Time travel gone right

Time traveling with you last week took us back into the dark ages where children were property, and their deaths went unnoticed.  One tragic reason I failed to mention was the fact that so many young women also died with them in childbirth.  Or that other medical complications, or illnesses they couldn’t understand would claim that same child within its first few years.  There was a good reason why parents couldn’t be too emotionally invested in their kids; there was a good chance they would be gone.

Today it’s different.  We can time travel to periods where we see children granted a bit more respect, but treated horribly.  The dawn of the industrial revolution is a great example.  Charles Dickens did a great job of depicting the hell on earth those children suffered through.  But what sort of emotional scars did those experiences leave?

We can only guess.  Jumping back to our own time, we now understand the importance of a good childhood upon adult behavior.  Abuse in its most gross form isn’t tolerated in our society, but back then it was probably tolerated.  But how many children today are being abused, physically, without recourse? without support? and without hope of rescue?  We don’t know.  We only know such things still occur because some of the victims eventually build up the courage to step forward.

Our time machine tells us that, someday, we will be protecting our children even more so than today.  In that sense we are going in the right direction.  But when will that happen?

Soon, right?


Pizza Personalities

Pizza Personalities

Who doesn’t love pizza? [1]

A while ago Jon Stewart went on the rampage, putting New York style pizza up against Chicago.  I’ve also heard others ranting about Italian pizzas.  Let’s consider this; what can pizza teach us about local behavior?

Starting at the beginning, Italy is considered the birthplace of pizza.  Maybe.  But the Europeans are epicures, and they flaunt fresh ingredients and moderation, so it’s no wonder their pizzas are made fresh, wood-fired, and focus on crust with accents of other ingredients.  Yum.

Here in the USA pizza may have its true origins, as a large-scale food that’s easy to prepare.  Its ingredients were mass-produced ahead of time.  Serving was easy, didn’t require utensils, and you could eat it for breakfast.

This large floppy version is best typified by the New York style, a form that New Yorkers argue is their own.  You can slice it, roll it, and serve quite a few people with it.  As part of their effort to possess this version of pizza, they no longer call it only pizza, instead it is “pie.” [2]

Finally we come to the american city where they invented the skyscraper, reshape their coastline to make parks, lift their buildings when they flood, and reversed the flow of their river when it suited them.  This is Chicago.

They embraced the pizza to an extent found nowhere else.  You can get all versions of pizza here that you can get anywhere else, except one.  And that one version is Deep Dish Pizza (henceforth DDP).

To some, DDP is an extreme that borders on the obscene.  But Chicago did not invent DDP as an extreme; instead it was a carefully crafted feast to be enjoyed locally, without fanfare.  There is an elegance in its execution, whether it’s made for 2 people or 16.

The DDP is an orgy of fragrance, flavor, and textures.  You can have your crispy ingredients on top.  You can have an oodle of melty cheese, you can have thin slices of sausage, or the entire sausage!  You can have a thin and crispy crust, or a thick and spongy crust – possibly even at the same time!

Finally, what does our pizza party tell us here?  That the Italians are confident in their abilities, they stick with their values, and consistently make a fine pizza.  That Americans know what they will settle for, mass produced mediocrity, convenience and cost.  New Yorkers?  That they are willing to brand almost anything their own, with passion.  And Chicago?  No fear, and no bravado.  Do they make mistakes?  Yes; it’s very possible to get a poorly made DDP in Chicago.  But it’s almost impossible to get a decent DDP outside of Chicago.

Now excuse me.  I need to find me a slice!

[1] Full disclosure here.  I love love love pizza!  And I can’t accept the possibility that someone somewhere may not.  In all fairness, I prefer any type of great pizza, but I think you know where this article may be headed.

[2] Pie?  Doesn’t this confuse things with such American staples as Apple pie and Pumpkin pie?  But that’s New York for you.  They’ve never had a true Apple or Pumpkin tradition, so their “pie” is all their own.  Sad.


Apples + Beets = Catastrophe

Perhaps you haven’t heard, but the worlds most glam computer company has purchased a very new company called “Beats.”  What do these two food groups have in common that may signal the coming apocalypse?

Here’s a quick synopsis for those of us who care nothing for business or economy.  Apple is a 30 year old computer company whose products are now wildly successful.  As a result, they have about 150 billion dollars in cash to spend, and their stock is valued very highly.  This means that there is almost nothing they can’t buy.

Beats is a very young company that has created a highly popular high-end product; reinventing the lowly headphone so that it becomes a fashion statement.  No longer a dollar ear-bud, the Beats headphones are hundreds of dollars and can include a new model music subscription service to boot.  Popular celebrities can be seen wearing them, and therefore, by association, your friends can win your admiration by wearing them as well.

And that’s where the catastrophe comes in.  People are valuing things not because they bring value to their lives, but because they bring the appearance of value to their social rank.  We’ve taken the old “keeping up with the Jones’s” moniker to new heights.  Perhaps we should now call it, “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

We are in the middle of a huge value bubble, one that may have started back in the late 1800s and continues today.  Economic hardships like 1929 and 2008 have only slowed it down, but only for a moment.

So, the next time you take a bite of an apple, or slice a beet, think about what’s really valuable in life.  Then go back to listening to your music.

Because the beat goes on.


Towel Dropper

Who is this guy?

We get a little towel at our gym.  It’s too small to cover up anything important, and a bit too big to be a sweat rag.  So I use it as a sweat rag.

Some guys take it into the steam room.  It’s the room where you get to experience what it’s like to be a Chinese dumpling.  It’s also the room where big guys stretch themselves out like it’s their bedroom.  Some guys even do pushups in there.  I sit.

The little towel comes in handy because you can use it to wipe your face in the steam room.  Yes, by the time I wipe my face the towel is wet.  So, after wiping, my face is still wet.  It feels good.

When I leave the steam room I put my wet sweat towel in the little linen bin that’s nearby.  This way the staff can throw everything into the laundry for the next dumpling.  Except there’s something there on the floor – what is that?

It’s some guy’s towel!  He got a dry towel, used it, and when he left the steam room he throws it on the floor.  And every time I use the room, there it is!

So what does this say about this dude?  Is he some old guy who can’t lift his arm three feet to put a wet towel in the right place?  Or is he some kind of litterbug offender who gets his barely-legal jollies by throwing everything on the ground?

I’d just like to put a face to this, because all he does is make the world a slightly yuckier place for the rest of us.

Then again, maybe it’s some kind of magic towel that holds the world together.  Moving it would disrupt the order of the universe and our world would come tumbling down around us!

Dumplings, anyone?


Dandelion Whine

Let’s play alien.

No, not the kind who crosses our border.  I mean the real, scary, futuristic space-ship kind.  The ones with no hair, all wearing the same clothes (or none at all!), and used to say “take me to your leader.”  They don’t say that anymore because we realized that if they’d come here from great distances they’d have to be pretty smart.  And even the dumbest human knows our leaders are useless.

The fun part of being a student of behavior is that we get to look at the most ordinary behaviors in fresh new ways.  A very fun way to do this is to pretend we’re not from here.  Where are we from?  Let’s say we’re from Rigel.

So we land in a typical urban suburb.  What do we see?  Many dwellings, nicely lined up.  Each has a bit of land between them, and often there’s some kind of thin divider as well.  What does all this mean?

We watch a while and realize the dwellings are where family units live.  The dividers keep the families apart, and the land is something the families spend much time on.  In fact, it appears that much attention is spent on the land, perhaps even more than the dwelling.

And if we watch for a longer while, we realize that our natives seem fascinated with keeping their land green.  Any other colors that intrude are immediately removed.  Yellow dandelions, purple violets, white mushrooms, even off-green clover is considered unclean.

The lengths to which our natives go to remove these colors is also extreme.  They intentionally poison the land in order to heighten the green and kill the other plants.  Yet that same poison means they have to tend the green even more (it grows faster) and they have to take extra precautions against the poison.  For instance, they can’t walk on their green soon after poisoning it.

Finally we look around and try to understand their economy.  Ahh, there it is.  A large industry exists to sell poison and keep the green, green.  It’s important to these creatures, and they have made it part of their society.  This will make for an interesting conversation around the sprooggle cooler back on Rigel.

And what a coincidence.  Can you guess the color of sprooggle?