A lot of folks this time of year come out with their top ten lists of people, places, things, and events of the year. I’d like to do the opposite. Not the bottom ten, but the top ten non-events. Or rather…
Top Ten Things That Didn’t Happen in 2012
What’s done is done. What’s not done is not undone, but not done. And in other news…
I was shopping the other day and an old Joni Mitchell song cover came over the sound system, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Which got me to thinking, what is paradise? A very pleasant place where you are cozy and comfortable. Not too hot, not too cold, Goldilocks right. Fresh water and plentiful yummy food, you’re safe from vicious beasts and predatory people, and there’s a lack of pestilence, vermin, strife, evil and darkness. Basically, life is good.
On a January night in Michigan, is paradise more like being outside in a patch of frozen woods or inside in a cozy cabin? Maybe for a snowman the great outdoors is great in the dead of winter, but for a person… So then, are we paving paradise or building it? Or at least trying to build the best approximation we can manage in our own fallible way.
Natural paradises on Earth are few and far between. One can imagine a place like Tahiti comes close. Yet even there they cut down trees and build huts. Apparently even paradise can stand a little improving.
Comedy teams go way back. As do the types of patter they use, such as cross-talk. A classic case of cross-talk is the old “Who’s on first?” bit as done by Abbott and Costello. Another ploy used by comedy teams is the funny interview. I imagine this type of thing started on radio. It’s hard to see how funny interviews would even work before radio came along and gave comics something to parody. When tv entered the picture the talking heads interview format started.
Funny interviews seem to work best when done deadpan, as if they were serious interviews. Bob and Ray were masters of this. If you find Bob and Ray funny, you’ll find Australia’s answer to Bob and Ray, Clarke and Dawe, here. (The previous sentence is an example, if a weak example, of one of the ways cross-talk works by using two meanings of the word find in the same sentence. Not unlike the way Who is both a name and a question in the old Abbott and Costello bit.)
Bob Newhart created a variation of the comedy team by being a one-man comedy team. His act employed having conversations on the phone where the audience only heard one side of the conversation. So his partner only existed as an imaginary person on the other end of the phone. Of course, Bob had all the gag lines and all the implied straight lines were unspoken. Here’s an example from way back when.
Another type on one-man comedy team is the ventriloquist act. In this case the dummy usually gets the gag lines. You might like to know, ventriloquists don’t call them dummies, they call them figures. The classic figure is fashioned to be an Irish smart-alec. That’s why they often had Irish names in the old days, like Charlie McCarthy and Jerry Mahoney.
A real-life Irish funny-man was Johnny Carson. Think of how much he looked like a classic ventriloquist figure come to life. Square head, big ears and pug nose. Johnny Carson was the master of the funny interview. Only with any of a thousand different guests and totally ad-lib.
Is it possible to grasp really big numbers? I mean numbers like a billion or a trillion. As analogies they sometimes talk about stacking things to the moon or laying them end to end around the world to visualize really big numbers. But does that actually help? I mean, do we even have a good grasp of the size of the Earth or how far away the moon is? Maybe, but I rather think not that much.
Let’s take another example, one thousand seconds is just over 16 and a half minutes. Without doing any calculations, just guessing with a gut reaction, how long is a million seconds, a billion seconds, and a trillion seconds?
You might be tempted to not guess and just look at the figures below. But go ahead and guess. See if you come close. I would imagine the bigger the number the farther off you’ll be. Which is not to say you’re stupid, just that most people don’t deal with a trillion anything on a daily basis. At least we don’t count a trillion anything every day. How many oxygen atoms we deal with breathing every day I couldn’t say. A lot. That’s about all I can guess.
Anyway, here are the answers: One Million seconds is 12 days. One Billion seconds is nearly 32 years. One Trillion seconds is 31,688 years.
Clearly, a trillion is a lot. A great big, whole lot. Yet with this comparison we have a problem. A billion is 32 years, half a lifetime. We can perhaps relate to this. But how do we relate to 31,688 years? At what point is a number so big it’s just a word to us?
“Add three seconds of water and stir.” That’s a strange recipe direction. “Fill a large pot with 20 seconds of water and bring to a boil.” That’s pretty odd, too. Would you ever calculate the amount of water to cook with by how long it takes to come out of the tap rather than volume?
It seems somebody thinks we do. Why else would the gas company send folks door-to-door offering to install a device that restricts water flow from the faucets promising it will save 20% on your hot water bill? Happened to me just the other day. I declined the offer.
I fill my pots with cold water. It’s more efficient to heat the water on the burner than to heat it partly in the hot water tank first then the rest of the way on the burner. So the device wouldn’t make a difference there. Just make filling pots take longer.
When washing dishes I fill the sink with enough hot water to do the job. I wouldn’t fill it less if it took longer to fill. No savings there. I rinse the dishes in tepid water with that sprayer thingamabob. I don’t run the water full blast anyway because it splashes too much. No savings there.
Maybe I’m crazy, but the idea that a flow-restricting device at the tap is going to save me 20% on hot water seems unlikely. Especially considering most of my hot water useage is laundry and showers. Anyway, my faucets already have a device which I use to reduce water flow. It’s called a valve, and I know how to use it.
Unlike most houses mine has a device that saves water, though not hot water. I have a urinal. Easy to use and a lot less messy than a toilet. Of course I have a toilet, too, for number two.
Folks like to make statements with their clothing. Sometimes it’s a fashion statement; sometimes a literal statement, as in a T-shirt sporting a slogan or gag. Sometimes it’s sort-of both, as in a baseball cap festooned with a logo. The psychology behind this… who cares. Logos look cool. Well, many logos, not all.
Just about everything you buy now-a-days comes emblazoned with a logo. Not just apparel. Even fruit. I guess we’re supposed to think it’s a designer banana or something. At any rate logos are everywhere.
What makes a good logo? It should be simple, clear, not finicky. This falls under the oxymoron of less is more. A really good logo works as a teeny-tiny icon. A bold black and white symbol is more useful than one relying on colors. A pure shape works well. Like a star. But it also needs to be unique, not confused with another symbol or logo. So, unlike a star. It shouldn’t just be the name of the outfit, which is more like a trademark than a logo.
A good logo doesn’t even have to tell you a thing about the brand. It’s not an ad, it’s a mark, a symbol, but not always symbolic. Below is my idea of great company logos. Bet you know them instantly. Well, if you’re old enough to remember the fourth one.
Of the five, the Chevy bowtie is my favorite. It’s absolutely meaningless in any kind of automotive way or in referencing the name. It’s just a shape. But totally unique, distinctive. No other car company has anything like it. The odd thing, nobody is really sure where it came from. One thing you can be pretty sure of, it’s not German. German car companies are obsessed with circle logos. Just check out Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Opel, and Audi. The last getting carried away to the tune of four circles.
Here is where I’m supposed to sum up and make a final point or something. Or maybe offer a deal on coffee mugs, t-shirts, or trucker hats decorated with my logo. But there isn’t any more to it. That’s why it’s under Odds and Ends. It’s odd, but it must end even if the end is odd.
WWII in Europe began in 1939 when Britain and France guaranteed if Poland were invaded they would go to war. Poland was invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union. Britain and France declared war on Germany. Why didn’t they also declare war on the Soviet Union?
Just something to ponder.
As in the heading above, English speakers use contractions quite a bit. Except for Data on Star Trek, TNG, but who cares. Anyway, contractions are common and proper usage listed in your standard dictionary. Sometimes you have a choice. For instance, for it is not you can use it’s not or it isn’t. But you can’t double it up and go with it’sn’t.
However there are cases where you can have a double contraction. Take this one I ran across reading Agatha Christie, could not have was contracted to couldn’t’ve. Perhaps you wouldn’t’ve thought it was right, but there it was in black and white.
Which has me thinking, could you take that one step further and have a triple contraction? I mean, can I would not have be contracted to I’dn’t’ve? Well, I’ve never seen that. I would not have thought it proper usage. Or is that I’dn’t’ve thought it proper usage?
That’s it. It is what it is. Which can be, it’s what it is, but not it’s what it’s. Contractions don’t always work.
Ten Sure Signs You’re Not in the 1%
Though why a year with a 366th day is called leap year is beyond me. Seems to me every other year leaps over February 29th right to March 1st. Maybe the longer year should be called un-leap year. Anyway, we get an extra day this month and this year. But no extra day this week. Eerie.
Closed captioning on TV transcribes a voiceover something like, “Female announcer: Blah… blah…” Why do they bother giving the announcer’s sex?
If there’s no letter L sound in Japanese, why did they name the car brand Lexus? What do they call it in Japan?
Why is it for women the road to fulfillment is a career, while for men the road to fulfillment is dumping the career and leaving the rat race?
If there’s no J or U in Latin, how does the most famous old Roman, Julius Caesar, have both?
Why is it people want to become rich and so attract the opposite sex, yet the rich want to be loved for themselves and not their money?
Why do so many like democracy but hate politics when democracy means everyone is part of politics?
And last and probably least, what’s the purpose of that little triangle just under the collar on the front of a sweatshirt?
I got a puzzle-a-day calendar for Christmas. Here’s the puzzle for February 2nd, Groundhog Day, though it has nothing to do with groundhogs:
“Andy flushes the toilet 36 times a day. Each flush uses 2 gallons of water at a cost of 10 cents per gallon. How much do Andy’s flushes cost per week?”
The answer is pretty simple math. Andy spends $50.40 a week flushing his toilet.
When I read the setup I had other questions. Why is Andy flushing his toilet so much? Why is Andy’s toilet water so expensive?
Maybe it’s just me, but using the toilet 36 times a day seems a little excessive. If Andy sleeps eight hours a day it means he’s relieving himself 36 times in 16 hours. That’s once every 25 minutes or so. I think Andy should see a doctor.
At $50.40 a week Andy is spending over $200 a month flushing his toilet. Where does Andy live where water is so expensive? By comparison my monthly water bill is about ten dollars. I don’t pay close to ten cents a gallon for water, closer to one cent per gallon.
Which makes me wonder, does Andy drink bottled water? Is there anything more overpriced? I mean, a 16 oz. bottle for a dollar means paying eight dollars a gallon. That’s twice the price of gas. For water. Which I can get from the tap for a penny a gallon. Bottled water is 800 times more expensive. Though for Andy that’s only 80 times more expensive. What a bargain.
I see in the news where Kodak declared bankruptcy. Not surprising given the rise of digital photography. Still, had you told me in 1970 both Kodak and General Motors would go bust, I’d have thought you crazy. Not to mention the Soviet Union. How the mighty have fallen.
In its long heyday Kodak was invincible. Sure, there was FujiFilm and Agfa, but Kodak was the undisputed king. Photographers called it The Yellow God. But no more. The Kodak moment is over. The Yellow God is dead. Or perhaps being reorganized as a demi-god. A very mortal demi-god it seems.
Ten Unpredictions for 2012