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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mr. Right...Mr Wrong...How To Tell!

Seriously, I think we must just be getting less intuitive as time goes by. Either that or the general I.Q. is going south faster than spicy burritos washed down with cerveza. Evidence of this comes from Oprah's website: not that I regularly read it, but it was a feature the other day in the Chicago Tribune which is among the four or five news sources I turn to daily to find out what's going on with the world outside the Green Bay Packers.
So, I glance at the headline, and it detailed the ten kinds of men a woman should run, not walk, away from. Okay, so not everybody's perfect, but I thought if there are ten kinds of men to avoid, we're in trouble as a species. Are there any good ones left? (I can just see all the women shaking their collective heads at that one). Anyway, I guess I wasn't so amazed that there were ten types of undesirable males, but I WAS somewhat taken aback that it took Oprah to point out these types to women everywhere. I mean, some of these seem like no-brainers to me. Heck, I wouldn't even hang out with guys like this in a "pal" relationship...why would any woman want to get seriously involved with any of these types?

1. "Joe No-Show" This is the guy you meet at a convention or somewhere other than home. He constantly calls and asks you to visit. You show up at the airport, and there's nobody to talk to but the skycap. DUH! Why would one not immediately book a flight back home singing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair"? We need Oprah to tell us this guy's a loser?

2. "Mr. Jealousy" The guy who tries to control who you see, talk to, and wants to know where you are every minute. Calling and texting fifty times a day? Heck, I'd move to Tanzania if I had to to get away from this kind of person, and it wouldn't take me a week to do it. Perhaps there's a period of romance like in all abusive relationships, but it certainly would be a short one for me.

3. "The Bully" C' serious. Who in any kind of right mind would hang with a physically controlling person? My wife and I have only two rules for our marriage: one of them is that nobody gets hit...EVER. No do-overs, no second chances. It just won't happen. For the record, the other rule is that we don't date other people...which brings us to another almost shocking revelation by Oprah:

4. "The Two-Timer" I'm still shaking my head over the fact that she felt the need to explain the parameters and why this is bad.

5. "The Liberated Man" This guy moves in within weeks, quits his job and watches SportsCenter all the time while drinking beer that YOU bought. Granted, by this time, it's hard to get rid of the guy without physically moving yourself, but I could certainly invest in some good locks or a Doberman.

There are others, five in fact, but most of them are of the same ilk. Maybe because I'm a guy I don't see how women could be taken in by such people. That's not to say that men are not subject to being duped just as women are. Of course, you're not going to see Oprah or Ellen or Tyra take that one on. Of course, guys are easier to fool because they have more base interests which can be fulfilled more easily, I suspect.
Anyway, be on the lookout for smooth talking, witty, good-looking guys who, like chocolate-covered cherries, are appealing at first bite but far too icky sweet upon further review. (and give you a stomachache after a few bites) Guys like that are notorious for being clever writers who spend time writing blogs. Watch out for those guys!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On the Stump in 2008

It really is remarkable. It must have been like this several times throughout history. I would suspect the election of JFK was something like this: a nation embroiled in "what ifs." Of course, I was in 4th grade so I didn't really care much about it...remember, this was even before the Beatles came to America, and I think 1964 was the point at which I started noticing things outside of my immediate surroundings and what we had for dinner. Sputnik was a big deal, I remember, but only because the adults all talked about it like Russia was going to wipe us off the face of the map because they had put a satellite into space orbit. Neli Armstrong walking on the moon was historic as was the first space shuttle launch, the first and all subsequent shuttle disasters (fortunately, I missed out on being the first teacher in space) and, of course, 9/11. But this is somehow different. I feel really positive that this year's presidential election will signal a new era in how people perceive Americans as well as how we will begin to perceive ourselves. As an example, we were involved in a political discussion today with a total stranger (except for the fact that he had prepared our subs for lunch).
Out of the blue, Carol asked this guy, working alone at a regionally-franchised sub shop, if he had health insurance. He was a bit stunned but admitted that he did not.
"Don't you wish you did?" sparked the political discussion about what was right for him as a citizen.
"I work full time for minimum wage," was his take on his life. "I cannot afford health insurance even if it were offered to me." We continued to discuss the idea of at least having a choice, and his response, repeated several times, was "I choose to work here, knowing that health care is not available."
About this time, the delivery driver came back, and the four of us debated the likelihood of them getting any kind of health insurance, and the picture was bleak. Both of them had voted in our recent primary though neither offered an account of his choice. Whether or not they had ever considered it a "right" to have health care never really seemed to come up. I almost felt guilty having a plan that costs so little and provides so a retired person. Knowing that most people have nothing of the sort is a bit sad. Knowing so many more people have NONE is a good reason to vote this time around. Our friend fixing subs used the word "socialist," and I almost spit out my drink. I had not heard that word since tie-dyed shirts and fatigue jackets were all the rage. OF COURSE it's the sense that we all share: bad for the "haves" but good for the erstwhile "have nots."
Kant would be proud of us.
Oh yes, they were both MUCH younger than we...that says something, but I'm not sure what.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It is well-known or assumed that living a long life has something to do with genetics as well as lifestyle. We can all agree with that. A recently-released longitudinal study from Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston corroborates the fact. Their recently-documented study indicated that men could live well beyond 90 years of age by following basic, common sense ideas. Controlling weight and blood pressure; avoiding diabetes and smoking and getting regular exercise have all been proven to increase the probability of living past 90.
There are a couple of things that were NOT taken into consideration, and I want to guess about their effect.

1. Level of isolation. It would seem that being social might increase one's mental health and keep him or her more active. I say...what about all the germs those folks are carrying around? Hanging around people could very easily get me infected.
And another thing...most of the frustration I've felt has had to do with people other than myself. Surely, that's got to limit my life span! Then again, I'm not sure I could go all "Walden Pond" on you and live totally devoid of the things other people generally do for me. I could build a shelter somewhere warm, but raise food? Who would supply my internet connection or cable TV? Would NetFlix still send me movies even though there would be nobody around to take them back? Then again, my overdue library bokks wouldn't be, well, overdue. No way to charge my iPod battery if nobody is making electricity...semi-isolation, maybe, but only those people I consider necessary!

2. Level of education. Would educated people live longer than the average person? Most highly-educated people have a rather narrow area of expertise. I suppose greater education translates into a higher living standard, but that won't help if I'm living in isolation.

3. Also, no mention of alcohol or sex as limiters or expanders of lifetimes. I guess I can see both sides of those two so we'll discount them.

I guess I'd better face it: nobody is going to study the things I want them to study so I'd better get out there and exercise and try to avoid all the bad things they DO study.
And why would a hoispital with the word "woman" in its name be studying life expectancy in MEN? I suspect a plot somewhere.
See you at 90!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rockin' the Vote


Until Friday, February 15, 2008, I had never attended a political rally of any sort. It's not that I don't care or don't vote (I do), it's just that I see these kinds of events as spin doctor presentations in which a candidate reiterates ideas and emotional hooks written for him or her to an audience which is already favorable. More pertinent information is disseminated via the web than I expected to gain by attending the Barack Obama rally in Green Bay. I went, though, for a couple of reasons, and I was intrigued by a couple of things.
I went because
1. It is history in the making. A woman? An African-American? A Viet Nam era vet? With these as presidential possibilities, I figure this will be a seminal moment in history.
2. Admission was free. (This is a big draw for me) While the tickets were required and free, they were gotten at great expense! I visited three web sites, made at least 100 phone calls (all busy signals) and made several calls to the local Obama office where nobody picked up the phone. Through the campus mail, I found that the ticklets were being distributed on campus; when I got to the designated site, nobody knew anything about it. Imagine my chagrin when the ticket line was set up 50 feet from my office the next day! After days of trying everything, I had only to walk across the hall and pick them up!
3. I already had a parking spot and entry to the building. NO walking for blocks in the cold (and it WAS cold) and standing in a queue outside for hours. I did have to stand inside for roughly an hour before I could get into the auditorium, and I did have to then wait two hours before the candidate showed up. However, I had brought along a book, and the concession stands were open! It just got better and better. Then, the main event:
Barack was introduced, not by the governor, the chancellor or anyone famous. He was introduced by a single mother of three who had just moved into her new home, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity. This becasme one of the overriding themes we were to hear: "We (the government) will help, but YOU have to do something for us." Money for college was promised to the students, but in return, they would have to volunteer in their communities and become invested in America. Parents were challenged to turn off the TV, the computer and the cell phones and work with their school-age kids and their teachers to remake the education system. If we thought this Democrat was here to give us something for nothing, we were sadly mistaken.

Obama was electric. He was funny, self-deprecating and didn't mind poking fun at the chancellor as well. Our university chancellor's name is Bruce Shepard, and when the students (and there were many of them) shouted "BRUUUUUCE!" in unison, Obama made a comment that he certainly hoped they were saying his name and not booing him. Bruce laughed as we all did. Mrs. UWGB simply smiled.

His speech was almost an hour of things he's said over and over...after all, this was his third public speech of the day and perhaps thousandth of the campaign. Continuously interrupted by applause, he said all the right things about the economy, health care, Iraq, education, NAFTA, and all the other hot-button issues. This was to be expected. He did, however, use the word "cool" which was not expected. I understand that such a descriptor is probably a bit passe, but it marked him as one of "my" people. His use of the vernacular in that way reminded me that he was a lot closer to my experiences in life than any of the other possibilities.

The thing that really struck me was his choice of music. While waiting for two hours, we were treated to prerecorded music playing subliminal-type messages, I guess. Obama's choices included selections from Stevie Wonder, Kool and the Gang. Curtis Mayfield and Neil Diamond. Chuck Berry gets special props because there were TWO of his songs played, an honor accorded to no other musical group. I thought the selection of a Willie Nelson version of "The City of New Orleans" a bit odd. Maybe Arlo Guthrie was too reminiscent of the Viet Nam era.

Anyway, as he closed with a statement ending "...when I am the next president of The United States of America," Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star" erupted from the speakers, and the crowd literally lost its collective mind. Honestly, I've been to a great number of rock concerts and was not as moved by what happened. Plus, it was free, and I got a free piece of memorabilia...try THAT at a rock concert!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Try THIS In Phoenix!


My friends Steve and Nancy just moved to Phoenix a few months ago. I got the requisite Christmas card showing them in shirt sleeves, trying hard to hide the satisfied grins on their faces. They are golfers, and I can understand that, but as Wisconsinites born and bred, they are not supposed to enjoy the desert weather quite so much. Sure, they'll say when it's 110 every day for a month that it's a dry heat. They wouldn't change it for anything. Well, I've got news for them. Life will get boring very quickly there.
Nancy mentioned that they walk a lot and play some golf, but that's really it for exercise. HA! Their upper bodies are going to get so weak from lack of stimulation, while I get to shovel snow three or four times a week to keep myself in tiptop shape. Just today, I also got to shovel out my mailbox so the mailperson would deliver instead of making me hike on snowshoes the five miles to the post office to get it (uphill both ways, of course). The brisk air which we've had lately kills any and all bacteria so I will NEVER be sick again! But the best thing is that there is no nordic skating in Phoenix.
Nordic skating amounts to strapping long blades to the bottom of one's nordic ski boots and using ski poles to navigate across ice. The length of the blades means that bumpy stretches of ice are less so because the blades travel over the top. I must admit that I'd never heard of it until today, and that I was somewhat dismayed that much of this activity centers around Vermont and New Hampshire. There are organized races, public events for all skill levels, and amyriad of nordic skating activities. However, I was delighted to discover that there was a place tight here in Green Bay which offers 2,000m of (groomed?)ice for this activity! Finding the blades will be my next move though reading stories about hardy skaters who consider it a badge of honor to fall through the ice, get out and keep going makes me a bit nervous. Still, I'll bet they can't do that in Phoenix!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Vicarious Happiness

If you are as sick of this winter already as I am, there is a bit of hope in that cold weather brings us closer together, at least that fact is postulated by Eric Weiner. If, on the other hand, you live in Phoenix or somewhere that features your favorite outdoor winter sport, well, then, maybe you should just leave the rest of us to our misery. Snow is OK as long as I don't have to shovel every hour to keep ahead of the drifts or the plow. I can dress warmly enough for most outdoor winter activities (who doesn't like to stay warm when it's cold?), but when the wind chill plummets to unbearable depths as it has recently, I just get infuriated. Even the big screen TV and Wii have lost their lustre in my lust for warmer conditions. That's where Eric Weimer comes in. I'm looking to him for relief, at least vicarious relief.
Weimer has written a book entitled "The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World." While he didn't specifically mention "warm," it plays into it a bit.
Weimer was a reporter for NPR (If you don't know, you're not part of the intelligentia) for ten years and spent a lot of time in stupefyingly depressing places so he decided to take a year to travel the world to find the happiest places on the planet. Surprising results abound: a warm climate and/or money do not create the necessary aura for happiness. Qatar, for example, has the highest per capita income in the world; its citizens pay no taxes of any kind, yet he found them less than happy. For one, they have no investment in the country since all their money is their own (who'd have thought paying taxes was a good thing?). Also, their money tends to insulate and isolate them from others.
Iceland, on the other hand, has a climate which is far more frigid, yet people there tend to be happy. Weimer explains that many of them are poets, writers and creative sorts. Perhaps with the cold and darkness, why not? Anyway, Weimer suggests that the cold inspires's either cooperate to stay warm or freeze to death. (And of course you know that Greenland is even colder than Iceland!) My overnight stay in Iceland was pleasant enough, despite the lack of trees and the moon-like landscape. I don't recall feeling happy there, but mainly that was due to my wife buying a sweater for every man, woman and child in the extended family!
I know you're dying to get happy so it's time to go to Bhutan...the place Weimer describes as the modern Shangri-la. This is a country whose focus is not on gross national product, but "gross national happiness."
The Swiss seem to be unusually happy as well. This seems primarily due to the fact that in Switzerland, everything runs as it should, on time and on schedule. Think that's not important? When was the last time you flew anywhere in this country? The Swiss are inveterate chocolate eaters as well...hmmm...
The U.S. is not as happy as it is wealthy, according to Weimer's observations. Where do we rank on the happiness scale? I'll tell you right now that I'm nowhere near the top, personally!
In fact, reading the book actually kind of ticks me off because I realize the number of people around the world who are happy AT THIS VERY MINUTE would not trade places with me even if I asked politely.
I'm going for some hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hey, Kids, Let's Go To Camp!

It's a regular rite of summer in this country...and maybe fall, spring and winter, too, for that matter. Every year, thouseands of kids head off to camp in order to learn to play jazz, basketball, chess, outdoor camping and living, or perhaps spend a week talking to scientists about space flight. It is the express duty of parents in this country to make certain that their children have optimal opportunities to become the best they can be at whatever they (or the parent) think is the singular talent that is going to make the child smart, rich, gifted...whatever. It's this attitude of ""go for it all" that was probably behind Kevin Hart's announcement the other day that he had decided to play football next year for The University of California instead of the universities in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Oklahoma who had been recruiting him heavily. As it turns out, NONE of them had recruited the 6'5" 290-pound offensive lineman at all...he made the whole thing up, got national exposure and probably wishes he could go someplace and die right about now. I've got the place.
It seems the Iraqis have a different idea about camp for kids. The recently-released video tape of kids as young as 11 in "camp" showed a different kind of camp: training with automatic weapons, training to search cars and clear buildings was all done in earnest. Footage of youngsters posing in suicide vests and/or shouting for the camera whil brandishing AK-47s, grenade launchers and other military weaponry was a bit shocking to me. According to the report, we were seeing "the new generation of mujahedeen."
You'll recall that the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia made liberal use of children as their agents of death as well, so this is not a new idea, but it IS a disturbing one.
Summer camp just isn't what it used to be.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Save the Country...Eat A Lot

Word has filtered down from The Netherlands about a study which provides proof positive (somewhat) that obesity is not all bad, at least from a financial point of view. Of all the reasons provided for reducing obesity in this and other countries, one in continual use is the high cost of medical care for the legions of obese people. The study from The Netherlands blows as many holes in that theory as in your favorite dozen at Krispy Kreme (sadly, unavailable in Green Bay except at the Arby's/Shell station).
Based on the cost of disease prevention and the available data on the cost of illness in Holland in 2003, researchers have developed a model which indicates that obese people are cheaper with regard to medical costs than healthy people, though not a cheap as smokers.
Three groups were studied: a healthy-living group (thin, non-smokers); the obese group; and, the smoking group.
Between the ages of 20 and 56, obese people led the way in healthcare costs, but over a lifetime, the statistics did not hold true. Statistical data:
1. Healthy people lived an average of 84 years.
2. Obese people lived an average of 80 years.
3. Smokers lived an average of 77 years.

My first question involves what I intend to do with those extra seven years. TBD

4.Cancer occurrences (except lung cancer) occurred at about the same rate in all three groups--YIKES!
5. Obese people were more likely to suffer from diabetes--I knew that already.
6. Healthy people were faced the highest risk from strokes--YIKES, pt. 2!

The actual projected medical costs for each group after age 20 was broken down in this manner:

Healthy people were expected to cost $417,000 over their lifetime.
Obese people shelled out $371,000 over a life span.
Smokers cost the system only $326,000 per person for their years on earth.

What information did I gather from all of this?

I've got seven years to pay for health care which I will not be able to afford. This means that my kids will get to host me at various times for those seven years in hopes of gaining some money when I die...most of which will have been spent on health care! Aha! A conundrum!

If I see my retirement savings dwindling to the point where I might be homeless ( and featured on the new reality show about to hit the airwaves...seriously!), I can take up smoking and check out earlier than anticipated. Of course, my children will STILL not get any money because I will have spent it on smokes.

I can begin to up my caloric intake because getting huge will only cost me four years...and I'll probably spend those in a home anyway unaware of any of my surroundings and STILL hating bingo. The kids? I'll have spent it all on pie at Baker's Square as well as the cost of the nursing home.

BOTTOM LINE: My kids are getting nothing but the pleasure of my company. I can just hear their shouts of unbridled joy now.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not So Dumb After All

It's things like this that make me feel as if my prep school education wasn't a total waste...other than advance algebra which WAS a total waste, in my case at least. We were exposed to a great deal of knowledge which goes unnoticed (apparently) today. Recently, I was conversing with one of the students whom (not "who") I tutor about a selection of "The Iliad" which she had to read for a class. She was having some difficulty keeping Achilles and Agamemnon separate. Oh, I know, a LOT of people have that difficulty, but this young person happened to come into college as a freshman with 25 college credits already earned...yet, she had never been exposed to Homer and, in fact, could not even tell me which tomes of classic literature she HAD read in high school...a mere 10 months earlier! Wow!
Now comes this from England: Woolworth's stores there were advertising a bedroom set for young girls called "The Lolita Midsleeper Combi Bedroom Set." A parents' group called Raisingkids called and issued a strong complaint about the use of the name "Lolita." Lisa Lim, a spokesperson for the company, issued this statement: "There aren't many people in the company, in the whole world, who know about the book or the films made of it."
Is this just because she was born post-1955 when Nabokov wrote the book? Could she have missed the two film versions; the latest in 1997 starred Jeremy Irons? Probably our for some fish and chips that year. Humber Humbert would be dismayed to find that he is irrelevant in England in the 21st century.
I suspect we all will be sooner or later, but in the meantime, I can feel smugly superior because I knew all about Lolita (not that we were allowed to read it, mind you...I just knew!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

No Reason to Watch

The big day is just around the, Punxatawny Phil has already seen his shadow, predicitng six more weeks of winter. No kidding? As I gaze out my window to see the snow covering everything in sight, I notice the dog is still there. That's the one who got frozen to the fire hydrant on the corner the other day. Heck, it'll take six weeks just to thaw out the rabbits in my yard. So, no, the "big day" isn't spring...I mean The Super Bowl which will be contested in Arizona tomorrow. How ironic, two teams from the Northeast playing in the desert. I figure if they'd played in New England someplace, the Giants would have a chance. (at least the way they played against the Pack in cold weather)
Anyway, I usually don't watch the game because one of my "rules for living" is that I never do anything a couple of million people would do. Thus, I refuse to vote on "American Idol," and I refuse to watch ANY program that's billed as a "reality" show now that Ozzy Osborne or "Dog the Bounty Hunter" are no longer on TV. (on a related front, Duane Chapman is free from the worry of being extradited to Mexico. If you don't know the story, never mind) I refuse to wear the latest fashions even though Abercrombie and Fitch uses my likeness in their stores to sell stuff to well-ripped guys who obviously need shirts because they never have one on!
Now, with the exception of a surprise costume malfunction (which will never happen because of the 10-second delay thing), there is little reason to watch the big game: the commercials are already on the internet. I loved the Planter's Peanuts one, and the was cool, too. My vote for tops would have to be the Diet Pepsi Max one. While some of the ads are only brief teasers, it's enough for me. I can cheerfully await the replays of all the great plays (over and over until spring training begins). I won't have to hear (again) how it's OK for men to have a crush on Tom Brady or whether Plaxico Burress can back up his prediction, presuming he even plays. Enough. Time for a nap.