Archive for November, 2011

Here’s the deal.  For months, my friends and family have been pestering me to include vanity plate statistics on my blog.  Every time I talk to my mom, she brings it up, “Don’t you want to get married some day?  Women love DMV facts and figures.  You can catch more flies with vehicular registration information than you can with tirades against minutia.”  My aunt has, from the beginning, argued that my entire blog should be devoted to personalized license plate statistics.  My cousins won’t speak to me until I tell them how many people in the U.S. have vanity plates.  I can’t hold out any longer. 

Latvian personalized license plate

That's a good vanity plate.

There are nearly 9.7 million personalized license plates in America (just under 4% of all drivers go with this option).  The state with the least number of personalized plates?  Texas.  Only .5% of their drivers choose their own plates.  Who has the most?  Virginia, where 16.2% of drivers have vanity plates and 100% of my DMV-obsessed immediate family members live.

Happy?

Well, I’m not.  Because I can’t stand it when I see a personalized plate and I can’t figure out what the driver is trying to say.  Due to the limited number of characters, we can’t always spell out our mobile messages.  Specifically, last week I found myself cruising behind the following plate – ANIRTAP.  True story.  I spent many a minute trying to figure out what this said…and came up with nothing.  Well, I came up with nothing that made sense.  I came up, however, with quite a few options…

(1)   Is this driver, simply, a woman named Annie R. Tapp?

(2)   Is this driver a college professor lamenting the fact that he or she has to share their private bathroom with their teaching assistants?  (A near TA pee)

(3)   Is this driver an adhesive specialist, only willing to purchase products made in Romania or Russia? (Any R tape)

(4)   Is this driver the creator of mobile device software that explains a method of wax removal with chamomile? (An ear tea app)

Ice Road Truckers

Ice, ice, baby.

(5)   Is this driver someone who received the highest grade in his class studying an art form that closely resembles percussive dancing? (A, Near Tap)

(6)   Is this driver a woman who works in the shipping department at a frozen vegetable factory? (Annie, route a pea)

(7)   Is this driver a high school student looking for a creative college-prep course? (Any arty AP)

(8)   Is this driver a monkey who works on the hit TV show, Ice Road Truckers? (An IRT ape)

Probably not.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I figure out what ANIRTAP and all of the other cryptic vanity plates out there are trying to say?  I’ve already given it my best effort.  I just need to avoid exposure to these plates.  I suppose I could drive with my eyes closed.  But, call me old fashioned, that just sounds unsafe.  I could move back to Texas, where I’d rarely run across a personalize plate.  But then I’d have to live in Texas.  (Just joking, I’m born and bred Texas-proud, baby.  Longhorns, oil, J.R.Ewing, etc.)  I suppose I’ll just have to stop driving.  I guess, instead, I could make my family proud by staying inside, collecting and publishing DMV statistics.  Sounds pretty boring.  Maybe I’ll invite over the IRT ape.

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Here’s the deal.  Who doesn’t look back fondly on time spent with a simple, blank sheet of paper and their box of Crayola crayons?  The world was a wonderful, inspirational place full of imagination.  Now you’ve got a mortgage, insurance, and you have to use a tiny electric razor to shave your ears.  Your ears!  Why is hair growing out of your ears?!?  Deep breath.  Please, someone hand me some crayons…

Rubens Crayola No 500 - Inside box with crayon...

They don't make them like they used to...actually, I guess they make them exactly like they used to...

Anyway, Crayola has done a lovely job of naming their crayons over the years.  Since the first set of six colors introduced in 1903, to current boxes which hold 120 crayons.  And just let me be very clear about this list.  I do not want to get involved in yet another drawn out legal battle.  I am not ranking the best colors.  No, I’ll leave that to the interior designers and Scandinavian crayon experts.  I am listing the best color names.

And sure, I can already hear the outraged cries echoing in my oddly hirsute ears, “Where’s Banana Mania?  You left off Inchworm?  What kind of a list doesn’t include Electic Lime, you hairy bastard!”  Please, there’s no need for name calling.  I understand that everyone is going to have their own opinion here.  All I ask is that you recognize that mine is, in fact, correct.

Fair enough?  Okay, let’s see the list…

The Top Ten Crayola Crayon Colors

11. Outer Space  (The less flashy browns and drab shades are much more difficult to romanticize.  Everyone loves to color with a vibrant yellow or a majestic purple, but I like the fact that they gave this dark gray some mystery and allure) 

10. Razzmatazz   (Powerful word.  The strange thing is this is the only name that does not clearly indicate which color it is…it’s like a crayon called Flamboyant.  Is it yellow, red, green?  Who knows?  And who cares?  It’s Razzmatazz, baby)

9. Brick Red  (It may not be showy, but brick red is a solid color.  Hard working.  Got a huge wall to color in?  Leave those fancy colors in the box.  It’s Brick Red’s time to shine)

8. Metallic Seaweed  (The exact opposite of Brick Red.  Perhaps the most specific color I can imagine.  “I need to color in this small clump of seaweed.”  “Okay, here’s the green.”  “No, wait, it’s more of a…I don’t know…leaden, or copper algae.”  “Ohhhhh, I’ve got just the crayon for you, my friend.”)

7. Shadow  (Cool and mysterious.  What lies in the shadows?  This crayon does…this crayon does)

6.  Antique Brass  (Time to class up the place a little.  Not all children want to color in fantastic pictures of jungles, rocket ships and dragons.  Some prefer to work on an image of assorted Victorian era keys and latches.  And don’t listen to your schoolyard chums, Timmy, there’s nothing wrong with that)

5. Cinnamon Satin  (So poetic.  This color whisks you off to a wonderful world where everyone is draped in luxurious Cinnamon Satin.  We glide, barefoot, over paths of polished, luscious ribbons of gourmet chocolates.  Stopping only to rest our weary heads on tufts of glistening cotton candy near a soothing, babbling brook of syrupy decadence…)        

4. Dirt  (Okay, back to reality.  There’s something to be said for telling it like it is.  Hey, kid, you need to color in that dirt?  Here you go.  Maybe this color naming has gotten a little out of control.  Perhaps you should open your crayon box and see names like – dirt, tree, sun.  Stop sipping tea, put down your parasol and start coloring, you pretentious brat)

carrot

Mmmmmm...neon...

3. Atomic Tangerine  (Now your coloring with power.  Why use orange when you can wield the mighty Atomic Tangerine?  Then again, it’s not surprising so many kids try to eat their crayons – half of them are named so deliciously)

2. Bittersweet Shimmer  (I like this one, but it’s a mouthful.  I’m not entirely convinced that first graders are applying this level of emotional depth to their Little Mermaid picture.  But, then again, why not?  Perhaps we should introduce a whole line of colors designed to introduce children to complex emotional concepts – Empathetic Emerald…Midlife Crisis Maroon…Theoretical Blue…)

1. Neon Carrot  (I think this does everything a good color name should.  It introduces a concrete object that kids can understand.  A carrot.  That means orange.  But it pairs that with an exciting adjective.  Neon Carrot.  All of the health and simplicity of a vegetable combined with the allure and pizzazz of Vegas)

So maybe take a moment, my friends.  Find some time in your busy week.  Grab a box of crayons.  And sit down and color.  You’re never too old to draw.  It might take you back to a simpler time.  It might make you forget about some of your troubles.  Draw a princess in a castle.  Draw a cowboy atop a mighty steed.  Or, if you prefer, draw a blogger…wait….hold on…why are you putting so much hair in my ears?

Here’s the deal.  I started this blog on March 10th and I soon settled in to a schedule of writing a new post every third day.  Two days off, one day on.  Sure, there are those who post every day.  And there are those who go weeks between updates.  But I had found a rhythm I was comfortable with – not too taxing, but not sporadic enough to lose interested readers.  And so it was for many months…

Until today.

It wasn’t intentional.  The story is actually about as boring as it could be…I just forgot.  Not that anyone would notice.  Everyone’s busy stuffing themselves with stuffing.  I doubt anyone set a place at the table for my blog and is wondering where it is.  It’s just that, in my mind, I’m late.

And I don’t like being late. 

For me, moving to Los Angeles took some adapting.  There is a social interaction equation here that I was not familiar with…t = (i + 45)f…where t = the time at which one is expected to show up to a social gathering, i = the time at which you were invited to show up and f = the level of fame of the inviters/invitees.  That is to say, if there are no famous people involved, and there’s a party at 7:00, the earliest you can show up is 7:45.  If there are any famous people involved, that number grows, exponentially.  If, for example, you invited the Baldwin brothers to a party at 7:00.  Daniel would show up at 8:30, William would arrive at 9:15 and Stephen would roll in around 10:00.  (Alec wouldn’t come).

An American-style crossword grid layout

This practice, of course, is in stark contrast to the way the rest of the country behaves.  I grew up, mostly, in Virginia. Where, if one is invited to a party at 7:00, one shows up sometime between 6:57 and 7:03.  Do that in Los Angeles and you’ll guarantee yourself a nice, uncomfortable hour or so with just you and the host.  And, because, nobody wants to be the first person to show up – the arrival times have been consistently pushed back over the decades. 

I’ve lived here for eleven years and I still can’t get the hang of it.  The truth is, I keep a book of crossword puzzles in my car.  Why?  Because I still like to show up to places on time.  I still do it.  I can’t stop.  So, I usually end up sitting in my car for an hour trying to come up with a five letter word for late…ohhh, “tardy.”

And no matter how many times I arrive at a destination (it’s not just parties…I mean, I’ve been to like, three parties in the past decade…it’s also dinner, coffee, court appointments…) before everyone else I still can’t get over the notion that if you tell someone you’ll be someplace at some time – it seems rude not to.  I keep thinking I’m going to make someone wait.  And I don’t terribly mind being that guy.  The guy that gets there on time.  After all, they say the early bird gets the worm. 

No wonder people in LA run late…what kind of incentive is a worm?  Maybe they should change it to,”The early actor gets the three-picture deal.”  Or, “The on-time performer gets the Emmy nod.”  Or even, “The early bird doesn’t get the worm.”  I mean, that’s preferable to getting the worm, right?

I guess what I’m trying to say is…sorry I’m late.

And, on behalf of myself and all of the Baldwin brothers, happy Thanksgiving.

Here’s the deal.  Everyone likes to save money.  Fortunately, there is one sure-fire way to put some of your hard-earned cash back in your pocket – switch your car insurance.

I don’t know who started it, but I think it was Geico and their line, “fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent.”  Now, a quick survey of their websites demonstrates that every insurance company can save you money if you switch to their service.  Move to 21st and you can save $474.  Take your business to State Farm and enjoy a savings of $480.  Sign up with esurance and it’s $522.  Switch to Progressive and your bills may be up to $550 less.

So the good news is – it doesn’t matter which car insurance company you’ve chosen…you’ve, apparently, chosen the best one.

And the savings don’t stop there!  Allstate, for example, lists all sorts of potential savings on their site.  If you’re a “safe driver” you can save up to 45%.  Safety features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes and an anti-theft device can save you 30%, 10% and 10% respectively.  Are you a good student?  That’s another 20%.  Just the act of switching alone qualifies you for discounts of up to 10%.  You can save another 10% if you have multiple policies with Allstate.  Finally, sign up with EZ pay they’ll knock off an additional 5%.  Now, I’m no mathematician, but if you’re safe, smart and switch it looks like you could save up to 140% on your car insurance!  Not too shabby.

escher_relativity

At this point, you may be wondering…how is it that every car insurance company is less expensive than every other car insurance company?  Like M.C. Escher’s Relativity, it doesn’t really matter that it’s impossible…it’s happening regardless.  And that’s the great thing about America (yes, there is still a great thing about America), when it comes to corporations and advertising, we never let logic get in the way of a great deal.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I make sense of this numerical mess of insurance claims?  Are you kidding me?  Why look a gift horse in the mouth?  (Of course, this idiom proved deadly to the Trojans.  They should have specifically looked that gift horse in the mouth…and they would have found dozens of Greeks planning to kill them.  So I guess we should say, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth…unless it’s a giant, wooden gift horse capable of housing fifty soldiers and the people giving you the gift are your sworn enemies whom you are currently at war with.”  Something like that.)  Sorry.  Like I was saying – why look a gift horse in the mouth?  For the past six months, I’ve been switching car insurance companies every two weeks.  And each time I save hundreds of dollars.  I’m currently getting paid handsomely to insure my vehicle.  And the more I switch, the more I make.  That’s right, I’ve become a professional insurance switcher for a living.  And it’s a good thing I can work from my house…ever since I’ve had these Escher staircases installed, I can’t seem to make my way outside…

Here’s the deal.  Many months ago, in my youth, I ranked the least intimidating college mascots.  Well, it’s time to go pro.  But this time, we’re not talking about the worst – we’re talking about the best.  No, not the best teams – who cares about that?  But the best team names.

Aren’t there enough eagles and tigers already?  It’s so easy to name your team after a predatory animal; it’s time to tip our hats to those willing to be a little more creative.  Remember, it’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s about merchandising opportunities.  Cool mascots, cool logos, cool team names.  Now, let’s move some product. 

The Top Ten Pro Sports Team Names

11. Columbus Crew  –  Their team logo is three men in hard hats.  Clearly, these guys aren’t messing around.  The crew.  It just sounds tough.  Tough…but original – that’s a recipe for team naming glory.

10. St. Louis Blues  –  This hockey team owes their moniker to the W.C. Handy song of the same name.  And, while it is cool, part of me kind of wishes they had been fans of Right Said Fred, Crash Test Dummies, or Chumbawumba.  Then we’d have the St. Louis I’m Too Sexys, the St. Louis Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmms or the St. Louis Tubthumpers.

9. Richmond Kickers  –  This one’s so good because it’s so bad.  This soccer team really gave the minimal effort when coming up with a name.  “So, what should our name be?  What are we?”  “Ummmm, well we kick the ball a lot.”  “Done.”  I think other leagues should follow suit.  Football could have the Houston Tacklers, and the NBA could have the Denver Basketball Players (or, perhaps, the Los Angeles Lockouts).

National Lacrosse League

See? It's real

8. Washington Stealth  –  How stealthy are they?  Well, they’re a team in the National Lacrosse League.  That’s pretty stealthy, I mean, I’m pretty sure no one even knows there is a National Lacrosse League.

7. Albuquerque Isotopes  –  This is an awesome team name for one reason – they’re named after the Springfiled Isotopes, of Simpsons fame.  There’s even a statue of Homer and Marge Simpson at their park.  Then again, you can hardly go wrong when naming a team that’s going to play in Albuquerque.  You’re already set up with a city that is ridiculously enjoyable to write and say.  The Albuquerque anythings would probably make this list.

6. New York Knickerbockers  –  Most people refer to them as the Knicks, which I’ve never understood.  Why shorten such a funky name?  You guys are knickerbockers, wear the title proudly.

5. New Orleans Voodoo  –  Sure, Lions and Vikings are intimidating, but these guys can make a doll from your hair and hurt you weeks after the game has ended.  My advice…let them win.

4. Anaheim Mighty Ducks  –  Another team named after an entertainment franchise.  Although, technically, they were renamed the Ducks when they were purchased from Disney (yes, Disney created a hockey team as a cross-promotional tool for their Estevez-helmed films), I’ll always call them the Mighty Ducks.  Because, when you think about it, what in the world is mightier than a duck? 

Waldemar Kurpiński & Tress Jazz band in Tygmon...

Who is this? I don't know...but he looks prety cool.

3. Detroit Waza  –  At first I thought this Arena Soccer League team was a huge fan of WAZA (the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums).  Then I figured they had named themselves for the African trumpet of the same name.  But, after some more digging, I learned that waza is a Japanese word meaning, “technique.”  The only way to make this team better would be to move them to the Middle East and call them the Gaza Waza.

2. Utah Jazz  –  Just like me, the Jazz were born in 1974.  Unlike me, they moved to Utah when they were five.  Even more unlike me, they are not a human being.  But, what can I say?  What’s cooler than jazz?  Even people who have never listened to jazz instinctively understand its hipness.  Aliens landing on our planet for the first time and struggling to communicate and understand our way of life could see a jazz club and say, “Oh, bleep, bleep, blork, jazz – cool.”

1. New Orleans Zephyrs  –  New Orleans is a butt-kicking, team-naming town.  When you count the Jazz (who started in New Orleans), this city claims three of the top five spots.  I guess it takes a party town to come up with the most enjoyable team names.  And how much fun is it to say “zephyr”?  It’s one of the best words to say.  Zephyr.  Zephyr.  Zephyr.  That and Albuquerque.  My dream match-up?  The Albuquerque Zephyrs vs. the Gaza Waza.   Game of the century, baby.

Vs. Gum

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Food
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Here’s the deal.  In various forms, gum has been around for thousands of years.  It wasn’t until 1848, however, that the first commercial gum brand was created and gum became a marketable product.  Some thirty years later, a man named John Colgan invented a way to make gum taste better for longer periods of time.  Apparently, he never shared his invention with the world.

In my experience, gum tastes good for forty-seven seconds.  After that, you’re just chewing a wad of tasteless rubber.  Yep.  Originally, gum came from natural sources, but now what the companies call “gum base” is synthetic rubber.  You might as well sprinkle some sugar on an old tire and gnaw away. 

A pile of colorful candy jawbreakers. These we...

I won't be fooled again.

And gumballs are so darn tricky.  With their deceptive, festive coloring, I’m constantly fooled into thinking they’ll be delicious.  But they’re not.  Gumballs were invented in the early 1900’s by a German grocer.  Interesting fact – most of the gumballs you find in machines today still come from that first batch.  Gumballs, all of the allure of a Willy Wonka wonderland with the chewability of a marble.

And what’s the point?  Is it all about the bubbles?  Let me tell you something, on a scale of “Not at all fun” to “Ridiculously enjoyable”, blowing a bubble falls squarely on “Looks as though it might be a tremendous diversion until one actually tries it and realizes that the novelty wears off about a third of a way through the first bubble.”  It’s just exhaling through a thin layer of rubber.  If this is your thing, why not get a balloon?  Then, at least you can play with it afterwards….as opposed to scraping it off your face when it pops.

But all of this is not the real problem with gum.  If you enjoy gum, I understand, who can resist the allure?  There’s no better way to practice your chewing.  The real problem lies in gum’s disposal.  I don’t know why 89% of our population has decided that the appropriate form of gum disposal is to stick it to the bottom of the nearest flat surface.  But, as a result, every school desk in America is a disgusting mastication museum.  These salivary stalactites are a revolting reminder of the person who used the desk before us…and what they had in their mouth at the time.

Bazooka Joe 1995 Topps Sticker Cards

That crazy Bazooka Joe, what hijinks has he gotten himself into this time?

Or, even worse, there are the 7% who simply spit their gum out on the ground (the remaining 4% actually throw their gum in the trash – how novel).  We’ve all, at some point in our lives, stepped in gum.  And it is not pleasant.  At first, one thinks, “Why the sudden increase in gravity under my left shoe?”  Then, the horrible realization sets in…this is not a blatant defiance of one of Newton’s laws, this is somebody’s spat out candy stuck to my sole.  Thank you.  Thank you, random spitter, for the opportunity to grab a twig and dig out the gooey contents of your mouth from the tread in my sneaker.  Yes, you’re truly making the world a better place.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I rid our planet of gum?  Look, I have the utmost respect for Bazooka Joe and his impeccable comic timing…I just wish he’d take those classic one-liners and peddle a less destructive product.  Come on, how many times, throughout history, have guilty school kids spat their half-chewed gum into the waiting hands of disappointed teachers?  (And, by the way, how is it that elementary school teachers have such a comfort level handling other people’s used gum?  That’s weird, right?)  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, getting rid of the gum.  It’s quite an undertaking…I can’t rush into this project…let me get back to you guys….I need to chew this over for awhile…

A NES console with the Super Mario Bros./Duck ...

Ahh, the days when there were only two buttons...

Here’s the deal.  Growing up, I had the original Nintendo Entertainment System…you know, the one where you had to, inexplicably, take the cartridges out every fifteen minutes and blow on them?  Yeah, that one.  And, as I was exposed to Atari and Pong at a very young age, the NES seemed super high-tech and way cool.  Even with all the blowing.

And the best game was Super Mario Brothers.  At a very young age I learned that jumping on turtles is fun, eating random mushrooms will make you bigger and when you head butt a brick it will produce money…it’s a wonder I survived adolescence.  I also learned that Bowser is just plain mean.

As I grew older, I played many other Italian Plumber based video games, and every time Bowser was there trying to thwart me.  What does this fire-breathing, red headed, horned, spiked, giant turtle with leather studded bracelets have against everybody?  Where do these anger issues come from?  Why is he always trying to destroy the happy-go-lucky Mario?

Come on, he’s already king of the koopas.  (You know the koopas, those green, red, and yellow occasionally flying turtle creatures that pace back and forth like expectant fathers)  What more does he want?  Why must he constantly try and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom?  And, my goodness, how many times has he kidnapped Princess Peach?  That’s no way to impress a woman. 

Bowser (character)

This guy never learns.  There’s more than one way to seize power.  Kidnapping the princess and luring Mario into a battle where you’re poised directly over a bubbling, open volcano didn’t work the first eight times, why not change it up a little?  Maybe petition the Mushroom Kingdom Congress.  Work within the political system.  Earn it, you brute.

Or even better, just leave us alone.  Sign up for anger management.  Pay some attention to your kingdom (every time I visit, the place is in shambles).  Try dating someone in your own species.

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I defeat Bowser and restore order for Mario, Luigi and friends?  I figure, you know, a couple of well placed fire balls…then I jump on that large red button with the exclamation point and drop that guy into the lava.  Done and done. 

Now it’s time to run head first into that brick wall – I’ve got some bills to pay.