You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I Think It's Thinning Out Ahead... We Could Be Out of Here in a Day or Two!

A few weeks ago there was a traffic jam just outside of Beijing. Normally, traffic jams in big cities aren't big news, but in the capital city of the world's most populous country they do things really big. This traffic jam lasted for nine days.

Nine days! Nine freakin' days. If this traffic jam happened during the Olympics two years ago, people driving to the early track and field events would have found parking just after the closing ceremonies.

So, if you're running nine days behind for work, how does that work? You figure the weekend would bust up the traffic jam a bit, but no.* You can't even drive in the following Monday and pretend you hit a time warp:

"I'm here, right on time for Monday morning!"

"It's Wednesday, a week later."

"Well, there was this... Wednesday?! (long pause) I got nothing."

"It's OK. We're a communist nation, so you still have a job."


"But we had to relocate you. Here are your tickets to our Tibetan branch."

"Tibet? Tibet?!? That's where I'm commuting from!"

I think of all those people out on the highway for nine days.  You can only ration out your McDonald's Big Breakfast out for so long. After three or four days, I suspect it was like Lord of the Flies out there. I envision businessmen running around in Brooks Bros. suits with the sleeves torn off and their Louis Vuitton ties wrapped around their heads like bandannas. Between the battles for convenience stores and staking out turf at rest stop restrooms ("Before you can relieve yourself, you must pay tribute!") it would get pretty hairy.

I don't know if Chinese radio stations have traffic helicopters , but if they did, just imagine the utter futility:

"There's a massive bottleneck on the G020 outside of Langfang. You may want to take the alternate route to the G104. If you're already on the G020, you may want to stop at the nearest convenience store and stock up on a few hundred pounds of beef jerky and shotgun ammunition."

It's a testimony to the relative experience of cities like L.A., New York, Bombay, London, and Dallas that they've never experience traffic jams quite this extensive. Oh sure, it's felt that long...

*Say this in a John Belushi SNL circa 1978 voice for maximum effect.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Salt, Is There Anything It Can't Do? Redux

Long time readers of this blog know that yours truly is a big fan of salt. I love the stuff the way koalas love eucalyptus leaves. I love it the way Joey Chestnut loves Nathan's hot dogs.* I love it the way Charlie Sheen loves grain alcohol. Salt is good food.

So, when someone releases an article extolling the many uses of salt, I'm not surprised at the versatility of the wonderful granules of goodness. Indeed, the Salt Institute's report on uses for salt is somewhat similar to the Web article I linked to in my 2007 post.

There are 14,000 uses for salt! That's just slightly more than the receipes I have for the stuff. (If the secret ingredient for Iron Chef were salt, I might just stand a chance. My presentations would be a little grainy, though.)

What I really love though is the fact there's such a place as the Salt Institute at all.  This sounds like a dream job for me, so long as I was in a taste-tester position. I think it would be cool if the institute had leadership positions

The part of their Web site that I find most inspiring is the "Miracle uses" section. I know salt is mentioned in the Bible (several places but Matthew 5:13 is the one that comes to mind. I shudder to think of unsalty salt -That's dirt, people.**) However, I did not know salt could extinguish grease fires, clean fish tanks, drip-proof candles, kill poison ivy, keep windows frost free, and track and capture Osama Bin Laden.

OK, I made that last one up, but given a chance, I bet salt could swing it.

Osama Bin Laden is sitting in his private cave on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is a knock at the door.

Osama: Who is it? More Jehovah's Witnesses, I bet!

Voice: Candygram.

Etc. etc. and pretty soon Osama is sitting in a U.S. Marine encampment, with dozens of paper cuts, and  covered head to toe in coarse kosher salt.

Angela Jolie: Wow, and I thought my character in Salt was badass.

Salt is a tough mammajamma, baby.

*I am a fan of Nathan's as well, just not in the same quantities.
**There is the downside of that whole thing about Lot's wife. I'm guessing though that she was fairly unsalty salt.

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