Pattern-Challenged

Some people are good at seeing patterns. I’m not. In fact, I stink at it. I never could find the hidden pictures in the Highlights for Children magazines in the dentist’s waiting room, and I don’t really see either the young woman or the old crone, or the vace and two faces, either.

So when I passed this sign on a walk through downtown Boise it took me a while to figure out that it was supposed to reflect a ram. An apparently very sad, gloomy ram, but a ram nevertheless.

Why would anyone want a gloomy ram as their business logo? Beats me! But it you did, why not just have a picture of the ram that even pattern-challenged people like me can recognize?

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Who’s To Blame For NYC Subway Delays?

If you’ve ever been on the subway in New York City, you know it can be a frustrating, overwhelming experience.  It’s crowded, and hot, and the trains never seem to run on time.  In fact, a recent study determined that, in July, 72,000 subway trains ran late.  That’s a hefty 32 percent of all subway trains on the system.

Who’s to blame?

subway-doorThe New York Metropolitan Transit Authority says the subway riders themselves are one of the causes for the many delays.  The apparent problem is that riders aren’t letting the trains leave on time. If passengers are rushing to the train and the doors are closing, they don’t wait politely for the next train.  Instead, they shove their backpack or arm or leg into the gap, prevent the train doors from closing, and then when the doors open as a result they elbow their way into the already crowded cars.

In short, one of the problems is that . . . well, the vast majority of the NYC subway riders are pushy New Yorkers.  They’ve been conditioned through years of experience to behave in precisely that way in public places, whether it’s in the subway or ignoring “Don’t Walk” signs and dodging traffic on gridlocked Manhattan streets or cutting in line and getting into arguments about it.  And their pushy New Yorker conduct inevitably delays the trains, contributing to the crappy statistics for trains running on time.

The MTA is trying to deal with the problem by having train operators be less tolerant of the arm in the door practice and by having people in the stations as observers, in hopes that riders under the watchful eye of the MTA will behave more appropriately.  A platform controller quoted in the article linked above says, however, that even with the watchers, more courteous rider behavior “is not really catching on.”

Who’d have predicted that New Yorkers would continue to act like New Yorkers?  If the MTA really wants to have the trains run on time, it had better come up with a better solution than hoping that New Yorkers act politely in anonymous public places.

Testing The Outer Bounds Of Improbability

gettyimages-1036976804The Cleveland Browns won a football game on Thursday night.  Seriously!  An actual, regular season NFL football game.  And they even came from behind to do it.  The result was so wildly unexpected it’s taken me more than a day to fully process it.

And I’ve also been considering the profound implications of a Browns victory.  It makes me wonder:  if the Browns can somehow be victorious on the gridiron, it basically means that nothing is impossible.  And we all need to brace ourselves, because who knows what might happen next!  In the interests of enhancing public preparedness, I came up with a list of some of the other events that would rank right up there with the Browns winning a football game on the improbability scale:

  •  President Trump is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his Twitter feed
  •  The French Minister of Culture admits that Americanized words like le supermarket are perfectly OK
  •  A scientific study shows that Facebook political postings actually cause people of opposing political views to change their minds
  •  Yankees fans concede the singing Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning of baseball games really is a pretty cool tradition
  •  Kim Jong Un decides to grow his hair out and go with a ponytail
  •  The Grand High Council of Vegans announces that eating an occasional cheeseburger is acceptable and tastes awfully darned good, too
  • The Ohio State Marching Band misspells Ohio during the performance of Script Ohio

I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea.  Be wary, folks!  If the Browns can win a football game, all bets are off!

Cookie Culprits

The kitchen at our firm is legendary for its cookies.  Some of our lawyers intentionally schedule their meetings in the afternoon so they can get a plate of cookies to munch on while the discussion is proceeding.

But when the scheduled meeting is ended, and before the conference room table is cleared by the staff, the office cookie culprits go on the prowl.  They might just be innocently passing by when the sight of an available plate of cookies in an empty conference room tempts them into action, or they might intentionally take a foraging swing past all of the conference rooms to see whether there are any cookie remains that could provide them with a sugar boost during the mid-afternoon lull.  Whatever the reason, the abandoned cookie plates don’t hold on to their cookies for long.

When I left the meeting in this particular conference room yesterday, the cookie plate was virtually full, but when I passed by a short time later, the cookie culprits had been at it in force, leaving only orphaned oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies — and another sugar cookie from which somebody had taken two huge bites.  Hey, and what’s with putting a half-eaten cookie back on the cookie plate?  I thought the cookie culprits were more genteel than that.

Valuing A “Haircut”

Yesterday I went in for a haircut.  I call it that, but it’s really a lot more — in addition to the clipping and trimming and snipping, my appointment features a scalp and neck massage, beard and eyebrow trim, shampoo, and “mini facial.”  From soup to nuts, it’s about a 50-minute process.

barber-toolAs my stylist was working away, she sheepishly noted that she had been promoted to director status.  After I quickly congratulated her on her well-deserved recognition, she added that the change in her status would mean the cost of my appointments would be going up — by $10, in fact.  From now on, I’ll be shelling out $47 a pop for the stylings.  She wanted to let me know because she recognizes that some price-sensitive people might not be willing to pay the increased price.

I won’t be one of those folks, and it didn’t take me even a split-second to make that decision.  Sure, $47 is a lot of money, and I’m certain my father or grandfather — both of whom, admittedly, were follically challenged — would marvel at the notion of paying anywhere close to that amount for a haircut.  And for years, I would have had exactly the same reaction.  But after going to whatever chain offered cheap cuts by anonymous barbers, and getting some embarrassingly bad haircuts as a result, I began to assign more value to the appearance of my head.  And I also thought it made sense to find someone I could trust to deftly manage scissors that would be brought within an eyelash of my face, eyes, nose, and ears.  I’ve been going to the same stylist for years now, she knows me and my cowlick and the rest of my hair, she always does a great job, and she’s earned my absolute trust.  I’ll happily pay $10 more for that.

As I said, 47 bucks is a lot to pay for a haircut, but I guess it all depends on how you look at things.  Even at $47, her men’s haircut will cost less than the standard women’s appointment, which evidently takes over than an hour and sounds like more of an ordeal than a simple styling.  I have an appointment every five to six weeks, which means I’ve got a save up a bit more than a dollar a day for the styling treatment.  And according to Google the average human head has about 100,000 hair follicles, which means I’ll be paying precisely $.00047 per follicle for future appointments.  Viewed in that light, I’m practically paying nothing!

Ancient Headgear

If you needed further evidence that the world is a weird place, here’s something:  you can actually buy a hat made with authentic woolly mammoth hair for only $10,000.

World's only woolly mammoth hatThe hat has been put up for sale by Vladimir Ammosov, a man from Yakutsk.  His relative had gone to the “woolly mammoth graveyard” at a village in Yakutia and filled a plastic bag with woolly mammoth hair.  (In this part of Siberia, hunting for remains of the gigantic, shaggy, elephant-like creatures who thrived during the Ice Age is a popular local pastime — hey, what else are you going to do in Siberia? — and there is a lively trade in mammoth remains, especially tusks.)  The relative needed cash, and sold the bag of hair to Ammosov, who then had to decide what to do with it.

First, Ammosov got the expert at the local mammoth museum to confirm that the bag did in fact contain mammoth hair, then he decided to have the woolly mammoth hair crocheted into a head-hugging hat in the traditional Yakutian style.  Typically, the hats are made of horse hair, but the ancient mammoth hair served just as well.

It’s not exactly a flattering piece of headgear, and because mammoth hair was coarse — after all, it served as protection against the cold during an Ice Age — the hat is described as “prickly” to wear.  It was put up for sale in August, but I’ve found no follow-up stories to indicate whether it has actually been sold.  Could it be that there is no one out there willing to pay $10,000 for an ugly, uncomfortable hat woven from the hair of extinct, long-dead creatures?  Maybe the world isn’t quite as crazy as we think.

Cheer Up! You Could Be Hue Jackson

Are you having a bad day?  For that matter, are you having a bad week, a bad month, a bad year, even a bad two years?

hue-jackson-brownsHere’s a thought that should make you feel much, much better — you could be Cleveland Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson.

Hue’s a guy who came to Cleveland with a pretty good reputation.  Since he’s started coaching the Browns, however, the team has gone 1-32-1.  That’s not a misprint.  He’s won precisely one game, and lost dozens.  And yet, he keeps coaching, and losing.  And to make matters worse, every bad thing that could possibly happen has happened to the guy, and undoubtedly will happen again in the future.  That’s just the way it is.

Today the Browns outplayed the New Orleans Saints on the road, but they lost because their kicker missed two field goals and two extra points.  That’s right — he missed two extra points.  Some NFL kickers go their entire careers without missing two extra points, but the Browns’ kicker somehow found a way to miss two in one game.  It’s so absurd that even ardent Browns fans can only shake their heads in wonderment at the sheer folly and futility of it, and wonder what happened that caused the football gods to cruelly torment the Browns and their fans week after week.

But poor Hue Jackson can’t laugh it off.  He’s got to stand on the sidelines every week as his team finds new ways to lose winnable games, looking resolute in his headset, all the while knowing that when crunch time comes he’s going to get punched in the gut and kneed in the groin by the fates.  Deep down, is Hue Jackson hoping he’s get fired, just to end the onslaught and let him escape the nightmarish horror?

So if you’re feeling down because things are tough, cheer up!  You could be Hue Jackson, the most cursed coach of the NFL.