Things that Have, on Occasion, Made Me Go "Hmmm..."

Professionally, I work with CLIC and CLAC. In my spare time I listen to Click and Clack.

Hydrogen is incredibly flammable. Oxygen is the only gas that supports combustion. But put 'em together and you get water, the simplest and frequently most effective substance with which to put out fires. (Trust Cecil Adams, world's smartest human, for an explanation.)

A good friend of mine, who also happens to be a wise man, has posed the two-part Cracker Koan, paraphrased here:

Consider the Lance product line of snacks [of which Sisk's favorite remains the Nekot®)]. Among these we find liberal deployment of a substance called 'chee.' It remains unclear whether this material has anything to do with the homophonous 'chi,' also spelled 'qi' or (my preference) 'ki,' an Asian concept meaning, in my rough understanding, "vital energy." Something to think about, this. Here's the ideogram for 'ki:'

There are two mysteries, the Greater Question and the Lesser Question.

   The Greater Question: What exactly is chee? The smartass responds, "It's short for 'cheese.'" The student of philosophy replies, "Anything you can say about chee is not chee." I fall into the latter camp. Some mysteries are so fundamental that we do well to contemplate them silently. Let us assume for a moment, however, that there is a kernel of wisdom in the smartass response, and that there is some connection between chee and cheese. ("The water is not fouled simply because it is poured from a misshapen vessel," saith the master.)

   The Lesser Question: Why, then, does Lance create a naming paradigm based on chee, but abandon that paradigm for a single cracker? Consider. First there was Nipchee®, followed soon after by its younger siblings Toastchee®, Ryechee®, Goldenchee®, even Lanchee®. But then came a new cracker, and it was called Cheese on Wheat®. Would not the most callow pupil in the snack dojo expect it to be named Wheechee? But it is not. Why?

   You must study this well.

12 December 2001, Further developments concerning chee. A different friend, who is also a wise man (I try not to hang out with dolts), writes:

"On the matter of "chee."

"The Lance Cracker company (Lance Inc., NYSE: LNCE) produces, at present, only three varieties of cracker and one abomination against nature that contain the term "chee" in their name. The "Toastchee®" sandwich cracker was the first of its line introduced by the then-fledgling Lance Packing Co. of Charlotte, NC in 1938, only one year before the company changed its name to Lance Inc. The Toastchee® cracker has a long and distinguished history, including a flight aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1996 (accompanied by a suitable supply of Nekot® cookies).

"According to a Lance, Inc. marketing goon, the name "chee" was applied to any of their crackers with an orange exterior and a "cheese flavor" (Toastchee® is orange with peanut butter inside). Thus the initial exclusion of the "Cheese on Wheat®" cracker, which, as we all know, is a light-brown, khaki color with grey-brown cheese inside. The "chee" tradition was continued in products such as the "Nipchee®," which is orange with cheese inside, and is presently the only other "chee" sandwich cracker still in production, discounting the abomination.

"The naming schema went awry when the "chee" designation was applied to the non-sandwich cracker, the "Gold-N-Chee®," which resembles nothing so much as an orange oyster cracker. While it certainly meets the orange criterion, it has neither "chee" nor peanut butter in the middle, and thus is something of a taxonomic anomaly. The only other member of the "chee" family is the aforementioned abomination: the Reduced Fat Toastchee®. Obviously this was an egregious error on someone's part; the marketing goon declined to give a meaningful answer when queried about how a sandwich cracker that consists almost entirely of fat could be reduced in fat without physically shrinking the cracker. I think he was confused.

"The other crackers in the "chee" line have been discontinued, and the Lance corporation intends to use the word "cheese" in future sandwich cracker lines, though they would not provide any details about forthcoming products, nor would they state for the record that they have entirely retired the "chee" name.

"The information provided on the Lance Web site was not very helpful in this investigation. The site contains only consumer relations contact information, which is probably outsourced to a third party vendor, which is restricted from giving out information about the company's history or strategic goals. On the other hand, Lance, Inc's 10-Q filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (available with an EDGAR search at the SEC Web site) was considerably more helpful and provided the phone number for [Lance's] corporate headquarters, which I include here for posterity: (704) 554-1421."

13 June 2005, Another inconsistent Lance nomenclature paradigm. Steve Wells, who qualifies as a wise man for noticing this fact, writes:

"I also am puzzled over the "O-Lunch" series of Lance cookies. They have "Van-O Lunch," "Choc-O Lunch," "Nut-O Lunch," "Lem-O Lunch" and then - "Strawberry Cookies." Hmmmm . . . did the same marketing guru who designed the 'chee' series also design this one? At least now there is some consistency in the fact that both series have a taxonomic anomaly."

Clearly I have been away from North Carolina too long, as this one had eluded me. Steve's right, of course, and no, it doesn't make any sense: the next iteration of the pattern ought to be "Strawb-O Lunch." Comments and theories are hereby solicited from other students of Lance snacks.

At lunch one day, a colleague posed a real stumper, which I paraphrase here:

  "In the realm of living things, there are green plants; there are green fish; there are green amphibians, green insects, green mollusks, green reptiles, green birds, green invertebrates and green microorganisms. Yet there are no green mammals. Why?"

  It prompted quite a discussion, lemme tell ya.

November 20, 2001: file this under "things I never expected to see during my lifetime"!

Davidson Wildcats 58, Carolina Tar Heels 54, in the Dean Dome

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Last update: 14 June 2005 (updated Lance snack taxonomy discussion)