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Friday, December 03, 2004
2:12 PM      

UCE?! Naw, spam!
The makers of that fine spiced ham product filled in a mysterious gap for me today:

Use of the term “spam” was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of “spam, spam, spam . . . ” in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE [unsolicited commercial email] was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet...

Today's teens and young adults are more computer savvy than ever, and the next generations will be even more so. Children will be exposed to the slang term "spam" to describe UCE well before being exposed to our famous product SPAM. Ultimately, we are trying to avoid the day when the consuming public asks, "Why would Hormel Foods name its product after junk e-mail?"

Of course, they're worried about protecting their trademark— “Xerox” almost fell into the public domain because the term was used interchangeably with “photocopy;” that is until they launched a vigorous campaign to convince people to stop using the term that way... the result: people have largely forgotten Xerox.

The SPAM folks are a little more circumspect... they'd just prefer that you write about unsolicited e-mail in all lower-case (spam), and their delicious luncheon meat in all upper-case (SPAM) — which is, after all, their official trademark. Oh, and they'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't use an image of the product to suggest the notion of junk e-mail. They've even posted a position paper explaining it all. Reading it was entertaining and informative: I had no idea that SPAM was actually a “family of products.”

Wow! Another great mystery resolved... Thanks to Bill Barol for pointing me in the right direction. It looks to me like Bill stopped blogging in 2002. Too bad. His stuff still reads nicely now.


Trippy Fun
Bill also pointed me to spamradio. It's worth a listen, especially if you're a webhead. What is it?, you ask. Think spoken-word source code over beats:

Spamradio is serving up delicious helpings of spam each hour of every day to all who are hungry.

Using a complex arrangement of pipes and funnels we turn the junk mail that we receive into a streaming audio broadcast that can be enjoyed from anywhere on the Internet.

Like the spam it speaks, it gets a bit monotonous after a while, but it might make poetic background music in a retail store.


I've meant to write about this for a little over a week now. On Thanksgiving, I know of one guy who was probably thankful to be alive, if he remembers anything from a few nights before.

Denise and I were getting off the train at the De Kalb stop, when a guy bolted off the train and ran between us from behind, brushing Denise's shoulder. He got to the other side of the platform, leaned over, and started puking onto the tracks. A second later, he pitched forward and fell onto the tracks!

Folks on the platform looked on anxiously. Thankfully, there was no indication of an approaching train. The guy got up on all fours, facing the third rail. He seemed to stare at it for a moment as if he was facing a cobra. Then, he got up, turned around, and started trying to hoist himself up onto the platform. Denise and I and another onlooker or two grabbed various parts of him and his clothing, and helped haul him out of the pit. He walked (or maybe wobbled would be a better word) away from us, and leaned on some railing under a nearby set of stairs.

Denise and I turned toward the exit, took a few steps, and heard a thud. The guy had fallen onto the tracks a second time! This time, a subway worker was there to help him up. The subway was not the place to be for a person in his condition.

Thinking back to that event reminds me of two other times I saw evidence of someone having been struck by subway trains. It's an unreported statistic. Every once in a while, the papers make hay over someone being pushed. It gives them someone to vilify, and that sells papers. Recently a girl won a big lawsuit against the MTA because she was struck by a train when she bent down to pick up her bible. That's a hot ticket. It's much more rare to hear that someone threw themselves in front of a train. I guess that's old-school suicide. And then there are the ones that were just unfortunate enough to lose their balance at the wrong time, or who somehow ended up on the tracks despite warnings. They're probably recorded in a log book somewhere, but got little notice other than that.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004
2:14 PM      

She Killed Kenny!
Ken Jennings' exit from Jeopardy wasn't as over-the-top as the episodic demise of the South Park character (lucky for him), but it was dramatic. After all, he'd racked up $2,522,700 and amazing slew of records along the way. H&R block is giving Ken free tax and financial services for life. They figure he'll owe about $1.04 mil in state and federal taxes, leaving him with about a $million-four eighty-two and change...

Get out your notebook, and write down the name Nancy Zerg. She beat Ken by $1, ending his 6-month stay on the air. Chances are, those bits of trivia may be the makings of three clues in a future edition of Trivial Pursuit. Another piece of trivia: they tape 5 episodes of Jeopardy a day. That means he only spent about 15 days on the set, racking up his 74 wins. That's like a short run of jury duty, except now Ken gets to decide whether he'll bother going back to work at all. In New York, jury duty pays at the early-retirement-inducing rate of about $40/day.

Ken actually concluded his stint on the Jeopardy set in early September. Not long after that, the story leaked. AP ran a story on September 9, and Jay Leno made a joke about it around the same time. He just got his air dates wrong — saying that Ken would be off the air in October.


Will Sony Kill Jason?
Ken was already the stuff of myth, as Jason Kottke fantasized back in July. Today, Jason's got a mega-corporate headache because Sony's pit-bulls found that he'd posted an audio clip of Ken's final moments on Jeopardy. It gets worse, because after he removed the audio clip, they didn't like the transcript he posted. He's thinking about bagging the blogosphere, because of the threat of litigation.

Now that corporate news organizations have their own blogs, I wonder if we won't see a bunch of litigation aimed at driving out all the amateur bloggers, or at least making sure that they only write about their pets, dating problems, and macramé projects. Remember RIAA's lawsuits against 13-year-old music downloaders? Bush's “frivolous lawsuit” reforms won't protect the Jason Kottkes of the world from big biz.


... And Tom Brokaw gave up the anchor seat at NBC News last night. Not such a big deal, now that I'm mostly weaned from corporate nightly news.


You could call this story a bit of Thanksgiving leftovers. :-)
... although some folks eat turkey at Christmas, too.

A guy named John got a problem parrot as a gift. The bird had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary — Every word out of his mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to clean up the bird's vocabulary, but nothing seemed to work. Fed up, John even yelled at the parrot, but the bird just yelled back. Then, John shook the parrot and the bird got angrier and even ruder.

In desperation, John grabbed the bird and shoved him in the freezer. Maybe the chill would shock some sense into the crazy animal. For a few minutes, he squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. The bird didn't utter a peep for more than a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The bird calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arm and said “I believe I may have offended you with my rude behavior. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to be a model pet from now on.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what brought about the dramatic shift, the bird continued, “I have just one question... May I ask what the turkey did?”

Thanks, Rhonda

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