Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea

I know, I're thinking that was a great song, and Elvis Costello may be king after all as he noted on his first album cover. But, get over 1978 when that song was released and move into the 21st century. Elvis is still making great records ( I think they call them compact discs now, but they kinda look like 45s to me) and he's teaming up with Allen Toussaint for a summer gig which will include a stop in Green Bay for which my son had BETTER get tickets...or else give me my Visa back. Anyway, this is not about music but about my desire NOT to go to Chelsea, England at this time; and it's all Mobil/Exxon's fault or some Middle Eastern sheik or some Texas politician or SOMEBODY ELSE NOT ME!
We've all heard about the multi million dollar severance package for the CEO of M-E, and we are all aware that gas prices have crept back up into the post-Katrina range. Unfortunately, FEMA or its director, providing one has actually been appointed, cannot be blamed, either. Those of us who drive more than a couple of miles to work have extended our vocabulary of expletives to cover just about anyone we might think is to blame, but I'm here to act as a voice of reason ( I know, I know, that's probably a conundrum of the highest order).
It's probably true that we cannot blame the government...much. It takes only 46 cents from the cost of each gallon of gas we buy. So, if gas is $3/gal, the government gets about (because the math is too hard for me to do acurately) 16% of our money. No wonder oil executives are getting rich. By the way, for the first quarter of this fiscal year, Mobil-Exxon made over 8 BILLION dollars in profit.
All that being said, we have it rather good. Don't think so? Try driving in Europe: that's the place where everyone drives those little cars that appear here in the circus with 10 clowns in them. Eleven countries in Europe pay more than $6.00 a gallon for gas...yes, you read that right. Of that, the government gets about 66% of the money in taxes. Ouch! At the current average rate of $6.48 a gallon in Britain, $4.27 of it is tax. "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" indeed! And the tax has been frozen for more than three years! As an example, a person with a mid-sized SUV pays over $120.00 to fill his tank. Can you say "moped"? I knew you could.
But the worst I found? In Chelsea, the chic part of London popularized by Elvis Costello: gas there is over $8.00 a gallon. Not only do I not want to go there, I could not afford to drive once I got there (and, of course, there's that whole "other side of the car steering wheel and road thingie, too!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thanks, Brett

The big news around here today is, of course, the fact that Brett Favre is signing on for one more go-around with the Packers. Wisconsin natives, major football fans and Vegas bookies are all gladdened by the news. Since I am none of those, you'd be wondering why I'm happy about the turn of events. The reason? I finally got something as a result of professional sports.
I've been a huge baseball fan all my life, once throwing a remote down two flights of stairs when Paul O'Neil hit into a double play in the World Series. The two-hopper bounce down the stairs, into a chair and rebounded against a window! Fortunately, there was no breakage except to the remote. Even the lecture I got about being juvenile didn't hurt as much as the 6-4-3. Anyway, after living and dying with a sports team and NEVER getting a return for my loyalty, it happens that I finally get a return.
What have I given the Packers? Well, I pay a sales tax every time I buy something in Brown County to help the millionaires enjoy their plush new surroundings. It is true that even though I can't get a ticket to a game, I support them financially. (I have seen a couple of games here in my lifetime, but trying to coax frozen onion bits out of a container for my brat and having chunky mustard just didn't make for a peak experience). I'm sure the organization brings in millions in revenue helping to keep my taxes down so I have no problem with the whole deal; but, I never thought I would reap an actual benefit from football in general and Brett Favre in particular.
Here's the scoop: After months of foot dragging and vacillating, Brett signed on for one more year and got three million dollars as a signing bonus. I have spent the past six months wavering about retirement as week yes and one week maybe...all followed by a resounding no. I recently signed on for one more year and got nothing as a bonus (not even a "Wow, it'll be great to have you back!") Today, I approached the superintendent and noted that Brett's and my situations were much the same; I opined that maybe I had a signing bonus coming. His face brightened, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter (North Carolina version). That may seem like small potatoes to you, but here are two things to consider. 1. Teachers NEVER get a bonus of any kind for any reason...EVER. 2. He could have selected a penny, a nickel or a dime instead: all of which he held in his hand.
I have the quarter proudly displayed on my office bulletin board where it will remain until I box up my mementos of 30 years of teaching and leave for good.
I just hope Brett does as much for the people who really care whether or not he plays this year.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Renovating My House: Bathroom Division

The living room might be a thing of the past. Really, except for the couch, there's not much left...everything else has moved into the bathroom, or so it seems. Americans spent 23.7 billion dollars renovating bathrooms in 2004, according to the Washington Post. Used to be that a bidet was high fashion. Now, the look has expanded to include ways to clean off that make me wonder if I have to shower BEFORE getting into the tub or shower (not unlike rinsing the dishes before putting them in a diswasher to "clean" them!)
I was good with a fog-proof mirror, but I didn't see much use for a hot lather dispenser or a waterproof CD player which would constantly find my funny bone as I lathered up to rinse off actual dirt. Yes, I go into the shower dirty! (sorry for the abhorrent visual there) Towel warmers,radiant floor mats and whirlpool baths are SO last year, apparently.
Jacuzzi has a couple of noteworthy items for the discriminating buyer. The LiftIt (at a cool $2729.00) will get that plasma TV situated at just the right height for your prune-producing soak, presumably NOT with dirt swirling around in the tub leaving a nasty ring around your neck when you get out. Jacuzzi also promises bubble that are "more champagne than shiatsu." No idea what vintage.
Kohler Company, as one might expect, has splashed into the fray with multiple shower heads, gravity fed "rain" showers, water jets, body sprays (?) misters (presumably what every single woman wants in her shower!) and water wands. The DTV is a digital programmable shower device which sets the sequence of water features as well as temperatures, ostensibly for multiple users (at once or in different spots in the shower?) Michael Wandschneider, a company spokesperson, says, "It speaks for the desire for simplicity." HUH? Who is he trying to kid? Simplicity is a sponge bath or shoving your head under the pump. This baby will spew out 21 gallons of water in a minute!This is extravagance for people who have nothing better to do with their money, having already donated to the Republican Party. It's not like having friends over for a shower party...or is it? Now that might be an option.
The Ondine company promises a "full cone center jet-turbo massage" feature in its shower. Water coming out at Mach 5? No, thanks.
Supposedly, the average US citizen uses 125 gallons of water in a day. Imagine, much of the world's poulation doesn't get this much clean water per person in a year! And heated jets besides? While watching the plasma TV? With champagne-like bubbles?
I wonder how I can get a couch in there.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Orthopedic Or Cardiac: Boomeritis and You

I must admit: the news made me feel like a wimp. Proudly bearing the scars of six knee operations, I gamely explained the reasons I could no longer race the Boston Marathon which was coming up on Monday.
"You see," I managed with just a hint of grimace," these knees just couldn't take the strain of high-level competition over a lifetime..." My listener had already moved away, pretending to study a sudden outcropping of crabgrass in my lawn. The truth was, nobody was interested in six knee operations in someone my age. "That's ALL?" I could almost hear them say?
Boomeritis is the latest phenomenon, according to doctors and the New York Times.
Those of us born between 1946 and 1964 (check your driver's license if you're not sure. Someone can hold it far enough away if you need) are heading to the doctors' offices in record numbers, but not for what one might suspect. We have, perhaps singlehandedly, caused the explosion in the medical world of treatment for sports injuries. We are an active bunch, most of the reported 78 million of us in this particular cohort. We actively exercise 3-5 times a week then head off to the orthopedist! Sports injuries were the #2 cause of doctors' visits in 2003: right behind the common cold, according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care people. In the 7 ears between 1991 and 1998, Boomers (not including Chris Berman or George Scott) had 488 million days of restricted work due to sports-related injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission claims this to be a 33% increase.
Standard injuries occur to knees, shoulders, hips and lower backs. This information pumped me up a little because I only have knee problems...well, there's that plantar fascitis thing and a slight case of CRS at times, but I can live with those.
So why are we continuing to do such things to ourselves? We've cut down smoking and alcohol consumption (Lent was longer than usual this year), but we continue to physically damage ourselves with exercise.
Here are some theories:
1. We as a generation are highly motivated and refuse to give up. We steadfastly cling to the belief that we remain 25.

2. The divorce rate continues to rise. Now this might seem a bit far-fetched to you, but it makes sense to me. We are self-presenters as humans. If we are trying
to hook up with someone new, washboard abs are a MUST! Plus, a knee brace is an
effective conversation starter.

3. Our generation started the Presidential Fitness program, and we were the first generation, really, with a lifestyle which lent itself to enough leisure time to consider fitness. My dad used to say, " I don't have to exercise, boy, I work for a living." The same might not be true of us, but we seem to be obsessing about it.

4. Medical advances make repair easier. We might not be Steve Austin, but we grew up watching him: bigger than he was, stronger, better. We've the technology; we can be rebuilt. Or so it seems. I know that I felt that way until the day the orthopedist told me that to continue running would end my walking days prematurely.

While one might think that all of the knee and hip replacements, surgical repairs for cartilage and ligament damage and assorted medical procedures might prove a boon to the medical profession, there is a dark cloud looming: Medicare. As a higher percentage of the operations get covered by Medicare due to the patients' ages, doctors are going to like it less and less. Afer all, Medicare doesn't exactly pay the best. Soon we may see signs in waiting rooms like: "If you are over 65 and have a sports-related issue, bring your checkbook or go elsewhere." Needless to say, there won't be a senior discount for procedures.

So...choose your poison: cardiac problems or orthopedic problems. For the boomers among us, there seems to be no middle ground. Our intensely competitive nature has put us in a situation in which we are our own worst enemies while trying to be our own best friends. Can full-contact canasta be far behind?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Relegated To "Other"

As we get older, we all like to think we've made a profound difference in the world...we will be leaving it a better place than we found it. Occasionally, we like to think that what we do is important and noteworthy to others as well. Oh, I know placekickers in the NFL make more in a year than I will in a lifetime, but thousands of people don't pay to watch me work...nor do thousands of people boo me when I'm not perfect at my job. Mostly, I get left alone.
However, when MONEY Magazine and collaborated on what they thought to be the best jobs in America, I was certain mine would be in there somewhere. Among the factors considered when deciding which gig was the sweetest were things such as job growth, stress levels and salary. The story implied there were other standards applied as well, but those details were not included.
So, I jump to the top ten, not really expecting to find "teacher" in there. It was not...but real estate appraiser? That's a great job? Admittedly, it was #10, but still...Software engineer was tops, followed by college professor. Wait a minute, was the "publish or perish" thing thought out? THAT'S stress, if you ask me. Of course, having four or five classes a WEEK leaves a lot of time for research. Rounding out the top ten were such stimulating careers as Human Resource Manager, Financial Advisor (don't people who lose money creat stress for these folks?) Market Research Analyst, IT computer geeks and psychologists. Ok, I could go with psychologists as a cool job.
Jumping directly to the top fifty best jobs in America yielded nothing about teaching; listed somewhere toward the bottom of the "166 other professions" was teaching. Maybe the stress level is thought to be too high; maybe the money is thought to be too little; maybe there just won't be enough kids to go around. Whatever. I refuse to believe however, that my profession was listed AFTER such careers as embalmer, loan counselor, aerobic instructor or dental hygienist. These are all worthwhile occupations, but ...better than teaching?
I've spent my entire life in a career that followers embalmers. At least now I have a clue as to what to do in retirement.