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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rodney Would Approve

I'm always tempted to say something like, "You kids just don't know how easy you have it! We had to use typewriters and walk to the actual library to look up research: none of this fancy schmancy internet/online library crap!" Occasionally, I do find myself heading down that web-covered (not the www. one however...more like spider type)path with students, but then they always say something that totally throws me off my game like, "You didn't have the internet?" or "There WAS college when you were our age?" So, I usually just let my anachronistic ideas go. There are those rare occasions, I must admit, where I am completely flabbergasted by today's college students. Three recent examples come to mind:
In working with a student who struggles mightily due to some reading issues, I spent at least 30 hours this week preparing said student for a test (minus the half hour in which a mysterious delivery of hotwings was delivered...student claimed to know nothing about it. Ordering hotwings at 11 p.m.? Who does such things?). I made up practice questions, wrote out and used over and over more than a hundred study cards bearing definitions, and using my newly found technological savvy, recorded the midterm practice handout (in my very own dulcet tones!)so the student could listen to it over and over and over...all of this led to complete exhaustion on a breakdown level (on my part), and a grade of "C" on the test. While others were fist bumping all over, I was casual, knowing that this was merely the beginning, aware that yet another tet was looming next week. So, I congratulated the student and asked, "You know what this means, don't you?" A logical person (ergo, NOT a college student) would have said, "Yes, that hard work and constant repetition helps." What I GOT was, "I can go home early tonight?" sigh
Yet another student set up an appointment with me for 2 p.m. today via email(remarkable...a student who does not text message!). I really had a nap planned, but I agreed to wait. About 2:45, another email: "I fell asleep. I'll be there in 10 minutes." I did not reply but dozed quietly in my chair (hey, it's been a long week), awaking with a start a half hour later. BY this time, the student was involved in athletic practice so I went home, more than a little peeved (and sleepy).
In addition, I have two young ladies who sit with me every week to discuss readings from their Western Culture class because they usually have a quiz on Friday. We have to negotiate a time to meet because of other commitments to students that I have. Tonight, however, was the (nearly) breaking point. I was exhausted and my contacts were drying out, but Pliny the Younger's letters and Eusebius's writing about the life of Constantine were truly captivating. We were just getting into the writing style and how Pliny's letters differed in perspective when Lory said to me, " You know, Gray's Anatomy is on in fifteen minutes. We really have to get going." RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SCINTILLATING DISCUSSION OF ANCIENT ROMAN WRITING STYLES! Can you believe it? Me, neither! Back in MY day, we'd have walked five miles uphill just to hear someone discuss the writings of the ancient Romans! To learn about Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome would have been a bonus too hard to imagine! Gray's Anatomy, indeed. It's no Marcus Welby or Dr. Kildare, M.D. I can assure you!
It's not easy being an anachronism...maybe that'll be my Halloween costume tomorrow night. (though there is always the presidential candidate masks left over from the Trib)
But Friday? Back to school.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Almost Over...Now What? Fun Time!

Yes, it's that time again...election season is winding down. What? you didn't notice it WAS election season? Welcome back to the Western Hemisphere. The World Series is history, the local Fox affiliate has settled it's snit with the cable company so all is right with the world. It's time for some fun! The weekend is coming (after a very long work week...and it's only Wednesday)so I'm planning to have a great time. Here's my agenda: feel free to tag along if you want to see what REAL fun is all about!
Friday night: date night in the Love Shack. Yes, that's right: stay home with my sweetie, make some popcorn and watch a Netflix movie. This week's selection? "The Mickey Mantle Story" or something like that. Anyway, I can't go wrong with the choice, but given his death from liver problems due to drinking, I may have to drink fruit juice instead of my one weekly light (NOT "lite"...I would NEVER!) beer. Topping the night off with a blog entry for Patty's entertainment, and it's off to bed...a full day!

Saturday: Up early for once. Big day. Off to work at the Horizon League Conference Cross Country meet from about 9-1 or so. Rumor has it there is free food, and I'd do just about anything for that! I'll take my honey to lunch...maybe at Panera Bread which just opened. Church at 4, edit Hannah's paper at 5:30 and get to the tipoff of the UWGB men's basketball season by 6:30 to see many of my students and former students play...have a couple of dogs and nachos...and call it an evening unless Saturday Night Live has more great political satire. This close to the election, they're sure to.

Sunday: Sleep late, coffee and the paper around 9:30 with a casual breakfast. Off to have lunch with my sweetie before going to announce a soccer match at school, check on the Packers, get groceries,and get ready to head back to school by 6. I'll be so tired that I will have to get back to work to rest.

If that doesn't sound like fun to you, here are some alternatives though some of them require a bit of travel. Heck, it'll be a nice weekend for it.

1. Head to the Milwaukee Public Museum to see the rare Titan arum flower open. Commonly called the "corpse flower" because it smells like, well, a dead body when it opens. Folks will be coming from miles around. Don't want to miss that!

2. While you're in the area, stop in Greendale to see Lynn Rietzke and her motorized bike shop. For a mere $475 she will custom build, paint and motorize a bicycle for you. It will go 35 m.p.h. and get 125 m.p.g. (I can almost see me riding to work through the Cofrin Arboretum trails on something likethat. Hitting a deer would be a real treat. Besides, isn't the point of a bicycle to get some exercise??

3. As long as you've gone that far, head on down to Burtonville, Illinois to see the 650-lb replica of Elvis' casket, complete with a dancing, singing Elvis impersonator! The Endsley Funeral Home there devised the stunt as a promotion for their 80th anniversary by saying, "We wanted to put the 'fun' back in 'funeral'." Seriously, was there EVER any fun in funerals?

4. OR...without leaving home, you can stave off a heart attack! It requires very little caloric output, just a simple, repetitive motion...I'm talking about setting your clock back one hour on Sunday. I am not making this up, a team of Swedish researchers had nothing better to do than study heart attack statistics for 20 years in order to discover that the number of heart attack deaths declined EVERY Monday following the setting-back-of-the-clocks ritual. Amazing, and I've been trying to eat healthy in my "golden" years when I could have simply been messing about with my clocks...because if doing it twice a year is beneficial from a research standpoint, wouldn't doing it EVERY day be more helpful?

Anyway, that's a chock full weekend if ever I heard of one. I hope yours is as exciting as mine will be!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Case You Missed Him...

Halloween is just around the corner, and that means we might begin to think about turning the heat on in the house. Every year we try to go until November, and sometimes we're close...sometimes not so much. We actually have turned it on already, but set at 55 degrees really doesn't count. I mean, when the garage is warmer than the inside of the house...well, you get the idea. Anyway, once it gets dark at five and stays dark until March, it's time to get out the blanket, afghan (the knitted kind, not the living kind)and cozy up to the fireplace with a good book. For me, it's been human development texts lately, or things called The Long Emergency and Plan B: 3.0 both of which predict the end of the environmentla world as we know it in as little as 37 years (not exactly designed to boost one's spirits).
At any rate, I actually checked out a book to read for pleasure the other day, a fiction tome by one of my favorite writers Randy Wayne White. I think I like him because I can't say his name three times fast. Really, I was looking to see if one of my all-time favorite writers Tony Hillerman had written anything recently. I have read all 18 of his novels and eagerly await the next...but it is not to be. Hillerman died on Sunday at the age of 83 in Albuquerque, where he had lived for many years.
Hillerman introduced me to the real world of Native American culture, spiritual beliefs and least the Navaho version (noted by Hillerman as the lowest in the Indian pecking order). I've been fascinated by the Indians of the Southwest ever since I heard the rumor about a tribe who simply disappeared, some say through a time portal. Hillerman's novels feature two police officers and their attempt to maintain order among the vast areas of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. This is especially hard on Chee who is attempting to become a medicine man in a traditional sense while straddling the world of crime and punishment. The Blessing Way was the first novel featuring these two, and in 2006, Hillerman published The Shape Shifter, his last novel. He was really a cult favorite until the late 80's when Skinwalkers was published, and one movie was adapted from a book: The Dark Wind.
The sad part of all of it is that I really haven't even had the chance to get too far into RWW's book yet, let alone try to say his name three times fast. This winter, though, I will reread all of Tony Hillerman's work...I may even start collecting the novels and placing them right next to Doc Savage and Christopher Moore on the bric-a-brac shelves (known to me as a bookcase, at least on the six shelves I get to use!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Can't Afford To Run

Thankfully, I hope, the political season is winding down, giving us a respite for the next six months until all the memebers of the House of Representatives have to run again. Like most people, I'm tired of all the naysaying, finger-pointing and character-bashing...and that's just between Keith Olberman and Bill O'Reilly! I'm beginning to think that there are far too many nefarious people in this country with far too much influence over the affairs of state that I'm getting nervous. "Well, if you feel that way, why didn't YOU run for something," I hear you say. Fact is, I couldn't dress for it.
I'm a guy who, until a little more than a year ago, hadn't even worn long pants for two days in a row, let alone put on a shirt with actual buttons and accompanying tie. Dress shoes were the patent leather athletic shoes instead of the nylon ones. I would have been hopelessly outclassed, even while trying to portray myself as "the common man."
The excesses of Sarah Palin's outfits are well-documented. The $313,00+ that Cindy McCain spent on that awful dress and jewelry was OK by me since it was probably her own money. Ditto for hubby John's $520 Salvatore Ferragamo loafers (I could not affort Vince Ferragamo's used football shoes). If I had to guess, I would also surmise that Obama's suits, valued at a mere $1500 were bought and paid for by him, and we know Michelle Obama buiys off the rack. So, all that's fine...$22,000 for two weeks' worth of a makeup artist seemed a little extravagant for a beauty pageant performer, but who am I to say? It's not like the pageant was yesterday, or even three years ago. If Cloris Leachman can flaunt cleavage on "Dancing With the Stars," maybe older women...nope, I'm not EVEN going to finish that one.
Anyway, this would be my campaign outfit--notice that's singular, though I might change my shirt every other day when in crowds:

1. baseball cap of whatever minor-league sports team was in the area, but definitely NOT a hat signifying anything to do with golf: too elitist. For variety, I think a Snap-on Tool hat would be just about right: no NASCAR at the risk of offending any particular driver's rabid fan base.(they get that way from following a blur around and around and around!)

2. An earth-toned polo shirt from a local department store: no Nautica or Ralph Lauren; no Nike or Adidas unless I was speaking to a younger crowd. If it's an older crowd, I'd wear a white T-shirt underneath.

3. As the weather got cooler, I'd get a windbreaker from the local fire department... a volunteer department, if possible. The baseball hat becomes a stocking hat unless it's a younger crowd, then I'd get one of those Sherpa-like hats with a long thing hanging from the top.

4. In the pantaloon department, while I'd be tempted to go with sweatpants, I'd probably go with chinos for the older crowd, Carhart's for the rural crowd (with a circle pattern worn in a back pocket)and something with a teeny hole in the knee for the college crowd.

5. Shoes would be the toughest. Being on my feet all day pumping fists and kissing babies would require a lot from a shoe, and I don't know about you, but shoes are the first thing I notice when I meet someone. I'd prbably go with my black Cole-Haan slip-ons with the Nike air sole (nobody would know!) so I could remain comfortable and still maintain that "Joe Politician" look; flip flops for the college crowd would be just right.No athletic shoes: probably made in China in a factory which outsourced U.S. jobs.

None of that fancy schmancy thousand-dollar-apiece separates for me. I'm a man of the poeple, and I shop at Saks in order to appear that way...that's Jim Saks' place down the street. Most of his stuff has hardly been worn and a lot of it is from this decade so it will add a dash of spice to my sartorial splendor.
Just wait until '12.
I'm going to choose Kinky Friedman as a running mate.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Last Wedding of the Year

NOT Tony and Tina

It began with our son Blaine's wedding on the beach in Florida 'way back in June. Throughout that month and the succeeding ones, there were others as well: weddings of co-workers children, weddings of former students and a host of others. Not many of them, though, featured a stripper, an irascible photographer and a gay videographer NOT working in tandem,a drunken minister and general mayhem: groom/groomsmen to the women in the bridal party " Woof, woof, woof, who let the dogs out, woof, woof woof?" Women in the bridal party: "Who let the assholes out?" You get the general idea. Well, a lot of them had some kind of mayhem...after all, weddings never go as planned. Nothing, however, quite matched the most recent affair pairing Tony and Tina.
In fact, my wife kept asking when the professional entertainment was going to begin as we endured a couple of hours of pseudo professional singers, DJs and would-be nuns singing "Jesus is just alright with me."
Yes, it was the stage production of "Tony and Tina's Wedding," that event for which I had auditioned a month or so as either the father of the groom or the priest, being denied the pleasure of playing neither of them. (who said producers didn't know what they were doing?)
Following a brief wedding service, we were ushered into the hall (Shopko Hall, BTW)where the entertainment was about to begin, featuring the song stylings of Donnie Dell, the customary risque speeches and toasts, the requisite ex-boyfriend just back from rehab, and a cast of people who left me wondering if, in fact, Italian weddings were ALL like that! The soon-to-be nun was shaking her moneymaker all evening, and there were at least three altercations...some taking us to the brink of fisticuffs. During the melee that followed (I don't know how else to describe it!) we danced to The Village People and Buster Poindexter, sang along with Frank Sinatra, and had something from the "Buffet of Love" which was adequate but not great.
We shared our table with 8 strangers, and they all seemed to get into the spirit of things, and a pretty good time was had by all...closing the evening with a dance with Grandma. That is typical of how bizarre the evening was, but, all in all, a fine capper to the wedding season.
I give Tony and Tina six months...their families even less.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Two More Weeks

So funny I couldn't write this!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beisbol, Si; TV 11,No!

You have to remember the Garrett Morris character on the "good' Saturday Night Live years. His version of the Hispanic baseball player ALWAYS had tears running out of my eyes and ribs aching with laughter: "Beisbol bin berry, berry good to me" was his signature line for that recurring character, and I never think about baseball without remembering him. So it was somewhat ironic today that baseball and Spanish collided again today.
Blog reader and baseball aficianado Mike wrote to report that the World Series was available on Fox's Spanish-speaking channel. While I had discovered a streaming channel on the computer to watch part of last night's game, there was a certain allure to lounging on the couch in front of the big screen in the basement (a.k.a. The Love Shack) as well as the challenge of watching a game without announcers providing insight in a language I could understand. Not that I'm completely without understanding of the language...I've been to Mexico and, uh, somewhat been able to communicate on minor issues like order more beer ("mas cerveza, por favor") and get directions to the bathroom ("donde esta el bano"). I've been able to price things at the market ("quando questa?") but that's about it unless ordering at Taco Bell and counting to ten count (probably not). So, in the spirit of educating myself, I checked it out after getting home from study table in the middle of the 7th.
Following the action was easy, but I really focused on the language. The on-screen prompts were in English as were all the signs in the ball park, but other wise, it was all en espanol...except for words that did not translate well like "strike" "home plate" "Dodgers" "Vanderbilt" "New York Yankees" and "Babe Ruth." Of course, every time a player's name came up, it was spoken as I would have said it though the commercials were all in Spanish; I did recognize "T Mobile" and "Nissan." I rather liked it, actually.
Thanks to Mike for the tip. Even though his Cubs and my Yanks are not part of the festivities, it's still beisbol...even in Spanish.
Via con Dios!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I Do Not Need

It seems that as special occasions creep up every year, like my birthday which will be here soon, or Christmas, or Father's get the picture, my sweetie and kids ask me what I want or need as a gift. I genreally say something like, "Well, there's not much I really need or want except a sports car," thus guaranteeing that the gifter has a choice to make: a sports car or nothing. Usually, it's nothing, and I'm OK with that. However, as I sat NOT watching the World series tonight because a local TV station is in a snit with the cable company, I decided that there were certain things I did NOT need more than others (if that makes any's late)

1. I do not need corporate America fattening the wallets of their investors while arguing over how much each should overcharge me to watch the World Series. (Since the Packers games are also on Fox, I miss them, but there's always my transistor radio...which I suppose could be used for the World Series as well)

2. I do not need political parties spending thousands of dollars on wardrobes for their candidates so they can look like Joe Average American. There's a REASON I did not check the box on my tax return to give money to political elections.

3. I do not need people who would like my vote attempt to get it by lying, hedging the truth or presuming I'm an idiot to believe all the rhetoric bs they put out. As such, I have sworn off ALL political TV commentators and, basically, any TV news in general. (if you don't know it, all the networks are owned by major corporations with a stake in who gets elected: spin goes the "news.")

4. I definitely do not need my neighbor's leaves blowing onto my lawn. I love the tree, but I think his teenage sons could come over and reclaim the leaves! Raking them every time I try to putt on my golf-course-like-green lawn slows down the game.

5. I have absolutely NO need of the cold, cotton sheets on my bed every night when I jump in. It's not bad enough that I'm already cold. Of course, we have not yet turned on the heat in our house for the winter: holding out for Halloween, at the earliest. Accounting for a savings of, maybe $25 is a good enough reason...after all, as a "restructured" person, I'm on a fixed income! It's also no wonder that each of our kids has his or her place heated to about a hundred.

6. I certainly don't need the cold sore I think I'm getting!

7. I guess I really don't have any need for a sports car, either. It's going to be winter here for the next nine months, so maybe a sled would be more appropriate.

With a fall/winter birthday and Christmas being in winter, I'm just going to have to wait for Father's Day in June. By then, however, all the above which I really don't need now will be history. A new list will be in order of the things I really don't need.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Got Four Hours? Have A Burger!

Brad Sciullo prior to his "eat feat" of the Belly Buster

The United States Department of Health and Human Services has done its yearly duty and put out a scholarly article indicating that 60 million American adults are obese, and that we all need at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise every week. Kids need more, etc. etc. We're supposed to avoid red meat, gas station food and do pushups, situps and "heavy gardening" whatever that is. Given the state of the economy and the ecological nightmare we're all facing, I think I'd rather go sooner rather than later. And here's the way I intend to do it: eat. A lot. At Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA, somewhat north of Pittsburgh.
Apparently, the establishment took umbrage when its title of "the restaurant with the biggest burger" was taken away by some poser elsewhere, so the owners upped the ante with the Belly Buster, a burger comprised of, get this, 10.5lb of beef, 25 cheese slices, 1 head of lettuce, 3 tomatoes, 2 onions, 1 1/2 cups of the following: mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, relish and banana peppers. Oh yeah, there's a bun, too.
Whew! Apparently, though, this gastronomic nuclear device is not the only offering...there are other "specials," all with prizes ranging from a free burger to money upon completion in a stated time period.The menu:

The Pub Challenger: one person eating gets an hour to finish.
The Pub Super Challenger: one person eating gets an hour and a half.
Ye Old 96er (remember John Candy?): one person eating with a 3-hour limit.
The Belly Buster (pictured above):4-hour limit but a 2-person team is acceptable. Brad Sciullo, pictured, managed to eat one all by himself in under four hours.
Whew! I did not look far enough into the web site to find out what each "meal" involved, but rest assured, it's BIG!

The price for the Belly Buster is $30, but beating the time limit gets the burger comped as well as T-shirts, cetificate and a place in the "Hall of Fame" (located near the john, I would guess).
I can remember when I thought the fried Krispy Kreme burger was a taste sensation, but's just got to be short of heaven (purgatory?). Karl Walters would take a day off just to go have one instead of putting on the feed bag somewhere in Chippewa Falls. I think my pal Dan needs to add this to his list of favorite places...though it would be hard to do so without actually trying one. Dan, there must be a Legion team to play in Pittsburgh this coming summer. I'll be working basketball camp again...we could try it on for size!
Fries with that? No thanks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saving the Planet Two Wheels at a Time

Ripon's cycling team
campus cuties cycling

It was gratifying to learn today that Wisconsin is on the leading edge of something other than percentage of fatalities involving alcohol. The stats detailed today paint a grim picture of the effect of alcohol on the culture here in the "dairy" state, but enough about that. Let's talk cycling.
Under a program sponsored by President Dr. David C. Joyce, incoming freshmen at Ripon college who agree to leave their cars at home receive a new Trek bicycle, helmet and lock...for free! What initially began as a way to decrease auto traffic became a path to "fitness, health and sustainability," according to Dr. Joyce. The college spent $50,000 on 200 bicycles for the incoming freshman class, and in news to me, the college also has an off-road cycling team (pictured above)! Amazing! Where was something like that at Emporia State? Well, times change, I guess...though it must be noted that Ripon is not the only college setting where such a program has been initiated.
The University of New England provides new students with a $480 bike if they will agree not to drive. Some other universities have free bikes to travel around campus,or make deals with local bike shops for steep discounts on bike purchases. Such a program is not without pitfalls, however; Juniata College in Pennsylvania just cancelled its two-year-old program because students were not taking care of the bikes after the newness had worn off. St. Mary's College in Maryland also halted its program when vandalism reared its ugly head. Some places take reconditioned bikes, paint them in school colors and leave them around campus. Other schools have had the misfortune of getting bikes donated from big box outlets with the result being a very unsatisfactory product.
While it seems as if this is an idea which might be catching on, a similar program was sponsored back in the 70's at the University of Wisconsin. As I understand it, all the bikes were painted white, and students were free to take them and leave them in a bike rack when finished with, the idea is not new, but parking lot issues being what they are, it seems a logical solution.
Me? I just bought fenders (out of recycled materials) for my bike so now I can ride five miles uphill both ways in rain, sleet and snow (touching the telephone wires)all year long...and nobody gave me a free bike, either!
Just call me Mr. Environment.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Economic Stimulus Plan: School Division

I got mine just for being a taxpayer...I mean, I really didn't do anything special, and the government rewarded me with $600. Of course, I cannot look forward to getting that every year, but it was an interesting "bonus" instead of simply taking more and more (which the government will ultimately do, anyway. This is just part of a shell game they play). If I were to get that for four years, I could gain, uh, $2400 (I would STILL struggle in math, though). Shoot, I might as well go back to high school! I could make more than that, at least according to the latest gambit designed to keep students in school and increase graduation rates in city schools.
The brainchild of Roland G. Fryer, Jr. a Harvard economist and funded partially by the Broad Foundation, a new program is designed so that kids in city schools are being offered the opportunity to get paid for having good grades during each marking period. "Capital Gains" is what the program is called in Washington, D.C. and "Green for Grades" is the moniker in Chicago. The program is also offered in New York City, but I have not seen a name for it yet.
The program in Washington,D.C. is funded to the tune of $2.7 million dollars, half of it supplied by Harvard and half of it supplied by the school district. The first checks went out this week and caused quite a stir, as one might imagine. Of course, there are those who say paying kids for grades is simply bribery and feel that success and future rewards are enough. I'm not about to argue. I'm just here to report the facts.
In Chicago, for example, Mayor Richard Daley vigorously defended the program by saying that "...some of these kids have never before had money...some get nothing from home, not even hugs," so this was a big step for them. Maybe true. Daley also opined that the same reward system happens in the 'burbs as well since those parents buy their children cars and send them on expensive vacations as rewards. I'm not exactly sure how he can verify this unless that's what he does/did for his kids, but...seems logical. Our kids got rewarded with a high school diploma, but then our kids didn't face a dropout rate of 50% in their schools, either. Anyway, back to the Windy City:
In Chicago's city schools, a student gets paid $50 for evcery A, $35 for each B and $20 for every C in a marking period. Subjects counted for the dough are math, science, English, social studies, and physical education (YES!). There are a couple of restrictions, though. One is that a student gets only half the money upfront...the other half is given at graduation (not a bad idea, but what happens to the money in the meantime...401k?) The only downside is that a student cannot have any grades of F during the marking peiod. In Chicago, that disquaified 49% of the eligible students for this 5-week period. ouch! Thus, those students were not part of the total payout of more than $265,000 this week. Will that motivate them to try harder? Will the cash flow continue to motivate students? No way of telling, but if somebody has money to throw at a problem in hopes of fixing it, there are plenty of precedents to prove that success is not guaranteed. Will the cash be updated with an increase in inflation?
The total payout for all A's in 4 years of high school is $4,000. All C'c will get the recipient $1600. That's four hundred dollars a year...I made $600 for being a taxpayer...
At least I'd get A's in P.E. and English, and I'd end up a lot better off than the guy at the farmer's market in Green Bay today who was selling apples of mixed variety as a "Joe Plummer Special." (he didn't look like Todd Palin, but you never know)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reframing As A Sanity Strategy

It happens every now and then, I guess. Of course, less often would be fine with me, but one cannot have it all (or at least I have not been able to). Today was an absolutely terrible day for a lot of reasons you don't want to read about. My buddy Joseph started it all yesterday when he stopped at my office door and said, "Top three rock and roll bands of all time" and walked away. He probably knew that just trying to get the idea OUT of my head would take all day, and, in fact, I never did get it out, in spite of humming, whistling and singing the theme from Gilligan's Island which is supposed to clear one's head of ANYTHING! Questions kept presenting themselves...questions like "Does it have to be a group? or can one person as a performer count?" "What about The Archies, made up of one person (as well as all the other studio groups)? Is it all about record sales? Should I focus on just pop music since Public Enemy was hardly rock and roll, but it WAS a musical group and certainly famous." Well, you get the idea of how tormented I've been. Work was another matter which I will gloss over in its true horror.
I usually try to cut down work time on Friday because I'm exhausted, but it didn't happen today. However, just to compound my misery, I walked outside to my bike for the ride home, and it was raining. I've been wet before, but having my bike saddle soaked was NOT something I felt particularly happy about. A cold, wet bike seat (and underwear) even for the 10-minute ride, was enough to cause me to unleash every vitriolic piece of verbiage I knew, and some I made up on the spot. Since I was alone (I mean, who else would be stupid enough to be out in the rain?), I felt OK with the torrent of swear words. It was on the ride home that the idea hit me.
Of course, a wet,cold bike saddle was terrible, but there must be worse experiences that would make this one pale in comparison (reframing is an idea I try when I'm seriously ticked so I don't break something or stab myself in the eye with a stick...and the office manager DID have to take a letter opener away from me today when I threatened myself with it in a moment of pique). I needed to find something that would make me feel better about being cold and wet and late getting home. Here are a few of the scenarios which warmed me up on the ride home:

1.My underwear was merely wet from sitting on something wet. It was not otherwise dampened by a physical malfunction so common to males of my age (or five-year-olds), and it was liquid not partially solid...a MUCH worse feeling.

2. It was not one of those times when the phone rings in the middle of the night, and cold fear rips through my heart because I know something bad is about to be related.

3. This experience did not approach the feeling I had when I realized that the snowblower which I had shut off had just released the augur after I freed a stick...and left my finger close enough to get, uh, sliced. The dread at taking off that glove was horrendous.(and I'm not even going to mention the nail I put in my thumb once with a nail gun!)

4. Having a wet behind and getting mud splattered on my chinos was infinitely better than the feeling I had when I passed a kidney stone while attempting to go to the bathroom...nausea, rapid pulse, no oxygen and thoughts of imminent death: terrifying and more than a little painful, I might add.

5. It is also better to have a wet posterior than to hit a deer on my bike while riding through the woods on my way home at night. This just about happened two days ago, and though it wasn't perilously close, I think I still had a wet spot after the near-collision. (You will read about a real collision with bambi sooner or later...I just know it).

6. And, of course, being a wet me riding home is immeasurably better than being a dry me living in Darfur, Afghanistan, Pakistan, New Delhi, Bangkok or a host of other places. Mom was right when she talked about the starving people around the world...and they're not just starving, they're dying by the thousands.

Whine about getting wet when millions of people don't have fresh water to drink...ever? Not me. I'd get out there right now and ride, but I know there's a deer out there with my name on it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"And I Said, 'No, No, No, I Don't Do That No More'"

I have to admit to being somewhat mystified at the news of yesterday...Ringo Starr (aka Rickard Starkey) will not be answering my fan mail after the 20th of this month. This news shocked the world this week, and probably eclipsed the financial news in some major daily papers. It probably also exacerbated the downward spiral on the European stock markets as well. At any rate, if you missed it, here's the skinny:
Claiming to be "warning you with peace and love" Starr reiterated that after the 20th of October, he would no longer sign autographs or any other memorabilia that fans send him. He will not open it or look at will go right in the dustbin (British for trash can). The logic behid the 68-year-old's statement was that he simply had too much to do and no longer had time to do answer any of the fan mail. I suppose it's more honest than having some lackey forge a signature, but he that popular anymore?
Certainly not in Liverpool where someone chopped off his head on some foliage sculpture of that band he used to play with...leaving resemblances of the other three unscathed. and all because he said that he didn't miss anything about all accounts, not a bright and cheery orb in the British Empire by any means.
Yeah (yeah, yeah) he tours and continues to release albums, but does anyone listen? If you have no idea of the quality of his work, listen to the song that I quoted in the title: here's the link from my new favorite music site

All of this merely leaves me wondering what he has to do that's so pressing as to keep him from connecting with people who MIGHT buy any record (well, CD or Mp3 anyway) that he puts out? I wouldn't want to anger people who supported me even if I didn't have a topiary-like bush of my likeness. There's something seriously amiss here. So, I thought I might try to figure out what he has to do that's so urgent. Feel free to add your own thoughts to this:

1. Call Pete Best to offer him some of the money he missed out on when he got dumped from the Beatles for Ringo. Then, look up each and every fan who scramed "Pete forever, Ringo never!" when he played The Cavern and beat them senseless with bags of money.
2. Call Mick Jagger and find out how HE stayed so popular into Social Security range.
3. Get out the WeedWhacker and clear the nasties from his Octopus's Garden.
4. Watch reruns of Help and shout, "I've still got it!" when his scenes come on. (even though I'm dogging Ringo, this remains one of my favorite all-time movies)
5. Call Nickelodeon and see when reruns of Thomas the Tank Engine will be shown (with Ringo as Mr. Conductor) so he can again shout, "I've still got it!"
6. Watch Barbara Bach in "Caveman" and "The Spy Who Loved Me" and scream, "I've still got it!"
7. Call Eric Carmen and ask him if he'd rather continue with Ringo's All-Star Band or go back and front The Raspberries.
8. Sign the stuff I sent you before the 20th and get it back to me so I can get it up on EBay before all the other Ringoholics out there.

Seriously, the dude's busy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Biff! Oof! Pow! Holy Eulogy, Batman

Neil Hefti died recently. As I was glancing through the obits in the L.A. Times (why? I don't know), I noticed his name and immediately recognized it. Then, I learned a lot of things I didn't know about him.
Neil Hefti was a part of my high school years so you'd have to be pretty darned old to be familiar with him. For's nostalgia; for the younger's history. Praised by The Encyclopedia of Popular Music as "One of the most influential big band arrangers of the 40s and 50s," Hefti was a real luminary. He arranged music for the greats like Count Basie, Woody Herman and Harry James, but he never won a Grammy for any of those arrangements. The song which DID win him a Grammy is what I remember.
In the late 50s and 60s, Hefti began writing soundtracks for television. He wrote, for example, the theme song for The Odd Couple which was very popular for a long time. In what he said was the hardest thing he ever wrote, he also wrote the theme music for the Batman series on television. In 1966, that became a #1 hit and won him a Grammy as "Best Instrumental Theme." It was even coveed by a popular instrumental group at the time, The Marketts, and it became a hit for them as well. As long as the series lasted on television, his theme played on and on. I can even remember the little dance that both Batman and Robin did on the show during one skit featuring the music (and yet, sometimes, I can't remember where I out my keys!)
So, if you'd like to hear it again or hear it for the first time, I've enclosed the link from The Marketts' version is there, too. I had to turn my speakers up just a bit to get the real effect, but then I knocked one of them over with my cape. No Mom to yell at me, though. Holy relief, Batman. (not to be confused with Bartman of The Simpsons or that guy who gained infamy by interfering with a foul ball at Wrigley Field)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It Takes A Village...Or Several

I think it's about time I updated everyone on my research into retirement living in an age-restricted community. Actually, I didn't do much research, I just read a book called Leisureville by Andrew Blechman. My curiosity was piqued simply because I know at least ten retired people who live there and are constantly relating how wonderful it is. Since I might actually retire in ten years, I thought it in my best interest to check it out. And the result is...
No, thanks. Having 36 golf courses so I can play a different one every day would be OK...for a couple of months. Having fitness centers and cruising around in a golf cart would be OK...for a while. Eating at the same five restaurants not named Taco Bell would get tiresome...I like variety. Being surrounded by only people my age would be...well, icky. Nothing against people my age, but I find that I am much more involved in life when I'm around a mix of ages, races and genders (The Villages in Florida has a ratio of 2 women for every guy...perfect for the Beach Boys, but not me). So what do the people there like about it?
They love not having everybody else's kids around making noise and being obnoxious, what with skateboards and loud music and all (after all, The Villages effectively closes down at 9:30).
They love not having to pay taxes to support things like schools and civic development (all the development they need is planned for them, and they have no input other than to pay for it). They seem to love not being bothered at all by the outside world (they have their own gates to seal them off, a "good news" newspaper and their own radio station playing from every outdoor light pole. No requests taken). Of course, I could use the internet to continue reading all the news I read now AND I could use it to play more than "golden oldies" (sometimes, I just gotta ROCK OUT!) When I heard the DJ say that is was "...a wonderful day in The Villages" for the third time in any one day, I might just lose it and do something definitely against the putting out my garbage a day early or mowing my lawn in an unacceptable pattern...or not covering my grill...or using plastic lawn furniture...well, you get the idea.
These folks don't mind the fact that they are not allowed to paint anything inside their own home or put out any "yard art" (OK, I could go with the yard art one). Many of them actually wash their driveways...I don't do that now. I'll leave that to Jamie next door.
While there is something of a representative board, in truth all the decisions are made by the developer, and anyone who doesn't like it can damn well sell out and leave.
Truth be told, I have not met anyone who lives in such a place who has not loved it completely...even my uncle Bill who moved into such a place in Texas raved about it...of course, that could have just been the heat talking! He liked being around people his age...he liked the peace and quiet...he liked all the amenities.
If it were that simple, maybe I'd like it,too, but I've never been comfortable with people telling me what to do...just too much of a brat, I guess. Blechman's feeling was much like mine: he was happy where he was with a mix of neighbors and a community with some life.
The real problem with these places, I think, is that most of the development will get old and infirm about the same time. "Younger" retiress won't want to buy into a place that is filled with assisted living facilities for those who moved in 15 years ago...and remember, they BOUGHT the place. It seems that people buy something like that to enjoy life; good for them...but it seems like it would be a tough place to grow infirm in since your money is tied up in ownership of a property nobody wants to buy.
Besides, as the aquifers get more and more depleted (and they will), how will the golf courses stay green? Astroturf?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trick or...Trick?

Pallin' around with Palins

Gas dropped below $3 a gallon this weekend, and I suspect it may drop a few more cents in the coming days. For most Americans who don't ride their bikes to work like I do, this is a welcome sign which means things are getting back to what used to be normal...but wait, there's more! (no more oil, but more surprises in store). The stock market has the biggest single day turnaround since the Great Depression, so we're over the hump, right? My 401k and other investments will shoot right back to where they should be...right? Don't count on it. There are two factors at play here:

1. Halloween is coming. Trick or treat for kids is usually about treats. I'm afraid for us adults, it will be about tricks. Despite what politicians of all stripes say, there is very little more oil to find, no matter where one chooses to drill. Every oil producing nation in the world is past peak, and production is going down and has been for years! Not much left in Alaska, not much left in the North Atlantic, and what is available is very hard to get at, not being in the "oil window," expensive to extract and of poorer quality than what we have already taken to depletion. "Drill, baby, drill" will not mean, "Discover, baby, discover." The global economy runs on fossil fuels, and when that other shoe hits, the noise will be deafening. I hear you saying, "Well, if you know so much, smart guy, why is the price dropping? That must be a sign that there's more oil around than we know about."

2. It's an election year. In fact, I will be dumbfounded if the price of gas doesn't stay low until November 5th and then shoot back up to stratospheric numbers. That's just my prediction. Who stands to gain or lose the most in november? My guess is the oil companies. What better way to influence voters that there is NO elephant in the room than by making the most valuable (and scarce) commodity affordable for everyone again...if only until the political winds blow more favorably? And there's still China to contend with as well as all the Middle Eastern countries "run" by religious zealots who are fighting a holy war against the "Great Satan." They won't quit. Can we fight everybody? (excepting the Israelis, who will be on our side)

So, while we can all cling to the unreasonable hope that things are temporarily out of whack, we can at least have some cheap fun by downloading Halloween masks from the Chicago Tribune. Today's edition featured Joe Biden, tomorrow John McCain, and Wednesday Barack Obama. If you're quick enough, you might also be able to get Sarah Palin, as my pals did this weekend. Let's enjoy the treats while we can

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"My Mama Says, 'Stupid Is As Stupid Does'"

I doubt that I would ever be confused with a "deep thinker" even though I do know the answer to the universal question (it's "7") from reading about a computer named Deep Thought in a book by Douglas Adams. But every now and then, I hear, see or read (sometimes all three!) something that causes me to say, "Hmmmm!" to myself. Such an occurrence happened to day as I was reading the Sunday comics; yes, that's right, I don't just look at the pictures.
"Get Fuzzy" is one of my favorites, and the topic was politics it seems to be EVERY day at my house recently. Anyway, Rob says at one point in response to the usual frustration casused by his cat, "Stupid is the new smart." At that point, I stopped chewing on my Door County fudge (thanks, Patty) and reflected on the truth of that statement. As I went through my day today, the thought recurred as I encountered ample evidence that stupidity probably DOES trump intelligence. To wit:

1. Nine years ago, the Federal government had a balanced budget. Adding zeroes to the debt clock in Times Square tells me that this is no longer the case...and we are SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING voting for more of the same this year!

2. The free fall in the stock market, engineered by some of the MOST STUPID people in this country...who were rewarded with MILLIONS as a "going-away" gift.

3. Andy Martin is allowed to speak in public.

4. No Child Left Behind...failing more children than poor teachers and school systems ever did.

5. Choi Jin-sil, a South Korean movie star, recently committed suicide because of all the hateful things written about her on the internet. You've read the stories about all the others who have suffered from web-based bullying. Does our First Amendment give carte blanche to stupid people? (OK, OK, trick question, since Andy Martin still exists.)

6. People can bring stuffed monkeys to political rallies and demonstrate them as representing a certain presidential candidate while candidates incite attendees to shout "traitor," "terrorist," "kill him" at said events.

7. Matthew Shepard has been dead ten years, and we have not moved very far as a nation toward tolerance of others, though Connecticut and a few other states are trying.

8. And it's not just in this country: in Borepanga, India, Hindus are forcing Christian neighbors to either give up their religion or be burned out, expelled from the village and/or killed.

9. Jihad in the name of religion.

10. Supply your own in this space. I'm too depressed to continue. All this thinking has proven too much for me today. I'll just hope I can wake up stupid tomorrow so I can have some advantage, too.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Taking the 'Trotters Over the Cowboys

Despite the fact that the Dow-Jones Industrial has plummeted far that both Dow AND Jones have changed their names to Bush and Cheney, that will not deter the upper crust from enjoying the upcoming holiday season. There's no reason why they shouldn't; after all, they may have lost a million or so, but they still have many millions left, especially the executives from all the financial institutions (under their golden parachutes)I've been bailing out. Those of us who have lost thousands...well, we're still better off than those who had nothing to begin with. Thus, it is all a relative economic picture, even for Nieman-Marcus.
The specialty store for the Rodeo Drive set just released their 82nd annual holiday catalog that features items you and I cannot afford but would like to have nonetheless. The only acquiesence to the dire financial staits of the country is an economy version of the catalog that features gifts UNDER $300. (That is, of course, in addition to the regular catalogue, not instead of it.) I skipped the economy version and browsed the standard fare for my wish list. Here are some of my favorites (some with prices, some not so):
1. 15 thoroughbred horses raised, trained and stabled by the same group that gave us Big Brown and Smarty Jones. That would be $10 million, please.
2. A three-hole golf course designed by Jack nicklaus who would also play a hole with me and autograph the clubs he'd present me. $1 million...will you take Mastercard? (and do I get a groundskeeper with that?)
3. A copy of EVERY #1 record from 1955-1990 (record player optional, I suspect). Priceless
4. The end zone turf from Texas Stadium, home of the Cowboys. Cheap at $500,000, but you'd have to outbid terrell Owens and Ocho Cinco to get it. (unlike the chunks of "Frozen Tundra" we got to buy years ago for $5).
5. A limited edition BMW $160,000. What? Doesn't everyine in Texas have one of these for their kids to go to the mall in? This must be in the cheaper catalog, or leftover from years past.
6. A chance to suit up and play with the Globetrotters! You'd get to learn five trick plays and be involved in a real game situation...Better than baseball fantasy camp! $110,000. cheap.

So, while Saks on 5th Avenue is forecasting a slowdown for the holiday season, and everyone around here is watching moths fly out of their wallets or looking to get the Wii they missed last year, the optimistic folks at Nieman-Marcus (who lost 35.6 million last quarter!) are going great guns.
Happy holiday shopping! (unless the stimulus check was spent on, like, food or something.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Of Susquipedalians and Others

So, you see, it's NOT just me who sometimes has too much time on his hands! The BBC cannot be guiltless, either. On a day when Somali pirates (or heroes, depending on who's telling it) are threatening to blow up a ship filled with tanks headed for Kenya (or Sudan, again depending on who's telling it) if they don't get millions while most other Somalis starve and people are blowing themselves up all over the world and setting homeless people on fire in Los Angeles while the Dow plummets like a cliff diver in Mexico, there was a news feature on the BBC website which responded to an earlier question posed to its readers: "What is your favorite word?" The top fifty (there were more?) were reported, and I have provided the link for your edification (one of MY favorite words, btw!). Knowing how offbeat some British thinking is, John Cleese notwithstanding (another favourite, using the British spelling !), I figured I would know a couple of them but not many. I wasn't too far wrong...I think I knew about ten and recognized, maybe, another five. Sphygmomanometer I recognized as a medical tool, and termagant I knew because I've been acquainted with people like that. "Spelunking" was easy, and "Panglossian" was in the bag, having read Candide several times in the last year. Spiro Agnew (you have to be old to remember him) brought the word "Pusillanimous" into my lexicon when he called somebody or other that just before he, uh, resigned as Vice President (those were the days!)
Anyway, I'm not usually a sesquipedalian so I've avoided the hard ones. If your curiosity is piqued (another cool term), check out the URL below, and have some fun sprining them on unsuspecting friends!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dogging Manny

Even with a 'do rag, Manny's hat is above his ears!

"Despicable" is how Hall of Fame catcher turned broadcaster Tim McCarver labelled Manny Ramirez today...specifically, the Manny-being-Manny show which seemingly wore out its welcome in Beantown. Never mind that his talent is other-wordly or that his freespiritedness was trumpeted as a promotion by the Boston Brass when he was helping them win World Series rings. It matters only that Manny has shown a renewed spirit in Los Angeles, and the egg-splattered faces in Boston have a problem with that.

"Disrespecting the game" by not always running hard on routine grounders or not making it to left field at the beginning of an inning or going into the scoreboard during a pitching change? Yeah, that shows something, but I'm not sure it's as big as "the game." Sammy with a corked bat or McGuire et al with THAT might be a big deal. I was not particularly sad that Clemens missed the final Yankees game, almost seemed fitting. How about the Black Sox scandal, or Ty Cobb going into the stands to fight a heckler...who was in a wheelchair? That's gotta be disrespect to "the game." Don't forget the crime that forbad black players to play in the bigs for far too long. Horrendous! Even those horrid White Sox uniforms the year they wore shorts...THAT'S disrespecting the game. Randall Simon smacking the sausage at a Pirates-Brewers game? On the bubble. I'm not so certain about Manny.

Have you ever begun a new job and wanted to impress your co-workers? I think this is similar. In addition, the National League pitchers don't have a great "book" on Manny yet, unless Boston provided one for them; thus, he might be expected to go on a tear the first time around. After all, I think he's had fewer than 50 ABs in the senior circuit. The test will be the ensuing years, as I see it. Hall of Fame? probably not since guys like McCarver get to vote; but you know what, I doubt if Manny will care.

Personally, I care more that the Dow Jones Industrial has dropped more than 800 points in the last two days, but then, I'm not making Manny's salary...or Tim McCarver's, either for that matter.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fashion Tips for Hat Wearers

No Hat...'Do Rag #2

Hat, sans 'Do Rag #1
As usual, I have come to a fashion crossroads which leaves me perplexed. Faithful readers will understand how confused I get at times, feeling like I am the last person in the world to find out about certain things: disco is dead? Who knew? Sarah Palin ran a marathon? News to me...well, you get the idea. That explains the awkward moments I had last week when it occurred to me that I was wearing my baseball hat ALL WRONG! In the past, I was willing to let Ken Griffey, Junior put it on backwards when he was "The Kid," and I didn't think much of it when C.C. Sabathia and Dontrelle Willis chose to wear theirs slightly askew, but this new fashion has gotten me flummoxed. Many of the college kids with whom I work wear baseball caps, as do I on occasion (mostly to hide the gray or the fact that I have not washed it recently). The trend is now to wear hats so large that they cover the tops of the ears! I'm not making this up, as you cans ee by photo #1 taken today. After observing more than a few guys sporting this style, I got the courage to ask, "Is this a new trend nationally among ALL cap wearers, is this an urban youth statement, or is this just for black kids?" Everybody I asked seemed taken aback a's just how they wear a hat. It would appear that maybe I was making too much of it. To fit over my ears, I would have to get a 10-gallon hat, and I doubt New Era makes those. So I checked more closely with Bryquis, the fashion guru on campus...he is young, urban and black AND he wears a hat so I figure he's got all the answers!
His comments at least made some sense: hats are purchased larger in case an individual wants to wear a 'do (hairdo) rag on his head (see photo #2) which also covers the tops of the ears. In such an instance, the hat will be just large enough to fit in the traditional sense. When a 'do rag is NOT worn, naturally, the hat falls down over the ears. This makes sense to me, and it creates an opportunity for research..
Now I'm going to have to watch every move Manny Ramirez (noted 'do rag wearer)makes to see if his hat covers the tops of his ears.
While this appears to be a trend on campus, I don't think it will catch on with the folks in my cohort: we have a hard enough time hearing as it is! No sense taking part of the ear out of circulation even if a certain amount of cachet results.
I'm always the last to know.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

James Garner WAS Maverick


Friday, October 03, 2008

America...Land of ...Lots of Stuff

"America...what a country!"
If you are too young to remember the comedian Yakov Smirnoff, too bad for you. He portrays a deer-in-the-headlights Russioan immigrant who was constantly amazed at what he found in this country. He's still performing in Branson, Missouri, where he has been voted the Comedian of the Year twice with lines like: "Only in American can a Russian and a Japanese own theaters in the middle of the Ozarks!" Of course, he's been here for twenty years or so, and thus, his "just got off the boat" shtick doesn't play so well anymore so he's branched out a bit. It is, however, his trademark, and I have to admit that I feel a LOT like he must have felt 20 years ago. I feel like I went to sleep and woke up somewhere else...not that it's a bad thing, just wierd.
Where else but in America...
Can you find people complaining loudly about paying almost $4/gallon for gas to fill their Escalades when it's been almost double that in many parts of the world for years?
Can you have universities suing and countersuing over the use of a logo, for God's sake?
Can you find a city, a nation and every sports channel in the country breathlessly reporting every ten minutes on the latest retirement/unretirement news about one player?
Can you find children with their own rooms, their own TVs, their own cell phones, their own video game machines and STILL complain how hard their lives are?
Can you find political candidates who say folksy thing like "You betcha!" and people LOVE it!
Can you find political candidates spending $1 million dollars A WEEK on advertising in ONE state? (Understand that $1 American is worth $1 trillion dollars in Zimbabwe where people live on NOTHING and eat a cup of grain a day!))
Can you find collegiate marching bands get suspended?
Can you find anything, anytime about anybody on the internet, while listening to iTunes on your Mac Airbook, knowing it will all be safe and sound tomorrow morning when you wake up?
Can you have the right to say what you want on a blog without fear of government intervention, knowing the Constitution is your protection.
America: "You betcha gotta luv it." I had to put that in quotes because I would never speak that way...and I do not expect my leaders to, either.