Monday, August 23, 2010

What's Next? Instructions on How to Pee?

Way back on April 1st, 2009, my blog entry was a complaint about overly obvious or useless signs. You can look it up. Not quite in the same category, but similar, is my complaint for today.

Increasingly food establishments are posting hand washing instructions in their washrooms / restrooms / bathrooms or whatever they call it in your neck of the woods. Sure you might see this as helpful, but I just find it annoying. I suspect that it is a way to guilt staff members into washing their hands and who can argue with increasing the rate of handwashing amongst the staff in a food serving establishment. Not I.

Here's what bugs me though. Why does anyone have to be guilted into this or even reminded of it for that matter. I know that studies show that people will skip this step and that's just plain annoying. Not the studies but the people who do that. Especially if they work in one of these places.

Furthermore, why do these signs actually give instructions on how to wash hands correctly. Who is getting to the age when they can read these signs and actually learning anything? "Hey, who knew you should actually scrub your hands together?" Anybody who is too uncaring or rude to wash their hands is probably not going to take the time to read the instructions and seriously folks, does anyone really fail to wash their hands because they don't know the complicated steps to accomplishing this task?

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right. Coming soon, a poll a week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Don't Get It

Well there's good news this week on the comic strip front. "Cathy" is retiring. Now I get that different people will find different things funny, but I also believe to some extent that funny is funny and as far as Cathy goes I find it difficult to believe that it is funny.

Truth be told I've given up on the comic strips to a great extent. It must be hard to come up with ideas and this is amply demonstrated by the low batting average of most of the strips. So, given that most days I won't get many laughs or even a chuckle, I don't read the strips. Except for Dilbert. That one I like.

Given all that, for most of the strips I understand why they exist and how they are sometimes funny and manage to stay in the paper. What I don't understand is the longevity and continuing existence of "Family Circus". A better name for this would be Lamely Circular. The creator Bill Keane has made a living pointing out what kids do and most of what kids do is not that funny. Observational humour I think it is supposed to be, but it's strong on the observational and weak on the humour.

I remember thinking when I was younger that maybe when I have kids I'll get it. Nope. Oh maybe he finds a gem now and then, but his percentage puts those in the diamond in the rough category. (I must admit to a perverse joy left over from my childhood - man this strip has been around a long time - when Mr. Keane does the Saturday comics where he shows little Billy's trail through the neighbourhood).

I know the daily circle is rarely funny because I am for some reason drawn to Family Circus even though I know my hopes will be dashed. When I decide to read it the thought that comes to mind is one of those wasp traps that has about one hundred dead wasps in it already, but still the wasps keep coming. Can't they see all the other wasps who have tried and failed? Why do they keep coming?

So, while I say good riddance to "Cathy", but I don't have much hope for the rookie strip that takes her place to be much better. After all, if there were good ones out there wouldn't Bill Keane be retired by now?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Observations from the Road - Part Two

In case you missed part one, I'm traveling in the foreign country of the United States of America. Perhaps not foreign to you, and not so different from my country Canada as to cause any real confusion for me, but it is interesting to note the subtle little differences between these countries.

For me, Trash is the place I send unwanted emails or computer files. I do not throw my waste in the trash. I throw it in the garbage. I know what someone means when they say "take out the trash", but I'd say "take out the garbage". At some hotels they advertise a "spa". To us that means a place you can get a massage or maybe even a pedicure. Here, sadly for the Missus, it means they've got a hot tub. Which is interesting since it is also clear that in the U.S. they use the term hot tub. Maybe there is a difference between the two here that I'm not clear on.

A lot of the products are the same on either side of the border, but there are some things you can't get north of the 49th that I always get when I'm down south. I had some Wheaties for breakfast for instance. Why we don't have those is a mystery, because the rest of the cereal aisle is almost identical. Perhaps the American's competitive nature leads them to keeping the "Breakfast of Champions" all to themselves.

In an aside on the topic of funny and unnecessary signs (a previous blog topic), there is a funny one here in our cabin. I guess there is a law that there must be a fire plan in rental accommodations. Our fire plan shows a diagram of the cabin and then the following two steps: Step One - Open door. Step Two - Go out. I'm not kidding, that's what it says.

One of the more interesting events for us when we are traveling is visiting the local Safeways (grocery stores). You see, Safeway has a club card that you use when shopping to get the sale prices. When they swipe your card at the till it brings your name up on the receipt. They will say thank you Mr. So and So as they hand you the receipt. For some reason, back home our card when swiped brings up the last name Pusey. When they hand us the receipt they either mumble a name or just say thank-you as they are concerned, I assume, about the pronunciation. My running joke is if they were to say thank-you Mr. Pussy, I would respond, in a French accent, "That's Poo-Say". The thing is for some reason south of the border our card doesn't come up with the name Pusey, we actually get the thank you Mrs. Showers from the cashier. How weird is that?!

In closing, here's a strange but true traveling fact. In Oregon you are not allowed to pump your own gas. Either that or the guy at the gas station was really protective of his job. He told me this was the law in Oregon and New Jersey. Are these two states right about this or are the other 48? I wonder what their thinking is?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Observations From the Road - Part One

Hello my loyal blogladites, I'm on the road in a foreign country today. The United States of America. Perhaps your very own country, but slightly different in mystical ways to Canada where I hail from. Let me recount the little differences I've seen, at least in this neck of the woods.

Expresso shacks. I've seen a couple of these back home, but here, in what Americans fondly refer to as the Pacific Northwest, they are ubiquitous. (Ed. note: I've always wanted to use that word so I hope I'm using it correctly). What they are is little shacks that you can drive up to and buy an espresso. I went for a mocha myself and I walked up. Seems you can do that with the shacks, but don't try walking up to a Taco Bell drive-thru (a story for another time).

Restrooms are where you go to use a toilet. We generally call them washrooms. Wonder whose got that right? Are they more for washing or for resting? Seems we're both politely ignoring the real use of these rooms.

What's the deal on grits? I mean I'm not anywhere near the south of the US of A and they're offering me grits for breakfast. These definitely seem to stop at the border. On the other hand vinegar seems to have difficulty going south through the border so you can put it on your fries like we do in Canada.

No exit or dead end is replaced here by "No Outlet". Salt water taffy abounds. If we did have it in Canada I think it would be toffee and not taffy. You can buy beer in the grocery store here and that's good or at the very least convenient.

One thing that's the same on both sides of the border: Right in the heart of the touristy area, near the t-shirt shops, there is always a place to buy fudge!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hold the Good Ideas and Pass the Machismo

Recently I got to watch an 18 year old Japanese knuckleballer pitch in a minor league game in the independent Golden Baseball League. This pitcher was a few years younger than any other player on the field that night and not only that, she was a girl. A lot of people came out to watch the spectacle of her pitching. She had a strong first inning getting our local team out in order (3 up, 3 out), but after that she struggled to throw strikes and ended up giving up a bunch of runs on only one hit (a grand slam) and was pulled in the third inning.

There are very few knuckle ball pitchers in the major leagues, but there have been some successful ones over the years. My favourite being Charlie Hough who is 82nd on the all-time win list for pitchers, despite spending the first seven years of his career as a relief pitcher (they don't get credit for many wins).
I once saw him pitch an 11 inning, 2-1 win against Seattle. I was sitting behind the Seattle dugout and was amazed at the frustration expressed by the Seattle batters as they returned to the dugout. It was then that I grew to love the knuckleball. I have since taught it fairly effectively to two of my youth baseball players over the years.

Now comes my point. In the articles about the female knuckleballer, "The Knuckle Princess", and even on the recent segment on one of our Canadian national newscasts, it is always mentioned how difficult it is to throw the knuckleball effectively. While I will grant that it is more difficult to throw than a fastball, I don't think it is so much more difficult than any other pitch (curve, slider, forkball, etc.). I think the knuckleball is the victim of too much machismo!

Sports is an arena that is full of machismo and there are certain things that get written off by the macho culture of sports. The knuckleball is one of them. It's slow and therefore wimpy. Another is the underhand free throw in basketball. Rick Barry was one of the top players of the 1970's in professional basketball and is one of the top scorers in history. His career free throw percentage was 90 and at the time of his retirement was the best in history. He shot his free throws underhanded, which was the style in an earlier era.

The underhand shot was known in my neighbourhood as "granny" style. Machismo killed the underhand free throw and nobody shoots it anymore. Rick Barry was a fierce competitor and he wanted to win more than he wanted to look macho. You're telling me that everyone else shoots overhand because it's a better technique? Nope, it's all about machismo!