All posts by Philip Yaffe

Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA's daily student newspaper. He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974. He is author of 14 books, which can be found easily in Amazon Kindle.

Zipper—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

For a long time, I have been intrigued by the zipper. It is everywhere: on clothes, backpacks, shoes, sporting goods, suitcases, camping equipment, etc. But look at one closely and try to imagine how it works.

The basic principle is quite simple; two parallel chains of projections (teeth) lock and unlock to form a quick, easy, reliable means of opening and closing things. The chains of teeth are part of a truly ingeniously designed and engineered piece of precision equipment.

Given its ubiquity and generally flawless performance in so many everyday tasks, I believe the zipper truly deserves a place of honor on my list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”

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Thermometer: Extraordinary Ordinary Things

I live in Brussels. Every time I leave my house, I am bombarded with information about the air temperature because most pharmacies here seem obsessed with showing the air temperature on electronic signs outside their shops, along with the time of day (24-hour clock) and the establishment’s business hours. I imagine the same is true in cities throughout Europe, North America, and elsewhere. We can’t seem to live without constantly being reminded of how warm or cold it is. It is virtually an obsession.

But of course most of us don’t need to leave home to get temperature information. In my case, all I need to do is go out to my terrace and look at the thermometer hanging on the wall. This is something I do faithfully virtually every morning when I wake up, as well as two or three times during the day. It is like a game. I check the thermometer in the morning (usually about 7 a.m.), look at the sky, feel the moisture in the air, and try to guess how high the temperature will rise during the day.

I am talking about a simple liquid thermometer, i.e. the type in which liquid in a glass tube rises and falls as the temperature rises and falls. This is generally what most people mean when they say “check the thermometer.” However; there are many other types of thermometers they might be checking such as the type you reach for when feeling ill, the type you stick into meat when cooking it, the temperature gauge in your automobile, etc. Still, no matter where you go, there is almost always a thermometer around whether we notice them or not. And we cannot seem to live without them.

This is why I consider the thermometer, in whatever form, fully deserves to be included on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.

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Lipstick—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Editor’s Note

The purpose of this blog, like all the other “extraordinary ordinary things” blogs before it, is to offer information and entertainment. It is in no way a polemic or learned discussion. For the sake of simplicity, in this blog, we use the traditional either/or definitions of male/female, man/women, while fully recognizing that other more inclusive definitions would be more accurate.

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Lipstick is the most obvious and probably the most widely used cosmetic product in the world. It has been so for centuries, largely because it has been deemed to be the one that made the wearer seem the most comely according to the mores of the day.

Personally, I detest lipstick. However setting aside my personal predilection for the unadorned mouth, I must admit that lipstick has played a significant role in human society throughout the ages. Because of its importance in the past, the present, and almost certainly the future, I believe lipstick very much deserves to take a place of honor on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”

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Drinking Straw—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

My earliest recollection of drinking straws was the discovery that I didn’t need them. When I was growing up, my family owned a small restaurant in Southern California where one of our featured items was milkshakes. I used to make my own. I liked them very thick because of the texture and strong ice cream flavor. Sometimes they were so thick that they wouldn’t pass through a straw no matter how hard you might try.

I also didn’t use straws for soft drinks, because I liked to drink them with a lot of crushed ice so that my epicurean palate could be titillated by the flavor of the drink and the prickling of the ice all at the same time.

These were my preferences as a pre-adolescent; however, when I became a teenager, my priorities began to change. This was in the 1950s when television and the cinema were rife with scenes of young amorous couples dreamily looking into each other’s eyes while languorously sipping a milkshake through two straws in the same glass.

I still don’t particularly like drinking straws, but I recognize they do have their uses. And have been serving and disturbing mankind almost from the dawn of time. This is why I believe the drinking straw very much deserves a place on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”

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