Sasquatch in the Suburbs

Back in the early 1970s, Sasquatch (a.k.a. Bigfoot) was all the rage. He was allegedly a large, hairy ape-like biped who roamed the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

A still from a film that either showed Bigfoot, or a guy in an ape suit.

Actually, our hairy friend was part of the rage, which also included the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, Elvis sightings, and various other quasi-bogus paranormal stuff. The thing about these were that there was all these tantalizing stories, but never anything that constituted proof. Still, it made for some interesting movies.

I’ve been thinking about Sasquatch recently, especially when I walk my dog through a local patch of woods (more pics here), where I sometimes see a blue heron.

I love seeing the bird, because he’s big, and good-looking, and rare. I’ve only seem him twice. The first time I saw him I was by myself and only had my cell phone camera, and in the long-distance photo I took, you couldn’t see him. For a few days after, I took a small camera with me in the hopes of getting a photo.

Of course he didn’t show.

But he showed up this morning, not all that far away. I only had my cell phone (does this sound familiar?), so I tried taking another photo.

Take a careful look. Do you see him there, on the left side of the water?

I know …  inconclusive. Maybe I’ll get a photo of him tomorrow, when I start taking the camera with me again. Or maybe I’ll have to dress up like Sasquatch so he’ll let me get close enough to take a decent photo.

Let’s hope not.

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USA Today, the top newspaper in the country (circulation-wise), is rumored to be considering offering its writers page view bonuses.” — Business Insider

Mortgage rates change less than Donald Trump’s hair
By Joey Cothaw, USA Today

NEW YORK — Despite tumultuous recent events including a possible federal government shutdown, Glenn Beck leaving Fox, and Matt Lauer leaving the Today Show just like Katie Couric did, the search for Obama’s birth certificate, a revolutionary new diet, and an exclusive set of Kim Kardashian nude photos, fixed mortgage rates were essentially unchanged this week, as the average rate on the 30-year fixed loan stayed below 5%.

Celebrities such as Kate Hudson would make out roughly the same because of unchanged interest rates.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages rose to 4.87% from 4.86% the previous week. It hit a 40-year low of 4.17% in November, when a shop owner in Philadelphia picked winning PowerBall numbers.

“These rates are as stuck as the Wisconsin legislature, but without the Paul Ryan voodoo math,” said an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so that Wikileaks wouldn’t reveal his sexting habit. “They need help from a Kelly Clarkson hit song, or tsunami video footage, or something.”

The average rate on 15-year fixed mortgages increased to 4.10% from 4.09%. It reached 3.57% in November (read the horoscope for Scorpios), the lowest rate on records dating back to 1991.

“You’d think these low rates would be like bargain Canadian pharmaceuticals, boosting home sales like Viagra or Cialis or Levitra,” the unnamed official said. “Instead, they’re like a sad old Hugh Hefner, leaving those buxom Playboy Magazine Playmates unfulfilled in their intimate lingerie.”

Low rates have done little to boost home sales, which are as stubbornly entrenched as Muammar Gaddafi (sometimes spelled Gadhafi, Qaddafi, Khadafy or Khadafi), the ruler of Libya. Many builders of dream homes have reported a sharp decline in home orders for the December-February quarter.

In Los Angeles (a place of many celebrity sightings and movies), one company said its new home orders dropped 32% from last year. Such declines, the company said, are worse than the drop in U.S. productivity after a Britney Spears crotch sighting, or a Lindsay Lohan drug scandal. “Our business is deader than Elizabeth Taylor,” the spokesperson said.

Many would-be buyers are as hopeful American Idol contestants, but they’re finding it’s no Tea Party out there, thanks to strict credit requirements, unemployment fears and expectations that home prices will fall further, because of the record number of foreclosured homes on the market. (For hot stock market tips, click here.)

The five-year hit 3.25% last month, the lowest rate on records dating back to January 2005 — a year dominated by news of the Iraq War and natural disasters.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate loan fell to 3.22% from 3.26%. Three weeks ago, the rate hit 3.17%, the lowest level on records dating back to 1984, the year many celebrities were born, including Prince Harry, Katy Perry, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “The Social Network” starring Justin Timberlake.

Note: Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Karina Smirnoff did not provide additional reporting on this article.

Scenes from a Sunday

My son is in second grade, which is an exciting time because his literacy is exploding. A while back, he narrated a day when we were packing up to leave his grandma’s house. He must have then decided one of the pages wasn’t worth keeping, since it wound up in the recycling.

I decided it was worth keeping. Here’s the first page (I’ll try and transcribe it below, correcting only capitalization):

My dog is Barking. wer going back to ore house. We wend te Grand-ma and grand-pas house. My parents are packing up all the things. My grand-pa has his cane with him. He has his jacket onto. Now my dog is just staring at me. My brother is playing with his Bucky Balles.

Here’s the second page:

This one’s a little harder to transcribe, because some of his letters got cropped off on the other side of the perforation, but here goes:

Am borde. All I hav to do is sit. sit. Sits. My dog is ling down. Now am lukin ate three wudin do to have colore and w isall wud. Let roc and roll! We hit t(he) rode ate 50 miles per hour. Am puting on shoose. My brother stuck his hed awt t(he) window to say good by. My brother mac a tree awt of Bucky B(alls).

Career Opportunities

Wanted: Intern for a challenging-fast paced position. Duties will include finding my socks, sorting my socks into color-matching pairs, and storing my socks in appropriate drawers. Intern will also recommend which outdated pairs of socks should be culled, and draft a long-term “sock plan.”

This is an excellent entry-level opportunity for anyone interested in a dynamic career in hosiery management. Inquire within.

9 Reasons Squirrels Suck at Social Media

His brain is barely bigger than a Kardashian's.

1. Unreliable online presence, especially during times of peak nut-gathering, or when they’re in rut.

2. Despite user statistics showing a varied audience demographic, they tweet obsessively about digging, blinking, gathering, sniffing, and eating. And sometimes forgetting where they dug the holes to put the stuff they gathered.

3. Every social media strategy meeting ends with a them screeching incessantly, like a chorus of unlubricated wheel bearings.

4. Instead of proactively engaging with stakeholders, squirrels frequently run away from the keyboard to climb fences.

5. They engender intense enmity from the human social media community because, like porn stars, they gain thousands of followers by posting photos and videos of themselves shaking their tails.

6. They do a poor job of managing their online personal brands. Instead, they hop from blog communities to social networks to video sharing sites as if they were some sort of urban tree canopy. (Though to be fair, they were among the first to leave MySpace.)

7. Every day on Facebook they click the Like button, and post a comment that says, “I’m nuts about this!” That was funny for one day, Hammy.

8. All those irritating one-word status updates like “Acorn!” and “Cashew!”, like their brains are nothing more than a Status Shuffle from the Nut Marketing Bureau.

9. They never retweet. Like, anyone. Ever.

The Man-Machine Merge

My wife called me from Ikea last week, asking if I needed anything. Did I need anything? How about a house that isn’t full of boxes, and incomprehensible Swedi-named plastic detritus? But of course that wasn’t an option.

Ikea’s product design strategy is to make products so futuristic-Euro-looking that no one has a f*cking clue what they are. Case in point was the Egil … stool? I guess it’s a stool, though it looks like something that busted off a whack-a-mole game.

Anyhow, after my wife assembled it, I was flipping through the multilingual instructions (that’s a fancy way of saying “there’s no text”). I found this:

I’m sure you could parse this various ways: Happiness is kneeling on an oriental carpet! Happiness is welding your forearm to a bookshelf! Happiness is welding your forearm to a bookshelf while you use your other hand to scratch your ass!

Whatever that means, that guy is just a little too intimate with that shelf. I try to be tolerant of other people’s kinks, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Otherwise we’ll have a world that looks like this:

The White Elephant

A few years ago my wife and I went to her office Christmas party, which had a white elephant gift exchange. The rules for it were fairly simple:

  1. We drew paper chits to determine the order.
  2. Each person took his or her turn choosing a gift. The first person picked a gift, opened it, and showed it to the rest of the company.
  3. The next person could either unwrap a new gift, or “steal” a previously unwrapped gift. If a gift was “stolen,” that person who was stolen from got to unwrap another gift.

When it was our turn, we unwrapped something pretty nice: a bottle of wine. A turn or two later, someone stole it.

We chose again, and unwrapped some nice candle holders. Those were stolen as well.

We chose a third time, and unwrapped a really nice Asian tea set, with a small, handmade pot and four small cups. It was stolen.

So we chose a fourth time, and ended up with the thermos you see above. If you look carefully at the thin black line, you’ll see that the thermos is dented. Not surprisingly, no one stole it.

We unwrapped three nice gifts, and came home with a dented thermos.

The thermos gathered dust in a cabinet for a year, until it was time for my wife’s next office Christmas party. This time we were bringing our two boys, the oldest of whom was eight. On the way to the party we explained the rules of the gift exchange, and told them the story of how we got stuck with the pitcher.

To keep our sons from getting bored, we agreed to let our older one unwrap the present when it was our turn. As we waited, someone unwrapped the dented white thermos. My wife and I exchanged a look, and she said, “There it goes!”

A short while later it was our son’s turn, and we reminded him he could unwrap a present or steal something that had been already unwrapped.

He stood up, but he didn’t head for the tree and the presents. Instead, he pointed across the room, and pointed. “I’ll take that,” he announced.

He had just stolen the white thermos.

When Analogies Collapse

I once heard someone say that if you push any comparison far enough, it will fall apart. I had that comment in mind this week when I kept running across comparisons that didn’t quite work. Or really didn’t quite work

The first is from a good soccer blog called The Run of Play. They were writing about a recent FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid match. Those two teams are the heavyweights in Spanish soccer, and two of the best clubs in the entire world. But when they played last week, Barca embarrassed Real Madrid, winning 5-0, which is rare, rare, rare. Good soccer teams like Real simply don’t get drubbed like that.

To give credit where it’s due, Alan Jacobs can write well:

There’s something fey abut how Barça plays when they’re at their best, as though they’re engaged in some odd game of their own and are not even aware of what observers (including, or especially, the other team on the pitch) think about it. Real played an extremely high defensive line yesterday, and for minutes on end Barça seemed content to pass the ball around at midfield — and then there would be some sudden, inexplicable drive forward and the ball would be in the net and everyone would be thinking, Wait, what just happened there?

That’s a good summary, and the set-up of two of Barça’s goals looked utterly unthreatening until one brilliant pass sprung someone, and the ball was in the back of the net. But the challenge for Jacobs is to put it in perspective; and he takes his shot:

Barcelona plays like slime mold. Slime mold is sort of an organism and sort of a collection of organisms: it combines or divides according to circumstance and need. Sometimes it will assemble itself into one vast colony, sometimes split into hundreds of them. Its intelligence is not directed but collective and emergent, swarming; there’s no one player or coach making the crucial decisions, those decisions just happen.

Jacobs even links to a slime mold video at the cellular level, but I still think his shot misses rather badly. If you want to belabor the point, check out slime mold in time lapse:

As lovely and orange and organicky as this may be, it in no way reminds me of Barça.

I will sneak up on the second analogy, which is only kindasorta an analogy, by mentioning that the season’s hot new flavor is bacon. I’ve heard of bacon alcohol, bacon ice cream, bacon bandages and bacon air freshener, and even My First Bacon talking plush toy. After a little while, you say, “I get it. People like bacon. Let’s put bacon on stuff. Let’s put bacon on a donut.”

A while back it was pomegranate. Who knows what will be next. I was at a party last week, and there was beer with coriander in it. Maybe coriander?

But at some point during Bacon Madness™, it was bound to happen: Someone would take the bacon meme a strip too far. And last week, we reached that point: bacon lube.

Not only is bacon full of fat, thus grease, which is itself a lube (making the product redundant), you open yourself up to a whole spate of stupid double-entendres, like having a sizzling session of sex, or bringing a whole new scent and flavor to the term “porking.”

I know I’m becoming the Andy Rooney of comparisons. I can’t make the mental leap to describe one of the world’s best soccer teams as fungus-like organisms that use spores to reproduce.

And I only want to get my bacon flavor from bacon, and not a sexual aid. Call me what you will: uptight, old-fashioned, even Victorian. I know it’s a missionary position. But it’s still better than piggy style.