Nov 03


Like many people in post-9/11 America, I’ve experienced a renewal of interest in displaying the flag. One place to do this, of course, is on your car. You have several options: attach a flag to your radio antenna, paste a flag sticker on the rear bumper, get one of those flag brackets that mounts in a window, or opt for a flag made of that flexible magnetic plastic that some refrigerator magnets are made of.
I decided on the magnets, and each of our vehicles now has one. They seem to me to be the best solution: the antenna-mounted flags get tattered too quickly, bumper stickers are impossible to remove, and the brackets make your windows leak. The magnets have all of the advantages of a bumper sticker and none of the flaws: they can easily be removed, repositioned, or even moved to another vehicle; if they collect dirt, you can take them off and clean under them; and they don’t fade like paper stickers do. Sure, they’re a bit more expensive, but not enough to matter.
So why aren’t all bumper stickers made of this stuff? For that matter, why aren’t license plates made out of it? Car dealers figured out the advantages of magnetic license plates years ago; you’ve probably noticed the special magnetic frames they use, so they can quickly switch dealer plates from one vehicle to another. The rest of us don’t need to do that, but it would still make sense for license plates to stick to your car on their own without having to be mounted in a special holder.
I know what you’re thinking: wouldn’t that make it too easy for people to steal your plate? Not really. Anyone with a screwdriver can steal your plate right now. It only takes a minute to undo the screws and walk off with it. Yet few license plates ever get stolen. It won’t make any difference if doing so no longer requires the screwdriver.
I suspect the real reason why neither license plates nor bumper stickers are magnetic is simply that no one has thought of doing it. This is probably also the reason why the full potential of refrigerator magnets hasn’t been tapped. Refrigerator magnets are a brilliant advertising ploy, because they’re actually useful. You can never have too many of them. And so people tend to hang onto them for years (sometimes long after the company they advertise has ceased to exist). You may not give the advertiser your business, but their phone number is right there on your refrigerator door if you ever decide to.
Yet when a business hires people to put advertisements on parked cars, they always use paper flyers and stick them under your windshield wiper. This never works, because a piece of paper is worthless. Those flyers end up on the ground or in the nearest trash can. Why not hire people to stick refrigerator magnets to your car? You’re more likely to put that magnet in your pocket than in a trash can, and odds are it will end up on your fridge for the next decade or so.

Nov 01

Coffee continued

Of course there is a downside to drinking coffee. And it’s not the caffeine addiction (I already had that) or the risk of coffee stains. No, it’s that joining the global fraternity of coffee drinkers has made me aware of a whole new realm of human dimwittedness: coffee idiots.
I don’t mean the people who pour themselves a cup and leave half an ounce in the pot instead of brewing more. Everyone knows about those idiots. I’m talking about the ones who, as soon as a new pot is brewed, immediately reach past the previously existing one and go for the pot that’s ten whole minutes fresher. And, for that matter, the people who brew a new pot when the previous one (I refuse to say “old,” because it’s not) is more than half full. What are they thinking? At first I theorized that these people couldn’t stand the sight of an empty pot, or that they were simply anticipating future demand. But yesterday, I had both of those theories shot down. I walked into the break room and saw a mostly-full pot of regular coffee, another pot just starting to fill with more regular coffee, and, on the rear burner of the coffee maker, the decaf pot sitting completely empty.
And what’s the point of these plastic or wooden stirrers? If you put the sweetener and creamer into your mug first and then fill it with coffee, you generate more than enough turbulence to dissolve everything. As far as I can see, the stirrers are completely redundant.
No, all the caffeine is not making me cranky. Shut up or I’ll whack you with my thermal mug. (Hey, it’s empty — time for a refill.)

Nov 01

It’s going to take more than 24 days

The news media have been making fools of themselves in recent days by claiming the the war in Afghanistan has somehow “bogged down” or “reached a stalemate” because we’ve been bombing for three whole weeks and we still haven’t won. (Some observers have pointed out that news conferences are beginning to sound like the Saturday Night Live “Gulf War Briefing” skit.) Finally, in today’s prepared statement, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld addressed the question head-on and, in essence, told the press that they are behaving like idiots. Woohoo! After their disgracefully overblown coverage of the anthrax scare, it’s very satisfying to see them reprimanded so effectively.