Monday, June 1, 2009

Overrated technology: Leaf Blowers and Automatically-flushing toilets

(Today's guest blog is brought to you by Field Guide -- sorry about the delay.)

When I see someone using a leaf blower, I feel really sad.

I feel sad because I put myself in that person’s shoes and think how pointless and meaningless life must seem: I am an Hispanic immigrant, standing on Poplar or Central, blowing the leaves of the overprivileged into the street, and cars whiz by me and blow them right back onto the sidewalk or into the yard. And I don’t care because I’m paid to do this. (Leafblowing = Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.) No matter what, the trees are going to continue to produce leaves, and they’re inevitably going to fall to the ground. And rather than composting them, I blow them into the street. This is job security.

Leafblowing is the quintessential example of futility. It’s the ultimate in technological and social resignation. Paying people to do futile, pointless work.... And is there anything worse than pointlessness? I can’t imagine waking up every morning thinking, “I’m going to use a leaf blower all day long.” This is not meant to be disparaging to the landscaping and yardwork community. I would love to plant things and tend gardens and mow lawns (especially with the old-fashioned human-powered lawn mowers), and as an occupation, landscaping and gardening work – farming and tending in general – are tremendously rewarding jobs.

But leaf blowers ruin it. Leaf blowers emit fumes into the air which decrease air quality. And they disperse the problem of errant leaves without finding a real solution. Leafblowers are the manifestation of NIMBY. Or NIMFY (if it’s the front yard). They’re ubiqutous flagrant examples of the decline of society.

Automatically-flushing toilets are not far behind on my worst-inventions list. There are several worst-case bathroom scenarios that transpire in the ladies’ lavatory as a result of automatically-flushing toilets:

Scenario 1: You want to sit to do your business, but you want to paper the potty first. So you grab a handful of tissue and wipe down the wet seat. Your bending over the toilet causes the toilet to automatically flush, creating more water to spray on the seat.

Scenario 2: Repeat Scenario 1 first. If you’re lucky, the self-flusher has been tricked into submission and won’t flush again. You wipe down the seat (again) and then paper the potty. You may now assume the position.

Scenario 3: Repeat Scenarios 1 and 2. You’re done with your business, and now you have to finish the process. You lean over to reach for the TP and the self-flushing toilet is activated by your booty lifting off the seat. Your backside is now wet and sprayed with toilet bowl water. Congratulations. Now you have the TP that you used to paper the potty stuck to your hindside.

Isn’t this ridiculous? I don’t even understand why automatically-flushing toilets even exist. Are we such infants that we have to relegate bathroom cleanup to automated toilets? Are we not capable of flushing on our own? And let me tell you, airports are the worst. Not only do you have all your luggage in the stall with you, creating a more cramped environment, but those automatically-flushing toilets are super-aggressive and ultra-sensitive.Moreover, yellow is mellow, but brown goes down. Automatically-flushing toilets are not discriminating about their contents.

Modern technology can be really humiliating.

Of course there are underrated conveniences like a dishwasher or like a milk/cream foamer for coffee that I really appreciate and am not willing to get rid of. Autoclaves are nice as well. As are indoor-outdoor thermometers. And pyrethrum bug sprayers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why can't napkins be more like tissues?

Some people have claimed that I'm overly negative, focusing primarily on overrated things. In the interest of being fair and balanced, here are some overrated/underrated couplets that have been on my mind recently.

Overrated: the month of July
Underrated: the month of March

Sure, July has the 4th, which is nice, but anything with fireworks as a central focus is probably a bit overblown. July is nice when you're young, because it means no school and lots of free time. But for most adults who have real jobs (and I'm not saying I'm one of them), it's not clear why July (or the summer in general) is any more special than other times of year. Plus, weather-wise, July is too hot, almost everywhere in the U.S., and certainly everywhere I've lived. March, on the other hand, while generally viewed favorably by most people, could be the best month of the year. In the south, the few days when the flowers bloom on the trees before any leaves start to bud are probably the best days of the year. In the north, the first sunny 50 degree day after a bunch of february snowfall, with rivers of melting snow on the sides of the streets, is pretty great as well. March also has the greatest sporting event of the year in March Madness (and I'm saying this despite the horrible sequence of events that has occurred in the current tournament).

Overrated: saying "the south of France"
Underrated: "southern France"

Seriously, why is France so special? Why don't people say "the south of California is just lovely this time of year?"

Overrated: tattoos on girls you'd expect to have tattoos.
Underrated: tattoos on girls you'd not expect to have tattoos.

Overrated: napkin dispensers
Underrated: tissue dispensers

The common napkin dispenser is one of the most poorly designed items I've ever encountered. I'm pretty sure that napkin dispenser technology has not changed in 50 years or more. Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of training or common sense among individuals who fill them. If filled properly, it's possible to grab the short part of the napkin and be on your way. But if the napkins are reversed, you have to dig your finger into the sides of the napkins and grab them, inevitably pulling out about 20 and dislodging the rest of the stack from the machine. Since napkin fillers are likely to remain stupid, I think the easiest solution to this problem is to make napkin dispensers more like tissue dispensers. Whoever designed the tissue formation such that pulling out one brings the next one into position for easy removal is a genius. And while I realize that napkins are a little thicker, I see no reason why a similar mechanism couldn't work for them as well.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Keep Your Hands Off My Hummus!

Welcome back, folks. Doug Campbell has graciously agreed to write a guest-blog about something he feels passionately about. For other, non-vegetable related writings of his, check out his blog at


Hi everyone. I’ve volunteered to be a guest writer in this nascent blog to expose one of the most criminally overrated food items on the planet. I’m not terribly worried about overstating my case here, as this nefarious ingredient has infiltrated nearly every course on restaurant menus and grocery store aisle. I could go on about the overwhelming overuse of this ... thing ... but perhaps it’s best to identify the source of my chagrin.

Roasted red peppers.

Maybe not what you were expecting, and that’s fine. It’s not as though roasted red peppers are really the stand-out culinary accessory there were a decade or so ago. And that’s my main objection to roasted red peppers: they’re presented as a means of making food more “creative” or “exotic” or even “luxurious,” when in fact they are as common as table salt. And about as creative in application.

First, a disclaimer or two. I don’t dislike roasted red peppers per se. I can’t claim that I really like them - by themselves, they’re rather goopy and sloppy, and their sweetness is often cloying. But if added as an ingredient and balanced by something particularly smoky or heat-inducing, they’re fine. And I do very much enjoy red peppers (and their green, orange, and yellow siblings) in other applications - in stir frys, chili, or even raw. Heck, I think we even have a jar of roasted red peppers in our fridge.

What I object to is the belief that adding roasted red peppers to a food item, be it salad dressing, a sauce, a side dish, or an entree somehow makes the now-adulterated comestible (thank you more exotic or suggestive. Like they’re the Anais Nin of your pantry, making an otherwise bland and pedestrian menu kinky and risqué. Because really, roasted red peppers are the bar tramp of the plate. At one point, they might actually have been dangerous or sexy, but they played that hand way too many times, and are now just common.

(I think the most egregious application is in hummus. Admittedly, I am something of a hummus snob and purist (I wish I could say connoisseur) and thus I really don’t like when people attempt to improve upon or re-imagine hummus with new ingredients. It’s fucking perfect food, people - leave it alone. But adding roasted red peppers? So wrong. So very very wrong.)

But again, I don’t dislike them (roasted red peppers or bar tramps), I just think their lingering reputation is entirely undeserved.

Thusly, it is now proclaimed. Roasted red peppers are overrated.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Standing in the sun with a popsicle, everything is possible...

Howdy folks.

I have been through a lot in the last couple of months. When people get a taste of a good thing, and that good thing seems to be taken away from them, they get angry. I have been attacked in several important blogs, and have received several angry emails, even death threats. But the keying of my car can stop. The Yo Mamma jokes can come to an end. Because the wait is over. I'm back. The blog is back. And I want to assure everyone that my lack of writing hasn't been due to laziness. In fact, I have been hard at work researching everything from alligators to oligopolies, from springer spaniels to springtime, from Plato to Play-Doh. I have made countless lists of pros and cons, checked them twice, and have come to some pretty important, and at times perhaps surprising, conclusions. To get the discussion started again, here are but a few:

Moist towelettes - These are underrated. Part of the reason may have to do with their association in my mind with buffalo wings (which are appropriately rated quite highly), but these fresh scented wipes are compact, convenient, and in some cases even disinfect, making them useful in so many situations. I don't know about you, but I keep them in my kitchen, my glove compartment and my wallet. Ok, no I don't. But I should. And I think you should too.

Pandas - Thumbs down to pandas. I know they are endangered. I know they are from China, and Chinese things are trendy. But they don't really do much. They just sit there. If you're lucky they'll eat bamboo.

North Carolina beaches - Underrated. While beaches in general are decidedly overrated, most people don't give North Carolina the proper credit it deserves. Nice sand, water that's the right temperature throughout much of the summer. The Outer Banks are especially underrated. The Wright Brothers liked the place for its regular breeze and soft landing surface. I like it because I can put an OBX sticker on my car and be cool.

Lingerie - Whenever the point of something is so that you can get rid of that something, it seems to me that that something probably shouldn't exist in the first place. Overrated.

Hot tubs - This was a tough one for me. I do wish I had a hot tub. They definitely have their time and place, but that time and place are different than what I once thought they were. I've logged some serious hot tub time in my day, but when the experience that sticks out involves arguing with a Polish world chess champion about whether or not monkeys could beat me at chess, you know it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Thumbs down to the hot tubs.

Popsicles - Underrated. There is something so nostalgic about popsicles. I'm not sure what it is. Well, maybe I'm thinking of the famous photo of my brother, when he was about 4, standing in the yard eating a popsicle. He seemed to be having a great time. Of course, he was also naked and playing with a garden hose. But I think it was the popsicle that made him so happy.
Incidentally, I think there is an untapped market for healthier popsicles. Why can't we freeze non-fruit juice related items and put them on sticks. Nothing would say "summer has arrived" like frozen vegetable puree. Or what about alcoholic popsicles?

Tattoos - I have little experience with these (other than the temporary kind). But after a discussion with a couple of experienced folks in a cafe just a few minutes ago, I've been pursuaded that these are overrated. First, there is the whole permanence thing. Also, one never satisfies you. They always leave you wanting more. Plus, eventually you run out of canvas.

Alright, that's enough for now. I have plenty more to educate you all about, but that can wait (but not very long). Let me know what y'all think.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The future's sooooooo bright, I gotta wear really, really big shades (Guest Blog)

I am not going to posit this idea as over or underrated. I am simply going to say it must stop. We cannot go on any longer in a civilized society pretending that this is a good look.

The oversized sunglasses look must come to an end. I understand how it happened, believe me. I think this woman is simply darling as well, but we cannot go on like this anymore. We have to remember this at all times: she was horrible human being. Do you really want to model your fashion look after someone who abandoned their whole family, and felt almost no guilt about it? Is that the kind of person you wish to resemble? I don't think you do.

Or are you possibly claiming to be inspired by this woman? Her blatant disregard for sensible eyewear might have led to the death of one of our most overrated Presidents. Think about it. Her large glasses could have easily caused a light flare big enough to blind all of the secret service men. I am not saying that's how it happened. I'm justsayin...

Last and certainly not least, men love this guy, but we would greatly appreciate it if women didn't try and resemble him.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spongy milky balls soaked in rose scented syrup

It’s been way too long since I’ve written. I’d like to apologize to my readers. Especially the loyal ones who have been with me since way back in the beginning, since the toast entry that put me on the map and sent ripples through the worldwide blog community. The fact is, as Safeguy mentioned in response to my last post, this blog has indeed become overrated.

The truth is I have commitment issues. I have blog commitment issues. But I’ve talked to a counselor, one who specializes in this sort of thing, and we’ve decided that it’s best if I give it another go. In the interest of doing so and getting some dialog started again, I decided to create a quick list of things that are either over or underrated, rather than to delve deeply into one issue. I really will start to write entries more regularly. And I’ve got some great topics in mind. But here it is, my short list with short commentary:

Chicago Style pizza – Overrated. People rave about this, but the fact is, it’s just not that great. I mean, I’ll eat Chicago style, but New York style has it beat hands down. When I eat pizza, I prefer to be able to eat a lot of it, not just one or two slices. Plus, I prefer to not have to wait 30 minutes for my pizza to be cooked. And inevitably it arrives a little doughy as well. I can’t be alone on this, either. There’s a reason it’s called “Chicago style pizza”, as opposed to just “pizza”. If it were so great, it would be everywhere. Sure, you can get it in most cities, but it’s still pretty rare. The one redeeming quality of Chicago style is the fact that putting the sauce on top of the cheese makes it a little less likely that you’ll burn the roof of your mouth on the cheese when you first bite into it.

Motorola – Overrated. I think a lot of people hate Motorola, but I think that the general population doesn’t quite hate them enough (that is, as much as I do). I have a KRZR, and it’s the worst phone I’ve ever owned. The battery lasts about an hour and a half of conversation time (but it starts beeping at me way before that). It has about a 3 second response time to me pressing a button. It has lots of fancy features none of which I can use without paying more money. Not too long ago I met some guy who works for Motorola. He's a likeable guy and I had nothing against him -- until I found out he worked for Motorola, that is. It’s hard to communicate my extreme dislike for this company. It’s too bad, because I like to see American companies do well, especially electronics companies. But sometimes you just have to let things die.

Sprint – Overrated. The fact that I have both a Motorola phone and use Sprint service is serious evidence supporting my lack of intelligence. Sprint’s prices are a little high, and there coverage isn’t so great, but my main problem with them is how you have to pay extra for everything, and there is very little flexibility. People send me picture mail, but I can’t see it. If I want to send a picture, in addition to paying more money, I have to first upload it to some online account. The ringtones on my phone are very cheesy, but I can’t download another one. And if I did it would have to be through sprint. I dislike sprint enough that I’m seriously considering breaking my agreement with them and paying $400. (That’s right, it’s $200 for EACH phone I have through them. They offered me an extra phone for free, which I took after asking several questions to try to figure out the catch. I called them a few times to set it up but it still doesn’t work. And now I have double the cancellation fee.)

Indian buffets – Underrated. Despite generally being liked by most people, I feel these are still underrated. Of course the quality ranges greatly from restaurant to restaurant, but if you find a good one, it’s hard to beat. Indian food in general is excellent, but the particularly nice aspect of buffets is the great variety of food it affords you. (Man, I need to eat some Indian food soon. Fearlessvk, you down?) The one bad thing about Indian buffets is that they typically skimp on the desert. What I mean by this is that they usually offer that rice pudding sort of desert, which is pretty good, but not nearly as good as those soggy honey balls they occasionally serve. Man, those soggy balls are so good they deserve their own mention.

Soggy Indian honey balls – Underrated. I just looked these up and apparently the actual name is gulab jamun (incidentally, I found this by googling “soggy Indian honey balls”). These are basically like they took doughnut holes, and soaked them in a sweet syrup, but they are stinking good. There’s nothing quite like a freshly prepared set of warm gulab jamun. It’s breathtaking. I suggest you try it.

Law and Order – Overrated. I don’t have too much to say about this. There have been way too many Law and Order derivatives. I haven’t watched many of them, but they ones I’ve seen have been underwhelming. I’d rather watch Matlock.

Boggle – Underrated. Peggy Hill can back me up on this one. It’s a great game. But maybe I only like it because I’m stinking good at it.

That will due for now. Let me know what y'all think.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"I'm dumb, she's a lesbian. I thought I had found the one..." - Weezer

Girls, if you ever want to grab a guy's attention, just start making out with each other. After all, from the way guys talk, it seems like on the list of guys' favorite things to do (if they could), watching girls get it on is right up there near the top.

But lesbians are overrated.

Oh, lesbians are perfectly fine, productive members of society. I've got no beef with them (literally and figuratively). I've only known a couple of lesbians really well, and they're great people. In fact, despite the threat of them luring away some of my potential mates (those who are "on the fence", I guess), I really do think that lesbians make the world a better place. I guess what I mean, then, is that straight guys' sexual fantasies regarding lesbians are overrated.

I'll admit that even I have succumbed to the social pressure to express lesbian fantasies on several occasions. I mean, if you're with a group of guys watching Cruel Intentions and the scene where Sarah Michelle Gellar makes out with Selma Blair comes on, not uttering at least a single "Oh, yeah!" or "That's what I'm talking about!" or showing some other display of approval would be tantamount to coming out of the closet. But that stops now. No more will I let myself feel like my masculinity is attached to how much I like lesbians.

Just like I think watching lesbians get it on would be overrated, I think getting it on WITH lesbians would be overrated.

I mean, when you think about it, the problem with getting it on with a couple of lesbians is that they would shift the focus from what it should be on: you.

I'd feel left out. I'd want to join in. I imagine that watching two lesbians together is a bit like watching a taco bell commercial advertising the latest addition to their menu. You recognize all of the same taco bell ingredients you've come to know and love, but at the same time their rearrangement still seems new and exciting. But alas, it's 3:02 a.m., which means that taco bell is closed, making your dream of actually experiencing a nacho cheese supreme 7-layer taco just beyond reach. But even if you are lucky to have an open taco bell across the street, I'd be willing to bet that you'd end up going with the usual gordita you are used to ordering. If not that time, you soon will switch back after the novelty wears off.

(I'm sorry for the taco analogy. I didn't really realize that I was writing about tacos until just now.)

That is to say, even if they were particularly welcoming lesbians, anxious to let everyone get involved, I'm not sure my reaction to that circumstance would be as enthusiastic as it's supposed to be. Call me insecure, but I have a hard enough time handling one woman, let alone two. Not to mention the fact that these women are undoubtedly more skilled in certain areas than all but the most experienced guys.

But even if they were straight, and I were the greatest lover in the world, when it comes down to it, like Jerry Seinfeld, I guess I'm just not an orgy guy.

(If you'll recall George and Jerry's dialogue from that amazing episode:

"So what happened?"

"She's into it."

"Into what?"

"The menage. And not only that. She just called me and said she talked to the roommate and the roommate's into the menage too."

"That's unbelievable."

"Oh, it's a scene man."

"Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank god that you know me and have access to my dementia?"

"What are you talking about? I'm not goin' to do it."

"You're not goin to do it? What do you mean, You're not goin to do it?"

"I can't. I'm not an orgy guy."

"Are you crazy? This is like discovering Plutonium ... by accident."

"Don't you know what it means to become an orgy guy? It changes everything. I'd have to dress different. I'd have to act different. I'd have to grow a moustache and get all kinds of robes and lotions and I'd need a new bedspread and new curtains I'd have to get thick carpeting and weirdo lighting. I'd have to get new friends. I'd have to get orgy friends. ... Naw, I'm not ready for it."

"If only something like that could happen to me."

"Oh, shut up you couldn't do it either."

"I know."

So I guess at least Jerry shares my opinion. (But then, I always kind of thought that Jerry was a little bit questionable in the realm of his sexuality....... hmm......)

Alright, I'll stop my rambling for now. I started out with lesbians, then I ended up talking about orgies more generally. Anyway, I have no business writing any of this. I haven't had the opportunity to get up close and personal with any lesbians, nor have I ever had the company of more than one straight girl in my bed at the same time. For the sake of research and remaining fair and balanced, however, I am willing to give it a try. Lesbians out there, prove me wrong! Send me your contact info., and a picture. Preferably naked, making out with another girl. That would be hot, right guys?!

Next up: public transportation themed dates