Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nose Hair:

There's a little tuft of hair at the entrance to each of my nostrils, and now that I'm not so young, that hair is growing longer and faster. Over the years, I've tried a number of tools to cut this hair. The devices aren't cheap, but all the ones I've tried are useless. They make lots of noise spinning away, and they cut nothing.

Recently I discovered a superb nose-hair cutter, and it's something I already own: the tiny sharp scissors that come with the Swiss Army Credit Card (take a look). The scissor is so tiny, it easily reaches its goal. And it is sharp enough to cut very effectively.

I'd really, really, really rather find a great gadget to do this job. The thing about those tiny scissors ... if I ever aim wrong, it's going to be very painful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor Jay Leno:

I'll bet I'm not the only person saying this, but maybe you're reading it here for the first time: Jay Leno is probably washed up. He's a remarkably resourceful comedian. He was amazing during the Writers' Strike. But his show is very set in its ways, and a lot of his viewers are just kind of “used to it.”

Leno was THE choice when he inherited the Late Show mantle and ran with it. Now, he's the guy whose same show failed at 10 p.m.; he's the guy who is chasing Conan O'Brien away, even though he doesn't seem to intend it; he's the guy who wants his late time slot back, even though he's forgotten that he gracefully released it. When he returns to 11:37, a lot of his taken-for-granted viewers will not be pulled to him by the old trigger. He'll have to be very imaginative to rebuild a big audience. Jay, and NBC are turning back the clock in a world where the clock is running faster and faster in the opposite direction.

Too bad.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Abdulmutallab Dots that 'Should Have Been' Connected:

I'm linking to a Bruce Schneier column, because it deserves all the exposure it can get. We've all heard about how it should have been easy to “connect the dots” about the crotch bomber. I've been skeptical of this, because I wondered whether each of the dots that jumps out so nicely in hindsight was obscured by a million other dots. Schneier does a good job of debunking the so-called 'ease' of dot-drawing. His full column is here. Some of his points:
  • Walk-in warnings by family relations are highly unreliable.
  • The bomber had been banned from Britain for claiming coursework he didn't do, not for being a terrorist.
  • British Intelligence had NOT notified the US about him.
  • He paid cash for his ticket, but so does everybody else, where he came from.
  • He checked no luggage. Neither does Bruce Schneier. Neither do most people who fly from third world countries.
  • He bought a round trip ticket, not a one-way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jane Austen and the Yeth Hound:

You've probably heard about the great success of the book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And now we also have Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. You're probably wondering about the rest that are still to come. Well, here they are:
  • Mansfield Park Poltergeists
  • Emma and the Erlking
  • Persuasion and PiKachu
  • Love, Leviathan and Friendship
  • Lady Susan's Succubus
  • Northanger Abbey and the Avantars

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Call Phone assistance:

A few months ago I visited a doctor, a specialist. After a long wait, his nurse put me in an examining room. Another twenty minutes passed. What's the point of leaving a patient alone in an examing room for twenty minutes? I wasn't exactly pissed, but I was annoyed, and I did not want to be forgotten. So I took out my cell phone and called the doctor's office. I asked them at the front desk how long I had to wait.

The doctor showed up a few minutes later, and was he angry! He took my phone call as a terrible insult. I was so amazed, I didn't even try to justify myself. I just accepted his whine (I think he's a good doctor) and moved on to the business at hand. And the next time I get left in an examining room for a long time, I'll call again.

But I think this is even better: I was in aisle 13 of the supermarket, and -- remember, I'm a guy -- I just couldn't find a product that had to be there. The natural thing to do is to walk to customer service (over at aisle 3), wait on line and ask for help. Instead, I called the store, got customer service, and said "I'm in aisle 13 and I can't find Mop'n'Glow. Can you help me?" They sent a guy over, and we found the product. (Hint: If you call, they will help you first, ignoring the people on waiting line for customer service. Everybody helps the phone caller first.)

Friday, January 08, 2010


I couldn't find a product in the "pharmacy" aisle at my supermarket so I asked the manager of this aisle to help me find it. He soon gave up and said, "They've discontinued it."

The first time a supermarket employee said that to me, it really hit home. If you care about something enough to ask for help in finding it -- and let's face it, us guys do need that kind of help -- then you really need it. You don't want another "oh damn, no more Coca Cola" moment.

But I'm on to them now. I responded, "That's what you guys always say. You always claim the product is discontinued."
"I'm only reading the tags," he said. There's no shelf space for it."

And then he said, "Oh no, here's the tag. I guess we're out." I did my best not to smirk.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

They can't have it both ways!

Immediately after the crotch bomber did his thing, the TSA instituted a draconic set of new restrictions for air travel. Leo Laporte summed them up this way: We might as well travel with our hands in the air.
Thank goodness we won't face these new restrictions on every flight.

Days later we are being told that the crotch bomber's success was a systematic failure of the 'system.' There were any number of ways he should never have been allowed to fly into US air space. And by gosh, such a failure will never be allowed again. Why, the president is displeased, and heads are even rolling, I think, although I haven't actually seen one roll.

They can't have it both ways. If this man's success was due to system failures, then we do not need new travel restrictions. And if his success was due to incredibly inadequate passenger oversight, then there's no need to blame systemic failure.

I have a suggestion: let's try to overreact in a thoughtful, more measured fashion.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Malted Coffee; Instant Molasses Coffee:

I have two remarkable coffee discoveries for you today.

First, Malted Coffee. This is one delicious drink! Mix a heaping teaspoon (or maybe two) of your favorite malted milk powder into a cup of hot coffee. The coffee and malt flavors really favor each other. Excellent. (Of course, you have to like the taste of malt.)

Second, I suggest that you try sweetening instant coffee with molasses. Of course, you have to like the taste of molasses. I suspect that this trick works best with Starbucks Via Coffee. Via has been hailed as a breakthrough among instants. It really is a breathrough, no doubt about it! Imagine paying as much as a dollar per cup that you brew in your own home! Good as Via is, you can still taste that undertaste characteristic of intant cofee. But not if you sweeten it with a little molasses! Somehow, the molasses and the instant tastes cancel each other out.

I tried adding molasses to a more pedestrian brand of instant. The results were not as good, but again, the molasses neutralized some of the "instant" taste. Not too bad.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Really Simple Acceptance/Rejection:

When we invite people to parties and events, we generally consider the invitee's acceptance (or rejection) to be a private matter. But what if we didn't? Suppose we wanted the people we invite to tell the world whether they judge it worthwhile to attend our event? If we did, we would probably end our invitations like this:


(I'm rather conflicted about this blog entry. I'm not sure that this wordplay deserves to live. Sorry about that.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Night at the M'seum:

"Free" televsion is biting the dust. When there were less than a hundred channels, no iPhone and no WoW, people tuned to some ordinary channel and watched and bought the sponsor's products. The audence for these ads is shrinking fast. Perhaps that's why there are so many ads now.

We watched Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum on TV. (No nasty comments please; we're not fans of Ben Stiller.) The movie filled a two hour and thirty minute time slot. Wow, I thought, that's a long movie. So I looked it up: the movie is 108 minutes long. And it's PG, which means the whole thing can be shown on family TV without upsetting the FCC. The movie's length leaves time for 42 minutes of ads. So the movie occupies 72% of the time slot, right? (42 minutes of 30-second ads would be 84 F-ing ads.)

Actually, it's worse than that. At the beginning, you can see a text screen advising us that the movie has been edited to fit the time slot. I think the message should have said this: The movie has been edited to fit what's left of the time slot.