Archive for May, 2010

Website Review:

May 21, 2010

Sure, you recycle. Maybe you’re in a carpool or use public transportation. Perhaps you’re even part of that growing segment of the environmentally aware who have started skipping every other breath, thereby halving the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of your piehole.    

But what about that biggest of all contributors to your carbon footprint? (Hint: It’s not coming from your feet but about a third of your body length higher, and in the back).    

Unless you’re among the dedicated few who package their bodily wastes in sealable containers, patiently awaiting the opening of the Yucca Mountain Repository, you may not be doing enough to reduce your harmful impact on the planet. You could either die right now, and do us all a huge favor. Or you could invest in the green technology of a composting toilet.    

These modern miracles of sanitary convenience are now available through a company called Sun-Mar, subject of this week’s Website Review. has a very busy home page, as one might expect of a firm dedicated to how you do your business. There are links and pulldowns out the ying-yang, far more than I can cover in a single post. I’ll try instead to focus on the product and the people standing behind it, who hopefully avert their eyes as we symbolically take their futuristic commodes for a whirl.    

There’s a great introductory video that explains how the water usage of conventional toilets has a tremendous negative impact on our oceans, streams and wetlands. We see scenes of Niagara Falls as we learn that up to 7 billion gallons of otherwise drinkable water is flushed down the crapper every day. This doesn’t have to be. With the waterless device patented exclusively by Sun-Mar, you can now rely on a three-step composting system to save our world’s precious lifeblood while enjoying the convenience of using the bathroom in almost any semi-private setting.    

“Install one anywhere plumbing is not available,” we’re told. “In your closet, your boat house, your country cabin, your barn, even in a guardbooth.”    

(So the next time you pull up to the turnpike toll-taker’s cubicle and it appears to be unattended, maybe you just need to wait a couple of minutes for the worker to rise up and appear.)    

The home page also contains a lengthy essay on the history of the composting toilet and the company that makes it. It was founded almost 40 years ago by Hardy Sundberg, an enterprising Canadian who gave the firm half its name. His first effort was a primitive device that used a large fan, a top-mounted heater and mechanical mixers to agitate and dry what is euphemistically called the “waste pile.” Presumably the size of an Oldsmobile, this beast used only a single compartment for the three required steps of composting, evaporation and finishing and had numerous shortcomings, not the least of which was an earth-shattering stench.    

A second generation introduced in 1977, breezily dubbed “The Tropic,” dried the waste matter with a heater sealed in a compartment in the base. This solved the challenge of keeping the “waste cake” moist, so it wouldn’t dry to the consistency of an “adobe brick.” (Somehow, the appeal of both baked birthday desserts and Southwestern-style architecture have suddenly become diminished). A third prototype a few years later saw the advent of the “Bio-drum,” which further isolated offending matter from the production process, and of the so-called “central composting toilet system” that allowed numerous seats to feed a single vat kept yards away from the bathroom. Even though odors were now completely controlled on site, this was the model for people who couldn’t bear the thought that decomposition was happening in the same room they were brushing their teeth.    

Under “The Company” pulldown, there are links to articles written in the popular press about the advantages of Sun-Mar’s toilet/composters. As you might expect, most have clever headlines hinting at the hilarity involved in passing solid matter from your digestive system. “This Toilet is On A Roll,” says The Globe and Mail newspaper. “When Nature Calls” is from CottageLink magazine, “Head of a Different Blend” is from DIY Boat Owner, and “People of the Loo” is a review in the Toronto Star. Perhaps most intriguing of all is “Introducing Audrey” from County Life, a 1991 article about “people who give their toilets affectionate names like Audrey or Puff the Magic Dragon. What will you call your Sun-Mar?” Personally, I’d go with “John”.    

In the “Products” section, you can read about all the variations possible in the 22 different models offered. A caption next to several photos encourages shoppers to “pick the category at right that best suits your needs,” even though the pictures are actually to the left. (Obviously, the layout artist didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground). There are low-flush models that use a small amount of water as well as completely dry systems. Some are electric, some are non-electric and a few are even solar-powered. There’s the luxurious “family” model complete with a footstool, there’s the slightly smaller “compact,” and finally there’s the “spacesaver” for the tiniest butts and the tiniest rooms.    

All of them look pretty much like conventional toilets, though a little beefier around the base. In the “Technology” portion of the site, we learn more about what’s going on down there. Fresh waste, provided by the user, is combined with a peat-based bulking material, provided by Sun-Mar. These then begin an “aerobic breakdown” — which is a chemical process, not a hip-hop-inspired exercise routine — in the Bio-drum. This drum is periodically turned by a hand-crank to aerate the mixture. The 90-plus-percent of poop that is water recedes into an evaporating chamber while the solids gradually accumulate in a finishing drawer. Every three to four weeks, odor-free compost can be removed from this drawer and put into your garden, shared with your neighbors or, if you’re like me and can’t understand any of the previous paragraph, flushed down your regular toilet.   

This section also includes the Frequently Asked Questions, of which there are quite a few. Do I add any chemicals? No, you don’t. What happens in the winter? The compost freezes. Does the fiberglass used in the commode smell? You’re worried about how the fiberglass smells? Do animals harm the system? “Compost is not something that is attractive to animals,” though you might want to build an enclosure in case your local bears never heard that saying about what they do in the woods. Is the fan noisy? They’re not as bad as they used to be, “just another example of how we are always improving your composting toilet experience.” Should males still urinate outside? No. In fact, the liquid is beneficial to the composting process.   

Finally, we’ll look at a very impressive collection of satisfied customers in the “Testimonials” section. Jacquelyn Morgan, owner of an “Excel” model that I hope no one mistakes for a spreadsheet, writes that she thinks of the company “as friends.” Russ and Heather Bencharski have a Centrex 2000 that they claim works much better than the propane (!) toilet they used to own. James Mauger says of his Compact version that it costs a fraction of a well and septic system, and that “using the bathroom at night no longer involves shoes, a coat and a flashlight” (!!). 

Some people are so happy with their toilets that they’ve sent in pictures of them, though thankfully while they’re not in active use. Kathy Escott says her unit inspired her to write a “snappy poem” that informs guests how to use it. The “whole Ryan clan” gathered around their prized possession to offer toothy smiles and a thumbs-up on their model. Robert Gagnon of Quebec sent a simple photo with the inexplicable caption “Notre premiere testimoniaux en Francais!” I’ll pardon his French and assume the best, that he’s going to see a movie premier at Notre Dame. is a well-constructed if somewhat over-produced site that contains a lot of information on a subject that I always presumed the less we knew about, the better. I’m vaguely aware that what’s being flushed down the can today goes through a sewer to a treatment plant where it’s processed before eventually ending up in my morning coffee, but most of that happens out of sight. When that same process is occurring right there in my home, and instead of going into my coffee becomes part of a tomato sandwich I’ll eat later this summer, it’s somehow a bit more disconcerting. I definitely appreciate that there people who can stomach this concept and do it with a smile. However, I think I’ll choose to save myself costs starting at $1,400, and stay with my traditional dump. 

Proud owners Susan and Patrick Radtke stand next to their composting toilet, whom they call "Arthur"

Fake News: Voters seek change … again

May 20, 2010

Impatient with incumbents, sick of the status quo and bummed by business-as-usual, American voters went to the polls Tuesday in primary elections across the nation to deliver a tired old message: they want change — again.

As in the last 14 elections, voters spoke with a single voice, saying that politicians in Washington are too entrenched and need to be replaced with fresh blood, which in another two years will also become clotted and stale, poured into a biohazard bag and packed off for proper disposal.

In races from Kentucky to Pennsylvania to Arkansas, the consistent message was that the electorate is ready for more conservative policies, or more progressive policies, or both, or neither, or at least no more guys named Arlen.

“We are tired of the same old politics,” said Arch Begal, president of the nonpartisan Forgetful and Distracted Voters for Something. “Congress must act decisively to cut taxes, no, raise them; expand government programs, no, reel them in; and remember the average guy on Main Street, no, cater to the needs of business.”

Tuesday’s results showed that the same voters who overwhelmingly installed a new generation of leaders in 2008 had now become weary of them, and was ready for a fresh crop of politicians to become disenchanted with. Exit polls in several states indicated Americans of every political stripe showed up to cast their ballots to transform the political landscape, then forgot where they parked their cars.

“You know what would really be a change?” asked defeated congressman Mark Burns. “For these people to make up their goddam minds.”

Dissatisfaction with the direction the country is headed was reflected not only by the mood against incumbents, but was also seen in a number of ballot initiatives. Propositions to change the very fabric of everyday life passed by wide margins in state after state.

In Wyoming, a proposal requiring citizens to hop on one foot instead walking on two passed by a 56% to 44% margin.

“Conventional methods of locomotion just won’t work any more,” said organizer Drew Crawford. “The failed model of the left-right two-step is plainly outdated.”

In Ohio, a measure to change the standard touch-typing method to one in which elbows would be used instead of fingers passed by 13 points. Oklahoma voters approved a law requiring that breakfast foods be eaten for dinner, and that the name for “lunch” be changed to “Tonto”. In Oregon, citizens okayed an initiative to sleep during the day and stay awake all night.

Such was the depth of a desire for change that even common sense was tossed out the window in some locations. In Montana, drivers will now use the left-turn signal on their cars to indicate they are making a right turn, and vice versa.

“Every now and then, you just have to mix things up to make sure people are still paying attention,” said change proponent Dirk Harrell. “It’s time to toss logic and conventional wisdom out the window, and have change just for the sake of — hey, look, a squirrel!”

Getting more than oil with your oil change

May 19, 2010

While I was heading to meet my carpool partner the other morning, a glowing red light appeared on my dashboard. It was in the shape of an old-fashioned Arabian Nights oil lamp, so I figured the genie who powers my car needed maintenance. That’s how much I know about automobile engines.          

I realized that ignoring the demands of the genie could lead to major damage, but it was 4:30 in the morning and I didn’t feel safe stopping by the side of the road and thumbing for a magic carpet ride. I limped the last few blocks to where I meet Lynn, accelerating slowly after each stop so the sloshing oil wouldn’t reactivate the warning. If I could just keep the light off, I figured there’d be no damage. (I think it flickered on a few more times, but I looked away so it didn’t count). I made it safely to the parking lot and hopped into Lynn’s car.          

I figured a day basking in the therapeutic power of a gentle spring sun might prove restorative to my Civic. I’d heard that Japanese automakers had made marvelous advancements in building self-healing cars, or maybe I’m thinking about those love robots they keep inventing. In any case, when I returned that afternoon and cranked the car, there was that pesky Aladdin’s lamp again. I guessed either my oil pressure was low, or I was to be granted three wishes. I wished the light would go away, then I wished I’d brought my other car, then I wished I had a trillion dollars. When none of these happened, I drove slowly across the street to the new lube shop that had opened only a few weeks before.          

The franchise was named “Take 5 Oil Change” and the sign out front claimed “we change your oil, not your schedule.” I didn’t know much about the chain, other than that when they began operations last month, there were festivities more befitting the end of a world war than the debut of yet another car care center. They’d had balloons and bunting and clowns, all to publicize their “different” way of servicing Rock Hill’s vehicles. They claimed to honestly, genuinely care, not just about collecting $60.97 for four quarts of Castrol GTX and a new air filter, but about your comfort and well-being as a child of God.           

I’m not a fan the hyper-service you often see in new business enterprises that are trying just a little too hard. I attempted to patronize an independent fast food outlet that opened across from the McDonald’s near my home until the manager annoyed me to the point of no return. “Can I get you some more ketchup?” he’d ask every five minutes. “How about some additional napkins? Would you like to try one of our desserts? How about if my wife comes over and cleans your bathrooms?” Finally I fled to the golden arches next door, secure in the knowledge that I’d be ignored by every employee who worked there.           

When I pulled up to the service bay at Take 5, I was immediately swarmed by a crew of almost half a dozen crisply uniformed workers. One guided me into position with a series of sharply executed hand signals that could successfully land an F-15 fighter on a heaving carrier. Another actually saluted me, while what seemed to be the team leader approached my car window. He welcomed me, told me to turn my ignition two clicks toward off, and leave the key in. I started to get out to head for what I presumed to be a waiting room of untold splendor before he gently stopped me.         

“At Take 5, we change your oil, not your schedule,” he recited. “You can wait right there and we’ll have you done in about five minutes.”         

I groaned inwardly at the prospect of having to make chit-chat with eager young mechanic types while I waited, but immediately learned that they planned instead to be all business. I popped the hood and they took on the appearance of a NASCAR pit crew, calling out the different thingies they were inspecting and answering each with an authoritative “check!” From a pit beneath me, Jeremiah drained what oil I had left in the crankcase, while above Chris G. handled things like the battery water, tire pressure and wiper blades. Joey was on “courtesy duty”, asking if I’d care for a drink, topping off not only the car’s fluids but mine as well. All the while, Chris K. stood with clipboard in hand, apparently in charge of safety.         

“What kind of oil would you like?” Joey asked me.         

It was the question I had feared. I’m aware of the existence of many kinds of oil — from fish oil to olive oil to that excess grease on my forehead in the morning — though I was pretty sure none of these were appropriate for my engine. I think I wanted 1040 EZ, or was that the name of an income tax form? Or maybe 401(k)? Formula 409?         

“I’d probably recommend an intermediate weight, considering the weather we’re having,” he finally suggested.         

“Yes, a medium weight sounds good,” I responded. “Give me about five or six pounds of oil, I guess.”         

He said their best value was currently on sale for $10.50 a quart, so I went with that. The group sang out a few more status reports (“Tamper seal? Applied! Chassis lube? Sealed! Wiper blades? OK!”) before Joey returned to ask if I wanted a new air filter. He showed me my current one, a bit dingy perhaps though nothing to be embarrassed about. Then he flashed the bright white of what a new one looked like, and had me sold on another $19.99 worth of purchases. Only later would I remember I was buying a filter and not a toothy new smile, and could’ve saved a few bucks.         

“We’re pretty much done with everything,” Joey reported. “We’re just going to do our standard double-check. Each man will inspect his teammate’s job, to guarantee your safety and satisfaction.”         

Yeah, whatever, check, check, check. It was now coming up on almost eight minutes that I’d been in the garage, and I was starting to get a little impatient with all the attention. Don’t they have any other patrons to wait on? Aren’t they about ready for a smoke? Those cell phones in your pockets aren’t going to text themselves, you know. It only took another thirty seconds or so of frenetic activity and finally, the job was done. I was handed a detailed invoice (number 4073, issued at 2:34 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, May 3, in the year 2010 of the Common Era), paid my bill, thanked Joey and the boys, and started pulling out.   

As I turned toward the exit, I saw a sign that read “honk if you liked our work.” In the rearview mirror, I could see the crew watching me, eager for a toot of validation. I normally shun such hokey conventions, especially since that time I got violently ill after eating at Long John Silver’s even though I had rung their bell. Yet these guys were so happy to have a job, so pleased to do work that people actually needed (unlike, for example, the financial proofreading I do), that I couldn’t resist. I beeped the horn and saw a round of high-fives behind me as I drove away.   

Once again, the magic of modern motoring was safely happening beneath my hood, thanks not to the supernatural powers of an obedient, cross-armed apparition, but thanks instead to five mortals at Take 5.   

What the hell is that?

Final “thoughts” from the NRA convention

May 18, 2010

Wrapping up my coverage of the weekend’s NRA convention in Charlotte, the following is a collection of quotes that may or may not have been made at the big gun confab. About half of these are real and the other half are invented by me. See if you can guess which is which. (Answers are at the end).

A. “I don’t think there’s another member of Congress who buys more ammunition in a year than I do.” — U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.)

B. “The pen is mightier than the sword, it’s true. But your semiautomatic is mightier than my chalkboard, so I’m going to sit down now.” — Fox pundit Glenn Beck, after his 45-minute presentation

C. “You OK with special? You don’t always like to be called special.” — Actor Chuck Norris, speaking to a mentally handicapped fan

D. “The rocking community has always been supportive of a well-armed militia and private gun ownership. The Beatles sang ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’. Pat Benatar sang ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’. And watch for my new album, titled ‘Shoot It In the Head (It’s Still Breathing)'”. — Musician and pro-gun activist Ted Nugent

E. “The Tea Party is here. The Tea Party is everywhere. Soon, we will TP the entire nation.” — Tea Party leader Mark Williams

F. “The Clinton White House was absolutely convinced that pushing gun control would help it politically. Then, in 1994, we cleaned their clocks. They didn’t even see it coming. Sort of like a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick.” — Chuck Norris

G. “My own father was shot with a handgun and yet I still support the Second Amendment. After all, it’s not like he died from it.” — Radio commentator Michael Reagan, son of former president Ronald Reagan

H. “I’d feel safer with two empty chambers in Congress than I’d feel with one empty chamber in a six-shooter against my temple. Throw the bums out!” — Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl

I. “I have bad news for those (anti-hunting) groups. Bambi’s mother is dinner.” — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

J. “Man is the most dangerous and elusive game and, quite properly, we don’t hunt him. But tracking a chimp can offer a similar thrill. Check out our new Monkey Hunt Club, and Bag Yourself a Bonzo.™” — Brochure for a new wildlife park in rural South Carolina

K. “We can hunt for anything you want to hunt for here. There’s some good hunting to be had. We’ve got fishing and hunting and NASCAR.” — North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue

L. “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. So this is probably a good time to go ahead and take it.” — Video produced by former NRA president Charlton Heston, shortly before his death in 2008

M. “Criminals are to blame for crime.” — Sarah Palin

Actual quotes: A, C, F, I, K, M. Not actual quotes: B, D, E, G, H, J, L.

Shopping for some new politics

May 17, 2010

The National Rifle Association held its annual convention in my hometown of Charlotte this weekend. The spirited affair attracted not only 70,000 gun enthusiasts, but also an array of all the hottest right-wing luminaries on the planet. These speakers repeatedly told attendees exactly what they wanted to hear about arch-conservative politics, which is what any sensible presenter would say when preaching at gunpoint.  

I was actually tempted to attend the big “Celebration of American Values Freedom Experience”. My long-held progressive political beliefs have started to feel a little stale in our current environment. It’s pretty lonely being the only white middle-aged male in the entire Metrolina region who doesn’t think prayin’ and shootin’ and lookin’ out for number one represent a coherent world view in modern America. Responsible concern for the welfare of all citizens is so passé; narrow-minded reactionary selfishness is sexy and it’s fashionable. And being white is the new black.  

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too eager to be shelling out $35 to pay for admission, even if the ever-squinting Charlie Daniels was providing the music. And I still retain the admittedly old-fashioned liberal bias against being shot at close range. Even though weapons-carrying was inexplicably banned from the event, some of those rednecks could shoot you a look that was every bit as fatal.  

Still, I wanted so much to bathe in the reflected patriotism of the star-studded celebrity line-up. Sarah Palin, of course, was going to be there, as were Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich and several other wingnut gods. If I couldn’t rub elbows with the elite of the anti-elite in a packed downtown arena, maybe I’d be fortunate enough to run into them elsewhere during their stay in the area.  

Well, wouldn’t you know it, luck was on my side Saturday afternoon. My son and I had taken a ride out to Carolina Place Mall in south Charlotte, and just as we rounded the corner at Cinnabon’s, right near the Sunglass Hut, we peered through the crowd ahead of us and saw them: it was Palin herself, clutching a large Abercrombie & Fitch bag containing either some new outfits or her baby, accompanied by the former speaker of the House chomping on a big buttery pretzel. I inched closer to the pair, eager to eavesdrop on any political wisdom they might be sharing.  

“You know, Newt, Auntie Anne’s pretzels are way better than that junk from the Pretzel Twister,” Palin said in her characteristic twang. “Couldn’t you just wait till we got to the food court?”  

“I wanted to finish before we get to Sbarro’s,” the pudgy author of the landmark Contract With America shot back. “I’m getting some pizza too.”  

“I just want to make sure we have enough time to stop at Visionworks,” said a man to Gingrich’s right I hadn’t noticed previously. It was Glenn Beck!  

“I need to pick up some eyedrops. They have a special formula that allows me to weep on demand,” Beck said.  

“Just as long as I have time to hit Cacique, Forever 21, American Diva and Modeline,” Palin replied. “You all can hang out at the ball crawl while I’m trying on clothes if you want.”  

“Let’s go to GameFrog!” Beck said excitedly to Gingrich. “If I drink a couple of Ballz, I am totally unbeatable on Dance Dance Revolution.”  

Suddenly, from behind us, three other men came running up to join the Republican titans.  

“Guys, guys, wait up, wait up! You act like you’re trying to lose us.”  

I could hardly believe my eyes. It was retired Col. Oliver North, implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal and now a Fox News commentator; “Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent, formerly of the rock group the Amboy Dukes and now a gun rights activist; and actor Chuck Norris. North was out of breath as he chugged up next to Palin.  

“Oh, you’re back,” Palin said, cracking her gum as she thumbed a text message into her cellphone.  

“I told you I wanted to grab a job application from Icecream of the Future,” North said. “I know a guy who says they’re hiring.”  

“They’re not going to hire you,” Gingrich said. “You’re a convicted felon. They check things like that.”  

“So how is covertly selling weapons to Iran, then funneling the profits to the right-wing revolutionaries in Nicaragua going to hamper my ability to scoop frozen dairy into a cup?” North asked.  

“Don’t be such a douche,” Beck interrupted. “Only a jag-off would work a kiosk at the mall.”  

“Let’s go upstairs for a minute,” said Nugent as he joined the group. “I want to stop in the Kill-A-Bear store.”  

“It’s not Kill-a-Bear, you idiot, it’s Build-A-Bear,” said Palin.  

“Alright, so I’ll build it, then I’ll kill it,” Nugent replied.  

“I don’t know about you all, but I’m heading over to Foot Locker,” interjected action star Norris. “I’m going to let the guy try shoes on me, then when he least suspects it, POW!, I’m going to give him one of my patented judo kicks.”  

“There’s no kicking in judo,” former Marine North told Norris. “It’s all about getting your opponent off balance, then using their momentum against them.”  

“In my brand of judo, there’s kicking,” a disgusted Norris responded. “You want me to show you?”  

“Hey, knock it off, you two,” Gingrich interceded. “There’s a mall cop right over there. You want to get us thrown out?”  

“There are a couple places I still want to go,” Beck said. “I want to stop by Piercing Pagoda to get a stud put into my scrotum, then I’m going to Hot Topic for an Insane Clown Posse t-shirt.”  

“What is wrong with you?” Palin asked. “What kind of American values are those? And besides, you think they’re going to work on your scrotum right out in the mall?”  

“Hey, dudes, check it out!” yelled Gingrich excitedly. “It’s one of those photo booths. Let’s all squeeze in and get our pictures taken!”  

“Cool!” said Nugent. “I’ll climb up top and drape my long hair over everybody.

“Wait,” said Palin. “Let me take off my glasses and put on this hat so I can disguise myself. I don’t want any record that I’m chillin’ with you losers.” 

It went on and on like this for at least ten more minutes but, frankly, I started to lose interest. Any hope that I was going to harvest a few nuggets of wisdom on how to reinvent America once again as that shining city on the hill is melting as fast as Col. North’s Orange Julius. The group walked six-wide down the wrong side of the hall, sat in the vibrating chairs without paying to turn them on, and generally disrespected everyone around them. As they walked into the distance, I heard Chuck Norris suggest they go to Barnes and Noble: “Let’s take a symbolic dump in their bathroom to show our disdain for the intellectual elite.” 

I did, however, manage to land a souvenir of my encounter with our would-be next generation of national leadership. On the floor of the photo booth lay a single discarded strip — 

From left to right: Palin and son; Palin with Nugent in funny noses; Nugent and Palin's Trigg; Trigg alone, or maybe something from Build-A-Bear

Revisited: Checking out the gun store

May 16, 2010

Once again, my adopted home state of South Carolina is in the news and, once again, it’s not in a good way.

Our primary claim to fame on the national stage has been oafish politicians (Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson and Gov. Mark “I Lie” Sanford), brain-damaged beauty queens (such as Miss Teen South Carolina) and weird news briefs (armed robbers brandishing a banana, Waffle House waitresses shooting patrons, etc.). Oh yeah, and we also started the Civil War.

Now, we’re once again the laughing stock for offering a Christmas season tax holiday on the purchase of firearms. For two days this past weekend, gun buyers enjoyed a 9% tax break, a so-called “Second Amendment Weekend” voted into law by a state legislature that still can’t decide if Gov. Sanford should be impeached.

Originally part of a bill that offered similar breaks on energy-efficient appliances, that measure was vetoed by the governor. The veto was over-ridden by the legislature, then the law was struck down by the Supreme Court because it violated the “one subject” provision of the state constitution, which bars multiple issues in a single bill. So they got rid of the appliance part and kept the gun part (though I guess you could make the argument that firearms do reduce energy use, especially when they render previously vital creatures lifeless).

“The great state of South Carolina is putting its own sick twist on Black Friday” with the state-sponsored sales incentive, wrote the New York Daily News last week. “Not cars. Not clothes. Certainly not books. Just guns.”

I decided to check out the event for myself Saturday with a visit to my area’s largest purveyor of weapons, Nichols Gun Store. Located in a rural area just outside of town and serving primarily hunters, Nichols provides a number of offerings besides fiery fusillades of death.

Out back is a deer processing service, which I recognized by the strung-up, skinned carcass being displayed to the delight of several young children as I pulled into the parking lot. There’s a collection of 30-foot-tall hunting stands (or as those at the Daily News might characterize them, third-floor walk-ups), where outdoorsmen can lie in wait high above the forest floor for their victims to appear. There are Bad Boy buggies, all-terrain vehicles that minimize the chance someone might get some exercise while hunting.

Inside the front door, you see what looks like a typical convenience store off to the left, featuring snacks, sundries and a huge refrigerated case of beer, just waiting to cloud the judgment of armed bands. To the right is a small cooking grill to feed hungry hunters who choose not to eat their kills fresh off the ground for lunch. A gift shop sells bumper stickers (“If you can read this, I’m aiming at you”) and cute camouflage outfits for children (“Serious gear for serious babies,” reads one package). There’s also an area for incidentals like deer bait, backpacks, turkey calls and urine, the scent of which is supposed to lure or repel something.

Dead ahead is the core of the business, a showroom featuring literally thousands of handguns, shotguns, rifles, pistols, crossbows and assault weaponry. The store is filled with shoppers, almost all male, almost all eager to take advantage of this tax holiday, and almost all looking at the blogger who has never before set foot in such a death-dealing establishment. A large counter wraps around the edge of the store, backed by eager salesmen waiting on small clusters of customers.

Looking around at the inventory, I recognize a few product names, such as a Luger, Glock and Remington, and I can vaguely tell there’s a difference between them, though my exposure is limited mostly to what I’ve seen in television and movies. There are James Bond-style guns, cowboy-movie-style guns and Sopranos-style guns. There are even a few firearms you might imagine seeing on Charlie’s Angels. These have been painted pink, in a pathetic attempt to appeal to the extremely limited female market (I guess trimming a semi-automatic in lace just isn’t practical in the field).

Looking out of place at the gun shop

As the overhead intercom booms out strange-sounding announcements like “guns, line two” and “blood cleanup, aisle five,” I’m debating how I’ll respond if I’m offered service by one of the guys behind the counters. On the drive over, I was thinking how it might be funny to say I was looking for a flamethrower to give my aunt who’s checking into a nursing home known for its rough crowd, or a grenade launcher for the nephew headed to Harvard. Maybe I’d actually buy something, certainly not the high-priced weapons themselves, but maybe a box of bullets, or even a single cartridge if they were willing to break up a matched set.

“I don’t believe in private gun ownership so I don’t actually have one myself,” I might joke. “But if I’m ever faced with a home intruder, maybe I could throw a bullet and try to hit him in the eye.”

Somehow, though, this doesn’t strike me as the right atmosphere for such a put-on. I think back to the Daily News article, and the reporter’s attempt to get a quote from Chad Holman, owner of Woody’s Pawn and Jewelry in Orangeburg.

“I don’t care to comment to anyone from New York,” he said.

When I am finally offered help, I tell the counter clerk I’m still “just browsing” and comment awkwardly about how the inventory is “nice.” I can tell that he can tell I’m not a legitimate customer, so I motion toward the back of the store and suggest to my wife that we go “check out the arrows.” We head in that direction, but make a quick left at the decapitated razorback boar and make for the exit.

It feels like every eye in the place is watching me as we walk out the door and into the pickup-packed parking lot. I just hope that none of the eyes are attached to a telescopic sight.

Revisited: Website Review of

May 15, 2010

Sarah Palin was in the news again the other day when it was announced she’d be speaking at the National Rifle Association’s annual banquet later this month, and would be receiving a very special gift. A small firm called Templar Consulting has “crafted” a customized weapon that Palin will be able to take back to Alaska to encourage that pesky would-be son-in-law to do right by her daughter.

They don’t have shotgun weddings in the Great Wild North. They have AR-15 military-style assault rifles chambered in ought-fifty Beowulf weddings. And they have them now.

On May 14, the NRA Foundation will give Palin the “Alaskan Hunter,” a civilian version of the M-4 rifle carried by U.S. troops overseas. It’s engraved with Palin’s name and a map of her state on its collapsible stock, which was made legal only after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004 (the stock was made legal; not Palin, not Alaska, and certainly not her daughter). The Big Dipper from the state flag is etched onto the magazine. The gun – if that word does it justice – is the same caliber used by heavy machine guns which can take down big game or, in war zones, can disable both assailants with body armor and motor vehicles.

The rifle was assembled using custom components by Templar owner Bob Reynolds, and will come with 50 rounds of custom “solids,” which I guess are something like bullets but perhaps with a nougat center. “Gov. Palin stood up and announced that she was a supporter of the Second Amendment, and I was really excited about that,” said Reynolds. “I just wanted to do something to give back. And since the governor lives in Alaska, I thought .50 Beowulf was appropriate.”

Never mind that Alaska is the forty-ninth state, not the fiftieth. You don’t want to be arguing with this guy. I’m a little nervous joking about him, even from the safety of the blogosphere. I don’t want to go out to my driveway some morning and find out that he’s shot my car.

I was curious about this Templar Consulting firm though. I’ve dealt with some bad consultants in my day but none so awful that they could cut you in half with a one-second barrage of high-caliber ammo. So I thought I’d choose for my Website Review this week.

As you might imagine, it’s a fairly simple, all-business kind of website. Templar only offers a select variety of products, which include custom firearms, custom DuraCoat patterning and “personal defence training” (I’m pretty sure “defence” is a typo rather than the British spelling, considering they’re located in Apex, N.C.).

The home page features pictures of two very attractive armaments. There’s the Designated Marksman Rifle, a 28-inch barrel model that starts at $3100. It has a forged upper receiver, a billet lower with integrated trigger guard, a Magpul stock and a 9/16×24 flash hider. And there’s the Special Purpose Rifle, starting at $2100, which comes with a Danial defense rail, the ErgoAmbi soft grip, a tactical sling and a phosphate M16 bolt carrier. I can only assume that all these are features you’d want in high-quality killing machines, just like I assume that what they mean by “special purpose rifle” is “will blow your freaking head off.”

There’s also a pulldown for what are called precision rifle components. I think these might be the cute little tripods you see rifles propped up on, much like those used by the prone green army men I played with in my youth. Pictured is the 6.5 Grendel model, above the caption “if you can see it, you can hit it!” It comes with some very impressive ballistic coefficients, including the almost unbelievable 7.62mm M118LR 175gr:BC=0.496. No, I didn’t just whack the keyboard with my bagel; these are the actual specs.

The training section of the site doesn’t give many details, as I imagine classroom instruction pales in comparison to the prospect of buying these magnificent weapons. “We conduct training in armed and unarmed personal defense. We teach North Carolina concealed handgun carry classes,” it says without much enthusiasm. “Call for details.”

Probably the coolest thing I found was the section on custom gun coatings. The certified DuraCoat finish that Templar offers is a two-part coating that was created specifically for firearms. There are over 130 colors to choose from, and you can combine your color choice with a stencil pattern and finish that “will protect your firearm while it protects you.” What makes this part so interesting is the two photos: there’s an all-pink pistol engraved with a peace sign and the phrase “give my piece a chance,” and there’s a gun pointing straight at the viewer with a cheery sunburst design radiating out from the muzzle. If this fanciful graphic is the last thing you see in this life, it doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go.

There’s not much more to the website than a few predictable links. Of course, there’s a connection to Through this, you can fill out a form to join the group for as little as $35 a year, or you can pay $1,000 for a lifetime membership, which doesn’t seem like such a great bargain for people who spend their days playing with rifles. You can also sign up to become a recruiter, but the web filter at my work that keeps us safe from YouTube, eBay and Facebook gave me the big red “halt” hand and the message “access denied!” I suppose it does make sense to keep people on the constant brink of layoffs from such an obvious temptation to gun violence.

So if you’re interested in obtaining some high-powered weaponry, or perhaps already have a pretty good collection but want to spruce it up with splashes of color other than blood red, I would urge you to check out the offerings at The all-white piece going to Governor Sarah – described by the New York Daily News as “fashionable until Labor Day” – is only available when a second version will be auctioned during the NRA banquet.

To hear the NRA site tell it, you better act now before President Obama starts revoking the Constitution.

Website Review:

May 14, 2010

Yesterday was Ascension Day, the occasion on which the world’s Christians note the ascent of  a back-from-the-dead Jesus Christ into Heaven. I thought it might be a good opportunity to look into the state of the modern jetpack, and where you might be able to get one.  

Though the Gospel according to Mark makes little mention of a mechanically aided lift (other than a vague reference to “a mighty whooshing sound and the blessed fragrance of diesel”), it only stands to reason that He may have needed some powered assistance. It wasn’t until the Nazis strapped the Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb to the back of an unfortunate “himmelsturmer” during World War II that modern technology made use of escaping gases that allowed a single user to fly.  

Ever the practical race, the Germans weren’t really looking for a short-cut to the afterlife. They simply wanted a way their engineering units could cross minefields or barbed wire obstacles that didn’t involve training for the long jump. After the war, the technology fell into the hands of the U.S., where test pilots offered a gracious “thanks but no thanks” to the prospect of developing the concept further.  

Although we’ve since seen jetpack demonstrations at spectacles like the Olympics and the 2005 confirmation hearings of chief justice John Roberts, most sources say the only current practical use of the machine is for astronauts doing extravehicular activity in space. A Mexican company reportedly offers a tested rocket belt package, though most who’ve seen the equipment call it more of a “backpack helicopter” (wonder how you say DUCK! in Spanish).  

Jetpack deniers and their can’t-do attitude fortunately haven’t been heard in far-away New Zealand. There, a small firm called Martin Jetpack is currently taking orders for what it calls the world’s first practical personal aircraft. I’m visiting to learn more about this breakthrough for this week’s Website Review.  

The home page for this domain is as sleek and futuristic as the six-foot-by-five-foot 535-pound device it offers. In other words, it’s a bit clunky. Clicking on the “See It Fly” video doesn’t do a lot to counter that first impression, as the short film of a guy wearing what looks like the rooftop HVAC unit at your office confirms. He’s flying just above the ground around a warehouse until the whole website freezes up about 45 seconds in. I only hope the same thing didn’t happen to the jetpack, or the pilot might have skinned his knee in a 3-foot plummet to earth.  

The pulldowns across the top of the page focus more on the company itself than its product. We learn that this particular jetpack design was first developed in 1981 by company founder Glenn Martin, a pharmaceutical salesman who wanted to get even higher than his painkiller samples could take him. He and his family turned what was a garage-based obsession into their life’s work.  

“I was Glenn’s first test pilot,” says wife Vanessa. “I used to run out to the garage, get strapped into the jetpack, test it, then rush back into the house to feed our seven-week-old son.”  

That son is now 16-year-old Harrison, who also works with the family business. He tells how he was “never able to tell my friends what my father did,” supposedly because it was a secret project though more likely he was just embarrassed.  

“My friends work in McDonald’s during the school holidays,” Harrison says. “I have a slightly more interesting job as a jetpack test pilot.”  

What he probably neglects to note, however, is that instead of making $5.35 an hour, he’s paid in Band-Aids.  

You can tell the Martin firm has evolved from those early days into a real company, because it now boasts a chief executive officer and a chairman of the board and everything. It appears most of the top leadership comes from a venture capital firm that has invested heavily in Martin. These bankers can focus on guiding the company through its start-up phase and ultimately bankrupting themselves and all their investors, freeing managing director Glenn to devote his energy and creative force into crashing actual hardware.  

The company page also shows a number of consultants and advisors and designers who help with boring esoterica like avionics. Most of these men are bald, except for engineer Stuart Holdaway, whose missing photo hints that he may have been killed.  

It’s the section of the home page titled “How Do I Buy One?” that draws most of my interest. Martin is “currently accepting enquiries (New Zealandish for inquiries) from commercial customers” and these can be placed through the website. “It is expected that early orders for sales to private individuals will commence late 2010 … We will contact you when pre-orders are being taken.” In other words, don’t hold your breath, unless you plan on flying one of these things over water.  

A small “News and Press” page carries links to articles about test flights and demonstrations that have sort-of wowed the public. One reporter noted after his demo that it felt like “I was carrying a small sports car on my back,” perhaps not exactly the kind of press the firm might’ve hoped for but probably a realistic assessment.  

It’s through a list of pulldowns on the left side of the home page that we get most of our information about the machinery itself. There’s a defensive diatribe titled “What Is a Jetpack?” that aims to address those who contend that a jetpack should weigh less than a quarter-ton and contain actual jets. A carefully parsed analysis of the words “what,” “is,” “a” and “jetpack” claims that there’s a disconnect between science, engineering and common usage, and that if you have a “very narrow view of what is a true jetpack,” then basically that’s your problem.  

“In the end we found that 95% of people call it a jetpack when they see it, so why fight that?” they conclude.  

In “How Do I Learn to Fly?” we see that a required training program will be included with the cost of the machine. You don’t have to have an FAA-recognized pilot’s license, just a really big helmet and some assistants wearing industrial-strength hearing protection. The safety overview notes that all flying entails a degree of risk and that aviation users from airline passengers to parachute jumpers must decide on the degree of danger they find acceptable for themselves. In the end, Martin claims the jetpack is safer than light helicopters because it has a “minimal avoidance curve” which, if you have to have an avoidance curve, is the kind to have.  

Speaking of technical mumbo-jumbo, we see on a specifications page that the first model the company will sell has features like an engine, a fuel tank, a carbon fiber composite structure and, worrisomely, an energy-absorbing undercarriage. It has a range of just over 31 miles at a maximum speed of 63 m.p.h. You have to weigh less than 240 pounds to actually get off the ground, though the morbidly obese still might consider purchasing one to help them off the couch.  

Finally, there’s a Frequently Asked Questions section. Doubts about stability of the aircraft seem to dominate, hinting again at its lack of authentic jetpackiness. There’s the kind of small but observable wobble you might expect from what are basically two really, really, really powerful fans, though with practice pilots can correct this. Asked “is it safe?” the responder notes the presence on the machine of a parachute, not exactly adequate for what would basically be like falling off a ladder. “How easy is it to fly?” Well, you have to know that “yaw” is more than a Southern greeting. “How do I buy one?” You’ll need to make a 10% deposit. “How much will they cost?” Probably about the same as a high-end car. 

“Are we all going to be flying to work on these?” seems like the most obvious question. Martin officials say modestly “some people will use these for work” and I’m imagining how well they might perform for the landscapers at my office park who current use leafblowers and instead could be hovering above the ground. Martin admits that most people will still prefer “the comfort of a car” and that current air traffic control systems don’t lend themselves well to commuting. A “highways in the sky” GPS-based system of 3D roads is at least ten years away, more if scientists can’t figure out how to create potholes in them. 

It’s really not that bad of a website; it’s just that the product it sells seems highly questionable. Since the people of New Zealand are often nicknamed “kiwis” after the chicken-sized flightless bird native to the islands, you’d think a company based there would take the hint, both about flightlessness and about the chicken part. But I guess the entrepreneurial spirit and long-held dreams about human flight make up for the difference. 

Admittedly, it’s a major inconvenience to fly halfway around the world to train for and pick up your jetpack in early 2011, and I wouldn’t want to begin contemplating getting it through airport security and onto a plane for your return trip home. However, if you can find a string of atolls across the south Pacific that are less than 31 miles apart, and you don’t mind having the great whites and other large sharks of the region nipping at your heels as you fly just above the waves, perhaps you could just fly the Martin jetpack back to your home. 

Jetpack pioneer Glenn Martin, apparently hauling a couple of garbage cans

An Editorial: Shhhhh!

May 13, 2010

People of America, hear me: You need to be quiet.

There’s entirely too much idle chatter going on here. You have to simmer down and get back to work. You’re never going to make anything of yourself if you spend all day yacking with your friends.

What was good advice from our third-grade teacher is good advice today. People blather on incessantly about the most pointless topics, diverting much-needed attention from the advancement of Western Civilization. It’s no wonder we’re falling behind the rest of the world in so many areas. Being number one in telling stories about our dogs is not going to cut it when it comes to global competitiveness.

“How are you?”/”I’m fine, how are you?”

“How’s it going?”/”Oh, it’s going.”

“What’s happening?”/”Same ol’ same ol’.”

“How’s it hangin’?”/”Oh, it’s quite comfortably packaged in a cotton-blend brief.”

Will you please shut the hell up?

The editorial board here at DavisW’s Blog is anticipating a summer-long extravaganza of incessant yammering, and goes on record with this editorial as saying it doesn’t like the prospect one bit. We will not stand for endless stories about the cute blouse you almost bought, that back-handed catch in last night’s Mariners’ game, and those allergies that are going around right now. Anything short of you being hit by a meteor, spare us the details.

We’re proposing alternate forms of communication for some of the big events likely to be the most irritating in the months ahead.

At the Senate confirmation hearings for new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, we’d like to see all parties agree to use exaggerated facial expressions rather than words to debate the merits of her qualifications. Supporters will be limited to broad smiles and wide-eyed nods. Those still on the fence can furrow their brows, narrow their eyes and peer over the rims of their glasses. Republicans can do like they always do, shake their heads no.

Nominee Kagan can make her case by the clothes she wears, the jewelry she rocks and the makeup she carefully applies. Regardless of what she does, she’ll still not compare to the woman we’d like to have appointed (see yesterday’s editorial, “Our Pick for High Court: Lost‘s Hottie Evangeline Lilly”). If Kagan wants to jump up and down or wave her arms wildly in the air to prove to the Judiciary Committee that she’ll be a strict constructionist, that’s fine.

In the entertainment world, let’s have a half-baked limited-run TV reality series in which contestants are locked in a house and not allowed to talk to each other. Only menacing stares, threatening glances, heavy sighs and chimp-like grunts are permitted. In the season finale, all participants will be allowed to file restraining orders against each other and lawsuits against the producers. Ensuing trials will be conducted using semaphore flags.

Sports analysts will not be allowed to discuss what’s the latest news on Tiger Woods. Instead, they can only employ the pantomime conventions of the parlor game “Charades.” Viewers will tweet in their guesses until the entire commentary is revealed. “Bulging something, right? Bulging dick. Bulging disc. BULGING DISC!”

And of course, it goes without saying that our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and our associates will keep their heads down, mind their own business, and clam up, for Christ’s sake. Use your mouth for eating hot dogs and catching fireflies on your tongue, just as our ancestors did in summers gone by. Otherwise, keep your yap shut.

This is our decree. Heed our word.

Warning: Post contains (typo)graphic violence

May 12, 2010

Last Thursday, a near-panic on Wall Street dropped the Dow almost a thousand points in just a few minutes. It was later discovered the plunge might be attributable to a trader who meant to sell a million shares of stock but instead typed the word “billion.”

Then on Sunday, I published a post on this blog titled “Thre Magic Words.” Some 159 people viewed the defective headline, though probably only about half of those skimmed the article while roughly a quarter gave up after a few paragraphs and perhaps as many as three noticed that “thre” was misspelled.

Two events — one bringing the world to the brink of financial catastrophe and the other bothering the heck out of me till I corrected it about an hour later — with one thing in common: both involved that bane of written communications, the typo.

Typographical errors go back as far as written history itself. When cultures were passed from one generation to the next through the oral tradition, it was instead the “speak-o” that confounded perfectionists and resulted in some nasty misunderstandings, most notably the ritual sacrifice of humans when all the village elders actually wanted to burn was “cumin.” The advent of cave paintings and hieroglyphs and ultimately movable type allowed such mistakes to be recorded for centuries. (Today we can reprint or “update post” if necessary, but the Neanderthal had to blow up his whole cave if he drew a bear but meant to draw an antelope.)

I’ve been an aficionado of proper spelling my entire life. At Miami Norland Elementary School, I won the fifth-grade spelling bee, advancing to the school-wide finals against a taller, stronger and more athletic sixth-grader who “posterized” me when I stumbled on accrued while he monster-dunked inchoate to take the championship. My two best subjects throughout grade school were spelling and geography, and I was crestfallen to learn from the vocational counselor in high school that you couldn’t enter either subject as a career.

With my dreams dashed of opening a specialty boutique where customers could ask how to spell the capital of North Dakota, I instead went to college to study journalism. It was the early seventies and Florida State was gripped with the revolutionary zeal of the times. However, as much as we questioned the establishment and cultural mores and business-as-usual and why Mary Bess wouldn’t allow me to touch her chest, we never challenged the time-tested rules of written communication. Our manifestos demanding the resignation of the president and ROTC OFF CAMPUS NOW! were carefully edited and exquisitely punctuated.

Only once during my tenure as an editor of the school paper did we dare to question The Man (Noah Webster) on the subject of proper spelling, and that was at the prompting of The Woman. Amy Rogers was head of the local feminist coalition, and came to my office one day demanding that as good liberals we abandon the misogynistic term “woman” in our reporting of campus news.

“We repudiate the word, because it comes from the origin ‘womb-man,'” she told me. “We prefer ‘womyn’ instead, and strongly urge you to prefer it too.”

We convened an editorial meeting and debated for several hours the merits of the request. Ultimately, I moved that the proposal was stupid and got a slim majority (all the guys) to agree with me. Then we closed down the paper and had a sit-in, just for the fun of it.

After leaving college, I took numerous part-time jobs in the closest thing I could find to professional spelling, which was typesetting and proofreading. I was a fast and accurate typist, and to this day can churn out 100 words-per-minute with 98% accuracy (just ask “Typer-Shark”). What I didn’t get right while typing I would correct while checking my work. In 1980 I consolidated the part-time work into one full-time job in financial printing, where I continue to make my career today.

Though my first love is typing — as you can probably tell from this and many other examples of sentences in my posts that run on and on and on — where the company needed me most was in proofreading. That can be a difficult and stressful job, primarily because your entire reason for being is to find and point out the mistakes of others. After identifying the minute deficiencies of other people’s performance all day long, proofreaders typically go home to a lonely existence watching for mistakes in movie credits. Family members fled a long time ago, sick of having every move critiqued. (“Are you sure you meant to say you’re going to the bathroom, dear? Isn’t it really the toilet you intend to use?”).

We’re left to form our own little cult of petty purists, laughing amongst ourselves at how incompetent everyone else is with the language. Remember that time Sue typed an alteration as “bored of directors”? Or when Jackie misread “code of ethics” as “code of ethnics,” and when Bob wrote about the “Antirust Division” in the Justice Department instead of “Antitrust”? And who can ever forget the time we almost printed “annual report” as “anal retort”?

And since our company specializes in helping publically held corporations with their legally required public disclosure documents, it’s that little word “public” that becomes the most problematic of all. We’ve had to catch and fix everything from “pubic announcement” to “certified pubic auditors” to “pubic defender.”

For a long time, such a life was all very satisfying for me. Lately, however, it’s grown a little strained. Sure, we can be justly proud of our high quality standards, helping guarantee the accuracy of information that American shareholders use to help them make wise investment decisions (sort of). But all we’re really responsible for is converting files the client has supplied us and making sure our draft reads exactly like theirs, right or wrong. If we happen to notice that they’ve written “;likjio&%@nehw”, well maybe that’s just the British spelling.

When we split into opposing factions on the subject of which punctuation mark was proper to show a range of numbers, I knew we had gone too far. Those who favored the hyphen with no space on either side (the “Hyphenates”) were pitted against those who felt strongly that an en-dash surrounded by thin spaces (the “Dashers”) was proper. Armed clashes in the parking lot between the two forces were breaking out more frequently now, with at least two proofreaders already injured by sharpened pica sticks. Management has yet to broker a peace.

I think those who care about proper spelling and word usage are being overtaken by larger events anyway. Between emoticons and Twitterese and texting, I think we’ll soon see radical changes to the language in all its forms. Even financial documents, with their stiff, legalistic prose, will soon be created in a new way. For example, the “risk factors” section, which lists in detail potential reasons why a stock may not perform up to its potential, will soon read something like this: “The company operates in a sector in which significant price variations may subject revenue streams to extreme instability (OMG).” Or, “Our acquisition of XYZ Corporation may result in a dilution of our stock price and a reduced market capitalization :(“.

At least it’s pretty hard to typo a frowny face.