ONLY IN AMERICA: Ten years ago, the rage in gardening was a hose that curled up like a curly fry.
Boy, was that hose a pain in the neck. It was so good at curling up that it wasn’t good at it’s main job of being a garden hose. You had to fight those curls every time you used it. I’ve still got one of those devious critters out in my garage.
Then along came cloth-covered hoses that are very short when not in use, but become very long when, shall we say, turned on. I’ve got one of those, too, but, while it is inspiring when in use, the cloth cover doesn’t seem to be standing up to the sun.
This year, a steel-clad garden hose is all the rage on TV. But this wily old walleye isn’t taking the bait. My kingdom for an old-fashioned, rubber garden hose that doesn’t have a mind of its own when it comes time to coil it up.
I notice that the latest craze on TV is a battery-operated “atomic” lantern that is “combat ready.”
Thankfully, combat seldom breaks out at our house, so I’m going to take a bye on this craze, too.
THE EXCEPTION: Youngsters won’t remember this, but Vise Grip pliers were once advertised on TV, just like those curly fry garden hoses, and “combat ready” lanterns. And I don’t know of a tool box that is complete these days without at least a couple pair of Vise Grips. They’re fantastic.
So, some of the stuff you see on TV passes the test of time. Go figure.
ZERO MADNESS: More and more these days, you hear people on TV confusing “billions” and “trillions.”
Mere “millions” are apparently a thing of the past, the quaint goal of slow dogs, gomers and stump-jumpers like you and me. In the hallowed halls of government, “millions” are what drop out of the pockets of their trousers when they take them off at night. Hardly worth bending over to pick up.
No, when it comes to spending money we don’t have, we need to be talking in billions and trillions.
In this column, I once mistakenly reported that trillions have nine zeros, understating the number by three zeros. (This, from a guy who got an “A” in college algebra. It was only later, in calculus, that my luck ran out.)
The point is, nobody noticed my mistake.
Turns out, the “short scale” used in America defines a trillion as a million millions. (I learned this on the Internet, so it has to be true.) The “long scale” definition, which may soon become necessary for our friends in Washington, and is used in some countries, is a million million millions. (That’s a lot.)
American trillions have 12 zeros. Billions have a paltry nine. And when pundits confuse the two, they usually just keep right on talking instead of pointing out the error of, oh, I don’t know, a thousand more billions or millions. Why quibble about it? We’re going to stick our kids with the bill anyway.
Which brings me to one of my favorite bumper stickers, which I saw some years back (when billions were still a big deal):
“Whatever you do, don’t tell Washington what comes after trillions!”
REALLY STEAMED: An old city attorney in Laramie, Wyoming, once referred to “the vociferous minority” of folks who show up at City Hall to protest all kinds of stuff.
Today, the vociferous minority is showing up at town hall meetings to decry the fact that what took eight years to screw up (health care), is taking whole weeks to fix, and could take as long as actual months. And we’re being told that the real issue isn’t the huge increases in insurance rates, or the massive increase in deductibles, but the possibility that someone, somewhere won’t get something for free.
On our dime.
AND LASTLY: I’m living proof that it is possible, in fact predictable, for a spry oldster like me to exercise two hours a day, five, sometimes six days a week, and still gain 10 pounds at Christmas.
Sad, but true.
(My mother-in-law makes the best peanut brittle in the world.)
Dave Simpson can be contacted at email@example.com