This week, the thirteenth letter of the alphabet is not to be seen in Ohio’s capital city. All around town, it has been crossed out on street signs, billboards, and business signs–even scooters, as shown by the scooter above that we saw near Goodale Park earlier this week. We excise old #13 wherever it is found because we don’t want to see anything that represents That State Up North this week.
The striking of the thirteenth letter is one of the newer traditions in the old rivalry. I don’t recall it happening when I was a student at Ohio State in the ’70s. Back then, people settled for things like “Screw the Blue” car stickers and got a chuckle out of TTUN toilet paper. But then a person decided that the 13th letter was just too offensive to be endured during this particular week, and the habit caught on like wildfire. Now it’s just another part of the tradition of the greatest rivalry in sports.
After today, the 13th letter will be invited back into the alphabet and we’ll be able to use it again. That’s a good thing, too–it was challenging to write today’s blog post without using it!
It’s the day after Thanksgiving in America. If, like most Americans, you went a bit overboard in the food and drink departmentyesterday, you are undoubtedly feeling the after-effects today. But how to adequately capture the curious mix of sensations that you are feeling today–that unique combination of a desperately overworked digestive system that has been shoved into once-a-year overdrive by your gluttonous consumption of proteins, starches, carbohydrates, and sugars, washed down with more than a few of the adult beverages of your choice?
Bloated is always an apt description on the day after Thanksgiving, but if you want to sound more sophisticated, tumid or tumefied are good words for describing that still lingering stuffed-to-the-gills sensation.
If your overindulgence is leaving you feeling foggy and cotton-mouthed, katzenjammer is a useful synonym for a hangover.
And if you are feeling a deep sense of regret at your failure to celebrate Thanksgiving in moderation–again–or your inability to adhere to your vow to avoid a pointless political discussion with a family member, note that remorseful might well capture your mood, as would compunctious, penitent, and contrite.
As for your likely sense that today you need to refrain in order to make up for yesterday’s wretched excess, abstinence is a pretty good word. Willpower is going to factor in as well, since there are bound to be leftover pieces of pie ready to provide temptation.
The world is a wide, weird, and (literally) wonderful place. Sometimes odd things happen that defy easy explanation: things like hundreds of sheep walking clockwise, for days, in a perfect circle on a farm in Inner Mongolia in northern China. The remarkably creepy sheepy behavior was captured on a surveillance video and is so strange it has been covered by news outlets across the world. You can watch some bizarre, ghostly footage of the circular marching sheep on the New York Post website.
The rotating sheep are in one of 34 different sheep pens on the Chinese farm. According to the farm’s owner, Ms. Miao, a few days ago a few of the sheep in one particular pen started walking in a circle, then the whole pen joined in. To make the whole story even weirder, the pen where the eerie marching sheep are found is pen number 13–and none of the other sheep on the farm are exhibiting the same curious behavior.
It’s the kind of mysterious conduct that leads people to indulge in conspiracy theories and fantastic explanations, like witchcraft or the sheep responding to the call of aliens who have grown tired of making crop circles and decided to make sheep circles instead. As for me, I’m just grateful to the sheep for showing, again, that the world is a pretty interesting place.
We have some new pillows at home. It has been a great development for our nightly visits to the Land of Nod.
I wasn’t having a noticeable problem with the old pillows. They had served us long and well, and had stolidly absorbed the special forms of punishment exclusively reserved for pillows. They had been hit by our heavy heads, repeatedly scrunched down as we rolled from one side to the other, and punched and smashed up and beaten down as we sought to find the most comfortable possible sleeping position. And, as a pillow begins to lose its natural springiness and develop saggy areas and lumps, the beatings and smashings and scrunchings tend to increase. Clearly, the life cycle of a pillow is a hard one.
I hadn’t noticed how far our old pillows had fallen until this new pillow arrived on the bed. Rather than the concrete-like indentation of the old pillow, the new pillow has an innate poofiness that provides great support that allows the sleeper to avoid those morning neck and shoulder twinges. In pillows, poofiness is a highly valued commodity.
Pillow experts say you should get new pillows every year or two. That way, you can be sure of pillows that are properly supportive, clean, and free of allergens. The experts note that older pillows can accumulate dust mites, fungus, mold, and other disgusting nighttime debris that can provoke allergic reactions, so getting new pillows not only might help to avoid a stiff neck, but also a few of those morning sneezes.
If you haven’t replaced your pillow since the Obama Administration, you might want to do so. You may be surprised at what a difference a little poofiness can make.
Being a Russian oligarch these days seems like a pretty dangerous job. In fact, lately the oligarchs–generally defined as anyone who is deeply involved in running a major industry in Russia, while accumulating vast amounts of wealth–are dropping like flies.
So, what’s going on? Are Russian oligarchs just having a bad run of deadly health problems and sudden suicidal impulses? Based on a long record of suspicious deaths since Vladimir Putin took over, experts generally discount that possibility and say that the official reports of what happened should be taken with a grain of salt. And the sheer number of curious fatal falls–off cliffs, from boats, down flights of stairs, and out of hospital windows–sure seems like an improbable coincidence. But no one really knows what is going on, and whether it is a combination of actual suicides, poorly disguised political assassinations, or that vicious “viper’s pit” of killings within the small circle of greedy oligarchs fighting for every last ruble. And the impact of Russian struggles in its invasion of Ukraine, and the impact of resulting sanctions on the Russian economy, just add to the uncertainty.
The only thing we know for sure is that this is not a good time to be a Russian oligarch. If you’re going to be in Russia any time soon, keep your eye out for falling bodies if you happen to be walking past any hospitals or other tall buildings.
Last night we watched the first episode of Tulsa King, the new Paramount+ series starring Sylvester Stallone. Created by Taylor Sheridan, one of the creators of Yellowstone, Tulsa King is the story of a mobster (don’t call him a “gangster,” incidentally), Dwight Manfredi, who is released from prison after 25 years. Because he didn’t rat out anybody, he expects to be welcomed back with open arms and given a prominent place in the family business in New York City. Instead, he’s exiled to Tulsa, Oklahoma and told to take over the town.
We’re only one episode in, but Tulsa King looks promising so far. It’s got the fish out of water element, with the street-wise New Yorker schooling the credulous, safe-in-middle- America Bible Belters about crime, and also the Rip Van Winkle element, with Dwight having been in the Big House for 25 years and not knowing about things like iPhones and Uber. Stallone has always had good comedic talent and timing–Demolition Man, for example, includes lots of funny scenes, and so do some of the Rocky movies–and he does a good job with the humorous parts of Tulsa Kings.
The real challenge in the show, however, is the tough guy stuff. It seems weird to question the ability of Sylvester Stallone, the guy who brought to life Rocky, Rambo, and countless other hard-ass characters, to carry off the action scenes, but the actor is 76 years old. He’s evidently had some facial work–his cheeks look puffy, and his eyebrows are perpetually raised–and physically he looks to be in pretty good shape. But when your star is in his 70s, you’ve got to be careful not to strain the viewers’ willing suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. In the first episode, Dwight coldcocks one younger guy, punches out a few others, throws a water bottle that knocks out a tubby security guard, and has a bedroom encounter with a much younger woman. It all was reasonably plausible–Dwight may have been a workout fiend during those 25 years in the clink, right?–but let’s hope the show doesn’t use CGI to have the star chasing down a fleeing truck, defeating multiple attackers with kung fu moves, or beating up an Apollo Creed lookalike.
America is growing older, so it makes sense that action characters would grow older, too. Who knows? “Elder action” might become an entirely new genre on TV and in theaters. I’ll be interested in seeing how Sylvester Stallone’s character develops in Tulsa King, and whether he experiences some of the issues that afflict the rest of us who are aging out. And I’ll also be interested in seeing how Harrison Ford, who is 80, is presented in the fifth Indiana Jones movie, which is to be released next year. You’d expect Indy to be using a lot more of his gun and a lot less of his whip at that age. Will Indy–who once famously observed that “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage”–recognize that the years take their toll, too?
With Thanksgiving coming up in two weeks, many Americans have started to think with pleasure about gorging on delicious roast turkey, stuffing, lots of gravy, mashed potatoes, maybe some cranberry relish, and a slice of pie or two. As this traditional and highly food-oriented holiday approaches, however, other people are trying to figure out how to convince Americans to eat insects.
Last week PNAS–the website for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America–carried an article entitled How To Convince People To Eat Insects. The article begins with an anecdote about Pennsylvanians watching mealworms sizzle in a pan as they learned about an insect diet from a naturalist, when a little girl ate a mealworm that popped up from the pan and said it tasted like kettle corn. After this promising, taste-oriented start (which makes you wonder, incidentally, what kind of kettle corn that little tyke has been getting) the article restates arguments for a bug diet that we’ve been hearing for years. It notes that eating insects is a lot more environmentally friendly, because farmed insects are much more efficient than cows in turning feed into “edible weight,” and–as anyone who watched Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom knows–people in other countries have been eating insects as a source of nutrients and protein and a regular part of their diet for centuries.
Then the article gets to the nub of the issue: how do you get Americans to move past their instinctive revulsion at the thought of munching on crickets and actually try some bug-based food–like a pizza covered with mealworms? (Incidentally, if you didn’t shudder inwardly at the idea of a pizza crawling with tiny worms, you’re probably ready to try a cricket energy bar already.) One key part of the process, according to the article, is to make sure that people don’t actually see any identifiable insect parts, like a wing or a grasshopper leg, or know that the cookie they are eating used ground black soldier fly larvae as a flour ingredient. (These are real food examples from the article, folks.) That means not prominently featuring pictures of grasshoppers, locusts, or flies on the packaging for the product.
Marketing the insect diet properly will be a key part of process, too. The article recognizes that Americans haven’t really responded to arguments that eating bugs is better for our planet, healthier, and or a good source of protein, because altruistic behavior doesn’t really motivate food choices for most people–so how do you convince Americans to give insect-based products a try? Celebrity endorsements apparently have made people somewhat more willing to try a bug bite, and making sure that the products taste good and are aesthetically pleasing is important, too. And if you can convince some people to eat bugs and enthusiastically endorse the practice in conversations with their friends, cultural mores may convince more people to give that mealworm pizza a try.
Basic acts of personal hygiene have been in the headlines lately. First, an Iranian hermit described as “the world’s dirtiest man,” who hadn’t bathed in 60 years because he believed soap and water would make him sick, died recently at age 94. Someone dying at age 94 wouldn’t be especially noteworthy–except that the media reports of his death emphasized that the man, pictured above, became sick only after nearby villagers persuaded him to finally go for a wash-up, and he unfortunately went downhill after that.
It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to be within nostril range of someone who hadn’t bathed in 60 years and looked as filthy as the Iranian hermit did in the above photo. It’s also hard to imagine what the working world would be like if people who worked in physical labor jobs, or who worked in close proximity to others, stopped performing their daily ablutions. It’s even harder to imagine that anyone whose mother drilled in the notion that cleanliness is next to godliness and that daily washing, including behind the ears, is essential if you want to assume a place in polite society, could ever retreat from hopping into a morning shower for a good, hot scrub.
In short, Dial soap used the phrase “aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” for a reason. Our mothers were right: odor avoidance and regular dirt removal are important parts of real personal hygiene and the general social compact. Let’s all resist the temptation to go full hermit, shall we?
Yesterday, when we watched the Buckeyes game with Penn State at JT’s Pizza and Pub, the vast majority of the TV commercials during the game were for political candidates. The campaign strategists know that, in Ohio, virtually everyone drops everything to watch the Buckeyes on the gridiron, so it is prime time to deliver a message to a captive, very focused, every sense on heightened alert audience. It undoubtedly costs the campaigns a boatload to buy the ad slots, but they figure it is worth it–which is why Buckeye fans were seeing so many political ads rather than the standard in-game car, tire, or “remember to ask your doctor about Altavlid” commercials.
Fortunately, they had the sound off at JT’s, and we couldn’t have heard the voice over of the commercials in any event, over the din of football analysis and “OH-IO” chants. But you don’t really need to have the sound on to follow the political ads. Basically, they fall into two categories: the scary ads and the “humanize the candidate” ads. And it’s immediately clear which category a political commercial falls into, because every ad in either category shares obvious common characteristics. In fact, the touchstones are so commonplace that both Democrats and Republicans use them, and if you run a Google search you’ll find that the British and Canadian political wizards use the same techniques, as the Canadian ad above demonstrates.
Scary ads: Dark, grainy, blurry footage, with quick cuts from one troubling scene to another. Opposing candidate depicted in unflattering poses in slow motion or with some kind of color filter to give him or her a more devilish, unsettling appearance. Children in peril or worried people sitting around their kitchen tables. Messages in large type that appear on the screen like shotgun blasts that usually include the words “we can’t afford.”
Humanize the candidate ads: Candidate is shown in a bulky, woolen, Mr. Rogers-type sweater, carrying a cup of coffee and sitting on the family sofa with their spouse. Candidate makes breakfast or kicks a soccer ball or throws a football with kids. Lots of warm hues and sunshine. Candidate is shown gesturing forcefully to smiling, nodding blue-collar workers, who are deeply absorbed in everything the candidate is saying.
I’ll be glad when November 8 finally arrives and we can go back to watching the Buckeyes, the tire ads, and those helpful spots about the latest miracle drug.
So old Chuck Darwin apparently is right again, and forcing a grin will cause momentary changes in attitude–and at least so long as that keeping that fake smile on your face isn’t one of the requirements for your job at the neighborhood coffee shop.
The robot dogs not only will make deliveries, they will be part of a five-year research program that will examine human-robot interpersonal (or, perhaps, intertechnological) dynamics. The idea is to study, and then modify, the behavior of the robots “to determine how to operate safe and useful networks of robots that are meant to adjust their behavior to integrate with human populations.” The project leader for the study states: “In addition to programming robots to perform a realistic task such as delivering supplies, we will be able to gather observations to help develop standards for safety, communication, and behavior to allow these future systems to be useful and safe in our community.”
It’s not clear exactly what the robot dogs will be delivering and under what circumstances, which I think will make a big difference in assessing the human-robot interactions. If the dogs will be making pizza and beer runs to dorms and off-campus apartments, I predict that students who have imbibed in a few adult beverages and perhaps some mood-altering substances will get a bit of a shock when they open the door and find a bright yellow robot dog that moves like the herky-jerky devil dogs on Ghostbusters bringing their pizza with everything and six-pack of Lone Star.
I also predict that the people who are part of the “keep Austin weird” movement will really like this development.
I like trying new places, even if it means venturing out of the downtown/German Village/Short North footprint. On Wednesday night we hitched a ride with the adventurous Dr. Science and the G.V. Jogger over to the Near East Side. Our destination was the East Market, a nifty renovated trolley car barn that dates back to the era when trolley cars rattled down many Columbus streets, carting Columbusites hither and yon.
When we entered the main East Market building, a sign announced that we were in the “Historic Trolley District,” because every part of Columbus apparently has to be part of some designated district or another. The trolley cars were long gone, leaving plenty of space for shops, carry-out restaurants, a bar, and a butcher’s emporium with a smiling pig head in the window. The pig head looked happy to be there, and so were we.
We wandered around, checking out the options. There were lots of choices, including pizza, Cajun, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and Greek. We opted for a place called Koso that served Korean fare. I went for the bulgogi beef bowl, a hearty and piping hot serving of rice, beef, onions, and subtle seasonings. We took our food upstairs and ate among the old timber rafters in a nice seating area. Armed with chopsticks, I nimbly shoveled down all of my bulgogi bowl, picking up every last grain of rice and morsel of meat.
I enjoyed my first official visit to the Historic Trolley District. I’m planning on coming back and trying some of the other food options. I feel like the slyly grinning pig head would want that.
Sometimes, you just find yourself in a hot dog frame of mind–and a little curious, besides. That’s why the Bus-Riding Conservative and I found ourselves in Tasty Dawg yesterday for lunch. Located catty-corner from the Ohio Statehouse close to the intersection of High and State Streets, Tasty Dawg is a place the BRC and I had each passed dozens of times without going in, and we wondered what it was like. Yesterday, our frankfurter appetites stimulated by the baseball playoffs, we decided to change that.
Tasty Dawg is all about hot dogs, in all their glory. It offers an array of different kinds of hot dog concoctions, which you stand in line to order, ultimately taking a tray back to a table of your choosing. If you were interested in a little weiner experimentation, the options would merit careful study. Fortunately, I don’t go in for jalapeno peppers, pickles, tomatoes, sauerkraut, or any of the other oddball topping options that can interfere with enjoyment of a tube steak. Instead, my target was a simple chili dog with cheese–well, two of them, actually–which I consider to be a crucial red-hot baseline. The BRC, who always walks a little closer to the culinary wild side, actually got a frank that had corn niblets on it, as part of some unholy combination. Corn on a hot dog just seems wrong, but I digress.
After the dog of your choice is assembled on a pretzel bun, it is placed into a nifty steamer machine, which in the case of my chili and cheese dog ensured an appropriate degree of cheesy meltiness. I added a side of white cheddar mac n’ cheese and a bottled water to complete my order. Be prepared: Tasty Dawg is a bit on the pricey side (at least, based on my expectations, but then I haven’t been to a hot dog joint in years). All told, my order came to more than $20. The BRC saved a few shekels by skipping the side and opting for tap water, so his two dogs were rung up for about $17. Tasty Dawg also offers Velvet ice cream, incidentally, but for the sake of dietary self-respect neither of use had any.
My chili cheese dogs were good. The dogs were meaty and had the desired snap to their casings, the chili sauce was thick and rich, the melted cheese had that nice cheddar tang, and the pretzel bun offered appropriate structural support. There was such a generous allotment of chili and cheese that after an initial in-hand bite I decided that prudence demanded a knife-and-fork approach. The mac n’ cheese side was creamy and quite good, too. As for the bottled water, it was wet.
If you’re in a hot dog frame of mind, Tasty Dawg will allow you to thoroughly scratch that itch. And if you’re in a hot dog and Velvet ice cream frame of mind, prepare yourself for an afternoon nap.
Did you ever sit back and consider, for a moment, how many different pens you have in your household? You’ve probably noticed it when you were looking for a “good” pen, not one of those cheap, skinny ones that skip when you write and always seem to be ink-challenged. You may have pens in jars, pens in the kitchen messy drawer, and pens in family room end tables, in bedroom dressers, even hiding in bathroom cabinets. It’s as if your entire life has been devoted to accumulating as many different, partially used pens as possible.
It’s not just pens, though. Perhaps when you were engaged in that frustrating search for the “good” pen you realized that you’ve got a lot of other random stuff, too, and in amounts that are much greater than you could ever actually need. Consider, for example, those little round or square dental floss dispensers that your oral hygienist gives you as part of the dental swag bag after an appointment. You’ve already got dental floss at home, but it seems wasteful to just throw away a perfectly good mini-roll of dental floss, so you chuck it in a drawer . . . and the next thing you know they’ve apparently multiplied and that drawer is absolutely overflowing with them.
The same is true with pencils that are used about halfway down to the eraser nub and have become dull because you’re not sure where a sharpener might be. Or different kinds of tea bags in one kitchen cabinet, highlighters in various colors with barely a whisper of highlighter juice left, mismatched drinking glasses, and random pads of paper of varying sizes, with the remainder of the little rubbery strip that used to hold the individual pieces of paper curling up at the top. Or the kitchen drawer that is groaning with an impressive array of various food-related objects, like ’60s-era ice breakers, that never seem to get used. And a careful inventory of your personal possessions would probably yield other examples, too.
How did we end up with all of this household debris, and what are we going to do with it? You can’t just toss out usable stuff, because you’d feel guilty about that, so the only viable answer is to consciously try to use it all up. But how? It’s a daunting task, for sure. The obvious answer is to specifically change your habits with that goal in mind. In short, it’s time to take up doodling while you are watching TV, flossing multiple times a day, highlighting junk mail envelopes, quaffing cups of tea after dinner, and breaking ice just for the heck of it. And while you’re at it, you might join a skeet-shooting club to thin out the herd of that kitchen glassware, too.
Last night I went to an event at a local establishment where the food supply was a number of different pizzas from Donato’s. When I decided to go over to check out the pizza options, I saw a cheese pizza, a pepperoni pizza, an appalling vegetarian pizza, a chicken pizza, and then at the end of the line, a pizza with pickles on it. I had to do a double take to make sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me.
Sadly, it was true. Donato’s is now putting pickles on pizza. We’ve apparently broken through the longstanding, previously inviolate “no pickles on pizza” barrier. With that sorry development, it is not clear whether there are any remaining restraints on decency in pizza preparation, and apparently anything is possible. It’s just another tangible sign of a once-great civilization’s unholy slide into degeneracy.
We’ve seen new frontiers in pizza preparation over the last few years, but I had thought there were still thoughtful pizza makers who recognized that the Hawaiian pineapple pizza was as far as you could or should go in pushing the pizza envelope. Experiment with non-traditional pizza meats like chicken and ham? Check. Drizzle toppings like buffalo chicken sauce over the toppings? All right, sure. Create breakfast pizzas and dessert pizzas? Okay, I can adjust my world view to grudgingly accommodate that.
But at least respect the pickle boundaries that your learned pizza-making forebears had intuitively created! Understand that sodden, lumpy, sour-tasting pickles should be reserved (if at all) for a cheeseburger or a fried chicken lunch, and should never be permitted to soil the top of an otherwise well-made pie and pollute it with pickle juice that will leave an unmistakable taint even if the pickle itself is carefully removed!
What’s next? Have all unwritten but important standards that help to establish and regulate a well-ordered society gone out the window?