Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Love is just around the corner

Today I bring your attention to a 17-years old Hayley Mills interview from a 1963 issue of Photoplay, reproduced at SeedShip.com, a Hayley Mills fan site. It's so adorable!

Click the photo to read the interview.
Moon-Spinners - Hayley Dancing

Image from The Moon-Spinners (1963) ganked from SS.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Love by Ondol's Light

Awwww. Burning charcoal makes him wistful.

Back in the day when serving in Korea the wife and I had to move out of one house heated by an ondol system, a series of heated pipes that run under the floors of a residence, due to carbon monoxide leaks. By regulations, U.S. service members living off the base were required to live in homes that had been upgraded to use heated water pipes in the floor instead of the more dangerous hot air systems that were notorious for leaking poison gas. One morning shortly after moving into our new apartment the wife and I woke up each of us with pounding headaches and nausea. After our IQ's returned to normal we decided "We're outta here." We discovered the landlord had lied about what heating system he had installed, being greedy for rent money. We were lucky we woke up at all.

The ondol heating systems may be behind the Korean urban myth of "fan death" that remains a concern primarily through fear-mongering by the media. In the public panic over illness or death that may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning it was often blamed on fans "stealing the air" or dehydrating sleepers. Most fans, even those sold today, have a timer that shuts the device off not to save electricity but to prevent death. That a fan is in the room of a person allegedly affected by a "fan death" is incidental. The fan death myth is persistent and even the skeptical blame it on dehydration and suffocation using rather shaky science to support their beliefs. But more than likely fans are blamed because one happens to be present in the room of the elderly or ill. more likely explanation that death through natural causes or carbon monoxide is ignored in favor of the scary idea that death can strike anyone, anywhere caused by nothing more than a gentle breeze.

The remote possibility may be that if a fan was involved in a death or illness at all it could have been from disturbing carbon monoxide gas that had settled under the floors from leaking heating pipes. It is possible the gas may have been disturbed by moving air from a fan that caused it to swirl and rise up through the floor to the level of a sleeping person who, in traditional Korean homes slept on mats on the floor, could then have then been in direct contact with the gas. Any "fan death" reports that had a basis in fact would probably have come from the passing of elderly residents in older style homes heated by older ondol. It is unlikely the one or two deaths per year attributed to "fan death" occur in modern homes with safer heating systems and are probably due to natural causes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Toy Surprise Inside!

Found in a box of candy from a local Asian market here in San Diego is this weird (to my American eyes) toy surprise figure holding an egg in its prehensile tail against a backdrop of a pretty sunset.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hal Jordan what a Unicorn?

Ranked #6 in search query? I don't want to know what the number one website is all about.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Record Bar

Decades ago when people wanted to browse, listen to and purchase music they had to leave the comfort of their home and journey miles away to a large department or specialty store to do so. One of the ploys used by stores to entice shoppers was naming the departments creatively. In some instances the music section was called the Record Bar (a practice that existed prior to the store of the same name). It was a way of differentiating the music department from the staid sections of necessities like shoes and clothing and implied luxury and fun. Hanging a sign that just read "Music Department" was too boring even though over the years stores have returned such naming simplicity even if made in flashing lights or neon. Calling a corner of a department store containing alphabetized shelves of long playing records a "Record Bar" promises fun, excitement and possibly illicit nightclub acts.

Other than branding a department in exciting ways what most promoted sales of LP's is the usually fascinating and sometimes lurid cover art. The 1950s and 1960s were famous for their cover disconnects, where the artists cleverly relied on sexual imagery to boost sales of polka or lounge music. The greatest disparity in using sex to sell LP's occurs in those categories of music that one doesn't normally associate with fun times and parties such as highway motel lounge ensembles, nightclub musicians and organ soloists.

While enough people went out to such places to justify employing them for a few decades no one really wanted to buy their music and take it home with them. Drinking a highball after a hard day of selling reverse-threaded screws to gas stations while decompressing in the orange and aqua booth of a Howard Johnsons doesn't usually make one wistful for the musical stylings of the guy at the piano that has a mop and bucket in view leaning against the turquoise burlap-covered wall behind him. Those purchases were typically reserved for the headline and more heavily promoted and polished acts that were marketed at the national level. So when browsing the aisles of the Record Bar the tired serf of the Camelot lifestyle had to be promised wild parties and lewd play times by way of a woman with large breasts who worships the man who plays the organ at the local park pavilion on alternating Saturdays.

Gilligan at Retrospace (from whom I ganked a few images) exhaustively details the practice of using sex to sell music and other products. Click the link to check out his entry on Cheesecake Album Covers. He hosts many fine examples and even more links to consumer-baiting LP covers.

The following cartoon by Art Lutner from Bachelor #2 (1961) is a good example of the logical progression of the use of sexual imagery to sell records and would have rung true with most readers of the era.

While Lutner was making a comical statement about using sex to sell children's LP's he wasn't far off from reality. Quite often advertising for children's products is aimed at the adult who holds the money and has little to do with the content of the purchase.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The TYMAGA Award: Jenny McCarthy

With the recent news that even more parents are declining to immunize their children against preventable diseases I have created the first ever TYMAGA Award. What is the TYMAGA? Well, TYMAGA stands for Take Your Money and Go Away and it goes out to those rich, powerful, famous or infamous that abuse or misuse their position or entitlement to make things worse in the world we live in. When those people, entities or companies know, or should know, better than to do the things they do but still endeavor to make any situation worse then they get a TYMAGA. The TYMAGA is a plea to stop it, just stop it by withdrawing from the public dialog for a while, roll around on your big pile of cash and give us all a break.

Anti-Vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy is the first person honored for a TYMAGA. Why should Jenny McCarthy pick up her bags of money and depart the public consciousness? Why pick on her? Jenny is not the only person out there wrongly speaking out on the dangers of vaccinating children. Primarily, it is her influence as a celebrity coupled with her steadfast adherence to junk science and support of discredited anti-immunization studies. Simply put, many people believe that vaccinations could and do cause syndromes like autism in children. Jenny McCarthy promotes not immunizing children using certain methods because of alleged negative reactions to vaccines. She is part of a movement that has had the effect of seeing a resurgence in formerly rare childhood diseases that in some instances resulted in death. One of the main problems with the anti-vaccination movement is that much of the evidence they base their decisions on originated in a thoroughly discredited study. Sadly the onset of some of these diseases and fatalities could have been prevented through routine vaccination and probably would have if not for Jenny McCarthy and her ilk supporting the study.

Over the last several years Jenny McCarthy has managed to avoid sinking into the bog of obscurity most celebrities fear drowning in by attaching herself to anti-immunization hysteria. Jenny McCarthy has remained one of the most influential spokespersons advocating not vaccinating a child long past when people should have recognized that the supposed risks of preventive health are far outweighed by the benefits. But Jenny, who uses her far-reaching platform of celebrity to misinform the masses and stoke fear in the stupid and gullible, remains steadfast in her support of discredited research and fraud. To lead people to believe that a child contracting and spreading to others measles or whooping cough is preferable to getting preventive medicine that almost no one in scientific circles believes will cause an undesirable side-effect is sadly negligent if not criminal in nature.

Her adherence to the cause is perplexing. Surely she has seen evidence the vaccine study that initially created the controversy was overturned and the person most responsible has had his license to practice medicine stripped away? Why then is Jenny not able or is unwilling to reverse her stance? Is there a reason she is not willing to accept the facts? Would doing so devastate and alienate her victim-hood worshiping fan-base? Would it invalidate her own sense of self?

Look, Jenny, you may have been fooled just like a lot of people were. Your personal situation may have blinded you to the fact that data was manipulated for money. That was then. It's been a few years since the study was discredited. I don't think anyone wants an apology from you, just acknowledge that everything you have advocated up until then was based on fraud and new information has allowed you to revise your position. This is a chance to change your mission and use your celebrity for good instead of perpetuating the damage. Check into the science yourself. If you don't understand it, have someone (more than one, preferably) respected and accredited in the field explain it to you and your organization.

It is incredulous that in spite of all the facts you continue supporting something that has almost no evidence, that certain immunizations cause autism. One would almost think money is the reason for your unwillingness to break from the anti-vac movement. Hopefully not, as that would make you a terrible person in light of your personal experiences. You probably had money before joining the cause, you probably will have money after you leave it. No one should begrudge you making a good living. But are you so lacking in confidence that you believe you have no other options left for a career other than supporting ignorance and exploiting worry and fear? If so, you are no better than the psychic that preys on a wealthy widow.

So, Jenny McCarthy, until you do the right thing do us all a favor and move somewhere sunny and exclusive far away from us and shut up so you do no more harm. Just please...

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm America's Sweetheart, bitch!

Adorably, Hayley Mills delivers the smack-down to a bunch of snobby, upscale, husband-hunting gold-diggers.

Take that, you skank!

From the Truth About Spring (1964).

Sunday, August 21, 2011


On this lazy Sunday here's some more Korean pop music I'm familiar with only because they play on the televisions (alternating with sports) that provide atmosphere in my favorite Korean restaurant in San Diego. As ever it is the choreography, costumes and set changes that drives these videos almost as much as the catchy tunes.

Rainbow - Sweet Dream (2011): I have no idea what they are saying but it has a good beat and you can dance to it. As one video commenter puts it, "Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are" fits the bridge just right.

SISTAR19 - Ma Boy (2010): This K-pop entry is really hot and sexy and not part of the reserved Korean image I remember from the 1980s. Wow to this. I doubt the positioning of that monkey arm was a coincidence. Marketing!

Secret - Starlight Moonlight (2010): This group is just 100% Hayley Mills-level adorable in this video. They are incredibly cute in this, but not all of their videos have them appearing so sweet and innocent. This music video looked ridiculously expensive to make.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Voyage to the Bitch-Slap of the Sea (1961)

Words to the wise: Don't get in Walter Pidgeon's way when he is trying to save the world.

Walter Pidgeon bitch-slaps a hella lot of people in the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Frankie Avalon gets it like six times. He should get a few more just for the opening theme song, which is about as disconnected from science fiction as you can get.

From the Collection: Glory Lane

Alan Dean Foster rarely delivers a bad read and he typically adds a lot of depth to slim scripts in his adaptations of movies and other shows. His Flinx universe is a favorite of mine even though the publishers have been marketing the series the last few years as Young Adult and not mature science fiction.

Glory Lane is a fun time though it is the cover I find interesting. Not so much for the unique aliens crowding the interstellar bazaar but the fact that on the back cover the bar-codes in the background above the actual fourth wall-breaking UPC code were scribbled out. It's amusing to think that the publisher was concerned that 1978 scanning technology would have been interfered with by the faux codes in the background. It's also possible that the UPC labels on the mech-dino would have been the place holder for the actual UPC code given different art direction and layout if a close-up of the tourist transporting walker were discarded in favor of the UPC-toting aliens. If so, good thinking by artist Jim Gurney, planning greater flexibility in his art to decrease chances of rejection or having to repaint the scene.
Glory Lane (1978).

Monday, August 15, 2011

From the Collection: Let's Get Together

Just received my original sheet music for the song Let's Get Together from the Hayley Mills 1961 opus The Parent Trap. Not hard to find but most are priced way out of my price range. This copy was in great shape and at reasonable cost. Digital copies of sheet music like this can be found for a few dollars on line that can be downloaded but it is mostly in a proprietary format. Nothing like owning the real thing that can't be taken away from you if the company maintaining the DRM or reading software folds or sells out to another company that no longer supports it.

For those of you who still have joy in your heart here is a link to the video of Hayley and Hayley singing her first big hit...Yeah yeah yeah!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'll tihte the lifeguards

"O mighty Jeebus, please guide these dedicated and highly-skilled lifeguards who without your assistance will be unable to rescue the floating form of your most beloved child who you saw fit in your infinite love and mercy to drown. Also, please intercede and use your mighty healing powers in conjunction with the likewise dedicated and skilled medical professionals using advanced medical equipment whom without your aid will surely fail as they fall prey to Satan. Amen."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From the Collection: Stalker from the Stars

Those unfamiliar with Marvel comic book history would find the Hulk prose novel Stalker From the Stars reminiscent of cold war SF cinema but the book is really a blend of a 1950s Atlas/Timely alien invasion story (inspired of course by real world fears and concerns) featuring an un-evolved 1970s Hulk. This had precedent at the time as several Marvel heroes had come up against old villains from Marvel's SF and Horror books of the past. While the dialog of SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain made me want to travel to the Fictionverse just to beat him up overall the book is not a bad read for a young adult novel.

Front and back covers of Stalker from the Stars (1978).

Monday, August 08, 2011

Disneyshop Disasters

Hey, Imagineers! Why don't you imagine a bio photo that doesn't look like Hayley Mills blew a pupil after having a stroke?

You've got six films and probably thousands of PR photos featuring Hayley in your catalog to gank a great image from and you pick this? Do I really have to provide you with a better photo?

A lean and athirst housing market

Imagine living in a world where magic exists. What if the supernatural was real?

Our world would be a shambles. It is doubtful civilization would exist. Assuming a civilization could be built against all the interference of hostile entities hours of daily life would be extraordinarily consumed with the trappings of protection against evil forces. All the praying and hexing would barely leave time to eat a meal, much less forage for and prepare it.

Proof of life after death, angels and demons would be as obvious and physically evident as the sun. If those entities existed, eternal war would be the result with humans as pawns or casualties. Millions of people would be taken, killed or possessed by entities hostile to all that was good, shambling through the streets like extras in a George Romero film. Only the insane would act in a manner they know for a certainty would cause torment in limbo or fire as the proof of it would be in front of their eyes everyday and night without misinterpretation. But would the mentally ill or any disease even exist? In a world of magic they would be healed through faith and the laying on of hands or potions the moment symptoms manifested.

Physics as we know it now would be radically different than it is. No mysteries would remain as sensitives prove that they can cast their minds through time and space seeking answers and bringing back irrefutable evidence of the way the universe works. Their talents would not be negated, hindered or defeated by cameras, the nearby presence of unbelievers and double-blind tests. If any of the Woo was real it would not be hidden, it would obvious, verifiable and most of all reproducible. Like science is.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Don't you wish your martian was science-fiction like me

Click the picture to bring Mars closer to Earth!

Found in my copy of a 1964 Whitman Publishing edition of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, the inscription reads:
"Christmas 1965"

Dear Dick,
I hope your mom doesn't shoot me, but I know you like science-fiction like me. I loved this one and I believe you are old enough for it now. Happy dreams.

Love, Pat

This edition has illustrations by Shannon Stirnweis throughout the book but most are rather generic scenes of people in Victorian era clothing standing or sitting around. The one standout illustration is the fatal first contact scene between the Martian invader and the Deputation team of Ogilvy, Stent and Henderson. I also dig the cover art and groovy SF typeset.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

New York City on the Edge of Forever

Since the Star Trek universe was re-booted a few years ago all the Trek-continuity is now invalid and erased. Doing this exposes an entire new audience with disposable income to the Star Trek concepts without all the baggage of passe special effects and dated 1960s allegory.

Another benefit of tossing out and virtually ignoring the decades of Trek history allows all the classic stories to be mined and re-imagined for contemporary consumers. Ruthlessly mining the past will create, at the very least, several decades of chapters to the Trek franchise that are familiar (though not overly dismissive) to the aging fan base yet offer the gloss of being new and improved for the current generation.

In whatever media format new Star Trek chapters will be created older aficionados will appreciate the full nudity the original series was not allowed to reveal and updated, awe-inducing special effects applied to re-imagined tales. Those new to Star Trek will recognize that the franchise is self-aware enough to be mocking the product itself and therefore not be embarrassed or think the show is too corny to spend money on tickets.

The classic time-travel episode The City on the Edge of Forever is probably the best choice for an adaptation into a new chapter in the Trek franchise. Imagine what would happen if the the Guardian of Forever had sent a frenzied Doctor McCoy to the New York of 1976 instead of the 1930s?

What if it was David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam serial killer, who spread a reign of fear through mid-1970s New York, and not a doomed hobo who discovered the phaser dropped by McCoy in the alley? What if the Son of Sam used a phaser instead of a pistol in his crimes?

In the original story pacifist Edith Wheeler had to die to prevent a peace movement that would allow the Nazis to take over the world. In the 2011 story a massacre would have to be reversed and more than one innocent would have to perish for the timeline to return to "normal".

Too dark? Not for today's audiences. The rebooted Star Trek is far more sexual, gritty and realistic than the near Utopia envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. Genocide was one of the themes of the 2009 film and millions of people died unseen in throw-away scenes of destruction. So a killer stalking the streets of New York with a terrible weapon that erases people from existence, the drama involved with reversing the events, would not be too far out of the realm of possibility for an updated chapter of the new Star Trek universe.

Hmmm...I feel a fan-fic coming on.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Checkstand Etiquette

This post exists only as a direct result of a customer completely losing their mind and embarking on a screaming tirade of threats, violence. libel and slander. What followed was a multi-week campaign of attacks via Twitter and Yelp (using sock-puppets or drafting others to assist) and harassing phone calls to the job site and corporate offices. All from one customer that was miffed the customers in from of him did not let him enter a new line ahead of the when an additional check stand became available. I nearly lost my job (or at the least I was in peril of a financially disastrous demotion) due to the unhinged attacks of a customer who acted like a spoiled brat. I received the ire of the customer because I did not step in and escort him to he front of the line. This happens more than one would think.

Unfortunately, businesses typically side with the customer no matter how deranged the complaint appears. This worry of being fired for "rudeness" is something grifters and revenge-minded for a perceived slight often use to their advantage, playing on the employees very-real concerns of what might happen if a customer doesn't get their way and even if they do, the worker doesn't display the right amount of obeisance or display that they don't know their place. Luckily for me, there was video recording the event.

To function smoothly our modern society relies on an agreed upon social contract to maintain peace and cooperate successfully among its members. Created through centuries of trial and error the social contract is a tenuous yet mutually agreed upon rules of expected behavior that allows strangers to get along in unfamiliar social situations. Sometimes that contract breaks down and chaos ensues, as anyone who has been in a major city during an extended power outage, cut off in traffic in Maryland, passed wind in an elevator or witnessed a Black Friday sale at a mall can attest.

Specifically and for the purposes of this study, the social contract often breaks down at the first moment when there are long lines of people waiting in a retail establishment
and an additional cash register opens. Unfortunate recent events in our country have made it imperative that some people are in need of a refresher course on checkstand etiquette and the proper way to behave in a public retail environment.

Waiting in long lines in stores is unpleasant and I can sympathize. I would really like to get back that ten
minutes of my life I lost when I was five people in queue behind the couple who insisted that they can buy DVDs with their WIC checks since they were purchasing children's movies. But the reactions by some waiting in line seems to be relative in nature. Oddly, the same person who shouts and screeches about a delay, throws a tantrum and threatens or acts with violence for waiting in line to pay for groceries is conversely just a few minutes later calm, patient and even pleased to be waiting in a long queue to rent a movie from an automated kiosk. I've personally witnessed an enraged customer upset over a harried coffee shop barista that are then placidly content to wait in a long checkout line at a big box discount store. They shockingly display such a personality change that it leads me to think they were replaced by a duplicate from an alien pod somewhere between the condiments section and the fifty-pack of toilet paper.

It should be obvious that if a retail establishment does not have enough cashiers to serve the number of customers present it is not because no one cares or receives some sort of delight in alienating the main source of income. Rather it is because that is all the people they have dedicated to the checkstands. Most stores rely on personnel from the other departments to fill in as needed. Depending on the type of store employees from the children's department, jewelry counter, dairy or meat sections will back fill and assist the front end with helping customers. Wander a major retail clothing store and witness that register after register and department after department is vacant of employees. This is is due to the staff being pulled in multiple directions. Is the shelf that displays your favorite shirt empty and no one is around to help? This is probably because the person responsible for stocking the shirts has been cashiering in the shoe department for the last four hours.

The degree to which an employee is available to immediately assist is often subject to reasonable availability. Breaks, lunches and some other duties are mandated by State and Federal laws and company policies. Employees can and have been terminated from their jobs for the simple act of delaying their scheduled meal break to assist a customer or trying to finish a task in a timely manner. While unfortunate for the employee this is as much to protect the store from future litigation and spurious labor claims as much as protecting the rights of the worker.

So here is a step-by-step refresher course for both retail employees and customers on the proper checkstand etiquette for when an additional register opens. Feel free to print it and hand it out to those who are most in need of it.


Checkstand Etiquette - figure 1
Figure 1: This diagram is representative of a typical checkstand in almost any retail establishment. In this example Register #1 is open and populated by a cashier. There are four customers waiting. The common wisdom states that if there are three or more customers in a line then a additional register should be populated to assist in processing waiting orders.
Checkstand Etiquette - figure 2

Figure 2: When checkstand #2 opens it is policy and common sense for the cashier to call over, if they should so choose, the next persons waiting in line. That is, the customers who have been waiting the longest in a line have the right of first refusal to move to the other register. In this example Customers #2 and #3 move to checkstand #2 allowing the Customer #4 to move up in the checkstand #1 queue. This way, all waiting customers are expedited through the lines efficiently. Basically, everybody wins.

Checkstand Etiquette - figure 3

Figure 3
: The main drawback to the common sense application of the social contract as it relates to checkstand etiquette are the facts that politeness in our society is nearly extinct and "common sense is so rare it is a super power". Often, as in the example as diagrammed in Figure #3, the last customer in the line, who by virtue of arriving last and therefore has been in line the least amount of time, jumps ahead of the customers who have waited the longest. This is rude and violates basic checkstand etiquette and breaks the social contract.

The cashier is put in a difficult situation when this occurs. If the cashier points out that the other customers should be helped ahead of them they are typically berated by the line jumper. What also frequently happens is that if the cashier, seeking to avoid confrontation, does not stop the last customer from jumping the line the other customers take out their frustration on the employee in much the same manner. Rarely do the customers directly confront each other. Wisely, perhaps, though cowardly, merely because the employee is perceived as a safer and more vetted target for ire and is unlikely to react with violence as an unknown quantity, whereas a customer off the street purchasing an energy drink just might

Checkstand Etiquette - figure 4

Figure 4: This diagram represents the typical temper tantrum a customer indulges in when they can't be first in line, even when they were the last to arrive on the scene. The product they were attempting to purchase (and would have if they had a little patience) is often thrown at the cashier, down the register aisle or at a display. The proper course of action would be for the customer to wait, return at a more opportune time or decide to take their business elsewhere, handing the product to the cashier so it can be restocked to prevent damage or spoilage. Unfortunately the tantrum is sometimes followed by a Yelp-ing Twitter-rage of dissembling and distortions motivated by revenge that can and has escalated into concerted real world and online harassment campaigns, bullying, slander and libelous acts. This is an extreme example though not all that uncommon and is familiar to many Marketing, Security and Human Resources departments.

Any person that thinks companies only track sales are kidding themselves. Blogs, forums and all kinds of media sites are browsed, sifted through and monitored. It is not an exaggeration to state that seemingly untouchable companies have been brought down by a negative yet truthful campaign. A sudden torrent of opinions (even seemingly coming from different people over an extended period of time are sometimes sock puppets created to cause problems for an individual or company) is analyzed with great effectiveness and the revenge motivated, spurious, harmful, libelous, slanderous and exaggerated claims are readily evaluated for what they are. Companies spend millions, if not billions, annually on marketing research and analysis.

So let's clarify a few things clear for those people who feel too self-entitled to wait their turn and are caught up in the personal horrors of their First World problems:

Waiting for good dough
  1. It is not poor customer service to first assist those who arrived before you.
  2. It is not rude on the part of the employee to guide into the newly opened  checkstand customers who have been waiting the longest.
  3. Calls for the employee to be fired for acting according to common politeness are ridiculous.
  4. Threats, violence and acting out will not be tolerated, so don't be surprised if you are asked to leave and not return. Workplace violence is a concern and threats are taken seriously.
  5. Just about all stores have video cameras and all manner of claims are easily investigated so tell the truth.
  6. Cyber-bullying, online personal attacks, harassment campaigns and libelous tales of how terribly you were treated could be actionable by a company and employees that may suffer a loss of reputation and income due to statements that are not factual.
  7. A threat to "never shop there again" is...Well...No threat at all. Few establishments encourage the repeat business of the tantrum-throwing customer.
  8. Don't be a jerk.
For your convenience here is the entire 4-part Checkstand Etiquette worksheet suitable for framing, inclusion in a PowerPoint presentation or just for shoving into the faces of enraged a-holes: Checkstand Etiquette slides from LTMS.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Fingerprints, while still valuable as a forensic tool in law enforcement, are not the be-all and end-all of crime solving like they used to be. Not that you would know it from police procedure television shows. Typically prints are used to verify identity when all other methods fail or can not be trusted.

They also provide another bit of evidence that can be used to determine if someone was present in a certain location or used a certain object. However, since they can be scanned and printed onto a variety of materials they can sometimes fail as a biometric or forensic tool. Bad guys could, technology allowing, conceivably wear prosthesis with false or misleading prints, though they are probably for the time being beyond the means of the common criminal.

Creating fingerprints that would defeat false-print detection technology probably yet requires some sophistication in their making. I speculate they have already been put into place during certain ops or by high-end criminal enterprises. Anyone needing a fall guy need only to plant a print and some DNA and that person goes to jail for ever or their life is utterly destroyed. It could also be used to provide evidence where there is none. A verified chain of custody would remove any number of conspirators that might flip or tattle by allowing them true discovery of prints and even DNA, if biological material was used in conjunction with the prosthesis.

I have no idea if the reproduced thumbprint on the instructions tab of the car windshield sun screen are the fingerprint-featured man from an old human resources advertisement are actual prints from a real person. They could be works of art made by pen and ink. Genuine or created the source could be decades old and is considered free-use by any and all. A simple internet search reveals many examples of real fingerprints available for adapting to finger covers. The ease in finding actual prints by even the most casual browser leads me to wonder if their exist databases of fake fingerprints that may be commonly found by investigative agencies from time to time, similar in the way there exist databases of phone numbers used in popular media, mainly those starting with the prefix 555. .

Certain phone numbers are rarely issued to the public because they owners would be subjected to nuisance calls day and night. For instance a phone number that shouldn't be active, yet is, is the famous 867-5309 from the Tommy Tutone song. Anyone claiming that number as their real phone number would have to provide proof it is actually theirs. The number would certainly cause an alert somewhere if someone tries to use it in any official capacity, such as when providing a contact number to police. The popularity of the number is such that it can be used at nearly any point of sale pad as an alternate type of customer loyalty card in just about any store by entering their area code and the number.

Odds are the number will work just fine as someone somewhere thought they were being clever and uses an easily-remembered number to gain their product discounts. Some companies have locked 867-5309 out of their systems as it skews consumer purchase data or allows access to substantial discounts based on accumulated sales volume and tracking. One wonders if false fingerprints that shouldn't belong to a living person are in a system somewhere and could create a similar red flag.

A few years ago making fake prints was nearly impossible, was highly technical and expensive. It primarily existed as an unlikely plot element in conspiracy stories of film and literature. Today the creation of a false print can be accomplished by the kitchen chem-lab amateur that would be of good enough quality to trick low-end security systems. Imagine how easy planting a fake one at a crime scene would be for investigators to discover.

But where the phone numbers are maintained by the telecom companies are fake or notorious fingerprints monitored by governments? Would a planted fingerprint collected as evidence derived from a deceased terrorist create an alert when scanned into a system? Names do, certainly. Some people have derided security agencies for keeping the 9/11 hijacker names and other notorious or non-active terrorists on no-fly lists. The question is, why bother? They are either dead or it is unlikely they would take a plane ride. The simple reason is that new villains may use the names of martyrs to make some kind of point in their terrible goal. It is not inconceivable that someone would plant a print as a secret message.

So is there some secret database somewhere that maintains a record of fingerprints that are privately and publicly available but unlikely to be found in real situations? If it does exist does it serve to provide source material for black ops? Is it used to check unlikely prints belonging to the famous, infamous or villainous? Has the data been used to prosecute the innocent? Direct suspicion away from the true perpetrator? Convict someone who got away clean that everyone knew was guilty but could not prove it? Subvert security systems? I can not really conceive that there is not such a category among fingerprint databases that covert agencies pay attention to. It would be remarkably careless not to have such records, just to rule out the crazy, dangerous or creative.

I don't think we'll be through the looking glass anytime soon, people.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Paper or plastic?

People that go to the store to buy just one apple and then ceaselessly giggle over the product code being '4020' is probably one of the greatest arguments there is against legalizing marijuana. Can't you kids handle it? It's embarrassing. Seriously, not cool.

I imagine a bio-degradable pipe that can be eaten or disposed of otherwise is easier than throwing a metal pipe out the window when the cop car lights turns on and is cheap enough to keep buying so mom won't find anything incriminating while searching your room. But are you really fooling anyone? Most telling is when I give the group of teen-aged girls purchasing just one apple among the six of them my best fatherly disapproving stare and one starts eating it, meekly claiming, "I'm really only just hungry."

Sure you are, sweetie.

Honestly? Don't care. Just make the penalties while driving under the influence or being stupid while intoxicated too horrifying to contemplate. If this keeps up some politician is going to demand that like cigarettes no one under 18 can buy fruit.

You can bet that when Hayley Mills buys an apple it is for eating.