Cigarette and Booze Warning Labels!

Be sure you scroll through all the images on this page.

OK, We’ve all seen the latest warning label news from the FDA. Cigarette smokers have plummeted to 20% of the population, but recently the rate of quitting flatlined. The FDA and CDC want a new get-tough policy on warnings. The new cigarette package labels, mandated for use very soon, will show up to 10 different and very grizzly pictures. The one on the left compares normal lungs with a smoker’s lungs.

This image was taken just this afternoon from the government FDA web page, which suddenly seems to be out of order.

Other images will include autopsied corpses, rotted teeth, and other gruesome photos. The object is aversion therapy and a severely graphic warning to new smokers. The old labels, last I saw, merely informed us bluntly that the Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking will kill you.

Notice that the new warnings are in glorious full color. Not the first thing you want to see in the morning when you wake up with a horrible hangover and reach for that pack of smokes. These are not printed in a small black font on the side of the pack. They are to be printed on the front and back sides. The upper half of the packs is now essentially U.S. government property, and manufacturers cannot hide or alter that. They get to figure out what to do with their branding logos on the bottom half of each side of the pack.

Consumer reaction is already a hot topic. Many non-smokers will of course bestow their approval on anything that discourages smoking, even if it demeans and humiliates. What’s interesting is that a lot of the reactions come from veteran smokers. One woman, who recently lost her own mother to cancer, has smoked for 40 years and still does. I believe her feeling was that she’d like to make up her own mind, thank you very much.

I quit cigarettes with my late partner Bob in June 2000. He died of lung cancer five years later. I still don’t touch cigarettes (I do smoke a pipe) and never will again. I can’t minimize the dangers of smoking of any kind (including pipes). But this latest government action strikes me as way over the top. I’m predicting an enormous backlash. Hint to retailers: I’m also predicting a huge boost in the sale of old-fashioned silver cigarette cases and those waterproof plastic smoke boxes.

But wait, there’s more. What about automobiles, another huge killer? Can’t we have mandatory pictures of corpses and decapitated heads silk-screened onto car doors (driver and passenger sides)?

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Amazon Bird Calls has some elegant and much-emulated software algorithms to suggest items we might be interested in purchasing. Suggestions are based on our own ordering histories, and also on related items other customers purchased after buying some item in our order history.

Thus, if you once ordered the Nash Ensemble’s recording of Schubert’s Trout Quintet (theme song for the BBC Britcom Waiting For God), the software might be smart enough to suggest a new release of the complete Schubert symphonies, while being smart enough not to set up associations with unrelated symphonies like Dvorak’s New World.

Hence, if you’re interested in a Field Guide to Birds: Arizona and New Mexico, why not branch out into bird calls, or, better yet, buy this new phone and place that bird call yourself?

Amazon Bird Calls

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Spell Checker

I was doing a spell-check on a document in Microsoft Word just now. The sentence in question was: “Please advise.” Microsoft flagged the word, suggesting “advice”. The MS explanation: “Commonly Confused Words”.

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Valley of the Kings: Secrets in Stone

The much-disrespected SphinxSome of the statuary in the ruins of ancient Egypt have been mutilated or possibly defaced – the great Sphinx, and lesser monuments to the rulers of the old kingdoms. Archaeologists have in some cases deduced that a persistent, widespread pattern of defacement can be connected to efforts to obliterate memory of some deposed or hated public figure.

But these monuments are now 4,500 years old. Archaeologists recognize that much of this kind of damage could be due to looters, vandalism or the ravages of time. The fact of major damage to a statue or monument, taken by itself, is no proof of an old royal scandal, cover-up, or cabal. In fact, such damage could even be the result of mere malicious mischief – of the kind perpetrated by juveniles with too much time on their hands.

Archeologists are trying to determine which kids might have committed some of the more obvious vandalism, and when they do, they’re going to tell their moms.

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Found Cat

Found Cat. This picture is circulating the internet.

The question that the sender came up with: “Makes me wonder how they sexed it…”

The answer one of us came up with:

Cat’o’possums can be sexed, but it’s not easy, and it may take time. Methodical evaluation of lacerations on the hands and face is paramount here.

1.       Minor lacerations, heals quickly – juvenile of either sex

2.       Major lacerations but you get over it – male

3.       Major lacerations that never heal properly and leave permanent scars – female

4.       I never said that, this is just what I heard from somebody else.

Participants’ names are withheld to protect the guilty parties.

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We Like The Moon

It’s still there after all these years: the original Spongmonkeys, from which that horrid old Quiznos singing commercial was taken, about 2004. And it’s still horrible, which is why I keep coming back to it. For self-assurance that you haven’t completely lost all of that irresponsible old juvenile humor, you can check it out yourself at Please do turn down the volume control on your PC speakers so you don’t get evicted. They are still offering spongmonkey T-shirts, though I couldn’t guess why.

We’ve even posted the lyrics below the screen capture image to help ruin your day. 🙂

We Like The Moon

We Like The Moon

We like the moon
coz it is close to us
we like the moooon!
but not as much as a spoon
’cause that’s more use for eating soup
and a fork isn’t very useful for that
unless it has got many vegetables
and then you might be better off with a
unlike the moon
it is up in the sky
it’s up there very high
but not as high
as maybe
digibles or zeppelins
or lightbulbs
and maybe clouds
and puffins also I think maybe
they go quite high too
maybe not as high as the moon
coz the moon is very high
we like the moon
the moon is very useful everyone
everybody like the moon
because it light up the sky at night
and it lovely
and it makes the tide go and we like it
but not as much as cheese
we really like cheese
we like zeppelins
we really like them
and we like kelp and we like moose
and we like deer and we like marmots
and we like all the fluffy animals
we really like the moon

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Liar Liar, Pants on Fire

I just finished a delightful New Yorker article by John Le Carre, author of many popular spy novels, and former spymeister himself. Le Carre shares with us some of his early training and observations while in British intelligence around those heady postwar days of the early 1950’s. The article is “The Madness of Spies” in the September 29 New Yorker.

But I don’t want to review the Le Carre article. Delightful as its anecdotes are, they are only further proof of something I learned back in 1964 or so: I could never, ever be a successful spy.

I am, or was, a huge fan of Le Carre. To the best of my recollection I only ever read one out of almost two dozen popular Le Carre novels: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. And there’s a reason for that precipitous dropoff in my reading rate. Le Carre is an acknowledged master at de-mythologizing the romantic and 100% fictitious Bond school of spy adventure.

Now, I LOVED those Bond movies. They were safe. You’ll never catch ME in Monte Carlo with a tux, a blonde and a wad of pounds sterling. “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” convinced me: spying is really a nasty, brutish, and often short-lived career. Ian Fleming was great. But it took John Le Carre to convince me that line of work is barking up the wrong tree.

Spies are supposed to be duplicitous. If you aren’t good enough that all your peers suspect you must be a double agent, you’ll get parked in some backwater office along the fringes of the Sahara.

My mother used to tell me I would never be a good liar. Indeed she did have high and strict standards of honesty, and yet she seemed to admire the many artful dodgers in her own family. For me, her transparently clumsy evasive son, concealment was a sin. When it came to owning up to who broke the shower door, being forthcoming was a virtue, though rewarded with swift and byzantine publishment.

So, after all these years, all I have learned is that Mother was right. I’m the world’s worst liar. You can skip the klieg lights and brutal interrogations at the back room at the station. You can find what you want to know just to look at me. If that doesn’t work, just let me rabbit on until I hang myself. I can’t keep track of who I told what, so if there is a web of inconsistent stories, I already know they will all point back to me. Even my “white lies” have a telltale ring of insincerity about them. “It’s written all over your face.”

I don’t blend in. I can still remember those years of standing on the platform waiting for the San Francisco train, just one unmemorable soul among several hundred identically-dressed men: gray pin-stripe wool three-piece suit, gray Samsonite briefcase, leather shoes in some condition of needing a good polish. I can still remember the breeze as a train rushed by one day, realizing I must be the only one of those hundreds of men who forgot to zip up.

To remain anonymous in the crowd, you want to give the appearance of being completely lost in the inner, self-centered world. I make eye contact. I show expressions such as smiles or frowns. I look around alertly at my environment, like a rabbit watching the descending hawk. I even stare. In San Francisco, there was always a hat sitting on every street-corner sidewalk, its tenured owner holding the “Please Help” and “Spare Change” cardboard signs. Why, at the exact moment when I arrived at the street corner, would this poor soul choose just then to “go off”, shouting incoherent rants and epithets?

I’m not much of a “Mom was right” sort, but, you know, sometimes she was. I was never a good liar. I never will be. And Le Carre was right, too. Spying is just not my cup of tea, mate.

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Musical Clowns

Near our community’s Eden Hospital, we’ve acquired a number of ambulance drivers who’ve learned to toggle their electronic sirens to produce quasi-musical noises. Instead of the full ear-splitting 102 decibel ambulence siren shriek, these clowns can produce half-note bursts of varying frequencies. The resulting “woo-woo-wip” noise is fully as annoying as the unadulterated original, if not quite as loud, so it all balances out on the community disturbance scale.

None of these toggle-switch artists have any musical talent, so it’s very reminiscent of the college frat-house stunt where they would record the sounds of flatulence, splicing them together at varying pitches. The resulting strains of “Yankee Doodle” or “Chopsticks” were said to be highly amusing, and we can only suppose that the best of these kids went on in life to become ambulance chasers, and the ones who didn’t make it could still become ambulance drivers, thereby continuing to vent their college antics upon the unsuspecting public.

On the theory that a little competition brings out the best – or worst – in the musically disinclined, I’m proposing 2008 playoffs between the ambulance drivers and the Castro Valley fire department, who do not fiddle with their sirens, but who do produce excellent midrange and bass notes. In theory, it’s possible they’d collectively be able to produce a plausible “Good Vibrations”, “Alley Oop” or even (who knows) “Tocatta and Fugue in D.”

Add the jackhammers and dump trucks of PG&E and CalTrans, and we could get  Gene Krupa  on steroids.

If if were possible to assemble the whole entourage on the deck of the decommissioned battleship  USS Massachusetts,  with a few salvos of the big 16″ guns, we could get an excellent finale to the 1812 Overture. This piece de resistance, of course, could always be performed at 2AM, the aspiring musician’s finest hour in these parts.

Attendance would be high, with the whole county auditioning – involuntarily. I cannot think of a finer way to bring fame to our sleepy little community.

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