Monthly Archives: November 2017

Shut the Pod Bay Doors, Hal

 

I’m not so much a gadget freak as a gadget mutant alien virus.

My technology jones runs deep. I have four outdated cellular phones, a half dozen MP3 players and four digital cameras. My middle name could be iSucker.

I even like the ads for electronic stores. When I lived at home, I would seek the Sunday fliers for Best Buy and Circuit City, simply to marvel at Moore’s Law, the theorem that technology doubles every 18 months — so your computer and cell phones should be twice as fast, hold twice as much data, every year and a half — with requisite price hikes.

So Cyber Monday has become my Black Friday, as it has for millions of Americans: Roughly $6.6 billion sales are logged on Cyber Monday, a figure that must give brick and mortar shops a raging erection. Though it’s surprising that the ever-clever internet denizens didn’t come up with something more clever than Cyber Monday. If the creators of e-shopping really wanted to mock traditional stores, which is clearly part of the strategy, they would have called it “African-American Monday.”

Regardless, Amazon has gone nuts over the phenomenon it helped manifest. The site has created a cyber-flier that is replete with gizmos and whatzits. It’s terrific reading.

There’s a laptop about the weight of a candy bar. There’s an Alexa-powered webcam that looks like it came from NASA, with night vision and motion detector alerts sent to your phone.

But my favorite by far was Furbo, a remote dog treat dispenser.

The idea is fascinating. A remote camera keeps an eye on Fido, using your computer and even cellular phone to monitor the pup, scold it to stop incessant yapping, and reward it when it’s good. Tell Spot to sit, and you can remotely eject a dog treat to your canine.

This is the stuff of The Jetsons. As I read, I wondered: Are we really this bored and wealthy?

Turns out the answer is “goddamned straight.” Furbo had 1,049 reviews and a four-out-of-five-star rating. It also had 271 questions from interested buyers: Could you use your own dog treats? How long is the warranty? Does it works for cats? (For what do you even reward a cat? A furball-free day?)

As I scrolled through the questions, I noticed it didn’t address my primary one: What happens when a dog jacks its leg to pee on it? I’m guessing it happens, as there’s an entire YouTube cottage industry of dogs peeing on myriad targets: cats, new shoes, sunbathers, etc. Teddy once peed on chair at the dog park. An occupied chair.

So, on a smartass-ian lark, I asked the simple question 271 others  would not: “Is it urine-proof?”

I expected that the seller would not even post the joke. At best, I would get a similarly snarky response, like “No, but it is fecal-resistant.”

Instead, I immediately received a spate of replies. “No, it’s plastic but still an electrical device;” “Perhaps — I would elevate it to the height of a treat jar,” etc. Apparently, the question raised a real issue — one not mentioned in the entire ad for Furbo.

But there was one reply in particular that caught my eye, from Lisa S. I knew it would have the inevitable, anonymous air of the internet era, which has ushered mankind into the Iron(y) Age. The primary advancement of the period: veiled asshole-nish. The letter began with “I don’t know,” which begs another question: Then why reply in ‘Answers?’ It also was clearly her chance to brag on her pets.

“I don’t know,” she wrote. “Mine sits on the counter and my dogs are housebroken.”

So I sent her the only response I could think:

“Oh, I don’t have a dog.”

Have a holly jolly!

 

 

 

 

 

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17 Gobbleygook Factslaps for ’17

1. The first Thanksgiving was actually a three-day celebration.

Today, Thanksgiving is one day — maybe two if you count Black Friday. But apparently the Pilgrims wanted to party even harder. Governor William Bradford organized the feast, inviting the Plymouth colonists’ Native American allies. But it was only until the Wampanoag Indian guests came and joined the Pilgrims that they decided to extend the affair.

2. It’s unclear if colonists and Native Americans ate turkey at their feast.

There is truly no definitive proof that the bird we wait all year to eat was even offered to guests back in 1621. However, they did indulge in other interesting foods like lobster, seal and swan.

3. Today, a special part of Plymouth, Massachusetts, looks just as it did in the 17th century.

Modeled after an English village and a Wampanoag home site, the historic attraction Plimoth Plantation stays true to its roots. You can order tickets as early as June to attend a Thanksgiving dinner complete with numerous authentic courses, tales of colonial life and centuries-old songs.

4. The woman behind “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is also responsible for Thanksgiving’s recognition as a national holiday.

In 1863, writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote countless articles and letters to persuade the president — and the rest is history!

5. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t feature any balloons.

But when the parade made its big debut in 1924, it did have something that might be even cooler than balloons: animals from the Central Park Zoo.

6. But we have a Good Housekeeping illustrator to thank for the parade’s first balloons.

German American illustrator Tony Starg, who completed illustrations for Good Housekeeping, also had a passion for puppetry, which he used make the amazing floats come to life in 1927.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1929

7. In 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the third Thursday in November — not the fourth.

You might think President Roosevelt could predict the future, as he channeled a “Black Friday” mindset in making this decision. Even though the holiday had been celebrated on the fourth Thursday since its official recognition decades before, Roosevelt bumped it up a week — offering seven more shopping days to the holiday season. Americans, to say the least, didn’t love the change, so it was officially (and legally) switched back in 1942.

8. A Thanksgiving mix-up inspired the first TV dinners.

In 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally ordered a colossal shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys (260 tons, to be exact). To get rid of them all, salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of filling 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas and sweet potatoes. They were sold for 98 cents, and were a hit. Within one year, over ten million were sold.

9. About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving each year.

It’s tradition, after all. And on Christmas, 22 million families host an encore with another turkey.

10. But not everyone eats turkey on Thanksgiving.

According to the National Turkey Federation, only 88% of Americans chow down on turkey. Which begs the question, what interesting dishes are the other 12% cooking up?

11. You might consume up to 229 grams fat during the big meal.

We hate to break it to you, but that’s about 3 to 4 times the amount of fat you should eat in a day.

12. The turkeys pardoned by the President go on to do some pretty cool things.

President George H.W. Bush pardoned the first turkey in 1989, and it’s a tradition that persists today. But what happens to the lucky bird that doesn’t get served with a side of mashed potatoes? In 2005 and 2009, the turkeys were sent to Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks to serve as grand marshal in their annual Thanksgiving parades. And from 2010 to 2013, they vacationed at Washington’s Mount Vernon state. Not bad!

13. Only male turkeys actually gobble.

You may have been taught in pre-school that a turkey goes “gobble, gobble” — but that’s not entirely true. Only male turkeys, fittingly called gobblers, actually make the sound. Female turkeys cackle instead.

14. Most Americans like Thanksgiving leftovers more than the actual meal.

Almost eight in 10 agree that the second helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie beat out the big dinner itself, according to a 2015 Harris Poll.

15. The Butterball Turkey Talk Line answers almost 100,000 calls each season.

Last year, the company’s popular cooking crisis management team also introduced a 24-hour text message line for the lead-up into the big day.

16. There are four places in the country named Turkey.

The U.S. Census has identified another seven called Cranberry, and a grand total of 33 dubbed Plymouth.

17. Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers.

Screw shopping. Thanks to all that food we gobble up, Roto-Rooter reports that kitchen drains, garbage disposals and, yes, toilets, require more attention the day after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.

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A New Relativity (or How Life Equals I See Squared)

 

Indulge me for a moment, please.

What’s your age? I know it’s a personal question, but say that number out loud (if only to yourself).

Next, subtract five. Say that number aloud (no one’s listening, promise).

Pretty similar, huh? Numerically, they’re not that distant. And if you were blessed enough to live into the double digits, live decades even, the difference may be marginal, at best.

Now return of that first number, your age. Think of all you went through to get to this moment. The loves and the hates, the brokered peaces and the broken pieces, the exes and the ohs, the wisdom and the foolishness that somehow did not topple you. It’s no small feat. When you think long enough of the road you hoed, it can leave a body fatigued. And ain’t we all?

But now, think of that second number, when you were five years younger. What did you used to be able to do? How long could you work, walk, play, engage? What occupied your frontal lobe? Who did you see in the mirror? It’s only five years, but when you think of that body, that traveler, the steps feel more springy.

It doesn’t matter your age. Five years ago, you were a young person. We can’t help but polish memory to a shine.

It could seem a cold realization, that time is little more than a candied apple which cloaks bruising that remains nonetheless.

But here’s the good part.

Think of five years from now. Perhaps you won’t like the number. Perhaps you don’t care. Either way, you will look back at today and see a young person. One who could walk for miles, smile for days, commit the beautiful and horrific errors of youth. Someone somehow…different.

That person is here. That person is now. That person is you.

Forget what I said about apples. Time is like a TV. You can go broke investing in resolution. Ultimately, a television’s worth rests solely on viewing angle.

For once, the automakers were right. That object, the one that’s in the mirror.

It’s closer than it appears.

 

 

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