Thursday, February 22, 2018

Car Dealer Ads

A lot of the ads I hear on the radio are for a handful of major car dealerships around Charleston. As far as I can tell, they perpetually have major discounts and deals going on-- first there was a special Christmas sale, then a New Year's event, then Presidents' day sales that stretch to fill the whole month of February. In general, you can get a new car for $4000-6000 less than the sticker price by trading in your old car, spending your tax return on a new car, or just showing up with a decent credit rating.

A few factors make me distrust these ads. For a start, loud voices and aurally abrasive sound effects put me in a bad mood within the first few seconds of most dealership ads. Secondly, car salespeople as a group don't have a great reputation for honesty, and from the style and content of their ads, it seems that none of the local dealerships are trying to set themselves apart from this stereotype. Also, the focus on affordability rings hollow in a system where most corporations prioritize profit; a discount is much more likely to be a sales tactic than a good deal.

In any case, I'm happy to add these dealership ads to my list of advertisements that make me less likely to do business with a company. Overall, I'm surprised that with the amount of money people spend on advertising, so many ads come across as empty and annoying.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Comic Quality

I read the comics in the daily newspaper whenever I get the chance, and while I'm certainly entertained, I rarely find myself actually laughing at a comic. Out of the thirty or so comics on the two-page spread, there are maybe three or four that I look forward to as probably being funny. I'm sure that other comics appeal to other people's senses of humor, but it also seems very possible that, given the requirement to produce one comic a day, it's impossible for the average cartoonist to think of a great idea for every strip.

I can't really think of a good solution for this-- rerunning a few pages of Calvin and Hobbes each day would be fun, but even that would get old after a while. In a lot of ways, it seems to me that the comics with the most longevity are the ones that focus on characters over jokes. Anyone can run out of punchlines, but comics with well-developed characters are more self-sustaining, and a lot of humor eventually comes from the unique actions and perspectives of these characters. The best of example of this that I can think of is Peanuts: most individual strips are not particularly funny, but overall it is one of my favorite comics. Humorous personalities developed over years of daily strips carry the comic past a collection of jokes to something much more meaningful.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Dryer Lint

Dryer lint is a sort of magic; clothes are put in the dryer and clothes and lint come out. Classic philosophers might suggest that lint is produced ex nihilo, but the modern conclusion must be that the lint is subtracted from the clothes being dried, which in turn suggests two things. First, my clothes must be getting thinner every time I dry them, and I suppose that if I kept drying them indefinitely, they would disappear entirely.

This is very similar to the way rock works; igneous rock (the clothes) is ground down to dust (the lint), which is then compacted into sedimentary and metamorphic rock and so on. The second conclusion, then, if lint follows the pattern of rock, is that it should be possible to recycle dryer lint into new fabric (felt maybe?) and continue the cycle. None of this is empirical, of course, but that just means the logic is purer, right?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fresh Starts

In general, I like fresh starts. If I leave a book I've read partway through or a video game I've started but not finished and then come back later, I'll often start the whole thing over to get a unity of experience not possible with on-and-off consumption. In the past few years, I've enjoyed traveling to and living in new places, getting set up and getting into a new routine.

Of course, the problem with always starting things is that you less frequently get around to finishing things, which is possibly even more fulfilling. I don't believe that I'll ever stop starting things, but there are at least a few short-term habits in my life that I'm trying to turn into long-term habits so that I can get the payoff of a thing well finished.

Also, I'm not going back to the start of the Witcher games because it took me forever to play the first two.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fun With Foraging

I've been interested in plants for a while now, but that doesn't automatically transfer into actual knowledge about plants. The goal for someone who is interested in plants, I suppose, is to be one of those people who can walk through a forest and recognize all the species by sight and smell, and know their uses as well.

Spending time in the Yukon was an unexpected boon in this matter because there are relatively few plant species (and less biodiversity in general) in such northern environments. In the valley where we worked, for example, there were only two types of trees to keep track of-- if it had needles, it was a spruce tree, and if it had leaves, it was a poplar. With the help of a good field guide, then, my dream of knowing most of a forest could be realized thanks to subarctic simplicity.

I was happy to find that many of the local plants were edible, in part or in whole. Fireweed, the official flower of the Yukon, is the perfect starter for anyone interested in foraging-- it is visually distinct, very common (at least where we were), and every part of it can be eaten, though the young shoots and flowers are probably the tastiest. Several other plants were eventually added to the pool of things I could snack on while in the woods: a few berries, a few flowers (rose petals are generally pretty good), and several sorts of leaves were on the menu.

There were also several local plants that were very poisonous, which made things more interesting. It certainly provided an incentive for accurate identification. There was a type of purple flower you couldn't eat that would make you hesitate to seek out the type of purple flower you could eat, and so on. Again, a good field guide was a real lifesaver.

At many points, I wondered if I had learned enough to survive for a few days on foraging alone. There was, after all, a lot of fireweed around. I never got to test this, but perhaps that is for the best.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Simple Ramen

I grew up with ramen noodles in Nigeria, specifically Indomie, a brand that I just learned comes from Indonesia. Apparently Indomie introduced instant noodles to Nigeria in the 1990s and now has the largest instant noodle factory in Africa there. In college in Atlanta, I was introduced to more gourmet types of ramen, with all sorts of vegetables and fancy meats, and maybe an egg or something. The recipe below is the start of my attempts to have fancy ramen with minimal effort.

5 C water
2 packs instant noodles
2 C frozen vegetables
1 can Vienna sausages (the canned kind)

Put water on to heat in pot and add vegetables. Chop up Vienna sausages and add to pot. When water boils, add instant noodles. Cook for 3 minutes, remove from heat, and add seasoning packets.

So far I haven't found a shortcut for putting an egg in.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Post Poem

Every day at one o'clock one might be booned to see
One's postal box be filled via a postal employee
One's often joyed with envelopes but frequent dulls the keen
When every mail is spam that has been molded by machine