TL-DNR

too-much-talkTL-DNR = “Too Long; Did Not Read.”

This is a phrase that I wish more peo­ple would grasp. Few are able to write a good blog post that is fewer than 100 words. Even more crit­i­cal than brevity is the abil­ity to cap­ture the reader’s atten­tion. Our world is so frac­tured into spe­cial inter­ests that very few blogs can cap­ture the inter­est of wide audiences.

Faith­ful read­ers of this hum­ble blog are few, because I know­ingly write about almost any­thing and every­thing. If I wanted to focus, I could grab more read­ers, but mak­ing money from this blog is not my goal. I only desire to con­nect with a few peo­ple at a deeper than sur­face level: “I totally agree with you!” Or, “You are com­pletely off-base, but I can now under­stand why you feel that way.”

Shiny Bits of Life are often small things that are insignif­i­cant to most peo­ple. I love uncov­er­ing the obscure and bring­ing it to life for the few who enjoy the same.

Thanks for join­ing me on the ride.

Memories of pizza

Pizza - courtesy of Sebastian Mary (https://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/giovannijl-s_photohut/)Mario’s served my favorite pizza. High school was a long time ago, but that restau­rant (http://www NULL.mar­ioslex­ing­ton NULL.com/pizza NULL.htm) in Lex­ing­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts still lingers in my mem­ory. Their thin crust had a light dust­ing of flour. The tomato sauce was the per­fect blend of spicy and sweet. The cheese must have been real moz­zarella. I am not sure if I ever met Mario — he may have even been Greek.  But the large Ital­ian pop­u­la­tion of Boston def­i­nitely had their influ­ence on that venue’s offerings.

What restau­rant stands out in your memory?

When fantasy does not work

yellow ferrari 458When I was a teenage boy, my peers had posters of the Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach (http://www NULL.clas­si­can­d­per­for­mance­car NULL.com/front_website/octane_interact/modelpicture NULL.php?id=8098) on their bed­room walls. I had a poster of Eddy Mer­ckx (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Eddy_Merckx) win­ning the Tour de France on a Gitane bicycle.

Lam­borgh­i­nis and Fer­raris have long been the desire of count­less men (and fewer women) world­wide. If you want to buy a new Fer­rari, there is an 18-month wait­ing list (http://www NULL.motorauthor­ity NULL.com/news/1059699_ferrari-customers-buy-first-available-model-to-avoid-waiting-list-then-trade-in), even if you have the money!

But such cars are not the objects of my fan­tasy. They don’t appeal to me as much as the new Honda Fit (http://automobiles NULL.honda NULL.com/fit/). Why? The Fit is attain­able. In my wildest dreams, I will never have enough funds to own or lease an Ital­ian super­car. Even if my income increased dra­mat­i­cally, it would take a mas­sive shift in my per­sonal world­view to allow spend­ing that kind of money on pure fun.

Like last week’s post, I do appre­ci­ate the art of such beau­ti­ful machines. And nor­mal cars ben­e­fit from the boundary-stretching work that goes into the cre­ators of super­cars push­ing the edges of auto­mo­tive performance.

I find beauty in the sim­ple func­tion­al­ity and effi­ciency of the Honda Fit. “Doing more with less” describes how the Fit goes about its mis­sion. And it’s fun to drive, as well!

I shot this Fer­rari 458 at “my” local Fer­rari dealer.

I’m just glad it exists

The Vertu Sig­na­ture Touch smart­phone costs $14,100. It’s incred­i­ble that such a thing even exists. But I’m glad.

Vertu Signature Touch feature (http://www NULL.vertu NULL.com/en/signature-touch/)It’s com­fort­ing to know that a few peo­ple in the world can expe­ri­ence Vertu’s largest ever ruby but­ton. (I am not sure what it con­trols — maybe the ejec­tor seat?) And it’s reas­sur­ing that one crafts­man car­ries each object d’art from start to fin­ish. (Their sig­na­ture is on the inside of the bat­tery cover.) How­ever, veg­ans would not be happy with the sea­spray lizard skin and black alli­ga­tor skin cases. Vertu’s “focus on per­for­mance (http://www NULL.vertu NULL.com/en/discover-vertu/handmade-in-england#extraordinary-performance) extends to the range of stun­ning ring­tones per­formed by the Lon­don Sym­phony Orchestra.”

I am not being sar­cas­tic when I say that I’m glad that such a thing exists. Though I hon­estly think a $649 (£549) iPhone is bet­ter in almost every way,* the fact that peo­ple are will­ing to spend their excess funds on such an obsessed-over cre­ation is amaz­ing. Some­how the ultra-fringe is appeal­ing to me. Though I would not want a Vertu Sig­na­ture Touch, even if it were given to me, I’m glad it’s out there. I pic­ture a Vertu crafts­man work­ing away in a dim-lit base­ment in the depths of rural Eng­land, smok­ing a Meer­schaum (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Meerschaum), whilst lis­ten­ing to Ben­jamin Brit­ten (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Benjamin_Britten). It’s comforting.

* 1) I think the Apple OS ecosys­tem is bet­ter than the Vertu’s Android ecosys­tem. 2) Even though the per-unit expenses involved in the Vertu Sig­na­ture Touch project are far more than that of the iPhone, the amount of devel­op­ment hours and design time that went into the iPhone is vastly more than what was invested in the Vertu. This is sim­i­lar to why the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem on a Fer­rari is not nearly as good as that of a lux­ury Toy­ota. 3) An object’s rar­ity does not auto­mat­i­cally equal it being the best in its class.

If you want to learn more, you can down­load the brochure (http://www NULL.vertu NULL.com/downloads/e-brochures/signature-touch/Vertu_Signature_Touch_EN NULL.pdf).

Secret combination

rexona soap from kenyaAlmost twenty years ago, Heather and I lived with a very gra­cious fam­ily in rural Kenya, for two weeks. Learn­ing how real peo­ple lived was part of a train­ing pro­gram to ori­ent us to life there. (We went on to live in East Africa for five years.)

Peter, our main host, was on break from col­lege. He served as our trans­la­tor and cul­tural bro­ker, flu­ently speak­ing Eng­lish, Kikamba and Swahili. He loved to lis­ten to Kenyan radio, powered by a large car bat­tery. I will never for­get the Rex­ona com­mer­cials. We heard them every morn­ing, whether we wanted to or not — the walls weren’t very thick.

The com­mer­cial was totally in Swahili — except for the slo­gan, “Rex­ona — Secret Com­bi­na­tion!” Rex­ona was a brand of soap, with touted qual­i­ties to make your skin amaz­ing. The “R” at the front of the phrase was always trilled.

Why do I bring this up? Food Babe (http://foodbabe NULL.com/2014/06/17/not-so-fast-beer-companies-why-arent-you-disclosing-these-additives/) got Bud­weiser to list their pop­u­lar beer’s ingre­di­ents for the first time. Rice might not be on the top of everyone’s list for what makes a qual­ity beer, but then again, Bud­weiser is prob­a­bly not on the top of everyone’s list as being a qual­ity beer.

Mys­tery in ingre­di­ents can be a good thing or a bad thing. For Rex­ona, it was good. For Bud­weiser, maybe not so good.

Intentionally blank

This page intentionally left blankWe’ve all received doc­u­ments in the mail that have “This page inten­tion­ally left blank” printed on one side.

That’s a beau­ti­ful reflec­tion of some of the things that are wrong with Amer­i­can cul­ture. My guess is that some team of lawyers made a bunch of money through a suc­cess­ful law­suit against a com­pany that caused deep emo­tional harm to an indi­vid­ual because they didn’t know that one blank page in their mort­gage doc­u­ments was sup­posed to be blank.

All that toner.  All that time going through laser print­ers.  And all those happy lawyers.

(Don’t get me wrong — I’m not against lawyers. But some­times it’s just too much.)

$550 or $15?

My old­est son is spend­ing his sum­mer work­ing with the Rocky Moun­tain Con­ser­vancy. He’s work­ing on hik­ing trails in national parks in Col­orado. A typ­i­cal day involves using a large cross-cut saw (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Crosscut_saw) to remove giant trees from many paths. (You can check out his adven­tures at their Word­Press site (http://rmconservancyconservationcorps NULL.word­press NULL.com/).)

gore-tex jacket (detail)I’m not telling you this to brag about Jay, but rather to talk about breath­able rain jack­ets. In the June 7, 2014 edi­tion of the Wall Street Jour­nal, an arti­cle about out­door adven­ture gear fea­tures a jacket — the Arc’teryx Beta AR (http://arcteryx NULL.com/product NULL.aspx?gender=mens&model=Beta-AR-Jacket&language=EN). I am sure that it is a totally amaz­ing gar­ment. How­ever, H&M had a sim­i­lar breath­able water­proof jacket for $70. I went to my local H&M and bought it on an end-of-season close­out for $15.

I ask you — which is the bet­ter deal?

Jay will be using that $15 jacket all sum­mer — far more than the aver­age Arc’teryx Beta AR buyer will wear their fin­ery dur­ing their whole life­time.

There is an Amer­i­can ten­dency to buy far more than you need. I also fall prey to this think­ing. Let’s fight it.

Foot­note: I under­stand that it is more right­eous to buy used cloth­ing than to spon­sor com­pa­nies like H&M that use far-too-underpaid labor. Alas, I couldn’t find a good water­proof breath­able jacket at any of our local used cloth­ing outlets.

You gotta live

I put up a ques­tion on Face­book recently about soy. I won­dered why it was con­sid­ered bad. That post received 28 comments! A lot of peo­ple care about soy.*

cup I love cof­fee. How does that relate to soy? Well, I know that cof­fee has caf­feine, which is known to cause prob­lems for peo­ple with heart prob­lems. My mother and sev­eral uncles died of heart-related prob­lems. So if I were purely log­i­cal, I would quit drink­ing cof­fee. But I love the taste of a fresh hot cup of fine cof­fee each morn­ing. I’m will­ing to lose a few months of my life for the minor thrill of coffee.

Soy is not a great source of plea­sure to me, so it’s not hard for me to skip buy­ing soy snacks. But I’m not going to care­fully read each label before I buy a prod­uct to see if it has soy. I’m will­ing to take the minor risks asso­ci­ated with eat­ing more lib­er­ally to avoid the has­sle of read­ing every label when I go shop­ping — or insist­ing that other mem­bers of my fam­ily who do gro­cery shop­ping for my fam­ily do the same.

Hav­ing said that, I do not con­demn those who are care­ful label read­ers or non-allergy soy avoiders. I under­stand that you have to live your life too. and I greatly appre­ci­ate that many peo­ple care about such things, or we would all be con­sum­ing food that is a lot less healthy than what we are.

*If you don’t know about why some peo­ple con­sider soy to be bad, you’ll have to visit my Face­book page (https://www NULL.face­book NULL.com/pmerrill). And you’ll have to be a Face­book user to see that post.

Filters

drip coffee filterFil­ters help us relate to other peo­ple. When we see some­one with their hair messed up (and not on pur­pose), do we tell them about their prob­lem or keep it to our­selves? Do we share our polit­i­cal views with­out con­sid­er­ing the major­ity per­spec­tive of those in the room? When we see some­thing wrong, do we speak up and fight for what we feel is right?

Every­one falls some­where on the scale of hav­ing a weak fil­ter (read­ily say­ing what’s on our minds) to hav­ing a pow­er­ful fil­ter (rarely say­ing any­thing). And it’s good that both types exist. If con­fronting peo­ple didn’t exist, noth­ing would ever get done. (And there would be a lot of mis­matched out­fits). If sen­si­tive types didn’t exist, there would be a lot more wars.

I am glad for the diver­sity of creation.

Spe­cial thanks to my brother Bill. Our brief dis­cus­sion of fil­ters dur­ing his recent visit spurred this post.

The Death Star

The Greenwood Village Death StarEvery day I pass the Death Star. At least that’s what I call it. It’s an out­door sculp­ture along one of the office-lined roads of Green­wood Vil­lage — part of The Tech Cen­ter, a sec­tion of sub­ur­ban Den­ver with a ton of cor­po­rate offices. Specif­i­cally, it is in front of an expen­sive pri­vate fit­ness center.

There is no promi­nent plaque describ­ing the sculp­ture or nam­ing the artist. So I am stick­ing with, “The Death Star.”

Pub­lic art is one of those things that often defies logic. In this instance, I’m not sure how a large disc that is dis­in­te­grat­ing — or par­tially destroyed — relates to cor­po­rate office parks. But appar­ently a decision-making com­mit­tee did.