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.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mac

I think it cost $.35 the first time I saw one. Since I was from Kansas, I'm sure I saw it somewhere else...we were lucky to have an A&W Root Beer drive-in in my hometown. Anyway, it really is the first memory I have of "fast"food, and it's turning 40: the Big Mac.
Jim Delligatti, a franchise owner in Uniontown, PA, was the first to offer the Big Mac as a menu item back in 1967; within a year, it was nationwide, and now...worldwide. The McDonald's corporation estimates that more than 550 million of the gastronomical disasters are sold each year in the United States alone! Let's see...that's about 17 per second, each weighing in at a hefty half pound. Wow! Do the math with the calories (at 540 a sandwich), and it's not hard to imagine why we have an obesity problem in this country. The popularity is unparalleled. Don't think so? Name one other food item for which you remember the special jingle? "Two all-beef patties...etc" I knew you hadn't forgotten. There's even a "BigMac-aholics" group on Facebook that gets together and spouts eloquent prose (I suspect) dealing with their sublime inFATuation.
It's my suspicion that this is what the Taliban was fighting against all along: not Madonna videos or Victoria's Secret catalog items, or freedom of expression, but the Big Mac. They know that once this food item becomes a staple, their citizenry will be helpless, gladly giving us double the oil output just for a franchise on every corner. It would be too easy...subtle, at first: small storefront, cheap burgers loaded with trans fat and salt. Another outlet, then another...raise the prices, then hit 'em with the Big Mac. A generation later, we're talking about a real bargaining chip. Big Macs for oil...I like it.
For now, Happy Birthday, Big Mac. Even though I cannot remember the last time I ate one, I feel like you've brought us all closer, if only because our stomachs protrude just a bit more as a result of 40 years of celebrating with you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Worse Than Mike Vick?

I love dogs...always had one as a kid...the idea of training them to fight and disposing of the losers is really repugnant. Exploiting them for selfish means is, of course, an evil. Those responsible should be punished...maybe by getting them into the Octagon and having them battle it out in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Yeah, I know...then, Id be no better than they are. The reality is, however, that people will do most anything if there's a possible reward. Would you allow strangers to take your kids (ages 8-15)away for six weeks (during school)in hopes of scoring some cash? I wouldn't, but 40 sets of parents did just that last spring.
CBS decided the ultimate reality show should feature 40 kids ages 8-15 in the middle of New Mexico with no electricity, no indoor plumbing and no school who are left to create the perfect society without "interference" from adults. What, haven't these idiots read Lord of the Flies? The program, called "Kid Nation" required these kids to work sunup to sundown and be at the beck and call of producers 24/7. Parents were required to sign a 22-page contract which specified, among other things, that they were not allowed to talk to reporters about what was going on. Even a non-legal type like myuself knows that parents cannot sign away rights of minor children, yet the labor laws were undoubtedly pushed aside; there are very strict regulations for child actors in Hollywood...apparently, these did not exist in New Mexico.
By the time authorities got out there to check on things, production had finished, and evidence was nowhere to be found. No harm evidfent, no foul evident. Rumors that kids had drunk bleach and been burned by hot oil in a cooking attempt could not be verified, and parents were unwilling to talk. I'm not certain what the monetary rewards were, but parents who would allow such a thing are, I think, worse than Mike Vick and his cohorts.
Taking your child out of school for a week's visit to Disneyland is bad enough; having them subjected to this scenario in hopes of making a profit seems downright criminal to me.
What the hell has happened to the "entertainment" industry? Bruce Springsteen was right: "57 channels and nothing on."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Living the iLife

It might be part of some subversive plot...or it might be shrewd product placement. Either way, anything that's name begins with the minor case "i" has become an integral part of life as we know it. Soon, we will be unable to function except under the watchful gaze of several "i" products.
It all started innocently enough when the computer age began to infiltrate average life. The iMac was cute, functional and easy to use. Several generations of computing devices later, there's the iPod which has spawned numerous "must have" accessories in addition to several models: some have more memory...some will play songs in random order...some are small yet contain 240 sound tracks...most now have video capability. All need accessories like iTravel, iBox and iHome which allow us to take our tunes everywhere. Now, of course, there's the iPhone which seemingly does everything but fix dinner. It's all about accessorizing, it seems. And I will admit a certain attraction to these items.
I have three iPods: a 1G shuffle which I use all the time while exercising; a 20G iPod which stores about 4,000 tracks; and a 60G iPod which holds every single piece of music that I own. It has made my stereo system obsolete since everything is stored in my computer and on my iPod. CD jukeboxes anyone? I don't need 'em anymore. At least I haven't gotten into the mass of accessories Apple wants everyone to have...yet. I don't have a bed headboard which contains a docking station for my iPod (Skyline Furniture is available at Target!), and I don't have a shirt, jacket or backpack which has a pocket and and/or headphone jack for my MP3 player. I also passed up a Nike stocking hat which had built-in speakers for the cold-weather outdoorsperson; my car has a CD player, but it does not have a connector for my iPod though over 70% of all American-made autos have such capability. Supposedly, there are over 4,000 products made specifically with iPod adaptation capability. The most intriguing, however, has to be the "Concerto," a dining room table with built-in speakers and docking station. Nicholas Lovegrave and Demian Rapucci have produced this item and hope to sell it for $14,000. It comes in black or white (I'll take a white one) and is shaped like a grand piano. As one might expect, any savvy dinner host wants to control the mood during dinner, and access to the iPod allows this. Apple's iTunes program even offers playlist suggestions for dinner music. While this item is not exactly flying off the showroom floor, it is a perfect example of how, in this day and age, the "i's" have it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Signs That Summer Is Over

There's little doubt remaining that the cool nights and frosty mornings of autumn are inching their way closer. True, it's been hotter and more humid than recent memory hints at, but believe me, it's closer to fall than you think. Here are some things I've noticed recently which have led me to this conclusion.

1. Neighborhood kids. After spending all summer squirrelled away in their rooms with Play Station, they've realized that they have little time left outside...thus, they have been cruising the neighborhood in gangs on their bikes like there's a Stones concert in Altamont. Herds of them have been out this week so I know they're feeling the walls closing in.

2. Lists abound. Every time I open a newspaper or surf the 'net, I find lists: The Cool Things Your Grade Schooler Needs For School (including a computer for homework and an iPod for bus travel!)...Top Ten "Must-Haves" For Any College Freshman...Top Ten Party Schools in the Country (West Virginia this year and NO Wisconsin school in the top ten)...Top Sober Schools In the Country(BYU, as one might imagine, gains this honor for the 10th consecutive time)... Five Ways To Make Sure Your Child Is Ready For School (including "practicing" getting up on time).

3. Kids are bored. Face it. When the top fun time summer activity for the summer becomes driving through a drive-thru, ordering a drink, yelling "fire in the hole" and throwing the drink back through the drive-thru window (I am not making this up), it's time to get back to school. Whatever happened to mailbox baseball? Maybe that's just for country kids.

4. I get a haircut. It's true...every year at this time, I get a haircut, even if I like it the way it is. It's just TIME TO DO IT! No idea whether I look better or worse though there is much less grey in it when it's short. It's like geese flying south or north, depending on the season, or bears hibernating: there comes a time when things happen by instinct.
I got it cut today ( or, as people in Wisconsin say, "I got THEM cut today." )

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tales From Lambeau

I definitely have a fascinating summer job: giving tours at Lambeau Field. People treat their visits like religious experiences; in addition, they laugh at almost all my attempts at humor (the value of having a new audience every 55 minutes!), and everyone leaves happy. That is unusual for a part-time gig. Of course, walking hour after hour and presenting basically the same "lesson" over and over can get tedious, but, overall, it's the most fun part-time job I've ever had. I've gotten to see people from all over the world, and I continue to marvel at how popular the Packers are worldwide. As a side benefit, I get to witness some crazy things and hear people say and do the most unusual things. This week provides great examples.
The Packers played Pittsburgh in the pre-season opener this year. Two fans flew in all the way from Pittsburgh, marvelled at the stadium and took the tour. When they began to discuss how much fun they'd have at the game that night, I was nonplussed. How would I tell them that the game was in Pittsburgh and not in Green Bay? Deciding straight out was best, I levelled with them, and when the shock wore off, they went upstairs to a sports bar to watch the game before catching the next day's flight back to Pennsylvania. Ouch. I'm betting somebody got an earful on the way home!
During a question and answer session in a private box, a youngster asked whether or not he should choose a baseball or football career. Expecting a question about the stadium, I was not expecting something from "left field" including his claim that he had "a killer arm." My suggestion? Baseball, since the career can be longer and one seldom gets whacked.
The Packers had a birthday on the 11th (88 years ago they were founded). Our guides were getting folks to sing "Happy Birthday" so I thought I'd get volunteers to lead. One high-school-aged young woman volunteered to lead so I let her. Her lyrics went "Happy Birthday, People are dying" and she repeated them four times before ending with "Have a nice day." Needless to say, the assembled group was agape. They were all casting nervous glances around for the nearest exit, as was I. Her claim was that was how the song went at her school in Appleton. I vowed never to go to Appleton again.
Just today, our group ascended the escalator to the convention area of the stadium where a business meeting was happening. There was a buffet table set up for their lunch. As we walked by, a mid-70s woman grabbed a strawberry and shoved it in her mouth before I could stop her! I almost had to lasso everyone else who, of course, thought the spread was for them. Grand theft Grandmother...who'd have thought it?
All of this makes my experience of nearly getting run down by Ted Thompson on a bicycle almost a non-event!
Gotta love Lambeau!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hail To the Lefties!

Even though Phil Mickelson was really never in contention at the PGA event this weekend, I would like to be the first to wish him well. He, like several people I know, is left-handed, and on Monday, August 13th, we celebrate International Left-Handers Day...or at least I will. This is a minimally-known holiday that began 30 years ago...though I doubt that Hallmark has caught up yet. My oldest son Ryun is left-handed, and one of his younger brothers bats and hits a golf ball left-handed so it's in the family. My guess is that years ago elementary teachers"changed" all lefties so we wouldn't keep smearing the ink on our papers when we were learning cursive (though "cursing" was more like it in my case). Knowing the value of being ambidextrous when one is, say, using a scissors or trying to get a drink at a water fountain ("bubbler" for those of you in Wisconsin), we encouraged our kids to use whatever hand was convenient. Somne will say this confuses kids; some will say this causes coordination issues; but I say, our kids had enough trouble just growing up without having to worry about handedness.
True, the French word for uncouth "gauche" is strictly interprested as "left," and the Latin word "sinister" actually means "left-hand side," but we've got to overcome these narrow parameters and accept differences like this. That's why I say we should call every southpaw we know tomorrow and wish them a happy day. Phil is first on my list since I know he's probably bummed about not playing as well as he'd have liked to this week. Oprah, Paul McCartney and Bill Gates are on my calling list for tomorrow as well. Bart Simpson is also a lefty, but he's been too busy with all the hoopla surrounding his movie to take my calls.
Beethoven, daVinci, Einstein and Ben Franklin are all dead as well as Helen Keller and Babe Ruth. In their honor, though, I will a) watch a movie about a St. Bernard b) review the Catholic Church's stance on Dan Brown's book c) have an onion bagel (after driving by the store a couple of times...minimum) d)change my penny jar for a bill with Franklin on it e) give all annoying drivers a silent reproach using sign language and f) eat a candy bar. That should fill my day.
Now it's your turn...let's pump up all the left-handers out there tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Closet Olympians

a disappointing 7.1 from the Russian judge

Most people never get any closer to the Olympics than the price of admission. For us, here's an alternative: The Redneck Games (originally "The Bubba Olympics").
The beginnings of this event coincided with the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. Southerners got tired of hearing how "The Games" would be a disaster since it was being run by a bunch of rednecks, and radio station WQZY in East Dublin, Georgia, saw an opportunity too good to pass up.
With events like Bobbing for Pig's Feet, Redneck Horseshoes (featuring toilet seats), Dumpster Diving, Hubcap Tossing and the ever-popular Mud-pit Belly Flop, the event has been going strong for ten years. Any event that features a Big Hair contest (are you getting this Luxemburg girls?) and Musical Armpits has my vote for Festival of the Year. Fried alligator on a stick and the lighting of the ceremonial gas grill by a character named L-Bow make this one jim dandy event. It is, as one might imagine, family-oriented in a Southern tradition right down to the cost of entry: $5 per carload. This definitely conjures up memories from drive-in movie excursions of my childhood. The winners get trophies of crushed Bud Light cans mounted carefully atop a pedestal. What's NOT to like?
It has even spawned similar contests in places like Athens, Texas, which offers additional events like Mattress Chuck, in which two guys heave a mattress out of the bed of a pickup as well as a contest dealing with butt cracks (trust don't want to know).
At least in Texas (the state which leads the nation in capital crime executions), law enforcement takes a somewhat dim view of the goings-on. This year there were 60 arrests for a variety of offense ranging from public intoxication (ya think?) to illegal dumping (someone should have been in charge of picking up the mattresses), but organizers seem somewhat mystified by the whole deal since over 6,000 folks showed up to bolster the local economy.
Sad to say, both events are over for the year, but it's not too early to begin training for next year's games. The Redneck Games in Goergia are held during the first week in July, and the Athens (now THERE'S a name for a city hosting the Olympics!) games take place in early August, giving one time, I suspect, to recuperate between major competitions.
WQZY even lists a toll-free number 800-272-4422 AND a website for your convenience. There is an hilarious YouTube video to check out at
I'm going to start training today. See you there, dadgummit!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

..."And A Time For Every Purpose..."

It's just a bit after 8 a.m. and I'm not visiting the doctor today so I have some time on my hands. Of course, there are tasks to be completed today, but the time isn't right just yet. Randomly selecting tasks to complete during various daytime hours is not the way to do it, according to "Real Simple" magazine. There IS a best time for everything.
It's best to visit the doctor between 8-9 a.m. or 1-2 p.m. according to the magazine folks who've done the research (no clue as to what the best time for research is, however). The reasoning is that early in the morning, chances are you'll be first in line, and there will be fewer emergencies to make you wait. Also, if there is fasting involved for testing putposes, it's more convenient. I'm usually still full from the big bag of microwave popcorn and tub o' ice cream ingested prior to going to bed. Immediately after lunch, you'll again be first in line since doctors typically do their paperwork and get caught up over lunch hour. I'm extrapolating here, but I suspect these times would also be best for dentist visits as well unless you're in for sedation dentistry, then anytime is great because you'll be asleep!
I often get the urge to clean up around the house early in the morning, especially after seeing the living room strewn with detrius after having stayed up into the wee hours waiting for Barry Bonds' next home run. It's not so much that I like Barry Bonds, it's just that seeing history being made is cool. However, I didn't watch Barbara Morgan getting shot into space because I'm still upset that NASA didn't choose ME 22 years ago.
Anyway, the BEST time to do housework is around 4 p.m. because your hand-eye coordination is said to be at its peak at that time. I'm just starting to make dinner then, and I'd hate to get Pledge and Pam confused. Now that I have the revolutionary new mop invented by my buddy Joel at East Shore Industries, I can clean the floors in a jiffy and STILL get dinner on!
Going to the pharmacy is best completed by 3 p.m. in order to avoid the after-school rush. After-school rush? What, is the Pertussin rush by school kids on at that time? They should get that BEFORE school instead of Rock Star. Supposedly, this time is less busy and, subsequently, fewer mistakes are made. MISTAKES? Have I been taking the wrong stuff here?
Finally, the absolute best time for a nap, according to "Real Simple" occurs between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. This time corresponds with a decrease in body temperature, and we feel naturally drowsy. The caution is that nobody should sleep longer than 30 minutes: 15-20 minutes is the ideal time frame. I've solved that one nicely by taking three naps consecutively, getting up just in time to reload on pharmaceuticals before making dinner!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Apocalypse Is Upon Us

First of all, let me say that if I knew "restructuring" was going to be this much effort, I would have continued as a teacher. I have now worked four of the last five days, including a Sunday, as a tour guide at Lambeau Field. Hey, if I wanted to work that much, I'd have kept my other job! And all of this happens during the doggiest of dog days here in Green Bay! Hot and muggy does not do it was downright assault on the nervous system out there (and some guy came in last night and painted my lawn brown!)No doubt about it, I'm going to have to hire an assistant to help me keep up. But that's not what's got me upset today. I think the world is going to end soon. Another nail in the coffin of the world was announced today:
Krispy Kreme is closing its doors in Titletown. I was aghast when I read the news in today's paper. Where would I go for my birthday treat? I spluttered indignantly as I read the announcement yet again, refusing to believe it wasn't some nasty prank by the blogger who's been pretending to be Steve Jobs for the last year.
Alas, it is true, though. Those tasy, 200-calorie-per-pastry doughnuts are no longer readily available. To make matters even worse, I had recently purchased a card allowing me a dozen free doughnuts every time I bought one (up to ten). The fundraising company is going to hear about this!
I have to admit, though, that I might be partially responsible. Even though I love their product, good health habits have kept me from enjoying them except on rare occasions after the franchise moved to Green Bay. Had I done more buying and eating, the goody dispenser might still be open. As it is, the apocalypse is upon us. Green Bay folks will have to go back to eating more cheese and up the fried food intake to supplement a diet suddenly bereft of fat. If there is a silver lining, however, the store in Milwaukee remains open, and I've now developed an intense hunger for doughnuts. Maybe I can get back before work tomorrow!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hello Kitty, Shame On YOu!

Behavior modification can take strange forms. Food is a great motivator, as Pavlov found least with dogs. The nuns thought kneeling on pencils while holding dictionaries at arm's length worked just fine as well. Pop was a bit more straightforward, preferring anything hard enough (and handy enough) with which to whack me on the rear. Advertisers tend to use curvaceous models and/or sports heroes as prompters. All of these methods work, I guess, though some tend to be effective only on the short term. Publishing names found in books connected with...uh...unseemly activities has brought down many a politician and social magnate as well. Embarrassment might be the best method, and the police in Thailand have grabbed onto it in order to effect corrective behaviors among their own.
It seems that the Thai police officers have trouble adhering to the law's letter with regard to misdemeanors such as littering, parking illegally and arriving late to work. Not wishing to have their officers set a bad public example, those in power attempted stern warnings but found them ineffective. Sterner measures were in order!
Colonel Pongrat Chayaphan decided that for such minor offenses, his officers would suffer the most degrading embarrassment he could think of: they are required to wear armbands for an entire day on which the logo of "Hello Kitty" is emblazoned! For the uninitiated, "Hello Kitty" is a cute, stuffed animal kind of depiction of a kitty sitting atop two hearts. Imagine the degradation of having to wear this ALL DAY! I can see this if a guy is trying to direct traffic to the mirthful amusement of drivers, but these guys have to wear the armband around the office! They are not allowed to go outside thusly attired. HUH? Maybe fellow officers can think of more effective jibes, but I'd be a LOT more embarrassed if I had to wear "Hello Kitty" outside. Stopping a snickering traffic offender would only happen once. Chasing bank robbers? Forget it!
Maybe they know something in Thailand that we don't know, but I really think they need to get a couple of nuns in there to straighten those guys out!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

No food? No Fun!

I can empathize with those who spend their life dieting...and I've only been at it for one day, knowing tomorrow it will be over. There's something about knowing that food is absolutely forbidden that makes it almost impossible to pass up. I feel like those cartoon characters marooned on a desert (dessert?) island as they hallucinate that everything resembles food. This, indeed, has been one, long day. In addition, having to take a laxative doesn't make it any fun, either.
Tomorrow is the day I've been cajoled about for a few years: my first episode of video colon invasion as a preventative measure. That means: a) I am middle-aged and a cancer risk and b)I can't take the constant harangue by my doctor and my family that I'm way past due for such a procedure. No food, though...that's cold. Of course, having a bowel movement during the procedure would not be so cool, either; so, in addition to no solid food for an entire day (though I stayed up late last night "watching the Brewers" surrounded by food), there was the slight business of ingesting a liquid laxative, supposedly "lemon-flavored." If that was lemon flavored, I'm swearing off lemonade and lemon meringue pie! Now, of course, I've spent the entire evening resembling something Rodin might have sculpted.
I tried to take my mind off of the whole thing today by mowing the lawn, doing some carpentry and getting the laundry done, but it always came back to food. Let me tell you, jello is NOT food, nor are popsicles food. Broth? Hey, I don't drink that stuff when I'm NOT avoiding food. I quickly scanned the list of acceptable items, but beer wasn't on the list so that was out. Fortunately, it was about a zillion degrees here in Titletown today so that was some kind of distraction.
My main goal is to beat President Bush. He had five polyps removed recently during his colonoscopy: I hope to do better. Of course, I won't remember anything about it, but I do know that I'm going out to eat when all is said and done!
The senior citizens at Ponderosa had better get there early!