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Finger Lickin' Bad

Please don't lick your finger to remove a too-tight ring and then hand it to me. Joseph's has sanitary lubricants on hand for this purpose.

Please don't lick your thumb to count money. If the new bills you just printed stick together, give them to me and I will lick my thumb to count them. However, I will excuse this unsanitary practice for counting hundred dollar bills. Thank you for your attention.

We've Got Steam Heat

People believe all sorts of cockamamie things about jewelry. This is usually due to an understandable ignorance of the technical aspects of jewelry or to general lack of mechanical intuition. But, then again, some people don't light up when you flip the switch.

The best story I've heard is about a consumer who believes that you should never let a jeweler steam your jewelry because some of the gold comes off and the jeweler collects it and sells it.

The best question I've been asked, several times, is "Is it true that opals bring bad luck?"

I think it's only a nasty rumor.

Actually, the origin of this superstition is known. It comes from an 1817 Sir Walter Scott novel, Anne of Geierstein, in which the colors of the opal the heroine wears in her hair change with her moods and fade when she dies.

You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet

After 56 newsletters and 3 books, I have written so many articles about just about everything — consumer and middle class issues, food, drink, money, economics, politics, and the lighter side of life, I reorganized the material into a new general interest book, Now and Then Again, with jewelry articles pared and put in one section. Included are articles too long or too edgy for the newsletters. There are 804 articles. (See links left and below.)

There are many articles about the past which are eerily resonant today, hence the title. Examples are an 1899 prediction that the Chinese will start to mass produce goods “not for their own use, but for us and at such ruinous prices that the labor market of the world will suffer a terrible blow,” (Made in China), virtually identical ads for cure-alls in 1903 and 2012 (Snake Oil), and the stupid economy of 1896: “Leak Through Economics” from Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech. That morally corrupt new music is old, shown by a series of quotes about the waltz in 1813, ragtime in 1902,  Stravinsky in 1913, swing in 1936, rock and roll in 1957, and Keith Richards dissing hip-hop in 2007 (All Shook Up). The Great Recession got you in a depression? It’s happened before. Read about the Panic of 33 in ancient Rome (Oeconomia est, O Asine!). While in Rome, go down to Pompeii and read the ancient graffiti on the walls: “Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!” (The Handwriting on the Wall).

The book goes from A (Attention Winos) to Z (Zen and the Art of Canine Maintenance). Here is a sample of the diverse topics in the book: an elephant who didn’t get a peanut because it was paid for with a lead slug flattening the offender with a stream of water (Never Cheat an Elephant), the rise of the Christmas tree and decline of the Christmas stocking (O Weinachtsbaum), counterfeiters who printed money while in prison in 1899 (Passing the Buck), airline barf bags with ads on them (Ad Nauseum), and an article about a 1927 robot who answered the phone and who, when asked his favorite book at a booksellers convention, replied “Is Sex Necessary?” by James Thurber (Is Sex Necessary?). The article is accompanied by a wonderful photo of a woman hugging the protesting robot.

The book is like a newspaper: you don’t have to read it sequentially, so you won’t get bored. You can read what interests  you. If measuring the speed of light by melting a chocolate bar in your microwave (Hot Chocolate) is too technical, read about selfie toasters on the same page (You’re Toast!). If the gold standard is too complicated (In Gold We Trust), skip a few pages and read about marijuana scented coins from Benin (The Smell of Money). By the way, the strange pictures on the home page are from the book.

Exclusive Gourmet Discount Hand-Crafted Designer Products For All

I opened the refrigerator to get milk to put in my coffee and there it was: Land O Lakes Gourmet Half-and-Half*. "Gourmet" was done up in fancy script, too. The carton contained no information that would save the name from being an oxymoron, i.e., "from hand-milked cows" or "extra-virgin cream".

A lot of words like "gourmet" and "designer" are bandied about today. I suppose everything is designed by someone, but prefixing a product with "designer" should mean it was designed by someone you've heard of.

Hand-crafted is also abused. I was once in a fast-food chicken joint and, knowing the mashed potatoes were of the instant ilk, I declined them. Well, the girl behind the counter was offended and she proudly told me that she had personally hand-mixed the potato powder. A lot of that "hand-crafted" Indian jewelry you see was just soldered together from cast-from-a-mold components. The FTC regulates such claims: hand-made jewelry is supposed to be made from scratch with hand tools.

Then there's "discount." Discount from what? Other than for watches, there's no list price on jewelry to discount from. Actually, "discount" is a code word for cheap stuff cheap. Good stuff cheap is hard to find, since the minute a store starts pushing "discount", it attracts people who only want to hear price, not quality, which forces the store to adjust its products accordingly.

"Exclusive" and "imported" are a few other words to make you think you're not just getting a mass-produced product. I like the beer ad jingle that claims the stuff "never tasted so imported." What does imported taste like?

I used the milk.

* Since renamed “Traditional Half-and-Half”, no doubt from the original pilgrims’ recipe.

The Only Law Never Broken

It is ordained and established that none from henceforth shall use to multiply gold or silver nor use the craft of multiplication and if any the same do and be thereof attaint, that he shall incur the pain of felony.*

This Act Against Multipliers was passed in England in 1404, during the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413). To multiply gold and silver referred to alchemists transmuting base metal into gold or silver. It wouldn't do for someone to be richer than the king.

The act was repealed in 1689 after lobbying by Robert Boyle, one of the founders of modern chemistry (Boyle's Law). Boyle, along with his contemporary, Isaac Newton, was an alchemist, seeking to change base metal into gold. He wanted the act repealed because he thought he had found the secret.

Actually, minute amounts of gold have been made from mercury and platinum in nuclear reactors at great cost.

* They didn't fool around in the 15th century. "Pain of felony" meant the death penalty, no doubt painful.

Sunday School

Benjamin Franklin relates a story told to him by Indian interpreter Conrad Weiser in Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (1784).

Weiser tells of an Indian friend who, offering to sell his beaver pelts on a Sunday, was told by a trader that he couldn’t conduct business on the Sabbath because this was the day they meet to learn good things.

The Indian tagged along with the trader to church services. He perceived that the angry man in black who spoke was angry at him being there so he left.

After the service he accosted the merchant again and asked if he would give more than four shillings a pound for his beaver. No, the trader said. Three and sixpence.

The Indian then asked other traders and they all told him three and sixpence. “This made clear to me that my Suspicion was right; and whatever they pretended of meeting to learn Good Things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians on the Price of Beaver.”

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Everyone’s Entitled to My Opinion

A few articles from Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are:

Show me the money, Paleface!

Cowboys ride shotgun on airplanes

Men wear women’s clothes!

Women wear men’s clothes!

Get drunk out of your skull

Junk food redux

Comic arrested for torturing canary!

Arnold’s idol

Cheers!

Glowing in the dark

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