If you like concrete, parked cars, and taxiing airplanes, the O’Hare Hilton stands alone.
If you like concrete, parked cars, and taxiing airplanes, the O’Hare Hilton stands alone.
In Columbus, at least, Greek restauranteurs must be an emotional bunch who wear the core elements of their personalities on their shirt sleeves. In the footprint of our fair city, we’ve got dining establishments identified with a Mad Greek, a Crazy Greek, a Simple Greek, and even a Yappy Greek.
Yesterday, though, we were in a good mood at lunchtime, so we ventured to The Happy Greek. It’s a Short North staple that’s been there for decades — which makes it all the more bizarre that I’ve never been inside its doors. But there’s a first time for everything.
The Happy Greek has all the trappings that you’ve come to expect in a Greek restaurant, including wall paintings of happy dancing Greeks and a bar fashioned to look like the Acropolis. (Surprisingly, the proprietor wasn’t outfitted like Socrates.) And, of course, a menu that features lots of salads and other traditional Greek fare.
My theory on a new restaurant is that you first try one of the basics from their menu, and if that is good you then branch out to other options on subsequent visits. Since I don’t eat salad, Greek or otherwise, I went for the lamb pita sandwich with onions, tzatziki sauce, and fries. The sandwich was big, with lots of succulent lamb and fresh pita bread, enjoyably messy to eat with your hands, and very tasty. The fries were a little on the salty side for my taste, but the seasoning did go well when I started to use the fries to mop up stray pools of the tzatziki sauce, which was so good I could have imbibed it by the tumbler. I’ll definitely come back.
And I should add that the people inside were very friendly, too. With a name like The Happy Greek, they’re pretty much required to be, I guess.
Who among us has actually read the “emergency exit plan” on the back of the hotel room door? I’d ask for a show of hands, but it would be embarrassing. The “emergency exit plan” is right up there with mattress tags, airline safety brochures, and iPhone warranty cards in the “least read documents in human history ” category.
Here’s the problem. I could read and thoughtfully digest these instructions in the cool rationality of evening, but if I go to bed and am rudely awakened from a sound sleep by fire alarms and acrid smoke I’m not going to remember any of it. I won’t recall that I’m supposed to call 66 on the land line to alert hotel security, or try to “safely extinguish” any fire myself, or feel the door to determine if it’s hot, place cold wet towels at the base of the door to keep blistering hot smoke from billowing in, and “maintain calm” while awaiting further instructions.
Further instructions? From whom? Mr. Asbestos Man, who can somehow wade through the flames and get to the other side of my blazing metal door to shout instructions at me? Or the concierge, who’ll be calling every one of the hundreds of rooms to give the guests specific instructions calibrated to the individual circumstances? No, I think I’ll just engage in a panicky dash to one of the four stairwells that are supposed to accommodate the throngs of desperate guests trying to escape the flames.
Maybe there’s a reason nobody reads these things.
The U.S. may be ahead of the rest of the world, generally, when it comes to innovation and invention, but Japan always seems to be a little bit ahead of America when it comes to the speed of acceptance and application of newfangled technology.
So it should come as no surprise that the Wall Street Journal has reported that some Japanese TV network will soon employ a robot as a news anchor. People are making a big deal out of it, viewing it as another sign of robots encroaching on previously human jobs — even though this development has been predicted for years.
The robot, named Erica, has been created to resemble a long-haired woman and looks like a Japanese anime character converted to corporeal form. She/it — I guess we’re going to have to get instruction on the politically correct way to refer to a gender-specific robot, eh? — will be equipped with a form of artificial intelligence that will allow her/it to read the news, although the new stories she/it reads will have to be selected by humans. Erica apparently will be the first “android anchor” in the world.
Hey, wait a second! I just realized . . . does this mean that the people who currently read the news on American TV stations aren’t robots? Who would have guessed?
The Cleveland Indians announced today that, as of 2019, they will be removing their racist “Chief Wahoo” logo from the team’s jerseys and caps. The cartoon of the grinning man with a bright red face, big nose, teeth like piano keys, and a feather sticking out of his head has been a lightning rod for criticism for years and, according to reports, was the subject of significant discussion between the team owner and the baseball commissioner leading up to the team’s decision.
It probably is no coincidence, either, that the Indians will host baseball’s All-Star game in 2019.
Having been born in Akron, Ohio and going to Indians’ games since I was a little kid, I grew up with Chief Wahoo — but I think it’s well past time to retire him. He’s an offensive caricature, and the fact that he’s been associated with the team for decades doesn’t change or excuse that. The team has increasingly been moving to the block C, which I think is pretty good, and I like the script Indians logo, too.
Native American activists also are advocating for the team to ditch the name Indians. I have more mixed feelings on that issue. I recognize that the name Indians is an historical anachronism, but I think calling an athletic team by that name is a sign of respect — and I also like the nickname The Tribe, which has a pretty cool, inclusive meaning. We’ll have to see whether getting rid of Chief Wahoo relieves the pressure on the team name, or intensifies it.
I don’t post on Twitter, and “follow” only Richard’s Twitter feed and perhaps one or two more. Twitter is always asking me to follow more people and offering up suggestions about who I might find interesting, but I always delete the suggestions. I don’t have time to “follow” the tweeted musings of dozens of people, and figure I’d spend more time deleting notices of their tweets than actually reading them.
So the statistics that purport to show that tens or hundreds of thousands of people follow the Twitter feed of random celebrities or unknown people whose shtick is simply to react to other social media posts, for example, or that Facebook posts have received thousands of “likes,” astonish me. I shake my head and wonder: How can so many people find time in their days to look at the detritus of social media?
The answer is: maybe they can’t, and actually don’t. And maybe the impressive statistics that supposedly show that they do are filled with fake followers, and fake likes, from fake people.
The New York Times ran an interesting article over the weekend called “The Follower Factory” about how entrepreneurs, governments, and criminals have created entire legions of fakery. Some companies have created thousands of fake, automated accounts and sell them to celebrities and businesses that crave followers and retweets to appear more popular on-line. Facebook recently disclosed that 60 million fake accounts have populated its site, distributing likes and affecting “trend lines” and influencing advertising content. Twitter and other social media platforms also are affected by fake accounts. And when part of the power of social media platforms comes from their claims to have millions of people participating in their platforms, how aggressive and effective are the social media sites themselves going to be in policing the fakery?
The Times story quotes politicians who suggest that perhaps the answer to this is to come up with some kind of government regulatory scheme. To be sure, the government should become involved if the fake accounts cross the line into identity theft. But short of that, why should the government intervene if some pathetic former pro athlete wants to buy fake followers to puff up his social media profile? And if the gullible are going to agree with a tweet because the tweeter has lots of fake followers, rather than because of the substance of the opinion expressed, or advertisers are going to accept fake statistics rather than insist on data that can be verified as reflecting the actions of real people, it seems like that is their own problem. The government has bigger, more important, more concrete things to worry about.
We’d all be better off if people stopped paying attention to followers, and trend lines, and likes, and started to actually think things through themselves.
Once, Baiae was a resort city on the Italian coast for the wealthy patricians of Rome. Then, volcanic activity caused the city to vanish beneath the waves, as the coastline moved inland.
Divers have now located the town, and discovered that much of the artwork — including statues, tile designs, and mosaics — has been preserved beneath the water. Pretty cool! It would be a great place to go for a dive — if my ear drums had not been blown out by prior, ill-fated scuba activity.
Who knows? Maybe there is something to that Atlantis myth.
Lately I’ve spent a bit of time in front of the computer at home, on the YouTube website. I’ve been looking for some funny highlights from TV shows that are now decades old. You might call it searching for snippets.
My initial goal was to find the “Sis Boom Bah” moment from The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Featuring the redoubtable Carnak the Magnificent, in what I always thought was one of the best continuing skits on the show, it is arguably one of the funniest single moments on what was a consistently funny show. (You could argue about other Tonight Show moments, like the Ed Ames tomahawk-throwing incident, but I digress.) Sure enough, I found the entire Sis Boom Bah Carnak sketch on YouTube, and I’ve put it above in all of its early ’80s, totally un-PC glory at the top of its post. The Sis Boom Bah moment is still hilarious.
There’s comedy gold to be found just about everywhere on YouTube, but you have to work to find it. In that sense, it’s a lot more interactive than just watching TV and letting the cathode rays wash over you. Let’s say that you thought the “Norm!” one-liners from Cheers were consistently funny, as I do, and just wanted to check out a few of them. A few deft searches, and voila! One example of what I found, with some of Norm’s choicest rejoinders, is below. And whether it’s great moments from Seinfeld, or the title introduction to Hogan’s Heroes, or a favorite scene from The Dick Van Dyke Show, you can probably find it on YouTube.
British Airways has announced that it is eliminating “reclining” seats on some of its economy flights this year. According to the airline, getting rid of those seats will allow it to offer more low-far options to travelers — presumably because the company will be packing more seats into the economy section.
The new British Airways seats will be set at a “gentle recline” configuration — i.e., two or three inches from the straight-backed dining room chair-type setting — but otherwise immobile.
Speaking as a frequent economy class airline passenger, I am all in favor of BA’s decision, and I hope other airlines quickly follow suit. I never recline my seat, and I despise people who, as soon as the takeoff chime sounds, recline their seats to the maximum extent and crash into the knees of the passengers in the row behind. In my view, people who do that are incredibly rude, and obviously are focused totally on themselves. And really — do the few inches of reclining really make all that much difference, when you consider that you are horribly inconveniencing and cramping the unfortunate people who happen to be seated behind you?
In my view, the immediate/maximum recliners are almost, but not quite, as ill-mannered as the parents of unruly children who shrug when their kids won’t stop kicking the back of the seat in front of them. If a seat design change eliminates their opportunity to ruin my flight, and allows for more affordable fares at the same time, it’s a great development.
It would be nice if people voluntarily behaved in a civilized fashion, but when they won’t, I’ll happily settle for technological modifications that prevent the rude behavior in the first place.
For some of us, at least, it’s standard operating procedure to launch an obscenity when we stub our toes, bump our heads, cut our fingers while chopping food, or experience some other unexpected moment of physical pain.
Setting aside the morality or propriety of our bad habits, the practical question is: does cussing a blue streak actually help to relieve the pain?
One recent study, conducted by Keele University in England, concludes that it definitely does. In fact, the study determined that spewing crude language has measurable, therapeutic, physical effects. When study participants were saying dirty words their heart rates increased, their perception of pain decreased, and they were able to endure pain much longer than was the case if they were saying neutral words. (And if you read the article linked above and see how the researchers set up the study to test their hypothesis, you’ll conclude that you should never, ever volunteer to participate in a psychological experiment at Keele University.)
The study determined that foul-mouthed participants were able to endure pain longer because there is a significant psychological component to experiencing pain, and a person’s mood and other circumstances can have a clear impact. Swearing triggers an aggressiveness response, and an aggressive mental attitude helps a person deal with pain much more effectively. (This may be why football players, for example, seem to be able to endure pain during games that many of us would find disabling.) And the study also found that the pain endurance levels were directly related to the perceived filthiness of the obscenity being used. “Sanitized” curse words, like the British “bum,” were much less effective than actual obscenities, and the most effective pain relief of all came from using the “queen mother of curses.”
The “F Word” is ubiquitous and, as I’ve noted before, has broad utility in many different settings — but who knew that it was like aspirin in its pain relief capabilities? So the next time you’ve got a bad headache or hit your thumb with a hammer, go ahead and let the f bombs fly! Chances are you’ll feel a lot better.
Back when UJ used to write for this blog, he added a tag for “happiness” because he wrote a number of posts about it. I regret to admit that, since UJ stopped his scrivening, it’s probably the least-used tag on the blog. In fact, this post is likely the first one with a happiness tag in months, if not years. I consider myself a happy person, but I just don’t write much it.
Apparently, Yale students also need help with happiness. This semester Yale is offering Psych 157, a course called “Psychology and the Good Life.” It tries to instruct students on how to be happier — and it has quickly become the most popular undergraduate course Yale has ever offered. 1,200 students, which is about 25 percent of the entire undergraduate student population, is taking the course. The professor posits that Yale students are flocking to take the course because “they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school” and in the process adopted “harmful life habits.” If you read the article linked above, you’ll conclude that Yalies are a pretty sad, stressed bunch.
When I was going to college, lack of happiness and “deprioritizing” personal happiness and fulfillment was not a problem. If anything, Ohio State students of the ’70s tended to overprioritize their dedicated, incessant, deep-seated, Frodo Baggins-like quest for happiness. The notion that fresh-faced students, still possessing the bloom of youth and newly freed from the constant supervision and irksome rules of Mom and Dad, need to take a college class to learn how to be happier would have been totally alien to the undergrads of my era. And it’s really kind of depressing to think that, in any era, college students would need to sit in a lecture hall to get tips on how to be happier. College must have become a grim, hellish place indeed!
But this is where UJ comes in. He’s always got a happy grin on his face, a positive outlook, and a firm belief that “life is good.” Sure, he’s retired, but his youthful attitude should allow him to connect with the legions of sad, beleaguered, put-upon Yalies who just don’t know where to find happiness in their soulless, barren college lives.
Hey, UJ! Time to call that Psych 157 prof and offer a few pointers!
Yesterday Dr. Science and I visited Andes Bar & Grill, one of the very newest restaurants in downtown Columbus. It’s located on Fourth Street, next to the YWCA, in a spot previously occupied by Hae-Paul’s Korean-American eatery.
Andes offers home-cooked meals of Bolivian comfort food. At our waitress’ suggestion, Dr. Science and I both went for the chicken and rice plate, and we also split some empanadas. The chicken was a good-sized leg and thigh that had been slow-cooked. It was awesomely juicy and tender, making it easy to use knife and fork to extricate every last ounce of succulent meat off the bone. The chicken was served in a kind of rich gravy, and I gladly mixed the meat and gravy with the rice, added a few dashes from a bottle of Cholula hot sauce on the table, and went at it. The empanadas also were quite good, crisp and crunchy on the outside and moist and hot on the inside. Dr. Science, recalling his days handling test tubes and Bunsen burners, deftly used his empanada as a kind of fence to allow his fork to retrieve every last grain of rice.
The chicken was served at a mild spice level, and after we finished our food the friendly proprietor came by to ask how we liked the food and to clear our plates. When he saw that we had both cleaned our plates and left only a few well-picked bones behind, he beamed. He also happens to be the cook, and we asked about the available options if you’re looking for a little additional kick with your meal. He said that traditionally Bolivian food is served at a very mild spice level, and people can then tailor the heat of their dish to their specific taste by adding sauces that are served separately. He said that Andes has two homemade sauces that you can use for that purpose, one that is at a moderate spice level and one that goes in, all guns blazing.
The chance to eat that home-cooked food with a fiery sauce will definitely cause me to spring on the back of my llama and head back to the Andes.
Over the past year or so I’ve noticed that my sleep patterns had become much more erratic. Whereas I once slept soundly and peacefully from bedtime until morning, I began waking up during the night and — most disturbingly — finding myself unable to fall back asleep readily, even though I still felt physically tired and sleep-ready. At the first instant of wakefulness, my mind seemed to immediately shift into overdrive and begin churning through pending issues rather than remaining in a sleep-receptive mode.
I attributed this to age, and a heavy workload, and lots of travel that was affecting my circadian rhythms, and other extraneous factors. But then I started wondering whether there were things I was doing that might be influencing my sleep patterns, too, and whether I could in fact take steps to avoid the unsatisfying crappy sleep nights. I’d known for some time that too much coffee consumption during the day left me feeling jittery, and that the price of having a rich cup of coffee after dinner was staying up much later than normal. Extrapolating from that evidence, I decided to practice a little self-science, and experiment with my caffeine intake to see whether establishing an earlier coffee cut-off would help me to get a more restful night’s sleep.
It wasn’t easy, because I’ve long enjoyed a cup of coffee after lunch and another one around 3 p.m., to keep me sharp during the afternoon. Old habits die hard — but sometimes you’ve got to drive a stake through them, anyway. So I started to consciously stop drinking coffee at about 2 p.m., and start drinking water at that point instead. I missed the mid-afternoon steaming cup of joe, but that simple change had an immediate, positive impact on the soundness of my sleep, and particularly on my ability to fall back asleep, which was the problem that was bothering me the most. Now I’ve backed off the deadline even farther, to 1 p.m., just to be on the safe side.
I definitely like my coffee, and I can’t imagine doing without my morning intake, but if the choice is between coffee and good sleep, coffee’s going to lose 10 times out of 10.
President Trump’s promised wall along the border between the United States and Mexico was part of the wrangling between Republicans and Democrats that led to a brief government shutdown over the weekend.
Surprisingly, some Democrats who had long opposed the wall signaled that they were willing to drop their opposition if Republicans would make concessions to give “Dreamers” — immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States when they were children — additional legal protections. And, in negotiations with the President to try to avoid the shutdown, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer evidently offered to agree to more than the $1.6 billion in funding for the wall that Trump has requested. More recently, Democratic Senators are saying that Schumer has withdrawn that offer and it is “off the table” because it was intended solely as a last-ditch effort to avoid the shutdown.
And, as the politicians wrangle, prototypes of different models of the wall apparently are being tested to determine whether they really would deter illegal border crossings. According to a report by the Associated Press, eight models of the wall have been constructed in San Diego, and U.S. military special forces and U.S. Customs and Border units spent weeks trying to breach and scale the models. The models are made of different materials, including steel and concrete composites, and are as much as 30 feet in height. According to the reports, the designs did have some success in repelling the military forces, which include members trained in trying to climb high walls.
Political positions are fluid, but it would seem to be difficult to take the position that a wall is wrong on principle after you’ve agreed to support it, and even throw more than a billion dollars at its construction, in exchange for other concessions. And if the reports on the testing are accurate, that would remove one argument that often is made against Trump’s wall proposal — namely, that a wall would be ineffective because illegal immigrants would be able to climb or otherwise breach it. Of course, even if the ethical and functional objections to the wall are set aside, there would remain other grounds for opposition, including enormous cost, the impracticality of a wall in rugged mountainous regions, and the aesthetics of a wall in certain scenic areas — but the signs indicate that Donald Trump’s wall may be moving closer to reality.
The other day the Jersey Girl and I were driving to lunch in her car when I noticed a folded paper object on the dashboard. Made by one of her kids, it was something you might remember from childhood. You insert your thumbs and index fingers into slots, open and close them based on the colors or numbers or other indicators written on the outside, and then lift up one of the interior folds to deliver a secret message found underneath — at least one of which typically made reference to “cooties.”
“Hey, you’ve got a cootie catcher!” I remarked. The JG looked puzzled, shrugged, and responded, “I don’t think that’s what they call it.”
What, no concept of “cooties” in American childhood anymore? No more mindless running around, laughing and trying to dodge and avoid the kid who had “cooties” and, with a simple tag, could pass them on to you? No discussions among young boys about girls having “cooties”? No generalized lack of understanding of what “cooties” were supposed to be, or why they had that name, but just a fervent belief that you didn’t want to have them, whatever the heck they were? Is “cooties” one of those stupid but fun childhood things that has hit the cutting room floor in the modern, ultra-sensitive, PC world?
Then I stumbled across an article that sought to bring some real analysis to bear on the “cooties” issue. The Smithsonian applied scientific rigor to the concept of “cooties,” and take a careful look at a key question: if “cooties” were real, what actual disease would they be? After looking at the key attributes of “cooties” — being instant communicable through physical contact, common, and highly contagious, but with no outward signs of debilitating disease — and eliminating candidates like pinkeye, plague, and leprosy, The Smithsonian concluded that meningitis came closest.
And notably, The Smithsonian also concluded that the concept of “cooties” among children has some value, because it gives kids “a decent, albeit rudimentary, approximation for how disease functions” and allows them “to learn about infectious disease in a semi-sanitary, innocuous manner.” So, “cooties” is a good thing? There’s a first time for everything.