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There’s Gold in Them Thar Stools

27 Apr

by Roger White

 

You quasi-regular followers of Ye Olde Mouse—all four of you—know that you can depend on me to deliver to you faithfully and regularly, rain or shine, your place or mine, the straight poop. Or sometimes maybe just the noun, sans the adjective. This, alas, is one of those times.

For you see, in my incessant and exhaustive search for all things existential and/or extraordinary, I recently came across some astounding reading material while, appropriately enough, in the reading room. Ready for this? Your poo is worth a lot of money.

Oui. C’est true. It seems that researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, apparently either desperate to find new sources of income or just phenomenally bored, have discovered that one can, um, squeeze precious metals out of human waste. Yeppirs. Call it caca cash. Brown gold. Texas—all right, I’ll stop.

Follow along, if you will. Latex gloves and surgical masks recommended. The USGS has found, in a lengthy research study that surely cost us taxpayers loads (no pun intended), that approximately 7 million tons of human biosolids are left over annually after treatment at some 16,500 municipal poo plantwastewater plants around our fair land. About half of that is carted to landfills or burned away in incinerators; the other half is processed into fertilizer. I could have sworn that some of it was being delivered to Congress from the aroma of things going on in our capital city, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, one of the USGS muckity mucks has put forth that these biosolids are just chock full of tiny little bits of gold and silver and other valuable particles—not to mention all those stubborn peanuts and corn kernels.* (*If I’ve gone too far with the previous sentence, please understand that I’ve been watching a Family Guy Marathon on TV of late and my sense of proper decorum is a tad skewed. My sincere apologies to those I may have offended. I’m a good boy, Ma, really.)

“If you can get rid of some of the metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable poovaluable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” explained USGS Stool Study Science Lady Kathleen Smith.

Aha. We could call it a poo-poo win-win.

Smith backed up her findings by noting that USGS researchers in Colorado detected significant concentrations of platinum, gold, and silver in poo samples they looked at through scanning electron microscopes. Smith also mentioned that a great many scanning electron microscopes are now on sale cheap at the Colorado office of the U.S. Geological Survey.

And get this: Apparently, female excreta (their words, not mine) may have a higher concentration of valuable minerals. This groundbreaking USGS study de stool revealed that much of the metals found in biosolids comes from beauty products, detergents, hair care items, perfumes, and other JJ Hairtraditionally feminine-type trimmings. This being the case, I would imagine that circus clowns and Jimmy Johnson would also produce a higher level of, uh, precious poo.

Now, just how they’re going to go about extracting all the shiny goodness from these great mountains of BM is beyond me. I envision miners in old ’49er garb with picks, shovels, and plungers, or perhaps home versions of mineral recovery by way of sifters attached to individual toilets.

“What are ya doing in there, honey? You’ve been in there for almost an hour!”

“I’m sifting, dear. I’m sifting!”

I’m certain it’s gotta be more high-tech than this, however.

Poo poo this notion if you like, but the USGS guys estimated that the waste from a million Americans contains about $13 million worth of precious metals. Wow, that is really putting your money where your… oh, forget it.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Pennies from Heaven? How ’bout a Trillion Bucks?

23 Jan

by Roger White

I’m a bit of an amateur coin collector, so you can see why I might be all aflutter these days. By no means am I a serious numis— , numith—, coin collector, but I do have my box of old favorites: mercury dimes, Indian head pennies, Franklin half-dollars, Chuck-E-Cheese commemoratives. I even have a Word War II-era French franc from occupied France I picked up at a yard sale. This beauty is signed by a platoon of U.S. GIs who stormed through the countryside chasing the Nazis back to Berlin. That tattered old bill is a keeper.

The Big CoinSo when I found out that the U.S. Treasury was seriously considering minting a platinum trillion-dollar coin, I had to find out more. Can you imagine the things you could do with a trillion-dollar coin? “Why, yes, my good man, I’ll have those twin Ferraris, this condo, that basketball team, and, yes, that little island over there. Payment? Let me reach into my pocket here…”

First off, before we get into the “why” of the trillion-dollar coin, let’s consider the “how” of the trillion-dollar coin. Now, with gold and silver, coins and bars are usually valued at whatever their weight is currently going for on the gold and silver market—except for very rare coins, of course, which is a different matter, altogether.

“Which is a different matter.”

Never mind. Anyway, going by that standard, consider that platinum coins these days are selling for roughly $1,620 an ounce. So, for a nice trillion-dollar coin to contain enough platinum to be actually worth a trillion dollars, you would need 617 million ounces—give or take an ounce. That comes out to a shiny little coin weighing approximately 19,300 tons—one hefty chunk of change.

As a matter of fact, I looked up some other things on the planet that weighed in at about 19,000 tons, and here’s what I came up with:

• One of the heaviest trains ever to roam the United States, a Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore train pulled by a gigantic Yellowstone steam locomotive, totaled over 19,000 tons. It was so long that the front end of the train was often in a different time zone than the back end.

• The North Carolina Department of Transportation reported that it removed more than 19,000 tons of debris from state roads following Hurricane Irene. This, the NCDOT added, was equivalent to carting off 6,300 elephants. They didn’t say whether they were African or Indian elephants. I called NCDOT for a clarification, but they kept hanging up.

• Here’s another good one: According to the Los Angeles Times, the then-Soviet Union exported around $515 million worth of military equipment to Nicaragua in the 1980s, a cache of guns and bombs and nasty stuff that somebody figured out weighed—you guessed it—19,000 tons.

So, suffice it to say, the Treasury would likely have us all go on faith that their trillion-An Even Better Coindollar baby would be worth what it says on the coin, rather than build the thing out of a trillion dollars worth of precious metal. This is one coin I would bite into and inspect very closely before I accepted it on the street.

Another thing about the $1T coin: Would it be fungible? I mean, how fungible could a $1-trillion-dollar coin be? If it’s not fungible, then what good is it? Right? This doesn’t really enter into the argument, but I just had to figure out a way to throw the word “fungible” into this column.

I know, I know. The term sounds like the coin should be soft and spongy and grow in moist, shady forests. No, fungible means, and I’m quoting here: the property of a good’s or commodity’s individual units to be mutually substituted, such as crude oil, bonds, or precious metals. Ya know, fungible.

In other words, say Henry lends Olaf five bucks. Henry really doesn’t care if Olaf pays him back with another $5 bill, five ones, or 500 pennies. Okay, maybe not the 500 pennies. But the point is, the $5 is fungible, because it can be replaced with any other $5 bill or equal amount of currency. A bicycle is not fungible because if I loan you my bike, and you try to return another bike—say, your crummy piece of junk—to me, I’m royally pissed because it’s not my exact bike. Furthermore, I’m never loaning you my bike again.

Sigh. So, you see, a $1T coin would not be feasibly fungible, because if there is no other such coin in existence and I loan you my $1T coin, then you go off and lose the darn thing, you’re not going to be able to pay me back, even with a million $1 million-dollar coins. Yes, 1 trillion dollarsBecause, for one thing, I’m not accepting a million $1 million-dollar coins from you. What do you think, I’ve got a warehouse for all that? And that’s another thing, if you use the $1T coin to get a candy bar from the vending machine, you’re going to be waiting around about 100,000 years to get all your change. And who needs that?

Okay, so now the “why” of the $1T coin. Do you really wanna know? Congress. That’s why. It involves the decided lack of grownups in Congress, and the debt ceiling and projected outlays and legal loopholes and the fact that, apparently, our little old Treasury Department can create money out of thin air as long as the cash is coins and the coins are made of platinum.

The idea was to make the magic coin, announce that it’s worth a trillion bucks, and then deposit it in Uncle Sam’s bank account. Viola! Debt crisis solved. I wonder if I could do that with my checking account. “Pay to the order of CASH, 1 trillion dollareenies, signed….”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Sir Archie’s ‘Words for the Now’

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

All right, gang, I’m at a bit of a crossroads here. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a fan of poet Archie Ferndoodle as anyone, and I consider it an honor to present his unique musings in this forum. But ever since his mom passed away in February at the tender age of 109 (breast implant surgery complications, the poor dear), Sir Archie has taken it upon himself to live with me and my family. Mr. F has seven cats and a dyspeptic parrot that sings ’70s country songs in the dead middle of the night. If you’ve ever been awakened at 2 a.m. to the strangled strains of “Harper Valley PTA,” you may have an idea of the trauma. And that’s not the worst part. Apparently, Archie is on a strict diet consisting chiefly of pan-fried liver, steamed cabbage, large-curd cottage cheese, and Oreos (with double stuffing). The whole house smells like a marathon gastric bypass surgical procedure.

The wife and kids are calling for drastic action. But I can’t put the guy on the street, can I? He’s a living legend. In fact, just this morning as we were tidying up after Roscoe the Parrot’s . . . uh, indiscretions on my wife’s oriental rug, the Great One handed me his latest. Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has done it again. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get a coupon for 7 percent off of her patented orange-mint hair removal paste. It really works, too. Sue’s upper lip looks fantastic!)    

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “Lenticular Haiku,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

Sir Archie has decided of late that many of our old standards—proverbs, parables, fables, and the like—are in desperate need of updating to more accurately reflect our life and times today. So the Great One has blessed us with his latest work: “Words for the Now.”

So without further ado, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle:

 

            “Words for the Now”

            by Archie Ferndoodle

 

            If at first you don’t succeed,

            Apply for a government bailout.

 

            Slow and steady never goes viral.

 

            One bad apple lands a reality television show.

 

            Two wrongs make a nifty presidential debate.

 

            Early to bed and early to rise requires Ambien and amphetamines.

 

            A Rolling Stone gathers retirement benefits by now, surely.

 

            Neither a borrower nor a lender be; now, regulatory agent, that’s where the safe money is.

 

            This above all: of thine own self promote like crazy.

 

            All that glitters isn’t gold, but all that’s gold can be sold 24 hours a day at Achmed’s Gold Emporium & Pawn.

 

            A penny saved is a colossal waste of time.

 

            What’s good for the goose probably doesn’t contain enough artificial growth hormone.

 

            A bird in the hand is worth a couple rounds of Avian Flu H5N1 vaccinations.

 

            It’s always darkest before the energy companies invest in their infrastructure.

 

            A friend in need is everybody not in the “5 percent.”

 

            A man’s home is his castle until it becomes the bank’s castle.

 

            Speak softly and carry a stun gun.

 

            Practice makes perfect, but it still can’t beat steroids.

 

            Laughter is the best medicine unless you can afford real medicine.

 

            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll sue your butt for everything you’ve got, including mental distress and anguish.

 

            Sticks and stones may break my bones, but defriending me on Facebook? Now, that really hurts.

 

            Actions speak louder than words, but rumors are even louder.

 

            A stitch in time is not as easy as Velcro.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Tired of Your Unwanted Gold? And Other Stuff

25 Feb

by Roger White

I can’t make up stuff to write about that is any sillier than real life. And if I did make it up, you wouldn’t read it because you would say, “Oh, he’s just making that stuff up, and it’s silly.” But you do read this stuff because you know I’m not making it up because I wouldn’t be silly enough to make this stuff up. This is real stuff, and that’s why it’s funny. And isn’t “stuff” a funny word? Say it out loud. Stuff. See? Kind of like rhubarb.

Here’s an example of the stuff I’m talking about—and I promise not to say “stuff” any further in this venue. Have you seen the TV commercial in which the benevolent, dulcimer-toned gentleman asks if you are tired of your unwanted gold? I kid you not, this is a genuine television commercial. And when I saw this one, it was one of those coffee-spewing moments. Got Folger’s all over the dog.

In the ad, this poor woman is at her cluttered and unkempt jewelry box, surrounded by junky mounds of tasteless gold bracelets, rings, necklaces, and tacky Krugerrand coins. The horror. But, thanks to Gold-Away (name changed to protect the perpetrators), she can send all that pesky gold (in an envelope, mind you!) off to Connecticut – why is it always Connecticut? – and even get some money in return!

Yes, not only is this beleaguered gal now able to shed those unsightly precious metals, she gets paid for it. Something along the lines of $5.00 per pound!

The only thing more stunning to me than the premise of this commercial is the fact that it has been running for months—which means it must be working! Try as I might, I just can’t imagine the scenario. But here goes:

“Damn it, hon, if I trip over any of this gold bullion one more time, I’m gonna fling the cat! Why do we have all this old, klunky gold lying around?”

“Now, Jethro, don’t get yer antlers all twisted. We can send it off to Gold-Away in these here special envelopes, and they’ll take care of it for us.”

“Well, thank heaven for Gold-Away. I think I broke my big toe.”

The same principle (that principle being, of course, taking as much advantage of the feeble-minded as is corporately possible) applies to just about anything and everything produced by a certain mint named after the bespectacled philosopher-statesman who got struck by lightning whilst flying his kite. I won’t mention the mint by name for fear of legal action, but let’s just call it the Benjamin Mint.

Have you seen what these guys are offering? Get this, you can purchase, for example, the entire 11-coin Sacagawea 2000-2010 Dollar Collection—if you act now!—for only $99.00. The mint fails to mention that each of these rare coins is worth precisely one dollar each, and they’re all in circulation. So if you go to the laundromat or get change from Starbucks often enough, you’ll find them. For, oh, about eleven bucks. Total.

Ah, but this particular Sacagawea set comes in a handsomely crafted box with crushed velvet and shellac and all that, the Benjamin people will argue. My answer, Hobby Lobby, ten bucks.

It gets worse. I shall now read from the brochure: “These coins are made from pure copper with a manganese brass outer clad!” What do they think the Sacagaweas on the street are made of—tomato aspic?

Again, this is real life. Why would I lie?

It is the apparent success of ads and commercials such as these that dims my hopes for this mighty nation. And more importantly, it makes me almost want to stop watching TV. Almost. Instead, I keep one of those nifty foam bricks within arm’s reach of the recliner. A well-aimed toss of this baby right into the kisser of the benevolent, dulcimer-toned Gold-Away man does wonders for the blood pressure.

I was lucky to get my foam brick, too. There was a limited supply, the guy said, and I called just within the 20-minute window to get the insider’s deal. Sweet.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.