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, September 30, 2008

Is It Wetter Under Water?

Sometimes, I just amaze myself with some of the nonsensical ideas I have. My life is really full of important issues, and this is an election year which puts a whole new spin on things. But, today, I had a recurring thought: does a person get wetter by running through the rain or by walking through the rain? I mean, if one runs, he or she can get inside out of the rain sooner and miss a good number of drops that would otherwise have struck; but if he or she walks, there are all those raindrops falling in front instead of on top though one is out in it longer. See what I mean? A real stumper.
Not that this idea came completely out of the blue: I was walking toward a school to referee a volleyball match, and it began to sprinkle, then rain a little harder. With about 200 meters to go, I was getting more damp than I cared to get so I was faced with the conundrum of how to make that last stretch without unnecessary dampening.
As I said, this is a recurring thought. I had the opportunity once to solve the riddle; I was working at WOMA in Algoma, and I had to call the green Bay weather station to find out the forecast. In an idle moment, I posed the question to George Graphos, and he actually said that this was a topic discussed in meterology school. Then he got to the local weather and proceeded NOT to answer my query before he hung up. It occurred to me that this might be some sort of mystery that ordinary folks were not supposed to know so I never asked again. Perhaps that's the kind of information given out in meteorolgy school AFTER the tuition is paid. So...I never really found out, and I want to know.
Of course, it was not enough to ask myself that question, I also had lyrics of a song about rain leap uninvited into my head which almost caused me to walk into a bike rack: "Is it wetter under water if you're there when it rains?" That, too, from my WOMA days as part of Leroy Pullins' song "I'm A Nut," featured on the Battle of the Banneds (records so bad they chould be banned).
The rest of the lyrics to that, by the way, are just like that...designed to titillate those who have absolutely nothing else to do. Here's the link if you want to hear it: (And this web site has lots of great songs and videos from pop music...check it out.
Now I will lie awake tonight pondering the solution, fully realizing that none will be forthcoming.
Oh yes, I decided to walk instead of run toward the building today because it stopped raining just as I was going to have to make a choice.
And yet, I can't let it go...maybe if I hum the theme to "Gilligan's Island" which is supposed to clear things unweanted from the mind, or at least Bee Gees lyrics.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Equal Time For the Fellas

Too bad elections don't come around more often

As Funny As It Gets

I cannot top this, so I won't try

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul's Dead 'n' I Don' Feel So Crunk Myself

A crippling injury suffered proefssionally in the service of others. (Gettin' crunked!)

Paul Newman headed off to the great roundup in the sky today. I think I've seen every one of his movies with the one about Butch and Sundance being my favorite, even though Cool Hand Luke was fabulous as well. It was a bizarre day all the way around, and I'm probably lucky to be here to relate the story!
It all began with a seriously sore throat...whether it originated from too many "Boom!" or "Get that weak stuff outa here!" calls as I announced a UWGB volleyball match last night or something serious like the arrival of the cold and flu season, I'll have to wait to find out. However, like any true professional might, I shrugged it off, purchased some Hall's Mentholyptus and headed out for Kohler on the semi-annual visit to Mother B's house for the fall cleanup. My sweetie felt fine and ready to chat politics: "I can't STAND her voice" and associated frustrations came forth unsolicited. While we agree politically, I rarely get into discussions with like-minded individuals since it would be like hearing myself talk, and I do THAT more than enough anyway (as evidenced by my overuse of parenthetical expressions in blogs).
Arriving in K-Town a full ten minutes early (by the timer that I know is ticking on Mother B's stove), I sat in the car and sent a few text messages reminding students and coaches of homework assignments. I arrived in the sitting room (how many people do you know have one of THOSE?) only two minutes early. Carol and Mother B had already launched into a spirited discussion of the potential of moving to another country entirely is the election goes awry, and I waited patiently (for me) for the "to do" list to be produced following the introductory formalities...and there ARE formalities! Being produced, the list for my tasks included the following:
  • Define "crunk" music and the differences between country music and western music. I was not exact on my definition of crunk, but I was spot on about the other two.
  • trim the hedges (but no animal shapes this time)
  • wash the windows outside where the concrete workers had left residue (though their work was good!)
  • clean and vacuum the foyer (again, do YOU have one of those?)
  • fix two doors so that both close properly. This was not as easy as one might think, so it took a professional to complete these tasks. The first was agonizingly slow...two women hovering around asking questions like "How long is this going to take? Should I set the timer? Can I sweep up all those wood chunks you've just chiseled out of my door frame?" There were more, but you get the picture. I happened to casually mention that a professional would not need such help, and I think I put them off. I do not use the word lightly, but then I was questioned as to the exact definition of "professional" that I was using. (somebody who works at tasks others cannot do...for free)

Somewhere in the middle of all that was lunch time, and I was treated to an excellent sandwich at a trendy restaurant nearby.

Since the cleanup union was off at an Obama rally today, I had to clean up my own mess ( a definite violation of the chiseler's union code) but did manage to complete both tasks in time to head off to church at 4, during which, as the congregation sang the communion hymn, someone ELSE'S cell phone began ringing. She looked at me, asking, "Is that your phone?" To which I replied, "Uh, no, that's your phone. Turn it off." By this time, rubberneckers had turned around "tsking" to see who the culprit was, and the unnamed "she" was still trying to get the darn thing to shut up. Apparently, the caller was being persistent, and the phone rang, maybe, ten times. I was trying to pray.

It was about this time that I noticed, for the first time, a terrible pain coursing through my right hand. Immediately, the thought of a stigmata came to mind...I mean, I WAS in church and all. It turned out, though, to be just a humongous blister caused by all the manual labor I'd done as a professional that day. (The picture isn't really to scale. That thing dwarfed my hand!)There was some concern about whether I could successfully negotiate the drive back to Green Bay, but in the true professional sense, I vowed to soldier on.

Now, I sit here, having learned all there is to know about crunk music ( I really don't like it much) and other definitions for the word; I'm completing my literary duty with one hand practically in a cast from the grievous injury, checking every 20 seconds to see if my throat is still sore (it is), and negotiating with some person on Craigslist for a Mac Airbook ("cheap, I need the money.")

Seriously, though, I'm still probably better off than Paul is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Codgerville, U.S.A.: A Nice Place To Live?

My ex-principal George first alerted me to The Villages when he also introduced me to pickle ball one summer evening. George is in his late 70s, I would guess, but he looks younger than that, as did all the people he introduced me to that night. All of them turned out to be retirees who lived most of the year in Florida at a retirement community called The Villages. I really thought nothing of it at the time, but I did get a little tired of them talking constantly about their great life in Florida at this place. They golfed every day, played pickle ball for hours and ate out every night. "Utopia," George said. Since I wasn't ready to retire at the time, I let it all pass.
My attention was focused completely a year later when The Villages hit the news big-time. Like all retirement communities, there are no children allowed at this place, and visitors are restricted to one month a year. One must be at least 55 to own a place there in gated security. That's not what caught my attention, though.
A report was issued two years ago which indicated a meteoric rise nationwide in sexually transmitted diseases, and the national hotspot was, you guessed it, The Villages in Florida! It would appear the folks down there were really getting busy with great regularity...and with various partners, it would seem. I asked one of the 75+ year-old-women about that the following summer, and she said, "Hey, you can't play golf ALL the time!" Bemused, I listened to stories of the ultimate retirement destination. Everyone uses a golf cart, and some have modified them to go even faster than 20 mph! The Villages has two downtowns, a radio station and very little night life after 10 p.m. Everything is regulated by covenants, including a proscription on lawn ornaments...there will be none...ever. Now, there's even a best-selling book about life there.
Leisureville looks at the place through the eyes of a 30-something writer who goes to visit his recently-moved retired neighbors who absolutely LOVE living there. Andrew Blechman arrives filled with hesitancy and doubt. His first few days are filled with a sense of unease, but I suspect he's going to fall right into the lifestyle, much like we did in San Miguel de Allende on our trip to Mexico a few years ago.
Since I've only read three chapters, there's nothing more to report; however, I think the ever-present regulation on virtually everything in one's life would make me crazy...I mean everyone's lawn sprinklers come on at the same time, and people actually scrub their driveways! Having 36 golf courses seems a little excessive, but when there are 100,000 people with time on their hands, maybe not. Every day is an early-bird special, it seems, and chep food has always been a draw for me.
George has invited me down every year to play pickle ball and hang with the gang when the weather gets too crappy here. Maybe this will be the year; but first, the rest of the book for Blechman's take on it. I'm not sure I'm ready for legions of people who are TOO happy and want to share all of that with sounds fishy all the same.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back To School But No Rodney Dangerfield

Definitely not fitting in...unless there's a frat house nearby.

I've always thought that being a college student was the greatest life...after I graduated, that is, and I still think so for the most part. As part of my tutoring gig this year, I attend three diffeent classes, take notes, and synthesize textbook chapters for a student with a learning disability. I sit in the front row, record every lecture, and offer scintillating tidbits about things that happened years ago but are quite germane to the professors whenever the "regular" students are dozing. Sine all the professors know my purpose, they feel more free to be themselves with me, and I can actually have an interesting, if not downright fun, time in class. All is not as it should be, though.

My part-time running buddy Kelly who also is on staff somewhere on campus mentioned it to me the other day. He noted that I was carrying my backpack all wrong. What he actually said was, "You can always tell the older students because they only use one strap on their backpack." He went on to indicate that the two-shoulder method favored by more and more students was more "ergonomically correct." Just to get a word in edgewise, I noted that most of my students could not even pronounce the word "ergonomically" let alone spell it or understand its meaning. I did, however, feel ever so much more out of place strolling across campus in that fashion...but not enough to put both arms through the shoulder straps.

Having introduced myself to a professor and stating my purpose, her eyes opened with recognition. "Oh, I thought you were just one of the 'special' (meaning 'old') students." Upon the realization that I was, in fact, older than she, I was accorded more than usual respect, and she goes out of her way now to speak more slowly just for me! She also tends to write in very big letters to aid my fading eyesight. Another professor even went so far as to send me a Power Point presentation that she did not send to anyone else...probably because she feared that my arthritic fingers couldn't take all the writing! (OK, so THAT was cool!)

And, of course, I dress totally unlike college students...but it's not my fault. I'm required to dress "business casual" so that people visiting the athletics department will not look askance at me. I have the leading collection of polos in town...department stores send me special notices when polos and chinos go on sale...they even hire extra help for those "Senior Discount Days." sigh! Even my wife rips on me on occasion (mostly at the polo sales). Oh sure, it's OK for every other person on CAMPUS to look at me like that because I'm not wearing lounge pants, a ratty T-shirt and flip flops (which I've read are terrible for ones back). It's like I have to wear a sign "DORK COMING THIS WAY" or "CLEAR THE SIDEWALK FOR THE OLD PERSON" or "NARC ON CAMPUS."

So, to all of you "special" would-be students out there, I have some advice. Get an iPod and some flip flops, don't wear anything you wouldn't wear cleaning the garage, and for God's sake, DO NOT sit in the front row, pencil poised! Get a laptop and a Facebook account, and you'll be all set.


Lovin' the college life!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Generativity...and Then Some

'Fro Boy

Supposedly, as we get older, we start thinking about our personal legacy: what we're going to leave behind for future generations.Being familiar with Erikson's stages of development, I know that generativity is part of what we try to achieve. While not given normally to such deep thoughts, I've decided to ponder at least for a few moments what it is that I would like to leave behind.

After all, Lance Armstrong is going back to international bike racing because (he says) he wants to promote cancer research. I'm sure it's true, and I'm certain the huge hunks o'money he'll be hauling in have nothing to do with his decision though Sheryl Crow and all the other hot girlfriends he's had over the last two years must have had some kind of drain on his ATM. What really spurred me on, however, was Ted Johnson who, along with five other former N.F.L. players and one U.S. women's soccer team player, have decided to donate their brains to science after death.

What a great gesture! Who'd have thought of it? Heart, lungs, corneas, yeah, but brains? It seems that the Boston University School of Medicine wants to study the long-term effects of concussions, and football players and soccer players are noted to have suffered the most incidents of this malady. Post-concussion ailments among those groups are said to include cognitive impairment and depression, both of which seem natural. Discounting the potential effect of steroids, one might find out interesting stuff. Now, we're on the death watch for Johnson, and I wonder if he's creeped out by that. I would be. Anyway, what could I hae that might be possible or desirable for doctors to study?

My head. I'd like to find out why one ear is lower than the other. It's been a pain all my life: my glasses had to be bent all crooked just so I could see straight, and I always had to tilt my head so that my haircut looked even (except when I had the 'fro and it ALL looked uneven).

My right hand. I could never, ever make the Boy Scout sign with my right hand. Seriously, to this day I cannot hold up my index, middle and ring fingers without my pinkie sticking up, too. Not that I really wanted to join the Boy Scouts (Cub Scouts was my limit), but being a basketball official and signalling a 3-point basket was difficult.

My right knee. I would like to know how come that one hurts more than the one which has undergone four operations. It would also be cool to find out if it will ever straighten out...even after I'm dead.

My frontal lobe. This might be the most important one since everyone would like to find out why I made so many stupid decisions in my life when that part responsible for decisions was supposed to mature by my early 20s. I know my wife would definitely like to know the answer to that one. Perhaps my mom just clobbered me too many times for making dumb decisions as a kid. God knows, she could have, and I would have deserved it. Truth is, I don't remember, and it's rather depressing.

I don't think I've ever had a concussion, but given my life's history, it's possible. In reality, it seems that donating sections of my body to medical research wouldn't be all that helpful since the information would be valuable only to me and, well, I'll be dead. If there's another kid out there just like I was, he'll have to struggle through just like I did...but without the 'fro.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sittin' in the sun at Yankee no attention to the fact that my grandson is wearing a Cleveland Indians hat...he has not yet seen the light.

There was definitely a tinge of sadness last night as the New York Yankees closed out their "cathedral to baseball" as Joe Morgan called it. It is, however, just a venue for sports, but it was one of the last four "original" stadiums (stadia?) in this country. Now, only Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Lambeau Field remain as icons of history.

I realize the Yankees haters are legion, and if you are one of them, I can accept that. I'm sure you have your favorites as well. My love affair with the Yankees began as far back as I can remember. In Kansas where I grew up, there were no professional sports of any fact, the Kansas City A's (yes, the A's) were still in Philadelphia when I was born, and there was NO pro basketball (still isn't) or football (the Chiefs are in Missouri, for God's sake), and hockey? Not so much. When we finally got television at our house (I was 8 or so), ABC's Wide World of Sports was about it. CBS eventually bought the Yankees, and we got their games every Saturday...and ONLY THEIR games. Naturally, I became familiar with all the players and came to feel I was part of what would eventually be called the Yankee Universe. Every Sunday when our family would go to Grandma's out in Piqua, Kansas, my brother and I would play baseball with our two uncles, Al and John. John and I were always the Yankees, and Al and Fred were always the Dodgers. It was World Series week every week, and that remains one of my most fond memories of childhood. I remember nothing about the wins and losses, but I never lost an undeniable hatred for the Dodgers...tempered somewhat this season when Joe Torre took over as manager...but just a little.

Fireman, policeman, doctor, lawyer? No, it was my destiny to play shortsop for the Yankees, in spite of the fact that Tony Kubek played there for years; I was certain that it was just a matter of time. And it was...just a mtter of time before pitchers began throwing curve balls and sliders too elusive for me to hit. Just like that, the boyhood dream, always far more than an impossible one anyway, was dead. If only I'd been born Dripton Threeds.

See, Threeds had the dream of playing fo rthe Yankees, too, but he made it happen. On April 19, 1976, Threeds got to play an entire exhibition game with the Yankees: not just a fantasy camp thing...he actually played WITH all the players on the team. I'm not about to make this up: he rented the New York Yankees that day and paid to have their Triple A farm team, the Syracuse Chiefs, come to Yankee stadium for a game...a game in which Threeds played one inning at each position (a la Bert Campaneris) alongside the regular Yankee lineup! Threeds was heard to comment, "Who says money can't buy happiness? I'm ecstatic right now!"

I would be, too. By the time I save enough money to go to a fantasy camp, I'll be too old to hit , throw and run...instead of being a five-tool player, I'll be holding an empty tool belt. I'll probably be the Mick and spend all my time in the training room, except instead of strolling out to hit mammoth home runs, I'll be limping out to take the golden sombrero.

But with my dreams and connection with baseball, as with the soon-to-be-no-more "real" Yankee Stadium, it's not just the's a part of who I am.

Play ball!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Emerging Ever So Briefly From Technophobia

I am not a techno-genius by any stretch of the imagination. It takes me awhile to catch up, I'll admit; however, I'm not last in line at some of this stuff, either. OK, OK, forget for a moment that our son Ryun had to tell us that we had call waiting on our home phone, and that we had 60 messages when we figured it out or that the "beep, beep, beep" sound when I pick up the phone means I have a voice message waiting. Forget that I have to call Blaine every time my iPod mysteriously stops working to get instructions on how to reset it (of course, the instructions are on the Apple website, but calling one of the kids is just easier...for me). I do have a video conferencing camera hooked up to my computer, but I hate to use it: there's just something , well, invasive about watching somebody talk on a computer.
So it is that when I get to appear tech savvy, I relish every moment. I have leaped (finally) into the world of text messaging since emailing my students and children and wife is SOOOOO last year. Today, I actually showed an educated adult how to solve a problem when trying to send Word documents to me via email. That sounds easy to most of you, but it was a bit complicated. On my Word 2007, I simply type a document and hit "send to" which brings up my email program, and away I go. Apparently, the university system here doesn't work that way with student access so when a student tried to send me a paper last night for perusal, neither he nor his coach could figure out how to do it. I did manage to solve the issue in something of a roundabout way, but then I was able to simplify the process, et voila! new respect comes my way as a "computer geek." I'll admit that there was a little swagger in my walk as I left, but secretly I knew that this was a VERY simple problem that any grade school kid could have solved, so I'm not getting too cocky since I still have to get my wife to help me set up and use Excel in Microsoft Office 2007.
It's just nice sometimes, not to be the last to know something...which reminds me: I'd never heard of or seen the acronym "MILF" before hearing Tina Fey use it last week on "Saturday Night Live" when she was doing her Sarah Palin rip job. The audience all laughed so I figured not knowing was just a Midwestern thing, but everyone I mentioned it to with the exception of my wife seemed to know about it already. Needless to say, when I found out it's meaning, I was somewhat taken aback...but also a bit sheepish that here was yet another piece of current culture about which I had no knowledge.
Back to feeling like I'm the last to know in a black hole isn't easy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stopping By On My Way To Fame

Before I got famous and too cool for all of you. My photo for AARP's "Living Great at 50+" contenst.

I have always believed in karma to an extent. It seems like things happen just when they are supposed to, and those who are observant can take advantage of opportunity. Fortunes are made and reputations are cemented (hopefully not by the Mafia, which is another kind of "cementing" as Hoffa could have told us) if only people are aware. So it is with me.

Casually perusing the paper today, I noticed that a touring production of "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," an interactive comedic play which utilizes amateur actors and audience participation in addition to professional actors and singers,was making a stop in Green Bay, and performers, particulalry male performers, were needed. After one day of auditions, there was a dire need for those of the masculine persuasion. It could have easily passed into the void of "things I could have done if I'd been paying attention" (to paraphrase Michael Feldman). However, alert to the nuances of biology, I remember that I was male, and figured this was my personal invitation to fame, if not fortune.

Arriving at The Meyer Theater twenty minutes before auditions were scheduled to begin, I found that I was the only male among the early tryouts. This buoyed my hopes, but as I began to fill out the application (leaving suspiciously blank the section asking for acting experiences, particularly in the last five years), the reality began to dawn: there was no way I was qualified to do this. Adding such things as "I can juggle" and "I am an amateur photographer" just to make the application look like I could do SOMETHING, I was ready to bolt for the door. It was just at that moment that the production director, a rather nice fellow named Tony Lauria, came up and asked me if I was ready for the audition.

"Uh, just a minute...well, sure...I guess." I impressed him right away, I'm sure.

The audition was a novel experience, to say the least. Nearly drowned out by the noise my heart was making as it tried to flee my chest, I was asked to read for a couple of parts. Following a ten-minute chat about interests and personal things, I was asked to read a short section as the father of the groom who was giving a toast at the wedding. After several attempts, Tony indicated that he thought he detected a little Southern accent in my voice when, in fact, I was trying to be a New Yorker. Realizing that my Kansas upbringing was not going to help me get THAT part, Tony then asked me to read for the part of the priest who performs the ceremony. That went a little better, I thought, and Tony was very polite, offering encouragement and direction: "Now do that again as if you are drunk." "Nicely done, but try to smile more." "Don't worry if you miss a few lines...I'm just looking for people who can act."

Fortunately, I was able to escape barely twenty minutes into the whole ordeal, and I didn't make any egregious errors while acquitting myself admirably (according to me. Tony didn't say). The lineup outside had begun...mostly women, though, and not many that I would suspect to be actresses, either (That is to say, Meryl Streep wasn't there). Notification should be by the end of the week, but if that doesn't work out, there's always my application to AARP to be a model for their "People Over 50" promotion. That's a story for another edition...look for me on the cover of AARP...if I have not rocketed to fame by then in "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Food For Thought

Picture may be larger than actual size to show detail
Food is important to all of us. The fact that we can go longer without it than water and still survive does not matter. When was the last time you had more drinks of water in a day than bites of food? OK, maybe the priorities are not exactly in the correct order, but food seems to be the guilty pleasure in which most of us can indulge without feeling too guilty or blaming Emeril or the Food Network for our obsession.

I do not claim to be a gourmand...I prefer the term "cubic" food, which means that the more food I can ingest for a buck, the better. This I discovered about the time my wife discovered truffles (the chocolate kind) at Euphoria in Eugene, Oregon, when we were attending grad school.

Having discovered this culinary delight, she invited me to join her for a tasy repast on Saturday. Having beaten my brains out with graduate statistics, I was eager to strap on the old feed bag though I was a bit disconcerted by the small plate, toy knife and teeny fork presented to me at my table. Not wishing to appear too rube-like, I just figured the big plate would arrive with the substantial portion of grub...or whatever truffles were.

Imagine my surprise when the waitress brought us each a chunk o' chocolate about the size of a golf ball...and NOTHING else! I was "tsked" into shame as I picked the thing up to pop it in my mouth: apparently, the knife and fork were not merely table dressing as I had supposed, their actual utility was cutting the microscopic food item into morsels of delectability (so I was told). Thoroughly disgusted, I shoved the entire thing in my mouth, unresponsive to the stares around me. I almost tossed it back up when I realized I was going to pay $3.50 for the thing (back in the early 80s). Muttering, I left, never to return, and never to eat anything that required using a teeny, tiny fork.

So, Alan Barrett's story has one sympathetic ear: mine. Briefly, he began a quest in 1998 to eat breakfast at every restaurant in Chicago but has found things rough going. He's already repeating dining spots because in some locations, the silverware is all wrong! Some forks are too heavy, some eateries have begun using flimsy silverware, and one spot has stopped providing serrated knifes for his repast. Some begin serving after 9 a.m. (a sin, apparently). Not to say he is a connoisseur, but he thinks that the breakfast burrito is the greatest breakfast innovation since scrambled eggs. he prefers his coffe in a carafe (little finger extended when he drinks, I'll bet), and absolutely refutes granola as a breakfast food, saying, "Do I look like a Red Sox fan to you?" Props for that alone.

So it is that my buddy Dan is not the only sophisticated palate in the world, though his recommendation for the steak buffet place in Fargo, North Dakota, has me rerouting my summer vacation to Niagra Falls next summer, right after I get to the one in Chippewa Falls and do the free tour of the Leinenkugel plant.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Scaling the Heights of Absurdity

Samak Sundaravej, once and potentially future leader of Thailand
There are something less than 60 days before the presidential election is voted upon in this country, and I think it has all gotten a bit ridiculous already. With one candidate favoring banning books and depending on God to ease global warming and NOT taking ANY questions from reporters, and another moving around on tap shoes so as not to provide a hint of sexism, it's getting a bit silly. Do we really believe things are going to CHANGE (their word, not mine) all that much? It remains to be seen, of course, but it could be worse: we could be living in Thailand right about now.
There has been a general upheaval for the last few weeks as the leader has been accused of corruption and incompetence, and protesters have barricaded the government buildings, refusing to stop until Samak Sundaravej is ousted. He, on the other hand, has been saying that there is no way he'd resign...that little fact was taken care of for him today as a court stripped him of his office for...get this: appearing four times on a cooking show called "Tasting and Complaining," a show he HOSTED until he became prime minister. The court claims that the $2,350 he received for his participation violated the constitution and would render him ousted.
So far, so good. But NOW it gets interesting.
New elections are scheduled for later this week, and the People's Power Party (his) plans to nominate him for his old job! In fact, he could be out of a job for only a few days. There's MORE! until the election, the man in power is the deposed leader's brother-in-law, heretofore the Minister of Education. Now THAT'S how politics occurs in that part of the world. I'd like to see the spin doctors who work for our political parties get ahold of that stuff!
Corruption and incompetence could cost a leader his job? Wow, imagine what would happen if that idea ever caught on here in America!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Reality Can Be Harsh

I can't remember the last time I was an abject failure at anything. Oh sure, there were plenty of times when I teetered on the brink only to pull myself back into some kind of redemptive state. Heck, even Lynn Dickey didn't strike me out EVERY time, and my principals always kept me around long enough for me to win them over (mostly) with my boyish charm and youthful enthusiasm. So, it came as something of a shock to realize yesterday that I had failed on my summer mission to use public transportation to get to and from my summer job at Lambeau Field.

It was supposed to be easy: catch bus #7 three blocks away, transfer to the #12 at the depot, and alight near the hallowed turf. Initially, I thought it might take too long, but then the Green Bay Metro installed bike racks on the front...just like regular cities! By this convenience, I could bike to the stop and get off whenever I thought things were right. The thought of saving our fossil fuels for future generations of teens dragging main was a pleasant reverie, and I knew Al Gore would be proud of me, and I would leave something behind for my future generation of family. The only things that kept me from biking the ten miles each way initially were that a) there was no really safe way through the in which a cyclist gets whacked every six months, and b) the Packers would not let me wear biking clothes, take a shower and get ready for work at the stadium. Heck, they would not even let me park my bike inside! (the next thing I'd know, a player would be riding it over to practice as per custom, and I'd have to find it later. And not only that...

I could ride the bus for FREE with my staff identification card as a university-affiliated person. It just couldn't get any better than that!

However, the genius plan was a bust...and exactly why it was a bust was a revelation to me: I found that I was simply too exhausted to complete the process! After working on my feet giving tours all day, I was simply beat, and just the thought of walking to the bus stop made me more tired. Riding my bike 10 miles home through city traffic meant starring in "Death Wish 5" (or whatever number they got up to).

I'd see the people at bus stops who were forced by economics to ride the bus to and from work, and I thought, "How can people DO that day after day?" Of course, THEY didn't want to any more than I did, but they did because they had to.

I'm so ashamed of myself. Rosa, you were tougher than I am.

Friday, September 05, 2008

It's a Joy To Be Me

Groovin' at Blaine's wedding w/the bride...under a watchful eye, of course!

One of the absolute best things about getting older is that I am free to be myself without fear of sanction from too many corners. Not that I've been too awfully careful during my adult life, anyway (Coke incident!), but now it just doesn't matter. The thought that simplicity was best occurred to me today in a moment of endorphin-induced clarity as I finished my first run (well, jog, if you want to get technical) in more than six weeks. Thus, I decided that the rather mundane life I lead really is not so bad. For example, I could have been:

1. Hulk Hogan. Following his reality program, his son's incarceration and his wife's affair with a 19-year-old, Hogan now faces the embarrassment of having his net worth argued in the press. It's bad enough that he's only worth 32 million, but his wife, who stands to get a chunk of change, claims that the Hulkster (a larger version of the movie star Napoleon) isn't worth more than 26 million! Ouch...there's a blow to a guy's manhood, er, steroidhood.

2. Unemployed this year instead of in 1978. While that was a bad year for us (I spent a lot of time moping in bed, as I recall when not working as a night janitor at McDonald's or carrying toilets at the Kohler Company), being part of the 6% jobless rate disclosed today would be horrendous. It's good to be me today, especially when my sweetie continues to work full time!

3. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who this week called Senator Obama and his wife "uppity" then claimed not to have know that was a racial slur. Let's see, he's from Georgia...he's lived there all his life...probably has heard of the Civil Rights movement...riiiiiiigggghhhht! Of course, the story probably won't get much play outside Atlanta, but it assures that I will never move to that state, or even visit (much like I still refuse to buy gas in Kewaunee).

4. Carlos Quentin who plays for the Chicago White Sox and involved in a pennant race as we speak. The potential MVP of the American League broke his wrist this week slamming his hand into his own bat following a foul ball. His frustration at not hitting the ball was probably not alleviated by attempting to kung fu the bat which obviously was at fault. Glad I don't have a temper like that...I'd be paralyzed by now.

5. My son Gio who fell in his basement this week and detached the quadriceps muscle from his knee and tore his patellar tendon: surgery on Monday and on the couch for 8-10 weeks. I am definitely not cleaning in the near future.

6. Joe Lieberman. Aaron Rogers. 'nuff said.

It's good to be me, and I will rest easy tonight knowing that I will wake up tomorrow as me (and not as a cockroach...a Kafkaesque reference).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get 'Em While You Can!

Ah, the halcyon days before Dr. Atkins. I remember them well...back when I could eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts with abandon and a couple of pints of skim milk. Initially, I could only do so at select stopping points along the way: side trips through Milwaukee and Cleveland, for example. Then, my city opened a franchise, and it was a gastronomical Mardi Gras in my mouth...whenever I wanted one! I admit to driving past, seeing the "Hot Now" sign lighted up and going in for my free sample. Yes, I even had a birthday celebration there, and an original art piece featuring a KK doughnut hangs just above my computer. Needless to say, I was keenly disappointed when the place closed. Many theories concerning the quick fall (began nationally in 2000)abound: expansion too quickly of the franchise, watering down the "brand" by putting them in gas stations and supermarkets, making a bacon cheeseburger out of them as ballpark food and, yes, that darned Dr. Atkins who decided several hundred calories in each doughnut was simply not a good idea (almost 1,000 for the burger). Now, we may be on the cusp of another loss: one that I discovered too late--the cupcake shop.

While idly reading the Chicago Tribune a couple of weeks ago, the food section featured "the best cupcakes in Chicago." Intrigued, I read the article touting the pleasures of the wide variety of flavors at Molly's Cupcakes in Chicago. "A place that just features cupcakes?" I thought, "This I have to try," and so I did. Each cupcake was between $2 and $3.75 (hey, it's the city!), and they were all very good. The one which mimicked my red cake wasn't quite as good, but then it didn't have the filling I use. The fact was, this wasn't a "bakery" per se; it was a cupcake shop! Six or eight tables and a display cabinet featuring the "baked today" goods. Amazing! And it was busy on a Friday night!

It seems such places are cropping up all over the coasts, both east and west, and folks are standing in line to get 'em. From the Buttercup Bake Shop in New York ( supposedly the beginning for the cupcake phenomena) to the Vanilla Bake Shop in Los Angeles, cupcakes seem to be the next big thing. I just hope one doesn't open up in Green Bay.

That will mean the end of cupcakes as I've come to know them, and I'd hate to lose yet another intestinal icon.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Not So Much Fun This Time Around

I gotta admit it: I always loved going back to school, even as a kid: new underwear, a new box of 8 crayons (no sharpener, and definitely no 64-crayon box..."There are only 7 colors in the rainbow") and often "new" hand-me-down clothes from my brother. Summer was fun, but school was exciting, at least until the teachers got to know me ("Why can't you be more like your brother Fred?" they'd plead). As a teacher, I always relished the challenge of a new year, new classes and mostly enthused students. The news this year, though, does not seem to be so good across the country.
Parents will spend, on average, more than $100 on school supplies on each child. Pencils have been replaced by required Sharpie markers, even primary students need a calculator (apparently, actual mathematics is a thing of the past. Calculating a batting average with a hand-held machine? LOSER!). In addition, a flash drive is usually required for assignments, and the cost of backpacks is threatening to overtake the cost of sneakers! One preschool in New York also required an 18-month old child to have a backpack! All of that, though, pales in comparison to the crisis our state schools are facing.
The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that 31 states in this country have a budget gap...all tolled: $41 billion. That's not good. More than 100 districts across the country are eliminating one day of school a week to save energy and personnel costs. Detroit laid off 700 teachers; Los Angeles did the same to 500 administrators (probably not as big of a loss). In an effort to stem rising fuel costs, one district requires school bus drivers to a) drive 5 mph under the speed limit b) check tire inflation daily (thank you Obama) and c) avoid jackrabbit starts (wait a minute...buses DO jackrabbit starts?)
The price of food has increased dramatically as well as the number of students eating a free or reduced breakfast and lunch. The Bush administration estimates that last year's number of students receiving free meals (14.9 million) will increase by more than 283,000 this year. The number of homeless students has elevated drastically as a result of the housing debacle.
Think students have an easy time concentrating in school under these conditions? Think again, and think again before you start complaining about what schools cost in this country.
I did get new underwear this year for back-to-school, but I also got a flash drive and a voice recorder to record lectures. I was forced to purchase Microsoft Office 2007 for my laptop because the university upgraded all the student computers, and I could not read the "new" versions.
It could be a long year for everybody except the college students since THESE ARE THE BEST YEARS OF THEIR LIVES!