old and could die at any time. So I couldn’t wait another eight weeks. Which meant accepting a different Forester in dark Marine Blue Pearl – a random car sitting on the lot that had not been made for anyone in particular – which the dealer fitted with the options I had ordered.

Driving it away from the dealership, I felt like a new parent being sent home from the hospital with the wrong baby.

Which I explained to the people at Subaru of America when they sent me a survey about my experience buying a new Subaru.

Turns out that Subaru of America gets very interested when things like this happen. They called me. Said they would speak with the dealership and someone would be in touch.

They sent the package instead.

What does it take?

A Republican politician says something incredibly stupid. “So what’s the big deal?” you might ask. “This is the party of Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt ‘The Moon Colonizer’ Gingrich: they are ALWAYS saying something stupid.

Well this time it was something so stupid it pissed off women everywhere and any man who wants those women to vote for him so he can get elected to office.

“Wow,” you’re probably thinking, “it must be really bad.”

You would be right.

Representative Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, and a six-term member of Congress beloved by Tea Party conservatives, was making it clear that rape victims can’t get pregnant:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare … If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute, this man with his hocus-pocus-witch-doctor-medieval-flat-earth-society belief system is on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology?”   How did that happen? Next you’ll tell me that Michelle Bachmann is on the House Committee on Intelligence!” (Ummm. Yes. She is.)

Akin’s remark sent the Republican Party into a tizzy because, despite their best attempts to restrict voting rights to property-owning white males, women can still cast a ballot.

So they immediately all ran to the other side of the room because Akin was now covered in female voter cooties. Even Ron “I married money than used it to buy this neat Senate seat” Johnson (R-Senator WI) knew better: “Todd Akin’s statements are reprehensible and inexcusable and yet one more reason why we need to repeal Obamacare. Because free birth control is easy to get. Just google it.”

Republicans with a little more brains than Ron phrased it a little differently. “After his controversial comments on rape and pregnancy threatened the [Republican] party with widespread political harm,” Mitt Romney announced that “ ‘Congressman Akin’s comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong.’ ”  Because although they all agree with Akin, they have enough sense not to say that stuff in public.

How do we know this? Because they keep saying it in Washington not realizing that we can still hear them. For example, the “personhood” bill (co-sponsored by Akin and newly-anointed Republican V.P. candidate Paul Ryan), AKA the “Sanctity of Life Act,” which pronounced that “human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.” In other words: if you get pregnant after being raped (legitimate or otherwise) you have to have the baby.

Because, according to Ryan, Akin, and scores of rich, white, conservative men, a zygote is a person. And a corporation is a person. And both the zygote and the corporation are more important persons than women, because they both should be allowed to dictate women’s reproductive choices.

Which ties in neatly with Akin’s and Ryan’s attempt to redefine “rape” as “forcible rape” (which Akin said was what he was really talking about).

Because Akin was really saying that: 1) women don’t get pregnant if it’s a “real” rape, because their bodies have a natural rape-sperm repellent and 2) if it’s only an alleged rape (she really did consent but changed her mind the next morning which all male Republicans know is 99% of rape accusations) she can get pregnant, but either way she should never be allowed to get an abortion.

His core supporters at the American Family Association and the Family Research Council (staunch defenders of family values like the right to force women to bear unwanted children) stand by Akin, agreeing that he’s absolutely right.

Because it’s not really rape unless a crazed stranger with a gun drags you into some bushes and beats you senseless. And if you get pregnant that’s proof you weren’t raped and therefore you should live with the consequences of your irresponsible choices whether you’re 10 years old and weren’t really raped by your uncle or got your date too excited because you really shouldn’t have dressed that way if you didn’t want sex or were drugged or were just threatened and not violently forced to have sex against your will.

And the people of Missouri appear to agree. A new poll shows Akin still has an edge over the Democratic incumbent in the Senate race.

Best. Worst. Movie. Ever.

I used to think it was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, which didn’t really qualify because it was intentional and to be a really good bad movie, the first requirement is that it doesn’t know it’s bad.  Like the George W. Bush presidency, it must have delusions of adequacy.

Burlesque is in this category. As is Showgirls. Battlefield Earth. Plan 9 from Outer Space. Any movie starring Clint Eastwood. (I don’t care how much you love “Dirty Harry”, Clint has the emotional range of a grape. And he plays the same character in each one. A squinting, tough as nails, man of few words cop, cowboy, soldier, trainer. Haven’t you noticed?)

I thought I’d seen them all. But I was wrong.

I knew the first 30 seconds of Hercules in New York just how wrong I’d been. This movie was in a class by itself. Not just a new class, this movie took “bad” to a whole new level.

Starring a  young cyborg named Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his film debut) as Hercules and a cast of still unknown for the most part bit character actors, it has to be seen to be believed. Really. From the man in the bear suit, to major characters vanishing from the film with no explanation, to the original movie dubbing over Arnold’s monotone delivery (the original inspiration for The Terminator) with a human voice who could speak English. (Really. Trailer here.) Possibly because of skeptics who questioned whether a Greek demi-god would talk with a heavy Austrian accent.

Beg borrow or steal a copy. In the dubbed and undubbed versions. Get your friends together. Add some popcorn.

It’s more fun than watching Cher try to move her overly taut facial muscles.

Missing the Target

This is a hoot (no pun intended – it really is deliciously ironic): Hooters – you know, the chain that started the “breastaurant craze” (skinny waitresses with cartoonishly large breasts wearing costumes two sizes too small that leave nothing to the imagination causing men to flock in droves to drool over they didn’t care what was on the plate) – is trying to “revitalize its brand.”

What that really means is that the company has learned what women have always known: there are only so many men to go around. In other words, with other breastaurant chains opening faster than you can say “Maidenform,” Hooters’ revenue has dropped faster than those breasts will after having children.

So sad.

Anyway, the bright marketing guys at Hooters realized that they were ignoring over half of the population.

Hmmm. Wonder which half that could be.

“Since its founding, Hooters has essentially targeted one demographic: men. But that leaves 50% of the market entirely ignored … [it] is now undergoing a three- to five-year revitalization plan, which will include an updated menu, renovated restaurants, and an attempt to attract a demographic that has not historically patronized Hooters in large numbers: women.”

Wow. Bare, bulging breasts didn’t attract women? How did that happen?!

As one “Don’t Call Me Sexist” executive commented, “Historically the lion’s share [of Hooters’] position was all about the [Hooters’] girls. It’s worked relatively well, but we see ourselves in a bigger place than that.”

The bright marketing guys know exactly what they need to do to get to that “bigger place”: salads.

That’s right, all they have to do to appeal to the female demographic is update the menu so that their young, mostly-naked with breasts the size of Rhode Island “girls” can deliver a tasty low-calorie salad to the table.

Because everybody knows women don’t mind being objectified or called “girls”.

Yep. That should attract the female demographic.

Because we all know how much women like salads. And how stupid they are.

At least according to those bright marketing guys.