Friday, November 19, 2010


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • SZSEZ Travel Tip:  With all the brouhaha about patdowns and body scanners, and with the day before Thanksgiving being one of the busiest travel days of the year, if I were you, I'd swing by the airport a day or so in advance.  That way you can get pre-groped  . . . and make matters a lot easier on your actual departure day.  (You'll thank me later.)
  • Maybe someone will invent a gadget you can plug into your USB port.  Then, in the privacy of your own home, you can stand naked in front of your computer screen and be "virtually violated," sparing you the indignity at the airport itself!  (I'll thank them later!)
  • We've had many memorable Thanksgivings, my wife and I, except during the Carter administration energy crisis.  Turkey Day in '78 was a disaster.  What happened was, my wife misunderstood the President.  She turned the oven down to 68 degrees! 
  • There’s no such thing as a “clean bill of health.”  Everybody’s got something.
  • The bogus rumor about President Obama’s trip to Asia costing $200 million a day . . . underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said,  a century before the Internet,  "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."--Thomas Friedman in The New York Times.
  • Never eat at a place called Mom's, never play poker with a man named Doc . . . and never write the name of the Bears quarterback in ink.
  • Eye-opener: While the debt-ridden U.S. government shells out for nearly half of all global defense expenditures, our most loyal, stalwart, shoulder-to-shoulder allies--Britain and France--pitch in just 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, of the world total. Somebody's getting a free ride, and we're getting stuck with the bill.--Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post.
  • Should have seen this coming: The phone book--or at least the residential white pages--is going the way of the rotary telephone and the phone booth. Verizon, the largest provider of landline phones in the Washington, D.C., region, is asking state regulators for permission to stop delivering the residential white pages in Virginia and Maryland. Instead, the directories will be available online, printed or on CD-ROM upon request.
  • "Blood is thicker than water, and much more difficult to get out of the carpet."--Woody Allen.
  • People who have two or more fairly new vehicles sitting out all night exposed to the elements because their multi-car garage is filled with useless junk should consider counseling or, preferably, electro-shock therapy.
  • Redundancy patrol:  "Continue on," "convicted felon," "pre-order."
  • Ever wonder how some of the “classic” TV shows of the past would have fared if remote controls had been around and there had been more than a hundred channel options?  (“ ‘Gilligan’s What’?  Never heard of it.”)
  • Speaking of television, can the Prison Channel be far behind?
  • Book Title of the Week:  "Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Online Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier," by Michael Fertik and David Thompson.
  • Jim's Law of Household Finance:  Nothing ever really "pays for itself."  That's about the biggest self-delusion there is.
  • There will never be a Gilbert Gottfried Lookalike Contest.
  • Twelfth entry in the Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in an Obituary Sweepstakes: Pickerel, Wis. (r.i.p. Nancy Tilleson, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Nov. 16, 2010). Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau and Waukechon.
  • People who pick up food and actually eat it while still surfing the buffet table should be deported to the most desolate region of Afghanistan.
  • New weather word: When snow flurries are so light that they’re barely visible, they almost look like airborne lint. I call it “slint.” Tomorrow’s forecast: Most sunny, turning partly slinty by afternoon. Chance of slint: 60 percent.
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Ego can't puto Ego ate universitas res! ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing!")


The Laughing Boys of the NFL

Before settling in Sunday for your 10-hour NFL binge, there's a pretty good chance you'll watch the hour-long pregame shows. There's also a pretty good chance you'll notice something slightly odd about their hosts: They never stop laughing.

Well, that's not entirely true, but an analysis of the CBS and Fox pregame shows before Week 5 shows that the hosts do spend a lengthy amount of time laughing—sometimes at nothing, sometimes at their own jokes and, occasionally, at things that are funny.

The amount of time they laugh, though, is what sets them apart. The five hosts on Fox's show—Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson—had a combined laughing time of two minutes, 22 seconds. That's about 11.6% of the 20 minutes, 27 seconds they were shown on set together. Mr. Bradshaw was easily the laughing leader, going for about 92.4 seconds—including 2.5 seconds at the start of the show before anyone said anything.

The CBS crew—Greg Gumbel, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason—only laughed for 43 seconds. That's about one-third as much chuckling as the group at Fox. CBS declined to comment. Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio says, "If we didn't tell the guys to stop they would laugh and crack jokes 100% of the time."
--David Biderman in The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2010

Do you have a digital executor?

The Chilean government wanted entrepreneurs. Jesse Davis and Nate Lustig wanted additional funding--and maybe some adventure.

Now the two Madison entrepreneurs are on their way to Santiago, Chile, where they will spend six months running their two-year-old digital estate planning services company, Entrustet, which

Entrustet offers a free online service that allows users to list their digital assets such as e-mail, Facebook, Flickr and other accounts and to designate heirs for them.

The company is among about 10 in the digital estate planning services space, said Evan Carroll, co-founder of The Digital Beyond, a blog that calls itself the "go-to source for the digital afterlife industry."

The fate of your online accounts when you die might not seem like a big issue, but it's getting more attention as people move more of themselves online.

"Every lawyer is going to have to worry about transferring assets like this, every insurance company, every mutual fund company," Boucher said.

Entrustet and others store passwords for customers, but Entrustet is unique because it offers the option of designating a digital executor who is charged with distributing passwords and other digital information upon someone's death, Carroll said.

"It gives a level of oversight more in line with the traditional estate planning process," he said.

Entrustet brings in revenue through a premium version of its product that will automatically delete certain accounts upon someone's death, Davis said. The company also makes money through a program that automatically tells corporate partners when users die, and by educating lawyers around the country about how to handle digital assets.

Whether in Chile or Madison, Davis and Lustig say they're aiming to get people organized for their digital afterlives. They estimate 1.5 million users of Facebook alone will die over the next 12 months.

"Three Facebook users die every minute, and Facebook has no idea who's dead," Davis said.
--Milwaukee JournalSentinel, Nov. 15, 2010

Invasion of the Grease Poachers!

Two men pulled up behind Five Guys Burgers and Fries in North Bergen, N.J., recently, hooked a hose to a tank outside the restaurant and began stealthily siphoning 700 gallons of used cooking oil into a container in their van.

The suspects worked for a grease recycling company but were “freelancing” on two occasions in which they were charged with slurping up 1,400 gallons of the slippery stuff, according to police.

In some parts of the country, the restaurant owner might thank them for taking the waste material off their hands without charging for the service. But in mostly urban areas where there’s more competition between companies  seeking to pick up and resell used cooking oil for use in biofuels, the companies pay the restaurants for the oil, says Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association.

The organization, which represents   legitimate companies that pick up and recycle spent grease, is in the process of an industry-wide survey to find out the extent of the loss, Cook says. He doesn’t have numbers yet, but he expects they will be large.

 “Virtually all of our members who are in the business of picking up used cooking oils are experiencing grease theft to some degree or another, in some cases, pretty significantly,” Cook says.

 About 3 billion pounds of “yellow grease,” as the used oil is called, is produced in the USA each year, and traditionally, most of it has been mixed with livestock feed, he says. The value of the stuff fluctuates, but it hovers around $1.90 a gallon, he says.  
David Miller, owner of the Kickin’ Chicken restaurants based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., doesn’t know who absconded with several thousand dollars worth of day-old vegetable oil from his seven stores.

He started noticing significant dropoffs in the monthly payment from the grease buyers and knew something was going on.

 “With all the different uses of grease and biodiesel, we’ve gotten some backyard grease chemists,” he says. “And it’s a commodity   that is not normally protected. It’s easily accessible, and therefore, people have been siphoning off grease.”

Restaurants such as the Kickin’ Chicken started putting locks on their grease containers, but in some cases, the bandits cut the locks and knocked down the containers, says Tom Sponseller

 “When there’s a market for something, there’s somebody willing to steal it,” he says.
--Ron Barnett of The Greenville (S.C.) News

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • So the Food and Drug Administration now says it will require larger and more graphic warning labels on cigarette ads and cigarette packaging.
  • What rubbish!  Hey, I smoked 3 packs a day for 35 years . . . and there's nothing wrong with my lung!
  • Malaprop of the Century:  "There was this guy on the plane who started choking violently.  But then somebody came up from behind and gave him a Heineken!" (Thanks to SZSEZ field reporter Janice Welzien of Chicago.)
  • Poker has become so popular, young people are even getting into it.  What's next?  The Little League World Series of Poker?
  • So now we're cozying up to India, with President Obama urging that nation have a permanent spot on the United Nations Security Council--at the same time that we're selling warplanes to India's arch-rival  Pakistan.  Interesting to see how that plays out!
  • Headline of the Week I: "Mutant mosquitoes fight dengue fever in Cayman Islands."  SZSEZ's Caribbean bureau will be following this story closely.
  • Headline of the Week II: "Ex-NFL player [David] Meggett gets 30 years in sex assault case."  That's NFL--as in National Felons League, of course.  (If Meggett has a dog, maybe Michael Vick can look after it for him while he's gone.)
  • "Nobody in the game of football should be called a genius.  A genius is someone like Norman Einstein."--Joe Theissmann, former quarterback.
  • Didn't the two-minute warning in football originate before they had clocks and huge electronic scoreboards? If so, why do they still have it? Just another excuse to go to a commercial? (I know, I know--the scoreboard clock "is not the official time," but how far off can it be?)
  • Word of the Week:  "Jackwagon." According to the Online Slang Dictionary: "An insult. Likely coined specifically for the Geico commercial quoted in the following citation. . . .
  • Therapist: "Maybe we should chug on over to Mamby-Pamby Land where maybe we can find some confidence for you, you jackwagon."
  • Or: "A useless piece of equipment, usually military, used to refer to a mule-drawn freight wagon that had been pieced together from discarded or substandard parts and subject to frequent breakdowns. Jackwagons typically were good for only one or two uses, then abandoned along roadsides and in ditches and were often re-cannibalized to create new jackwagons."
  • Lone drawback to losing the 90  pounds I've kept off for four years--having to give up my title: Mr. America and Parts of Canada!
  • When's the last time you heard someone was "in cahoots" with someone?  It's a phrase that seems to be fading away (even if the behavior it denotes isn't).
  • Overheard: "If you rob a bank, it's called a felony; if the bank robs you, it's called a service charge."
  • Frank Rich of the New York Times on the election: "This is a snapshot of a whiplashed country that (understandably) doesn’t know whose butt to kick first. It means that [President] Obama can make a comeback, but only if he figures out what he has to come back from and where he has to go."
  • I've never seen a jogger that didn't look like he or she was in pain.  Tremendous pain.
  • Jim's Law of Urban Survival:  All neighborhoods are safe at 6 o'clock in the morning. 
  • Pretentious Pronunciation Dept.: In his book  "The Accidents of Style," Charles Harrington Elster says pronouncing "homage" as "oh-MAHGZ" is  a "preposterous de-Anglicization that is becoming fashionable among the literati." (Well said, Charles.  Down with such affectatious pronunciations such as "neesh" instead of "nitch" for the word "niche."  I'm just sayin'.)
  • It's gotta be tough being the pope.  You think it's easy going on tour without a book or an album coming out?
  • "He played the king as if afraid someone would play the ace."--British drama review
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with an ATM.
  • Book Title of the Week: "The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook: Homemade Goodies for Man's Best Friend," by Liz Palika. (Damn! Another blockbuster from Liz Palika!)
  • Today's Latin lesson: Non ut illic quisquam nefas per ut! ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!")