Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cell-Phone Evolution

As Yakov Smirnoff would say, "Votta Countrie!"

First we had cell phones, disconnecting us from the wall jack, and totally revolutionizing our voice communications.

I have to admit, I don't fully understand the appeal of cell phones, being that I relish my moments away from the phone! (My boss likes me to be constantly available, or I wouldn't carry one at all.)

For kids, they are a status symbol. All the cool kids have cell phones; all the losers are phone-less.

Maybe that's true of adults as well. Cell phones have quickly become an indispensable part of our upscale, mobile culture. People buy plans with 3000 "any time" minutes. 2900 of those minutes are inane babble, but... use it or lose it. That's why you see people with phone-plastered-to-ear when driving, walking down the grocery aisle, dining in a nice restaurant, or watching a movie. (After all, those minutes can't be used up when you're working or watching Desperate Housewives, or sleeping!)

I saw a guy riding his motorcycle - on a public street - one handed, because his other hand was holding a cell phone to unhelmeted ear. (I ride a motorcycle, and I don't know how you could do that at all, let alone safely. After all, you need left hand to operate the clutch and the right hand for the throttle. He wasn't riding well, but he was riding. He's probably dead by now.)

The next big step was picture-phones. Take a grainy photo with your camera, and send it to the person you're talking to!

Mom and Dad went to the Seattle World's Fair, back in the early '60s, and the two things that really wowed 'em were... the Space Needle, and telephone with picture! Well, we've finally arrived! So - the cool kids have picture-phones, the losers have plain phones.

The next step is another one that baffles me - text messages. I s'pose there are instances where a text message makes sense, like if you've got to send somebody a phone number, or address or a vehicle ID number. But why would you spend 10 minutes composing and sending a message from your cell phone to somebody else's, when you could use your cell phone and call that person and convey the same message in a 20-second conversation? Weird, wild stuff.

And now... proving we're almost to the Gene Roddenberry Star-Trek Gilded Age... hands-free cell-phoning! One variation is called "Bluetooth." Shouldn't it be called "Blue-Ear"? (Or maybe I'm way off base, and it's called that after its inventor, Earl Bluetooth.) Evidently, hands-free phoning is for people who have the 6000 any-time minute plan, and so they have to keep talking not only while waiting for their meal in the restaurant, but also while they're chewing. Or the busy college student who has to use up her minutes while taking lecture notes.

Of course, who can deny it looks really cool to be walking around with a hunk of plastic hanging from your ear, every waking moment? (Especially if it has a little blinkie-light on it.)

I'm waiting for the hands-free thingie to drop in price a little bit. I'll get one and wear it, just so I look really cool... and so people won't look at me quite as funny when I'm walking around, talking to myself.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Click on a "headline" to read the full story.

Medical Mystery: Compulsive Hoarders

Are you a packrat? There's a fine line between simple clutter and extreme hoarding. Most hoarders, observers say, are physically incapable of throwing things out.

Boy's Screaming Kills Chickens

Hundreds of chickens have been found dead in east China - and a court has ruled that the cause of death was the screaming of a four-year-old boy who in turn had been scared by a barking dog.

Police say obsessed Oregon woman stole rabbits from police

An obsessed woman broke into a police holding area to take back about 130 rabbits she had been accused of neglecting, police said. In October, Hillsboro police seized 150 live rabbits from the home of Miriam Sakewitz and found nearly 100 more dead ones in a trio of freezers.

Jimi Hendrix Energy Drink in Works

A new energy drink doesn't promise to give you the juice to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, but it does hope to give you a "Liquid Experience." ... The image of Hendrix has [also] been licensed for products including baby clothing, an air freshener, lava lamp and a Christmas ornament.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Uncle Rico Syndrome

You probably remember Uncle Rico from the movie, "Napoleon Dynamite." And you've probably known an "Uncle Rico" or two in your life. I know I have.

Uncle Rico's defining characteristic is that he revels in the glory of the past. You see, he was the star quarterback, 15 years ago when he was in high school. And he prefers reminiscing about life back then, rather than focusing on his present wretched existence. (He demonstrates that he hasn't lost his throwing arm, by hurling a steak, accurate as a laser-guided missile, into the side of his bike-riding nephew Napoleon's head.)

I'm starting to worry that 50,000 or so local people are afflicted with Uncle Rico Syndrome. It seems to be going around, as badly as the Boogie Fever Epidemic of the 70s. (Or... maybe it's actually dying down, but a frantic local media is trying to keep it alive.)

How long will we continue to bask in the glory of the Fiesta Bowl, and our beloved Broncos' 13-0 football season?

The ticker tape parade is over now. The cheering and laughter, and ceaseless "Boyyyyyyyyy-Seeeeeeeeee..... Staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate!" have died down. But there are still autograph-signing dates. I'm still seeing cars driving around with huge Bronco decals on the doors, and tattered blue and orange Bronco flags snappin' in the wind. (There are at least 1000 "number one fans" in town. Soon, due to the ravages of time and weather, those flags will be lying in the gutters, just like the American flags a few months after 9/11. At least the Fiesta Bowl is more positive than 9/11, huh?)
If I hear one more personalized play-by-play call of the last minute of the game, and the overtime, I think I'll grab a steak and throw it at the commentator!!

At my household, we've become rather cynical. When the obligatory local-TV-news "Fiesta Bowl Update" comes on, you hear the hollerin' begin. "Mom! Come here! Hurry! Fiesta Bowl news!"

We all watched the game, and were thrilled with the outcome, and are proud of our Broncos. But people, it's time to give the Fiesta Bowl a rest already! (Although we obviously hope to hear daily news updates on how the football-star / head-cheerleader relationship is going.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jack Bauer – American Hero or Racist Swine?

Do you watch "24"? I didn't for the first 3 ½ seasons. But then I made the mistake of watching an episode, and quickly got hooked.

In fact, I even bought a "Season 1 Box Set" to catch up with. But in a way, it's better to watch the broadcast version… the commercials give you a chance to catch your breath. That is one HIGH TENSION teevee show!

If you don't watch… Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, works for the CTU – Counter-Terrorism Unit. He works out of the L.A. office of that super-secret agency, which is conveniently nearby the Fox sound stages, etc. Each season is one day (24 hours, hour-by-hour) of Jack's crime-fighting life. But he's not doing battle with jaywalkers, or even bank robbers. His enemies are the international dudes – think "Doctor Evil" – who have plastic explosives, nerve gas, or a big flippin' bomb they want to set off in the U.S.A. Jack Bauer foils their plans while the rest of us sleep.

"24" has a huge following. Not huge like "American Idol," or "You're Fired!," but kinda huge. I saw Kiefer Sutherland the other day on Charlie Rose. He said their fans run the gamut from VP Dick Cheney, to Barbra Streisand. (So, the show is beloved by both Nazis and Commies! Hahahaha)

But this year, the accusations have renewed.

In the 4-hour premiere event (broadcast January 14 and 15), Jack fell into the hands of MUSLIM fanatics, who are intent on killing him, and then setting off their Suitcase Nukes around the Fruited Plain, to bring America to her knees. Fortunately, Jack escapes. But at the end of the 4th hour, despite his best terrorist-fighter efforts, one of the fictional nukes goes off, fictionally blowing up a bunch of fictional L.A.-area citizens. Jack was all set to retire, but that single event made him decide to stick around for 20 more hours, to deal harshly with the bad guys. Who have 4 more suitcases. AWESOME!

The Muslims are upset about how they are portrayed in "24." They see it as bad P.R. – Muslims blowing people up. An unfair stereotype. Some kook might blur the line between fiction and reality, and get the wrong idea about Muslims.

I know "24" has changed my life.

The other day, some lady was riding in the elevator with me. Had kind of a Russian-like look about her. I was instantly suspicious. She started talking on her cell phone – IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! I did what Jack Bauer would have done – wasted her. Single 9mm in the forehead. And then got off on the next floor, being careful not to leave fingerprints on the elevator button.

And – the very next day (!!) – I saw a guy driving a taxicab. Definitely not from around here… he looked Muslim! I figured that Russkie gal had probably been talking to him on her phone, before I could take her out. So I wasted the dude. He slumped over the steering wheel, and his taxi careened down Bannock Street and ran into a telephone pole.

But seriously… a couple points to consider.

1) I find it REFRESHING to watch a television drama where the villain, or window-peeper, or rapist, or whatever-threat-to-society, isn't a Christian white guy. (And most often a CONSERVATIVE Greed-Driven suit-wearing Evil Businessman.)

Fox said in their prepared statement about the Muslim accusations: "24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism. After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical. Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States."

2) If the Muslims are concerned about being stereotyped as suicidal, wild-eyed, bomb-wielding crazies, maybe they should first try to influence their suicidal, wild-eyed, bomb-wielding crazy fellow Muslims to scale it back a little, before attacking the poor misunderstood Hollywood people! Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Can you judge someone by the car he or she drives?

Results from an interesting AP-AOL poll were released on 1/15; 62% of those polled say "they can tell something about someone's personality from the kind of car he or she drives." And the more affluent or better-educated, the more likely they are to feel they can make such an evaluation.

Let's try to understand, using some real-life scenarios.

Is the guy who drives an F350 Super-Duty turbo-diesel crew-cab dually pickup truck more likely to be a macho, outdoors, rugged he-man -type than some milquetoast who drives a Toyota Corolla?

No doubt!

But what if he gets to his destination, and steps out of the vehicle, and it turns out to be Wally Cox instead of Paul Bunyan? (For you kids who are reading, and don't know who Wally Cox is... substitute Clay Aiken.) Or worse – what if it turns out to be Betty White? Some of them sweet little grandmother-type ladies might like the big rugged pickup trucks. (My momma could drive one, just as capably as Dinty Moore... know what I mean?)

Is the guy who drives a Porsche Carrera more likely to be a rich playboy-type than the guy who's driving a '74 Olds Cutlass?


How about the stereotype middle-age guy, who's balding and fighting the belly, and has a mid-life crisis and buys a shiny red Corvette. What can we judge about HIS personality? (Maybe in the post-Viagra years, that thing doesn't happen so often. Hahahaha)

Here's a tougher one.

Is the Hummer driver more likely to be a Democrat, or Republican? How about the Volvo driver? How about the guy riding around in the back of the stretch limo? Do people choose transportation on the basis of their politics?

The most amusing drivers are those who drive the "rice burners." (You know – those little Japanese cars that the kids like. How sad for them! When I was a kid, the cool kids drove GTXs and Corvettes and '56 Fords.) Nowadays, they drive what was once a Honda or Mitsubishi, but it's been rendered unrecognizable with the addition of huge but non-functional hood scoops, wings on the back (look more like carrying handles to me), low-profile tires, 10,000-watt onboard ghetto blasters, etc. What can you learn about those drivers, by observing their cars?

How about me? I ride a bike. (Maybe that doesn't count.)

I WILL tell you this… the car companies are certainly convinced that America will buy a car based on the image of that car. Witness the millions (if not billions) that are poured into marketing and advertising cars on TV. And I'll go this far... lots of folks buy a car because of that "image" - their purchasing decision includes their perception of what others will think of 'em, when they're motoring about in their new stylin' pimped-out ride.

The sporty cars lean toward mystique… cryptic names made up of meaningless strings of characters and numbers, heavy on the X's and Z's.

The SUV-types, and pickups, usually get the "macho treatment." Even the names are macho – the new Dodge vehicles? "Caliber." "Nitro." ("Nitro" isn't likely to explode, is it? It's good they didn't name the Ford Pinto the Ford Nitrothat woulda come back to bite 'em in the butt!)
I tend to make quick snap-judgments about drivers, based on their cars, when I'm riding my bicycle and see one approaching. If it's a kid in a rice-burner, I'm wary, because they are usually the worst drivers, except for maybe distracted cell-phone SUV Soccer Mom. If it's a guy in a pickup truck, I'm wary, because SOME of them seem to think they have an exclusive right to the road, and are hell-bent on occupying the same space as I am occupying, to intimidate me. (All pickup drivers aren't stupid rednecks... but stupid rednecks tend to gravitate to pickup trucks.)

In a related story, it was recently revealed that gays and lesbians are likely to pick certain vehicles for their transportation. (Reported on a source no less reliable than "Click and Clack, the Tappett Brothers"!!)

The Lesbian top five:
5. Honda CR-V
4. Ford F-150 pickup
3. Jeep Wrangler
2. Subaru Forester
1. Subaru Outback

The gayest cars in America:
5. Mazda Miata
4. Jeep Wrangler
3. BMW 3-Series
2. VW "New Beetle"
1. VW Jetta

Weigh that, too, my friends, when you are making your critical vehicle purchasing decision. If you're a guy, you'd have to be pretty darn comfortable in your manhood to drive a New Beetle or a Jetta, huh? Be gay! Or look just like one when you're driving!

(Accompanying graphic was snagged from The Onion awhile back - the "anger powered" concept car. For people who tend to road-rage when they're driving.)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My Grandbaby

user posted image

Baby Mackenzie, born 4 January 2007. 8lbs., 12oz. (The fishermen I know say that's a BIG one!) Being held by her great-grandma.