National Grandparents Day – Please Gift Responsibly

Happy Grandparents Day Scribbles
A scribble picture from a child to a grandparent

In 1978 the US Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day  as National Grandparents Day. For 2015 that falls on September 13th, begging the question of how – or whether – you plan to observe it.

Some would say it’s just another Hallmark holiday, suggesting that it’s a “made up” holiday concocted primarily so that Hallmark and other companies can profit from it. Certainly money is made relative to Grandparents Day, but the same can be said for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and a variety of other holidays.

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A Pox on Gift Shops

Seasonal candles and candle holders in a gift shop window
Seasonal candles and candle holders in a gift shop window

I’ve referred to gift shops as places that sell things you wouldn’t buy for yourself. Recently I had to clean out a house that included gifts like these that had become a burden. In fact, an entire cabinet was filled with candles received as gifts.

As I was filling (and hauling) boxes, I was not thinking nice things about the nice people in the nice gift shops selling those nice gifts. Quite the contrary, I thought about the people who wanted to do something nice by giving a friend or loved-one something they’d enjoy looking at, not realizing the recipient would eventually need to do something with it. It was also a wake-up call to me that I want to deal with my own clutter now rather than subjecting someone else to it later. Not only does it take up space, but clutter is unhealthy.

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Happy Birthday America!

American FlagsOn July 4, America celebrates Independence Day. Contrary to popular belief, it marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and not the Constitution, which was ratified  over a decade later.

That was then…

Like many holidays, the sentiment behind Independence Day sometimes seems overtaken by commercialization and marketing. We see “4th of July” sales, and even references to “the holiday.” Then there are the picnics, ball games, fireworks… things which actually start to sound familiar:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

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Does Fresh Flying Food Make You Hungry?

You’ve seen the ads on TV: Colorful tomatoes and other vegetables flying through the air while the sound track repeatedly says “Fresh!” – as if you’re part of some experiment in Pavlovian conditioning. Sometimes the vegetables run into a knife in mid-air, though “fresh” isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind when I see that.

Take One

Wet, sunlit, fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes flying through the air toward an imagined knife.
Wet, sunlit, fresh tomatoes flying through the air.

I did an experiment with some vegetables to see if fresh, wet vegetables in motion made me hungry. What do you think? These tomatoes look great to me, but seeing them in motion don’t necessarily make me any more hungry. Maybe because I took my pictures outside (instead of indoors in front of a black background) they aren’t as appealing. Maybe black or white backgrounds like the studios use are supposed to help make us even more hungry?

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Like a Cross Between Ballet and Speed Chess

I knew I might be in trouble when I clicked on a Google search result and the page that opened was crawling with ads. Then the page clicked-over to a different site on its own: To an article in Vogue I believe. The article itself didn’t look especially threatening, but that’s not a site I visit – and most importantly, I hadn’t done anything to be taken there.

OUTLOOK.EXE MalwareEverything seemed fine after that, but later I clicked the icon to open Microsoft Word and received a UAC (User Account Control) warning from Windows indicating that a program it didn’t trust was trying to start. Any time a Microsoft application isn’t recognized by a Microsoft operating system, something is clearly amiss. I’ve used Word zillions of times with no issue like this, which reinforced that something was wrong, so I didn’t allow it to start. The same thing happened later when I started Outlook, and then Java, underscoring that I had a serious problem.

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Low-Tech Advertising Works!

This morning I was driving along, minding my own business, when I encountered a dozen or more enthusiastic young people waving home-made signs for their car wash. My car was due for a wash, and I do like to support folks who are willing to get out there and work for a cause, so they had my attention.

Then I spotted the sign: The one that said Make Mom Happy and Wash the Car

That was completely unfair – but effective. 🙂  In fact, far more effective than a hand-scrawled sign has any right to be. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve passed hand-written signs guaranteeing to refinance your home, offering a lucrative work-from-home job, or perhaps something else that might sound a little too good to be true. I don’t pay them any attention; do you? Their rough nature doesn’t instill confidence that the people who created the signs are really in the business of high finance or sophisticated marketing.

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Always asking "What are you trying to accomplish?"