Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Sometimes you hear a song on the radio or on television that won’t stop playing in your head. These are called “earworms,” and there are two kinds:
  1. They start off as songs you genuinely like. But after you catch yourself humming them for the 300th time, they suddenly start to feel like houseguests who have worn out their welcome.

  2. They’re not enjoyable, and they only get worse. These are typically advertising jingles, disco music or hook-laden teen pop songs.
No one has ever figured out how to stop an earworm, but eventually they die a natural death, only to be replaced by something else.

Lately, I’ve noticed that there are visual stimuli that have the same effect – and of course, I’m calling them “eyeworms.” The usual characteristics of an eyeworm are that they are visually discordant, conceptually irresponsible, or emotionally troubling. Take this pizza box, for example:


Can you identify my problem with this image? I can’t stop thinking about it.

There was a lot of Internet anguish over the recent redesign of the Gap logo, which leads me to believe that I’m not alone in my suffering. Would anybody like to form a support group?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faith and Memories

While I’m not particularly religious, I’m occasionally obligated to attend religious ceremonies of one sort or another. The most recent one included a brunch in the social hall attached to the house of worship. I have attended several brunches of this type in the past, and they all have one thing in common: a high percentage of very friendly older people.

I suspect the high percentage is due to the fact that religion was more popular back in the days when stores were closed on Sunday and only rich people had television sets. The friendly behavior can be attributed to the fact that churches were once the social networking hub of choice before the Internet - which explains the existence of the social hall. Also, by the time people reach a certain age, they’ve lost most of their close friends and crave human contact.

We went through the buffet line and sat at a table occupied by several older people. The couple sitting next to us immediately introduced themselves, and we made the usual small talk.

Eventually, an elderly man left the table. The woman I had been talking to leaned over and said, “It’s so sad that he has to come to services alone. His wife has Alzheimer’s.”

The conversation took on a serious note as we both talked about this tragic disease, and the people we knew who had been affected.

After a somber lull, we gradually returned to casual small talk. The woman asked me where we were from, assuming we had come from out of town for the ceremony. “Oh, we live right here in the Orlando area,” I responded.

“Where do you live?” she inquired, realizing that we weren’t going to enjoy an extended conversation about Chicago or Dallas.

I told her the name of our suburb, and she reacted with surprise. “So do we!” She exclaimed.

“Oh, what a coincidence!” I replied. “What neighborhood?”

A weird look came over her face, and she stammered, “Uhh…umm… it’s… uhhh…”

She turned to her husband and asked, “What’s the name of our neighborhood?”

He looked up from his plate and said, “Umm… it’s called…uhh…it’s near the golf course.”

“Which golf course?” I asked, helpfully (there are three).

“Umm…we don’t actually live on the fairway, but we’re near it. It’s called…uhh…”

Worried now, I asked the name of their street, which she was able to name. Then I asked for the name of the nearest major cross-street, and she named that as well. This was all the information I needed, so I told them the name of the golf course and the name of their neighborhood.

They reacted with relieved glee, happy that the embarrassing moment had passed. But the next time I attend a ceremony there, I don’t expect to see either of them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dizzy Pills

A couple of weeks ago I developed an ear infection, which caused me to experience dizzy spells. The doctor prescribed a couple of medications for me, one of which was intended to control the dizzy symptoms. They work very well, so I didn’t stop to read the label until today.


For those of you who may have difficulty reading this small image, it says:

“Take 1 to 2 tablet(s) by mouth 4 times daily as needed for dizziness.”

However, one of the listed side effects states:

“May cause dizziness.”

My daughter hasn’t started taking birth control pills yet, but once she does, I’m going to read the side effects very carefully.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Insufficiently Free

My wife and I like to go to a local movie theater that offers a discounted price on Sundays. The normal price for Monday to Saturday is $9.50. The Sunday price is $5.00. It’s a pretty good deal, but I sweeten it even further.

The theater is part of a national chain that offers a “reward points” program. Every time I pay for a ticket, even a discounted ticket, I earn points. The points accumulate and eventually they give me a coupon for a free bag of popcorn, a free drink, etc. About a month ago, I was awarded a free movie ticket that I can use any time. But I never will.


There are two reasons that this ticket will never be used. The first reason is that the theater chain limits the movies for which I can redeem the ticket. If it’s a first-run popular film with a good cast and a big marketing budget, the corporate bigwigs decided that they’d rather sell the seats than give them away. So those films are restricted until they’ve been around for a month or so. By then, I will have paid my five bucks if I want to see it at all.

The second reason that I’ll never use the ticket is that I’m married to a woman who doesn’t completely understand the concept of “free.”

The first time I tried to use it was on one of our regular Sunday visits to the theater. “Don’t use that free ticket!” she scolded. “If you use it on Sunday, you’re only saving five dollars. Use it on a regular-price night.”

“I don’t think you understand,” I explained. “It’s a free ticket. I’m not saving anything. Free is free. The movie isn’t any different whether it costs $9.50 to get in, or $5.00 to get in. It’s FREE.”

“No,” she insisted. “If you use it on a regular-price night, you’re saving $9.50.”

I gave up. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that I have achieved senior-discount status, so by her logic, I’m only saving $6.50. And if I do tell her, I’m afraid she’ll put me to work designing a time machine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shoes and Ink

I have a couple of pairs of nice dress shoes. They’re well-made, nicely designed, and they cost $35 a pair. If the heels ever wear down to the point where they need to be replaced, or if I ever get a hole in the sole, it will be cheaper to buy new shoes than to have them repaired.

This is because the United States priced itself out of the labor market for the manufacture of shoes. People in Indonesia will happily make shoes for a fraction of the wage an American worker would demand. Back when I was a kid, we would have a pair of dress shoes re-soled or re-heeled four or five times over their lifespan. I hardly bother to shine them anymore. If they start looking a little scuffed up, I go shoe-shopping.

Over this past weekend, my printer ran out of ink. It’s an all-in-one unit that functions as a printer, a copier and a scanner. But it’s been giving me problems lately, because the printer drivers aren’t fully supported on my new computer, which came with a new operating system.

When I drove to the store, I discovered that a pair of ink cartridges would cost me $55. I took a walk down the printer aisle and found an all-in-one printer for sale that costs $69 and includes two ink cartridges. It’s brand-new, prints faster, works with my operating system and includes a fax in addition to all of the other functions. Better still, new cartridges for it only cost $39 a pair. Guess what I did.

It’s rapidly reaching the point where the cost of production of printers is outpacing the greedy pricing for replacement cartridges. In a few years, I expect to see a printer on the market that has no replaceable cartridges at all. It will come with a “lifetime supply” of ink. I can’t believe that someone in Indonesia hasn’t figured out a way to make printer cartridges dirt cheap.

I don’t want the world to work this way. I should be able to repair my shoes and feed ink to my printer at reasonable cost. But I can’t. People will say this is a flaw in the capitalist system, others will say it’s a symptom of American consumer culture, and others will say it’s a failure of government to impose proper import duties or regulate business. I have no idea. But if you think it’s a problem with government, let me know and I’ll send them a fax.