Archive for the 'miscellany' Category

christmas music before thanksgiving

I like Christmas music as much as anyone. When December comes around, I listen to a lot of Christmas music. Now, some of you may remember my post about my least favorite Christmas song. But today I’m not writing to bash any particular song, but instead the creep of Christmas music into earlier and earlier parts of the year.

Christmas, an ostensibly religious celebration, has morphed into a massive celebration of American commercial culture, with people being told to spend as much money as possible—after all, it’s good for the economy if we all take out second mortgages on our overvalued houses just so we can buy stupid gifts, right? But I’m not here to complain about the commercialization of the holiday, either, except to note the connection of capitalism with the expansion of the holiday season. Thanksgiving used to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Wikipedia has this to say (emphasis mine): “In August 1939, Lew Hahn, general manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association, warned Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins that the late calendar date of Thanksgiving that year (November 30) could possibly have an adverse effect on retail sales. At the time, it was considered bad form for retailers to display Christmas decorations or have “Christmas” sales before the celebration of Thanksgiving.” Sure enough, FDR, who loved meddling with everything, decided to make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday rather than the last Thursday, and an elegant portmanteau was coined: Franksgiving. After a few years of confusion and grumbling, the new date became widely accepted, and retail stores were saved from an extra-short shopping season every few years. But don’t people have the same presents to buy regardless of the span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Shouldn’t an extra few days be insignificant? Probably. But back to the main point: the holiday season was extended, but it wasn’t long before retailers’ reluctance to put out Christmas displays before Thanksgiving. And I’m guessing that this trend went hand-in-hand with Christmas music being blared throughout November.

Now, why should I care whether Christmas music gets played before Thanksgiving? True, it’s a free country. If Christmas music in April is your thing, go right ahead. But we’ve gotta draw a line somewhere. And Thanksgiving is a nice line.

speed bumps

The other day I was driving through the parking lot of a strip mall on my way to a Best Buy to pick up a mouse to replace the piece of crap excuse for a mouse that came with my new iMac. My driving task was made considerably more difficult by the vast number of speed bumps. Apparently we the drivers of the industrialized world are too stupid to moderate our speeds when driving in a dangerous, pedestrian-packed situation such as a parking lot. (Well, millions of people are stupid, horrendous drivers who should never be trusted, but maybe we should deal with the root problem—bad drivers—instead of employing the band-aid solution that is the speed bump.) Sure, the speed limit sign says “10″ and I’m probably doing 20, but I’ve never hit any pedestrians. (Knock on wood.) And why should my car’s suspension have to suffer? It deals with enough potholes (and roads buckling in the heat, too) as it is.

And on a larger scale, they create noise (cars banging over them) and waste gas (people slamming the brakes and then gunning it). They’re just a pain in the ass, and we should spend more time teaching people to be responsible drivers and less time putting in stupid speed bumps that are a pain in everyone’s ass.

P.S. As an interesting aside, in Britain they call speed bumps “sleeping policeman.” Gotta love the way with words they have across the pond.

when i get a sunburn on the back of my neck

I almost titled this post “when you get sunburn on the back of your neck.” Then I realized that I don’t hate it when you get sunburn on the back of your neck. In fact, I find it mildly humorous. There’s nothing like seeing someone with a sunburn and rubbing their face in the guilt of their careless behavior. Or just slapping them on a nice big patch of red skin.

But I do hate it when I get a sunburn on the back of my neck. Most other sunburns, I don’t mind too much. Sure, I’ve got an annoying sock tan, the occasional red nose or cheeks, and so forth, but nothing is as troublesome as the back of the neck. No matter how much sunscreen you put there it’s bound to sweat off. And even if it’s not a terrible burn, the heat just radiates from your neck for the next few days. And that is a very bad thing in the middle of a hot summer, because there’s nothing you can do to cool off once that happens. You step out of the shower and by the time you dry off you’re sweating. You walk from your front door to your car and you’re sweating. It’s bad enough living through a New Orleans summer under any circumstances, and it’s just torture when the back of your neck is sunburned. And you always feel that you should have been able to prevent it, so you get an icky guilty feeling, too. You know that feeling when you don’t brush your teeth before you go to bed and you wake up the next morning and your mouth feels so disgusting? That’s guilt. It’s the same thing with a sunburn. And it’s terrible.

paperwork

I’ve been on the job hunt lately and needed to pick up a few copies of my transcripts from college and grad school. One of those two schools makes it quite easy to get transcripts: fill out a form online and poof, it’s done, and is mailed to you free of charge. The other? You’re required to print out a form and mail it in, or go in person during business hours. What the fuck? It’s 2010 and you can’t get this shit online? I won’t name names since I enjoy my part-time employment there, but this university (which happens to be located on St. Charles Avenue and isn’t named Loyola) also used to require that grade forms at the end of the semester be filled out with #2 pencil and turned in by hand. They only changed over to an online system in 2009. So many things can and should be done online, yet aren’t. It baffles me.

Paperwork is messy and complicated. If you want to give someone else what you have, you have to go to a copy machine, make them a copy, then find a way to bring it to them. But need to send them a file on your computer? Thanks to the Internet, that takes a few seconds and you don’t even have to get out your chair. And you don’t have to waste any paper, either. I mean, if someone invented devices that could communicate with each other in an instant, even from one side of the world to the other, you’d want to use them, wouldn’t you? Continue reading ‘paperwork’

dishwasher detergent boxes

A little while I was doing the dishes. (Yeah, that’s right. I do the dishes. I know that’s pretty much the #1 thing women look for in a man, so ladies, just line up over there.) I was down to the end of the box of Cascade, struggling to get the last crumbs out before opening the new box. I shook the box a bit and the next thing I knew there was powder all over the floor. Needless to say, this was highly frustrating. And it would also be entirely avoidable, were it not for the idiotic design of every dishwashing powder box ever.

As you probably know, there’s a little piece of metal that pulls out from the side of the box. It’s about 3/4ths of an inch long and hinged at the bottom; you pull it out and pour the detergent out through the opening. For some reason, however, there’s about a half-inch gap between the top of this piece of metal and the top of the box. So, inevitably, when you get to the end of the box and go to pour the detergent out, some misses the opening (it’s only roughly one-third the width of the box) and gets stuck in the top corner. Then you have to shake the box or rip the top off to get at the rest of the stuff.

Now, I’m no engineer, but surely there are better ways to design an opening for the detergent to come out of. Push the opening up to the corner and widen it? Make the top detachable? Alas, I’m guessing that we are the victims of a vast corporate conspiracy; the less detergent we can get out of the box, the more we have to buy. Consumer Reports even had an article about containers that cling desperately to the last remnants of their product.

the conflation of memorial day and veterans day

Today is Memorial Day, a day associated with barbecues, the Indy 500, trips to the beach, and the start of summer. And with honoring the men and women who served in the US military, right? Well, not exactly. Modern American culture has more or less completely conflated Memorial Day and Veterans Day, despite the distinct differences between the two holidays. But in fact, these two days serve different purposes: Veterans Day honors all the veterans who served in the military, while Memorial Day honors those who died as a result of their service. Continue reading ‘the conflation of memorial day and veterans day’

miscellany

I’m under the weather with a bit of a cold and too lazy to form a lengthy, sustained argument on one topic, so here’s a smattering of tidbits on things I hate but couldn’t make a full post out of. Continue reading ‘miscellany’