Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thank You For Rubbing This in Your Hands

With smoking ordinances more and more keeping smokers out of my smell zone, I don't think much about smoking. Except, you know, when I check on my RAI stock.

When I plowed through the stuff in my SXSW swag bag, I found this little foldover pack that looked like a matchbook. But it contained this little foil packet of lotion that you rub on your hands when you can't smoke that has extract of tobacco in it.

Rather than discard it, I put it on my desk to ponder the amazing world we live in.

And, of course, all the unintended consequences. Children getting addicted to rubbing tobacco into their hands. (The package says 'For Adult Use Only' I'll give them that.) People transferring the substance to others. I searched the WEB a bit today and found that people were wondering about these things. Other people were using the product. This user says the product smells like a dirty airplane. Hmm...that's attractive. But then if you smoke.... And besides do dirty airplanes smell like that anymore?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Taking Stock

When I have a party, I like my guests to be comfortable and happy. Rule number one: get a libation in their hands. [Note: Libation is, strictly speaking, the pouring of a drink in honor of a diety. In my lexicon, it is a drink poured in honor of a guest. Whether it's a glass of wine or whiskey or just a Coke or water or some club soda, it is symbolic of honoring a visitor to your home or event.]

At each event, I direct the guests to my most available drinks. Usually red and white wine are available. Still and sparkling water. Some sort of cold drinks (or, depending on your region, sodas, soda pops, soda waters). Occasionally we offer a couple of varieties of beer. Sometimes we will push a specialty drink. Bloody Marys, perhaps. Or encourage the consumption of liqueurs. Once we offered mango margaritas with an interior Mexican meal. (My trusty assistants did lots of lime squeezing as each of five pitchers took 3/4 cup fresh lime juice.) I served those in my martini glass collection.

Anyway. Unintended consequences. When I'm serving drinks I'll buy sodas or mixers. You never know when there will be a run on gin and tonic or Diet Coke. (If you have lots of women guests, have lots of white wine and Diet Coke. Sexist, I know. Personally when we are out and about and I order whisky and FFP orders white wine they always put the drinks in front of the wrong person. Still.) But I digress. Unintended consequences?

Now if I have a bottle of Gin or Jack Daniels it never really goes bad. So stocking up just means that your supply lasts for more occasions. But buy sparkling water or soda and they don't really last. We don't go through much of it. I might drink a Coke or Root Beer or something once a week. I might mix an occasional drink with Tonic or Club Soda. (Mostly, I drink my whiskey straight or with water and ice.) Bottled sparkling water loses its fizz. And sodas in cans? Well, over time, the contents seems to lose its pizazz. But worse, the cans leak! They do this in a most amazing way. I will quote Wikipedia.
Aluminum cans contain an internal coating to protect the aluminum from the contents. If the internal coating fails, the contents will create a hole and the can will leak in a matter of days. There is some difference in taste, especially noticeable in beer, presumably only due to traces of the processing oils used in making the can. Oils used in can manufacturing are FDA approved and must be constantly monitored.
[This isn't an academic paper so forgive me for this source. It was the only one I could find.]

I have experienced these leaks and they are very strange and messy. You will have some soda stacked somewhere. In my case, under a 'bar' in the kitchen or in a climate-controlled storage room or even a refrigerator. There will be a mess from spilled soda and, sure enough, you will find a can or two that have leaked some but not all of the contents. There will be no apparent leak. I finally saw a can leaking when I was cleaning out a small frig we hadn't used in a while. I picked up a can and a very fine spray from a microscopic hole in the side started spraying me. Obviously when the liquid reaches the level of the hole, it stops. You cannot see the hole!

I haven't seen this effect with canned beer. However, I do tend to drink beer faster than sodas!

So I guess that when I have a party or guests and stock up on these cans of stuff, I'm going to have to find some way to get rid of the leftovers or just open them and dump them down the drain. This planned obsolescence of canned beverages seems to give them a pretty short life. Although I might possibly have kept some around longer than I realized! And yes, I've found a leaking food can in my pantry more than once in my life.

You just can't stock up on some things. They won't be the same when you are ready to use them. Toilet paper, however. Doesn't ever seem to go bad.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Escape Nostalgia

You know how you start to cherish things you are willingly giving up?

I am ready and willing to leave my large house and my large yard. I am mentally ready to live in a high rise with less space and stuff.

Naturally nostalgia sets in. For the arrival of spring in a plot of land you call your own. For the comfort of having all this storage for all the things you don't really need.

And you look at your target environment differently, too. Last night, very late we were downtown walking to our car. The streets were full of rowdy, slightly drunk singles and we encountered one couple about to have domestic violence on the sidewalk. We were imagining that we were walking back to our home instead of our car. Would we feel as distanced from all this ten stories up as we do five miles away?

A variation on this theme is the feeling you get when visiting a place you "like to visit but where you wouldn't want to live." Finally, you feel like going home. But that day you realize that you are also feeling at home and can navigate the streets and transportation system with ease.

The Truth and Its Servants

FFP and I have been going to the SXSW Film Fest. We have seen only documentaries. Six of them so far.

I plan some mini-reviews over at my main site but this entry is about the consequences of putting the truth in service of our hopes, dreams and desires for change.

Documentaries often have an agenda. They want to explore something as a call to arms to change or at least to expose something standing in the way of a true path.

Which is great.


It is irresistible not to start picking and choosing what you show or pay attention to. By turning a blind eye to some things and putting the floodlights on others the truth starts to look a lot like lying. Especially in cinema. The harder you try to put the truth in service of something, the more it becomes a lie.

Of the films we've seen, the ones that seemed to ring truest and also to give us some insight into the human condition, got out of the way of big issues and let us see individuals in individual struggles. One film chose not to investigate too deeply a character's claim to a celebrity parent seeing that the purposes of the film were served by just knowing what the character said he believed to be true.

At the Q&A for another film that stayed true to the personal while addressing the existence of larger issues, an audience member tried to pursue a thread...looking for a raison d'etre for a (seeming?) epidemic of cancer. This woman went so far as to start talking about governments. You know, being to blame for not stopping the toxic onslaught of industry. This is a tactic FFP and I refer to as 'Stop the Industrial Revolution.'

Another film seemed to want to address growth and natural resources and the politics thereof. Facts were presented. Dazzling cinematography was engendered from satellite pictures, site maps, blueprints. And yet the cause remained blurred. I was sure there was a message. A call to action. But what was it? Was sprawl bad? But they were excoriating high rises. Was growth bad in general? But the director was introduced as not only a great director but a mother.

Documentaries are entertaining and short cutting the truth often makes them more engaging. But the harder you try to put the material in service of some cause and really press to change the world, the muddier the waters get. It turned out that the docs I enjoyed most and, I think, got the most out of, were ones that put a microscope on some of the individual lives that are just part of the great mass of humans. Really, there is only truth one-on-one. And all politics is inherently a statistical lie.

Daylight Savings Time

Time is such an elusive concept anyway. The way we synchronize ourselves to make appointments and label things on a 'time line.' To then make whole hours disappear and reappear in the daylight savings dance seems insane to me.

If people want more daylight after school or work, then why not start earlier? After the politicians vote DST in and you Spring forward what's the difference? And will we really save energy? I mean don't we get home from work in August in Austin and crank down the air conditioner and turn on the computer and the TV, etc?

I just slept a little later this morning and then readjusted to Daylight Stupid Time. My atomic clock and my cable boxes knew the correct time. We are working our way around the other clocks. The one shown in the picture had the right time when I got to it. Whether it was reset by FFP or we never bothered last October, I can't say. We learned to adjust the new car's clock on the way to the movies. I'll have to relearn how to do mine when I next drive somewhere. FFP set his watch but I haven't set any of mine. My phone got the word from the phone company. My computers figured it out, too. (Both running XP.) But FFP's (running Win 2K Pro and completely up-to-date with fixes) didn't.

One unintended consequence of all this is the fun possibility of saying something happened at 2:30AM Central Daylight Time on March 11, 2007. Worse when the November time for the change rolls around doesn't 1:30AM occur twice? At least then one is daylight time and one standard. Sounds like fodder for a mystery novel or at least a botched CIA investigation.

Friday, March 9, 2007

At Least it Doesn't Have Rotary Dial

In the Journal of Unintended Consequences, Category: Unplanned Unobsolesence, I offer the evidence of my old Sanyo SCP-4000.

On the left is my worn out phone in its leather case. On the right, the picture the Sprint company shows alongside my online info.

I'm not sure when I got this phone. At first it was my 911 phone mostly. But when my mother was in the hospital, almost five years ago, I used it extensively to keep friends and relatives apprised. I collected a lot of phone numbers in the thing and started keeping it on all the time (always on vibrate), attached to my belt and plugging it into its charger every night.

I came to rely on the cell phone after that and carted this one on trips and recorded phone numbers of a lot of friends, family, restaurants and hotels.

Naturally I know how to use it. And I rely on it to remember the numbers I can't. I keep it on vibrate and keep keyguard on (this overrides when I answer a call and then goes back on). It holds a good charge with the original battery and the almost but not quite every night charge it gets.

Of course, my phone doesn't take photos or videos. I don't have a way to get the numbers off of it and into the computer. It can surf the WEB somehow but I never really used that. (Imaigine that little monochrome screen!)

I have dropped this phone a thousand times. There are permanent flaws on my screen and wear on the buttons. And yet it keeps doing its job and doing it well. I thought one day I'd renegotiate my contract and get a new phone. Then I renegotiated to share minutes with my dad (who really rarely uses his) but heard myself saying to the guy how happy I was with the phones, that I'd just keep the phones.

Most things give up or the newer models start to tempt me with 'must have' features. But this little Sanyo phone just keeps going.

I'm sure I've doomed it to a death soon by writing this. But whatever happened to Planned Obsolescence?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Trans Fat in Bulk

See this package? It is a three pack of tubes of cookies. I love these cookies and occasionally get them at Central Market or some place fancy like that. I don't like a lot of sweets. But I like these. Tangy and sweet, ginger and lemon. Yum.

I try not to buy them because then I will eat them.

So I was surprised and delighted and dismayed all at once to see a multi-pack at Costco. And cheap, too. Of course. I even had a discussion in the aisle with a perfect stranger about how good these cookies were.

I didn't resist.

Friday night I went to a wine tasting. I managed not to eat a lot of the rare tuna apps and such other goodies and had some nice tastes of wine but not too much drinking. But when I got home, I decided to have a little something else to eat with my coffee. (Yeah, coffee at night. That's another story.) I remembered these cookies. And I ate way too many of them. Yikes.

I went to bed Friday night thinking I shouldn't have eaten so many. But when I got up Saturday I felt fine. I showered, went for a haircut, talked to the barber a while and drank coffee. I went to the gym and did a long hard bike ride to nowhere. When I was lifting weights, however, I felt a little unwell. Dizzy. Nauseated. I went home. I felt a little fragile. It was lunch time. I rarely eat breakfast. So I had spinach salad with green onions, carrots, Craisins and shredded cheese and some feta dressing. And a bunch of water. Gradually I felt worse.

I lost my lunch. I blamed the cookies.

Now this is ironic. A perfectly OK lunch. But I couldn't keep it down. I'm never going to be a good bulimic person if I toss the stuff that's part of a good diet. And keep down the cookies that turn out to have trans fat in addition to many calories.

By Sunday I was much better. By Monday I was cured of the cookies. Of course, it might have been something else. Even a bug. I hear raw oysters from the Texas Gulf Coast are making people sick. But I haven't eaten raw oysters in a few weeks.

And I like to blame it on the cookies.

The Rich Get...Poorer

Last week's stock market decline (correction? free fall?) had the pundits chattering as usual. Much is known in retrospect.

I noticed a couple of articles in The Wall Street Journal late in the week that were amusing in a 'Journal of Unintended Consequences' kind of way.

One article talked about how all the effort (and commissions?) that financial advisors have put into 'balancing' portfolios may have resulted in all kinds of assets moving up and down together. This is a great quote from a Thursday piece:
Many investors who thought they had avoided putting all of their eggs in one basket just got egg on their face instead.
Another article talks about how the rich are heavily invested in stocks (and hedge funds) and borrowing for luxury goods (presumably against future outrageous earnings as CEOs or investment bankers). And if the market really corrects...they will hurt worse than you or I. Maybe not so much, of course. I read another article about how little (percentage-wise) the really rich give away.

In this house, we find ourselves heavily invested in cash, real estate and bonds at the moment. We have noted that our positions have a reverse effect on the financial markets and call this the P-B effect. You may watch for rising prices in the stock market, a real estate crash, etc. I'm just saying. Meanwhile, take a moment when the Dow plummets (my favorite word) to feel sorry for the rich. We will let you know when we jump back into stock and you can sell then.