Thursday, June 29, 2006

Swiffer Salsa

Oops, I must have driven an inch because the gas gauge is on quarter full. The weekend’s coming up, there will be errands to run and stuff to do so I’d better fill up.

The weekend is a funny concept for me now that Everyday is Saturday. Today is Saturthursday by my reckoning, although I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep track of the days. Light and dark is more my style, anyway. If I need to keep track of time I’ll drag some stones from El Paso and set them up in a circle in my front yard. Yeah, the neighbors might object at first, but once the ceremonies start and the wine flows I’m sure they’ll fall in line.

Anyway, back to the gas pump. The modern gas stations are wonderful these days. Self-serve, in and out, no muss, no fuss.


Today it went like this:

Swipe card. Swiped.

Credit or Debit? Credit.

Car wash? No.

Receipt? No.

Approved! Select grade and begin fueling.

I pressed the “87” and waited. Waited. Waited. And waited.

No fuel. I heard a beep and the display announced “Transaction terminated.”


Swipe card. Swiped.

Credit or Debit? Credit.

Car wash? No.

Receipt? No.

Approved! Select grade and begin fueling.

I pressed the “87” and waited. Waited. Waited. While I waited I observed some birds fighting over a French fry, several people fuel up and leave, and the transit of Mars in the House of Pluto, but no fuel.

Then, microseconds before I heard the beep and saw “Transaction terminated” for the second time I observed the tiny red button labeled “Start.” Further observation revealed that the “87” was a sticker, not a button. A decoy, not the real thing.

Cautiously I checked around for a hidden camera just in case I was being punked, but seeing none I nonchalantly pulled out my credit for a third time…


Gassed up, finally, and ready to roll I headed out to pick up a few items for dinner which I decided would be a grilled pork strips on vermicelli and salad; a light meal for a hot June evening.

While at the store I rounded the cleaning aisle and nearly ran into a display of Swiffers. Swiffers are a floor cleaning device consisting of a pole, flat rubberized thing on the end and magical, disposable pad that picks up hair and dust and stuff (mostly stuff) and after you’ve Swiffered your floor you can throw the disposable pad away. Hence disposable.

Normally, I would not be intrigued by a Swiffer display but today, of all days, I was contemplating Zoe Hair.

What is Zoe Hair? Zoe Hair is a fine, grey fluff-ball of hair that finds its way from my daughter’s Persian cat, Zoe, to the floor. We’re keeping Zoe for the summer and she’s a nice cat as far as cats go, and she doesn’t shed that much, but the house has begun to collect these wisps of Zoe Hair that waltz their away across the hardwood floors like little Persian whirling dervishes.

Enter the Swiffer. Hey, I thought, that would be just the thing for collecting the dervishes to keep them from whirling. So, I bought a Swiffer and true to its claim it does the job. The dervishes are drawn to the Swiffer like a moth to a flame and our floors are now a Zoe Hair Free Zone. Yea, Swiffer!

But, there’s more. I discovered that the Swiffer is the ideal salsa dance partner. True! I put on Cuka Rocka by Chingon and turned it up loud. We were off!

She glided across the floor. She swiveled smoothly. She’s light and flirty! We slid through the family room, under the little table, behind the couch, along the baseboard. Then into the kitchen, by the breakfast bar, Cuka Rocka! Through the pantry into the dining room we shifted and twisted, pivoted around the big table and spilled into the foyer, twist and dip, twist and dip. Finally, I gave her a great spin and we collapsed against the front door gasping for breath.

I think I could enter a dance competition. Of course, I’d need Zoe. And a cat brush.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


If ever there was a reason to take up PEZ, this is it.

GarageBand Genius

GarageBand. It's a program that comes as part of the iLife suite of applications that run on a Macintosh. If you are a musician then GarageBand can be your sound studio.

If, on the other hand, you are a musical hack, devoid of talent, tone deaf and unimaginative, then GarageBand is nothing short of a miracle. With GB you can string together loops of pre-recorded material, dub in songs from iTunes, do voice overs and GB will even enhance your voice. I won't go into Husky Female in much detail other than to say that one should go with one's strengths.

Anyway, the point of all this is to describe a genuine benchmark of computer speed. Now, the PowerBook, which was my Speed Demon until yesterday, could mix down a 40-minute Podcast in about 20 minutes. Considering all it's doing, that's chomping the bits big time.

Introduce the MacBook Pro and it mixes down the same Podcast in 5 minutes.

I wanted to believe Steve Jobs when he said this machine would be 4-5 times faster than a PowerBook, but you know hype. Tons of small print.

Well, I'm here to tell you that this machine is some fast and I made sure I didn't cripple it by short-changing memory or disc. I opted for the full 2 Gb of memory and the 7200 rpm disc which only increased the base cost by $400.

Assuming that the E Key holds out I'm in for some Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Oh, and the backlit keyboard that lights up the letters, even the E Key, when the light gets dim is ample excuse for my nocturnal activity.

So, here I am, in the end, singing the praises of an Intel-based computer when I've been a Motorola-IBM bigot all my life. Pigs will fly and if they use GarageBand, sing too!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Is it Hot in Here, or Is it You?

You look nice in black. Very slimming. Why don't you change into something...more comfortable?

Victoria's Secret! Tres chic. Is that real silk?

Oh, baby, so smooth. Those curves drive me wild with desire! Let's get better acquainted.

Firewire me! Feel my surging, burning bits!

How was it for you, baby? Google me anytime you're in town. We're on-line, now, wireless and fancy free.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the new E Key feels e-rriffic!

The FedEx Man Rings Once

Ain't Got Time for a Fast Train

Jun 26, 2006 7:42 AM

On FedEx vehicle for delivery


Saturday, June 24, 2006

E Update Saturday

Arrived Houston Sort Facility, 3:15 am.

I think I'll get a lawn chair and sit out front.

Friday, June 23, 2006

E Update

Departed Memphis, 3:08 pm, Central Time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Key of E

The tone was accusatory. “You didn’t buy another computer, did you?”

Historically, I heard, ‘You didn’t chop down that cherry tree, George, did you?”

Thinking fast, a gift of the habitually accused, I replied, “Uh…”

“Uh, what, huh? What ‘uh’? Come on, out with it!”

Curse you slow brain-speech pathway, I thought, albeit slowly.

“Uh, I, I, I, didn’t buy another computer per se.” (I always like to toss in a bit of Latin just to throw them off the scent.)

“No, no, no, not another computer, it’s a replacement part. Yeah, that’s it, a replacement part.”


“Yeah, you see, I wore out the E Key. Wore it plumb out.”

I held up the afflicted PowerBook and, sure enough, the E Key had been obliterated, ostensibly by writing too many blog entries using words containing the Letter E. Like ‘entries’, that’s two E’s right there! Oops, too more in ‘there.’ It’s a veritable E Epidemic.

“Doesn’t Apple sell E Keys?” came the next logical question, but I was prepared.

“I checked on that and, yes, they do. Only like most stuff nowadays there are some attachments.”

“What kind of attachments?”

“Well, there’s the E Base Support group consisting of the keys S, D and F, and the E Side Support group containing keys W and R, and the Key Overhead Support group with keys 3,4 and 5. Of course, each of the Key Support groups have Key Auxiliary Support groups which form the Key Governance Council, or Key Board.”

“So, you just bought the Key Board?”


“And what does ‘basically’ include?”

“Ah, well, the Key Board is mounted in the Keyboard Support Module and protected by the Keyboard Screen and Keyboard Screen protective cover. You have to admit, buy an E Key from Apple and you really get your money’s worth!”

“So, you didn’t buy another PowerBook?”

In an instant I saw my loophole and dived through it like a duck chasing a June bug! “No, I swear on Steve Jobs ego that I did not buy another PowerBook. Another PowerBook, how silly would that be? Just the E Key replacement kit.”

Then I made myself scarce.

Later that evening I logged on to the Apple Store website and checked the progress of my new Core Duo MacBook Pro. (The PowerBook was discontinued.) Ah, I see it made the flight from Shanghai to Anchorage. I fired up iTunes and clicked on Beethoven’s piano concerto number 5 and sat back to wait.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I, Grasshopper

“Let’s have Coq au Vin,” someone said.

Translated, that would read “If you will spend a few hours preparing Coq au Vin, I will spend a few minutes eating it.”

Fair trade, I thought.

My second thought took me back more years than I cared to calculate to the French Club banquet I attended as a freshman in high school. It was held at Chez Louis, Scottsdale’s most exclusive (and only) French restaurant. At that point in time I had never eaten “French food” much less anything cooked in wine. Looking at the menu everything was cooked in wine! Would they serve a teenager wine-laced food? Would they call the police?

The waiter looked down at me and scowled. “And for Monsieur?”

I gulped hard and mumbled, “Je voudrais Coq au Vin, si vous plait.”

Before the waiter could pull the fire alarm, shout for the Gendarmes or object to a teenager ordering a wine dish, Mr. Bichon, the French teacher, interrupted with “Bien, Monsieur Guillaume, bien!”

The waiter moved on.

Time passed. No bells rang. No sirens wailed. The Wine Gendarmes didn’t crash through the windows to arrest the underage wine dish orderer. No, only in my adolescent mind did all these things happen.

The food arrived and I’ve got to tell you the Coq au Vin was the coq-iest and vin-iest Coq au Vin I had ever had (which was at that point never, but still it was fan-coq-coq-tastic!)

The sauce was a rich, red velvet clinging to the chicken like a t-shirt on a Hooters girl caught in a Spring shower. Her name was Julia but we would not meet for many years, and the sauce, the sauce, it beckoned over time: Guillaume, Guillaume! Bien!

Fast forward into the New Millennium and how many Coq au Vins had Guillaume attempted. How many? A hundred? A thousand? And did they even approach the perfection that was Chez Louis? No! A thousand times “No!”

Sauce too thin. Too salty. Too bland. Not enough coq-ness. Too much coq-ness! Every time bad, bad, bad. Well, that may be a bit harsh, bad, that is. Not up to the original bar is more to the point.

Then came Julia.

Into my kitchen she strolled one day tall and proud like a red and white Amazon dot Com goddess exuding confidence like a golf course sprinkler that turns on at 5 a.m. and makes that annoying TSST-TSST-TSST noise for hours as it sprays miles of fairway that you wish would just die and become a prairie dog preserve or something.

And there she was tall and proud and holding the book that on this day would close the loop that Coq au Vin opened so many years ago.

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Uncharacteristically, I followed the recipe to the letter. Yes, I used an entire bottle of French burgundy for the sauce. Yes, I used an entire other bottle of French burgundy for the chef. Yes, I prepared the petit onions and mushrooms in stock and bouquet garni. Yes, I boiled the bacon strips before I sautéed them. Yes, I foomed the chicken in brandy and, boy, did I foom! Yes, I prepared the buerre manié. Yes, I served the dish with the traditional boiled new potatoes in butter and peas. I even picked a sprig of fresh thyme from the garden.

And as I stirred the buerre manié. into the reduced sauce watching liquid velvet appear before my very eyes I transcended to a new level, the J Level. The bottle of burgundy reduced to just a scant few cups infused a rich flavor achieved no other way. This was going to be good.

Through the fog I heard yummy noises and heapings of appreciation.

So good! Incredible! Incroyable! The sauce! The sauce! Da plane! Da plane!

In minutes, it was over. The ring closed. The elusive Coq au Vin challenge met. Exhausted, I faced Julia’s book and confessed I was unworthy, a mere grasshopper, but perhaps in time…

I rested.

Somewhat later I heard in the distance…Beef Wellington. We haven’t had Beef Wellington in a while.

Slowly, I turned.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Kid

The Sackmeister wheeled into Kroger’s parking lot and darted into a prime slot just opposite the main entrance. There was a shopping cart in the middle of the slot, as usual, but the Sackmeister’s special Cart-Catcher smacked it on to the hood of a nearby Volvo.

“Nice accessory,” the Sackmeister thought.

The Sackmeister was in a hurry. Dinner party at 8. Lots to buy. Lots to prepare. Clock was ticking.

As the sliding doors parted and the Sackmeister stepped into the cool air of the store he was greeted by…the Kid.

“Cart, Mister?” the Kid offered helpfully.

The Sackmeister stopped. A hush came over the store. Shoppers stopped shopping. Checkers stopped checking. Even the fruit flies stopped fruit-flying and hovered in mid-air to watch.

Someone said, “It’s the Kid! He talked to the Sackmeister!”

Someone else intoned seriously, “Ain’t nobody talks to the Sackmeister. Get ready to call 911.”

The Sackmeister eyed the Kid. The Kid, a lanky boy of 16 wearing a pressed white shirt, black pants, shined shoes (a rarity) and his Kroger’s nametag set at a jaunty angle, smiled unwaveringly at the Sackmeister as a baby doe might upon meeting a grizzly bear for the first, and last, time.

The Sackmeister thought back to his early days as a sack boy and replied, “No, I won’t be needing that cart, Kid, but I could use a hand shopping, that is, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure thing, Mister, lead the way,” the Kid said with a sweep of his hand.

The Sackmeister walked up to a door near the cart corral and inserted a special key. The door slid open to reveal a customized shopping cart. The Kid had heard stories about shoppers with customized carts, but he’d never actually seen one, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to see a top of the line competition model.

The Kid feasted his eyes on a cobalt blue cart, BMW C3, titanium chassis, shiftmatic suspension, Pirelli wheels, sports package and leather grip.

“Think you can handle her?” the Sackmeister, peered over the tops of his glasses at the Kid.

Excitedly, the Kid stammered, “Yeah! I mean, I think so, I mean, I’ll do my best.”

“I never ask that anyone do more than their best.”

The Sackmeister reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small, leather zip-case, opened it, and carefully extracted a pair of gloves woven out of what looked like gold. He inserted a hand into each one and the clasps snapped with an audible click. It appeared the gloves pulsed with a dull, blue light. He then unfolded a strange looking pair of sunglasses and put them on.

“I’m testing these for NASA. Remote Sensory Gloves, or RSG’s.”

Pointing to the glasses he said, “Heads-up display, or HUD.”

And with a hearty “Let’s go!” the Sackmeister strode into the store at flank speed towards Fruits and Vegetables.

The Kid gave the C3 a mighty shove and, to his surprise, careened into the stack of hand baskets sending them flying across the store, over-corrected and wiped out the strawberry display before coming to rest after smashing into the fresh bread stand.

Over his shoulder the Sackmeister commented, “She’s a little sensitive. Just point her in the right direction and use a light touch. She’ll do the rest.”

The Kid backed the C3 away from the bread and guided her gingerly behind the Sackmeister who was already selecting avocados.

“Rule number one, Kid, is never go shopping without a list. Otherwise you’ll go into a store intending to buy corn starch and buy everything else in the World except corn starch. I’ve got my list on the HUD. It’s tied into a satellite global positioning system, or GPS and linked to a map of the store, or MOTS. Right now, MOTS is telling the RSG’s where the ripe avocados are.”

The Kid had never seen anything like this. The Sackmeister was sorting through the avocados at superhuman speeds, his hands a blur. In seconds the Sackmeister had sorted through well over 200 avocados and found the 4 ripe ones.

Standing in front of the vegetable display the Sackmeister said, “Let’s test out the voice activated selection.” After pressing a few buttons on the RSG’s the Sackmeister commanded “Radishes!” and a perfect bunch of radishes leapt out of the display and into the C3. Satisfied, the Sackmeister walked through the Fruits and Vegetable section commanding “Celery!”, “Red Pepper!”, “Mushrooms! Iceberg Lettuce! White Onions! Bananas!” and produce flew off the shelves and into the C3.

And so it went through the store. Bag after bag of perfectly selected produce were placed in the C3 which seemed to sort the groceries so the hard things were on the bottom and the squishy things were on top.

The Sackmeister walked down Aisle 8 picking things off the shelf at seemingly random intervals: salsa, pickles, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans and dried cranberries.

The Kid couldn’t help himself and asked a question, “Hey, Mister, why are you buying this weird stuff?”

“Specials, Kid, specials. The HUD identifies specials that based on my buying habits, utilization rate and anticipated depletion ratio make economic sense to purchase at this time, given the net present value of money and the consumer price index estimated on a five year rolling average. The HUD feeds target data to the RSG’s and as I get near a target I feel a little tingle, reach out, snag the item and move on. Very efficient. Occasionally I get a miss-fire, like the mango deodorant, but the system is getting better and, by the way, mango seems to be a chick magnet.”

The Sackmeister quickened his pace and the duo ran through Dairy, soups, the cereal aisle, pickles and sauces, soaps, Meats, dry goods and pet supplies. Finally, they stopped in front of Checkout Line 12.

The light on Line 12 blinked on.

“Whoa, I’ve never seen Line 12 on before, not even at Christmas” the Kid said in amazement.

“It’s experimental,” the Sackmeister explained, “it’s an Automatic Checkout Transaction, or ACT. Watch.”

The Sackmeister took control of the C3 and glided it through the unmanned Line 12. A green light blinked briefly, but that was it.

“The ACT calculated the contents of purchases in the C3 and debited my account automatically.” The Sackmeister pressed a tattoo of tiny buttons on the RSG’s and the C3 glided out of the store, across the parking lot and proceeded to unload itself into the trunk of the Sackmeister’s car. The C3 then trundled back into the store and slid back into its special locker. The door slid shut with a snick.

The Sackmeister pulled off his gloves and glasses and stowed them in the special case. “Catch you later, Kid. I’ve got things to do, places to go and people to see.” And, with that, the Sackmeister headed into the parking lot, fired up his Explorer and disappeared into the sunset.

The Kid watched until his eyes burned by the intensity of the setting sun. “Who was that guy?” the Kids asked wistfully.

“That was the Sackmeister,” the Old Hand said.

The Kid looked up, and the Old Hand placed a hand on his shoulder.

The Kid said, “I want to be like the Sackmeister when I grow up. I want to be better than the Sackmeister! Maybe I could shop without gloves. Yeah, maybe I just could.”

The Old Hand looked down at the Kid and thought, “We’ll need to watch this boy, yes, we’ll need to watch. He could be the One.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bug in Your Ear

I thought it would be fun to fashion those Bluetooth wireless cell phone ear pieces into bug shapes.

You could have a spider or a giant ant, or a grasshopper or a roach, just to name a few. I’d pick the roach. How cool would that be to walk around with a roach in your ear and when a call came in it would pulsate with a blue light. Maybe the antenna could wave around, or the legs wiggle.

There you would be in Krogers picking out bananas that don’t contain tarantulas and right next to you this guy with a roach in his ear would start talking and the roach would be pulsating blue and wiggling for all it’s worth.

Now, what would be really cool would be for Chiquita Banana to make cell phones in the shape of tarantulas and have a promotional where shoppers would find them inside of bananas.

I’m a marketing genius. Madison Avenue, you can contact me at BR-549.