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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ordering Like A Girl

Not having had an actual date in more than 35 years, I would not qualify as an expert, but a column the other day on CNN made some sense, and I discovered something of the truth today. The article was something of a primer for guys on what NOT to do on a date if they want to impress the object of their attentions for the evening (it IS guys we're talking about!).
Some of them were common sense things like not chewing with their mouths open and using utensils while eating. I mean, that's just common sense unless one is eating at Taco Bell where utensils are limited to sporks. There was one, however, that caught my attention, mainly because I'd never considered it: don't order like a girl. I guess I hadn't thought about it, but when I read the description, it made some sense.
"Ordering like a girl" consists of saying things like "hold the pesto" and "could I substitute Atlantic salmon for the Tilapia?" or "please put the tomatoes and dressing on the side." My first visual image was Meg Ryan ordering just prior to having the fake orgasm in "When Harry Met Sally." Cute, but hardly enough to make it a hard and fast rule: women are hard-wired to make things as difficult as, wait; women are hard-wired to know what they want and are strong enough to demand their rights...yeah, that's it.(wriggling nicely off the hook there)
Anyway, my sweetie and I stopped at Taco Bell today for a nosh (no pesto there!), and the young lady behind the counter was obviously new (she had a panicked "oh crap, CUSTOMERS" look on her face).
As I was perusing the 89-cent menu, Sweetie started her order, and I realized there would be trouble. An enchirito usually has meat, but, of course, we wanted it sans beef; oh yes, with sour cream on the side and extra jalapenos. Apparently, there's a new taco so wee had to find out what was on it (Audrey didn't know) before deciding not to get one. "No, not a small drink, a senior drink" (still small, but free).
I could not help but break into laughter as I recalled the "don't order like a girl" proscription. It was just perfect, and I continued to smirk for five minutes. Not so amused was the guy waiting in line behind us. Tiring of the rigamarole, he abruptly turned and left before famine took him. Surely it would have been fine with an experienced counter person, but it was the ordering part that I cracked up over.
My order? Cheese and bean burrito with a "new" taco and a senior drink. Simple, direct and uncomplicated. I felt as if I should have been applauded by the newly-assembled line waiting to scream, "I'm FULL!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Was the Best of Times...It Was the Worst of Times


I just returned, as some of you may know, from a week-long hiatus with the UWGB men's basketball team. We were on a whirlwind trip from Gren Bay to Salt Lake City to Daytona Beach To Detroit and back during the past week. I admit that it's probably not a trip folks would vie for on "The Price is Right," but it was fascinating in many ways. My function was to make certain that four of my students did the homework required. To that end, I had students back in Green Bay recording lectures and sending class notes via email (ain't technology great?) so we could keep up in addition to completing essays and other class projects. Needless to say, the players tried to find places to hide when they saw me coming! The trip gave me an opportunity to see the real inside of college sports, both good and bad, and I made some observations which I will be happy to share with you since you've asked so nicely.

1. Road trips mean food. I packed in more food in seven days than I normally ingest in two weeks: active,young men need sustenance, and those of us not quite so active were involved as well. My diet consisted of great breakfasts every day of the eggs, bacon, fruit, juice, potatoes type that I don't normally eat but love. Lunch varied, but I ate a lot of subs and some pizza. Dinners were usually Olive Garden-type with the exception of one repast at Bubba Gump's Shrimp place, replete with a pushy waitress who insisted we answer every trivia question about the movie "Forest Gump" ("What was Lieutentant Danz' rank in the army?")when I just wanted to eat! The food was marginal, but the blueberry lemonade was amazing.

2. Road trips mean little sleep. Getting internet connections late at night (overloaded during the daytime)meant midnight was an early night. Sitting in on film study at times kept me up even later than that; early mornings meant checking email to work on essays for students back at school, breakfast, practice or walk-throughs (on game days) followed by a few hours of nap time before the game...for the players: I was synthesizing book chapters. Depending on the outcome, trying to get students to do homework was somewhat akin to steer wrestling. Being in a different time zone also contributed to sleepless pattern, even when the Atlantic Ocean was rhythmically crashing on the beach outside my window (although 12 floors down).

3. Road trips mean new sights. Temple Square in Salt Lake City was a marvel of stone, fountains, reflecting pools and hundreds of people who all seemed to be wearing black. I thought briefly that there was a Goth convention going on, but then I figured that Goths would not all be wearing American Flag lapel pins and walking determinedly toward any stranger slow enough to look interested; I subsequently deduced (mainly by the huge lettering chiseled on every building) that this was the center for the Latter Day Saints. I had to admit that I found it ironic that it was I who was coming to their door instead of the other way around! Awe-inspiring, I must say. The Daytona International Speedway was big and interesting, but not awe-inspiring, though Yvonne, the volleyball manager would correct me on that count. The moon rising over the Atlantic Ocean was no cooler than the moon rising over Lake Michigan though the water was somewhat warmer!

4. Sports road trips are roller coasters for emotions. Traveling with a team, I felt all of the ups and downs of cometition, and there were some very low depths and some soaring heights on this trip. Other than losing, the worst for me was the pseudo fan who sat behind me for a time. He would alternately scream, "Blow the damn whistle" and "This isn't elementary school. Let them play." Not just once ot twice, either, but constantly. The officials never looked his way, but in a gym with 300 spectators, they could not have missed it. At one point, he was actually cheering for his chosen team by yelling, "lockdown defense" over and over. When one of our guys got hammered to the floor just after he made that comment, I turned (in spite of my inner voice screaming "Don't do it!), and said to him, "Was that LOCK down or KNOCK down defense you were asking for?" I, of course, regretted it immediately, but then I figured I had a camera, and if he hit me, I could use the photo for "America's Most Wanted" and have my 15 minutes that way. Fortunately, he refused to take the bait except to say that it looked like a flop to him...and eventually, we just talked basketball like sane people. Crisis averted, but the bad feeling remained.

5. Road trips are exhausting. A week on the road sapped every ounce of energy I had remaining. The guys were comatose in the airports, on the planes and on the bus rides. I could barely get on my bike for the short ride home at 11:30 p.m. but we all made it to school today. Now, I'm going to bed. No more road trips for awhile. It almost makes one wish to be working as usual.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Coaches Earn More Money Than I Do

Throughout my career of both part time jobs and full-time career stops, I have generally been in control of my destiny. Oh, I've had foremen, program directors, principals and bosses of all types, but my success generally hinged on how well I was able to motivate myself to do a quality job. Even as a high school coach, as long as I didn't hurt some student-athlete, I was probably not going to get fired. Losing was considered a learning experience, and, though we tried our best not to learn to much in that way, I never felt insecure about being asked to leave the premises.Still, I and the rest of us in white, blue and pink collar jobs probably wonder why college coaches make what might be considered extravagant money for doing what we might consider "fun." Here is my analysis based on a lifetime of learning and some up close and personal experiences lately.
As I have observed the coaches on the road this week, several things have become apparent in trying to decide why I was paid far less than a coach:
1. Coaches work for hours after everyone has gone to bed and before anyone is up in the morning. Honestly, I don't know why they even bother to get a room while on the road. So...they work more than eight hours a day; many people do that ALL the time and DON'T get to eat on the company like coaches do, if ever. So the fact that they work long hours is not valid.
2. They are separated from their families for days, and sometimes weeks at a time; that's an issue, to be sure, but everyone who works overtime loses family time as well. It's just not that they have to spend so much time in hotels, airports and buses. While seeing different parts of the country/world is a nice perk, after a few consecutive days on the road, that gets old, too. Yes, this is a hard part, but most people wouldn't mind taking a week and staying at the Hilton, basking on the beach (though I have yet to observe a coach basking on the beach here in Daytona; heck, even I got to spend only about two hours outside during the last four days. So,that leaves me with the most likely reasons that coaches make a good deal more than I ever did...the players
3. Following our disheartening loss yesterday to a team that we should have beaten, I have never seen a more dispirited, angry group of coaches. Of course, they could yell at the players, and they did, but they also had to prepare them for a game today. Imagine how hard it would be to get motivated after being bitterly disappointed. As I watched our coaches put on the "that one's over fellas; let's get ready for tomorrow" face, I could hardly believe it. I'm not sure I could do it. I'd be looking for a bridge on A1A probably. The ability to shift gears and leave terrible stuff behind is a gift, I think. Having spent literally hours preparing kids to play the game and see them "forget" everything has to be the most frustrating experience.
In a nutshell, coaches make more money because their careers depend on the success of a diverse group of kids, none of them more than 21. They survive in a pressure-cooker environment, knowing their next season and group of players could be their last. Not for me, thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Livin' La Vida Hoops

Ever since I can remember, sports has been a major factor in my life. From the first baseball glove I got for $5.77 at the Western Auto store to taking pictures of college kids flying around on go-carts as I did this afternoon, the fantasy of my youth is lived out every day. Of course, the 30 minutes I spent in the sun in Daytona Beach came at the expense of five hours of working inside with student-athletes on homework assignments, essays and downloaded class lectures...longing to be out in the sun/surf/sand. Everything has a price, and mine is to be relegated indoors today when it is 70 outside.
Disappointments? yes, I've had many of them with regard to my love of sports, both personal and professional, but every day continues to pose the kind of competitive challenges I relish. I still hate to lose at anything, and I hate it when my team du jour loses as evidenced by the flying remote a few years ago following a Paul O'Neill double play grounder in the World Series.
I am far less Type A competitive than I used to be, but the adrenalin still gets pumping even when I work with a student getting ready for an important exam. As much exasperation as I have caused my family over an inability to take losses in stride, I was reminded again today that I would not have changed anything: not the "agony of defeat" or the frustration I feel when expectations exceed results.
In many ways, it is but one of the special moments I always treasure. Like walks with my sweetie or finishing yet another great book from a favorite author; like the temporary enervation resulting from those moments of unreserved success: these moments remind me how fortunate I am to be doing what I do with the people I care most about. (wow! this is a rare moment of introspective reflection for me!)
Which brings me to Daytona Beach this week. Three games in three days here in Florida will be exciting...depending on the outcome! I still cannot get over the outcome-based way that sports tends to look at things even though I am not directly involved.
Of course, life is a very outcome-based affair, too...we'll all be dead. (no doubt about it, I've got to stop reading those textbooks about the impending environmental disasters)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Breathing Suspect Air in the West

As the plane descended yesterday into Salt Lake City, a palpable level of "haze" was evident outside the window. Two of my students who have been studying ozone depletion lately noticed the brown cloud immediately. Wait a minute...wasn't this the wide-open spaces of the American West where the air is clear and people are free? Apparently not. The people are free, but the air is decidedly NOT clear. A scene reminiscent of what we'd seen of Mexico City where the surrounding mountains prohibited the smog from leaving; no wind or moving air could get past the mountains to blow the smog away. And so it is in SLC. In the higher elevations, clear skies prevail, but in the valley segments, a brown haze predominates. I could almost feel the particulates surrounding me...almost.
This was an environmental lesson that really came home to these students. One has claimed that he will make note of this during the next class. Wow! Education in the real world is gratifying. Unfortunately, discovering that air isn't even clean in the West is sobering, indeed.
I did spend more than an hour walking outside today and felt no ill effects,though the sun felt much hotter than I thought it should. I regretted the fact that I'd brought sunscreen for the Florida part of the trip but did not use it today. Many residents had that dried-out, leathery look that reminded me not to forget the sunscreen next time.
All in all, the trip thus far has been an environmental lesson not to forget.
It's a good thing the basketball happens indoors!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Greatest Ever?

Life is not supposed to be easy. I learned that a long time ago. Of course, I also learned that it's not fair, either, but that's a story for my kids and my students. Suffice it to say that words like "dynasty" and "the greatest" (except for Muhammed Ali who WAS the greatest)get thrown around a lot. I've even been told a couple of times during the last two yeas that I was "the greatest." Not so...not even close. And yet, talk is spreading faster than video of a Carl Edwards shoving match that Jimmie Johnson may be the world's greatest driver EVER following this year's 3-peat on the NASCAR (NotAlotSoCoolAboutRacing) circuit. Fortunately, there's been no claim to his being the greatest athlete ever. He and his multi-million dollar Hendricks Motorsport Chevy (isn't GM almost bankrupt?) corporation have won the coveted gold-plated gasoline can for three years running...well, actually, three years driving-really-fast. He has been hailed as greater than Cale Yarborough (if you don't know, it doesn't matter), the only other driver to win three consecutive years. Writers who know about such things say this might be the greatest accomplishment in SPORTS HISTORY! Yes, Dan, NASCAR IS a sport because there is defense involved, particularly in the pits and in the garages where the drivers go at it or when Danica Patrick goes off on another driver when she's not modeling in a not-made-for-driving outfit. Swappin' paint with the good ol' boys has turned into swapping shoves and punches...more exciting to some than racing (after all, isn't that why we watch hockey?)
Anyway, the ultimate honor/insult was bestowed by a writer the other day who said that Johnson's feat eclipsed all three-peats in sports...ever...the Lakers' wins in 2000-2002, the Yankees wins in 1998-2000 and, gasp...even Lombardi's Packers wins from 1965-1967. Yep, he actually said that! (no mention, really, of Lambeau's three-peat from 1929-1931 or of the Chicago Bulls dynastic run) If statistics are to be believed, he may be right...supposedly.
The quoted statistics indicate that winning three consecutive years on the NASCAR circuit has only a prbability of happening 1.8% of the time. Winning three NFL championships is second at 2.2% of the time, and winning the World Series in baseball is a far distant third, occurring at a rate of 6.8%. Of course, as Disraeli, Marshall, Twain, and a host of others (including myself) have said, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.
So, we're left to ponder the question of whether or not Jimmie Johmson's conquest (not CarQuest) of the NASCAR circuit is of Rushmore-like proportion. Personally, I've already devoted more time to the activity of auto racing in this blog than I have ever done in any fashion over my lifetime. For my money, it's akin to watching golf or rhythmic gymnastics. Even bowling is more exciting, and the tie between the Eagles and the Bengals today had more drama than pounding the asphalt. But that's just me. I'm no expert. or even an athlete: my shoulder still hurts from Wii bowling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When "Real" Life Gets Really Stupid


As I write this, I realize that you cannot hear me, see me or interact with me in any "real" way. Oh, you can send a comment or email me. Those of you with time on your hands can find me on the internet and phone me for any reason. Most of you won't, I hope...especially the stalkers out there. I've got enough trouble without looking over my shoulder all the time, especially on my bike. (I've been known to run into parked cars, although not recently). Anyway, it's just that the world has become a virtual place nowadays, and real interactions are growing less and less common.
I discovered this the last year of my teaching career when, in health class, students admitted to spending more time online interacting with kids they saw in school every day than they did WHILE AT SCHOOL! It seemed that personal communication was too dangerous. So...I set up a MySpace page just to see how long it would be before I didn't need "Tom" to be my friend anymore. Eventually, a number of students with nothing better to do found me, and I was able to interact about school stuff that came up that they really didn't want to discuss in class. OK, so that was a positive. Fifteen or so people wished me a happy birthday on Facebook, and that was cool, especially those of you whom (not "who") I have not seen in years. However, my wife and I still have a "real" life together.
Not so for Amy Taylor and David Pollard of Great Britain (and you wondered whether or not I had a point!)
It seems that Taylor, 28, and Pollard,40, were part of the online universe of Second Life. If, like me, you've never heard of it, it's a gaming site on which anyone can create a character like himself or herself calld an "avatar" then proceed through meeting people, getting a job, etc. (in short, having a second life). Taylor and Pollard were so into the game that when they got married in 2005, their wedding was a lavish affair in the Second Life universe as well as in "real" life. CAVEAT: In no way is Second Life real! It is a game played online with made-up characters!!! (just in case you hadn't figured it out). This is where things get totally wierd:
It seems that Taylor has now divorced her real world husband because she found his avatar having sex with a MAKE-BELIEVE hooker in the GAME. He says they weren't; she says they were...the point is...IT WAS AN ONLINE GAME WITH MADE UP PEOPLE!
Taylor immediately hired a private detective to follow her real-life husband around, but there was no hanky panky going on anywhere but in the online, fantasy world. Still, she noted that she was so hurt that she needed a divorce. Those wacky Brits!
I am totally nonplussed by the whole affair (so to speak).
As a postscript, Taylor is now involved in a relationship with a man she met while playing online in the World of Warcraft.
I simply cannot think of anything to say to that. Call me, and we'll chat about it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saving Lives In Unusual Fashion

Unfortunately, people die all the time, and I would imagine not many of them are really ready to go. For myself, every day I'm not looking up at dirt is the best day of my life, though I didn't always think of it that way. Getting older has a way of adjusting one's point of view. Anyway, the ingenuity of the American spirit is on display as we look at various ways to permit those of us who so desire to live a longer life.

In California, courtesy of the Governator, a proposal is on the table to raise needed budget money by adding a 5-cent (as opposed to 50-Cent) surcharge on every alcoholic drink served in that state. His idea was merely to raise money, I suspect, but, according to a study of the state of Alaska by the American Journal of Public Health, taxing alcohol has a significant effect on the death rate. A tax hike in that state in 1983 produced a drop of 29% in alcohol-related deaths by the next year. A subsequent atx hike in 2002 resulted in deaths falling by 11%. Not bad! (BTW, are we doomed to talk incessantly about Alaska from this point forward? I doubt I'd even THOUGHT about Alaska much prior to "She-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned" and now it's everywhere!) In fact, taxing alcohol was a MUCH better determiner of a longer life than school education programs and media campaigns. Since 85 thousand people per year die in this country as a result of alcohol, it's a worthy endeavor.
Of course, I have my own take on ways to save lives by ratcheting the cost of things not pertaining to tailgating at Lambeau Field.

I think a cell phone usage tax might be in order next. Phones with special chips installed which indicate when the user is moving faster than walking speed would automatically add a ten-cent charge every 30 seconds to that call. With GPS tracking systems, how hard could it be to accomplish this? Face it, not many people get killed as a result of cell phone use by someone at 4 m.p.h. (If you go out and patent this, I get dibs on part of it for suggesting the idea) And speaking of cars...

I think Denmark might be onto something as well in the auto regard. A car that has a sticker price of $25,000 in that country will cost the buyer $50,000 when taxes are added. I am not kidding! Of course, in Denmark, they are concerned with pollution and oil depletion (Ha! what do they know?) but all the same, I'll bet the death rate goes down. Of course, the meter maid union will soon be looking to ticket bicyclists or performing some anachronistic function like the guy in the caboose on American trains.

I think all sports contests should end in a know, play for fun. There is significant evidence that spousal abuse rises incrementally following major sporting event losses such as professional sports or DePere Legion contests in South Dakota and Little League baseball games in Sturgeon Bay...oh wait, that was the umpire who got smacked. In fact, I read somewhere that the reason for such long post-game shows following things like sporting events was that the losers would have a chance to cool off before doing something stupid. (is torching cars and looting after a national championship stupid? your call). For those who still want a winner, a significant tax on all the players and coaches who participate in a game that ends in something other than a tie would definitely have an effect on the outcome. Aficianados might say,"Well, what would be the fun of watching then?" Exactly! We might then all get out and go for a walk or get exercise bowling or playing tennis, golf or any Olympic game of speed and/or strength on our Wii (all games ending in a tie, of course, so my 8-yr-old neighbor won't be talking smack when he beats me).

Don't want to save lives? Don't say I didn't warn you when your number comes up!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Love From Me

I'm not sure if you are one of those poeple who incessantly makes up lists for your amusement. I'm not talking about grocery lists or lists of people who deserve a fate worse than death from your junior high years...I'm talking about the John Cusack-type list maker from a movie titled "High Fidelity" in which guys hanging around a record store argued incessantly over their top 5 all-time-something-or-other-favorites from rock and roll. I'm generally not like that even though I did make up a top 25 all-time favorite rock songs CD a few years ago. The top 50 was easy to make, but whittling it down took some time. No matter. The point is that such lists are always subjective: anybody can have a fave to which I might say, "What a load of crap!" and vice versa, I might add. That's why the latest issue of Rolling Stone irritates me somewhat.
In the issue, due out at the end of the week, the editors list a compliation of the best singers of the rock era as voted on by 179 record producers (and CD producers, too, I suppose...and digital producers, and well, you get the idea), musicians and their own editors who one might think would know something. Their list might not be the list I would compile, but then, I really don't know the criteria by which they chose to rank artists.
Quick, before I tell you, who do YOU think would have been the top vocalist of the rock era? Would you have thought Aretha Franklin would be number one? Me, neither, but that's what the poll indicated. Let's look at some facts:
According to Joel Whitburn who makes a living compiling musical stats, Franklin was not listed as a performer on ANY of the top 100 singles charted from 1955-1999. Not one. Even Debby Boone (strike me dead for mentioning it!) had one! Elvis Presley, on the other hand, had seven chartbusting singles throughout that period. Elvis was #3, BTW. (after Ray Charles)
Sam Cooke, your #4 finisher had nothing in the top 100 singles, but Marvin Gaye did, and Pat Boone had 3, for God's sake (Hmmm both Pat AND Debby? Bring back disco).
OK, so most of the top songs were done by groups, and we can't count Britny because she postdated the survey.
Whitburn also tallies his view of the top 100 artists based on how many weeks an artist spent on the Top 40 with more points being awarded for higher places, etc. By that measure, Elvis is #1, Elton John #2 (again, no groups), Madonna was #3,etc. util we get to Aretha at #10. Even Mariah Carey spent more weeks on the charts...but then, I'd take Aretha any day over her as a vocalist, so weeks on the chart might not be a great tool for measurement.
In Whitburn's breakdown by decade, Aretha could only manage to be 12th best in the 60's, right behind Sam Cooke. Of course, we need to give Cooke a break because he was shot to death under sordid circumstances while still in his prime. Aretha did worse during the 70's, but she did crack the top 5 in Whitburn's category of most charted singles: her 45 chart hits placed her at #4 in that category...Elvis was #1 as he was in the 50's, as well as finishing right behind The Beatles in the 60's.
In case you're wondering why I have neglected Ray Charles, none of his songs was among the top 100 all-time, though he rose to #3 in the list of top performers during the 60's. He barely makes the top 25 in number of charted singles, just behind Billy Joel and just ahead of Prince.
Don't get me wrong here...I'm not jonesing for Elvis to be the King of all rock and roll as we know it. I think all of them are fabulous, though only Sam Cooke has a picture album framed on my wall (next to Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and The Beatles). I think I'm more aggravated that they did not ask my opinion. Obviously, the editors are simply too young to remember The Sock Hop on Wednesday nights at WOMA and, subsequently, WRKU. They have not read the tales of my career during the 80's, billed as "The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla" or my ability to recall arcane musical information instead of remembering important stuff like where my cars keys got left. If Sting can be the king of pain, I can be the king of anachronism.
I'm hurt that I've been forgotten. Oh well, they'll hear about it soon enough when I rock to the top of the universe in my Aerosmith Rock Band game. So there!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vacation On the Government!

Where to land on your mars vacation

But...bring your mittens!

One of my students came in this morning wearing a T-shirt, two ssweatshirts, a warmup jacket and a windbreaker. She claimed that it was cold outside. Please, have we gotten soft? Back in the day when I was walking five miles to school in a blizzard...well, never mind. Fact was, it was not all that cold: the pond I ride by on my bike every day didn't even have ice on it! Maybe my comment about her looking like the Goodyear mascot will have some effect. It's not like it's -100C like it is on Mars today.
By way of information, the Phoenix which landed on Mars in May has stopped transmitting data about the planet. It was launched in August of 2007, and arrived in May of 2008 and havs been sending back critical data such as the fact that there is ice on Mars (noted in photo). This, of course, means that Mars has water and could support life as we know it. The Phoenix also recorded snowfall for those of you keeping score. "So, why is this important?" I hear you ask. Well, somebody has to get up there and fix it or bring it back. Those probes aren't cheap, and it's probably just that the batteries went dead on the solar panels because, well, it's getting to be -100 degrees celcius there. We have left far too much expensive stuff in space, and it's about time we get down to reusing and recycling stuff. If the rich are going to have to take a tax increase, I think the rest of us should do our share. Let's go get Phoenix! Who's with me? We could have our 15 minutes of fame without being named "Joe Something." Just think of it.
Why us? It's obvious: we live in Wisconsin, we have a good work ethic, and we are a blue state (maybe from being outside too long) so we're always up for stuff like this. It's right down our alley (never mind that the National Bowling Congress moved its office out of Milwaukee to Texas). Anyway, think of the money we could save: two years of traveling and eating on the government would save us a bundle of gas, heating oil, food and taxes. We would probably get paid as well, and the thing has to be worth millions in scrap metal alone! AND there would be no charge for extra bags, either.
Never mind that in 1999 the Climate Orbiter crashed into the surface because NASA engineers mixed up the numbers of metric calculation with the numbers of English calculation...hey, anybody could get that wrong. Fortunately, the government budget for such things is limitless so we could hire some fifth-graders to do the math for us. It's foolproof.
I'm signing up. You can, too. go to and present yourself as an agent of change for our future. I did. I'm sure I'll be hearing something soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Case of the Receding Ice

Santa is in deep trouble this year, and he has been for nigh on to 40 years and didn't know it. For that matter, neither did the Danish Government of the American people, but thanks to the diligence of the BBC, we can all have most of the story (with apologies to Paul Harvey).
I always thought it was cool the way the NORAD radar always tracked Santa on his journey to my house every year. Maybe it still does, but I've laready had too much eggnog by the time the news comes on to really care about it. There are definitely no cookies left for the jolly fat man at our house because we're trying to help him slim down just a bit. Anyway, there's NORAD and the Thule Air Force base to discuss.
It seems that during the Cold War, we figured the Ruskies would attack Thule first so the airmen there couldn't warn us that we were about to be destroyed by incoming missles...probably a logical we began flying round-the-clock missions of bombers armed with nuclear weapons JUST IN CASE. If the pilots were to observe Greenland going up in mushroom-type flames, Slim Pickens would lead the bomber group immedately across the street from Sarah Palin's house and blow them up ("Chrome Dome missions" they were called).
Now, Greenland was a self-governing province of Denmark so anything out of the ordinary would have to be run past the Danish would think. However...
One mission in 1968 ended in a crash landing of one of the heavy bombers which was carrying four nuclear bombs which, according to the pilots, were unarmed. They were, however, surrounded by high explosives which, I guess, were designed to trigger the charge on a bomb which was armed. In any case, the high explosives went off upon landing, and wreckage was strewn about in a most untidy manner. More than 500 million gallons of ice were collected from the rubble, some of it no doubt highly radioactive. By the time everything was collected, what did we have...the reason the ice cap in Greenland began melting? No: we had remains of three nuclear bombs; yes, that's right, THREE. One was never found. Not only did we not find it, but communications recently acquired by the BBC under a truth in records disclosure thing indicated that not even the Danish government was told about it!
Submarines were sent to search an area where it looked like something melted through the ice, but nothing was ever found. The search for the lost nuclear weapon was subsequently abandoned using the reaosning that if we couldn't find it, nobody else could, either. Sound logic, you must admit!
That it took 40 years for this information to be brought to light by the plucky Brits makes me wonder what else exists that we were not told about...too scary to consider.
Maybe that IS why Greenland's ice shelf is melting at an alarming rate. After all, we've been told during the last political campaign that global warming is not a result of burning fossil about decaying uranium?(which takes 500 years to decay to a mostly harmless state). Holy plutonium! I can see Major "King" Kong now.
Recession? Who cares? It won't matter.
BTW...for those of you who may doubt my veracity, here's the link to the BBC article:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like..."

The economy is struggling: you know it, I know it, and the guys in the Chinese factories painting Christmas toys with lead-based paints for Wal-Mart know it. Thanksgiving is almost three weeks away. The last smashed Halloween pumpkin has barely had time to rot in the streets (or get stuck in the derailleur of my bike). It has yet to snow more than a few flakes here in Green Bay (which is fortunate because the cold temps would have turned Packers' fans' tears to ice after today's Vikings game). All in all, I think these are signs that we are hovering in that restful time of year before things get totally out of whack and most people have yet to scream about the BCS bowl picture: I'm talking about the relaxed time before the holiday season...a time during which we can all pretend that it will be different this year. After all, we have just finished a two-year presidential election so there will be nothing on the airwaves to disturb our peace of mind. Well, not so fast...
We were driving back from Chicago today following a family visit, and I'd played all the compact discs I had in the car, so I thought a little radio tunage would be in order. The seek button on my car radio worked slowly at first (probably because it was surprised I'd called on it), but it soon honed in on the one thing that sent me into a frenzy. Within minutes, I'd become a raving lunatic, screaming and shouting loudly enough to wake up my wife in the passenger seat so she could once again attend to my driving. My seek button landed on "Milwaukee's station for Christmas music!" I'm not kidding...there was a station playing NOTHING but Christmas music. Now, I like Bobby Helms as much as the next person, but not on Novemebr 9th! (I careened into an adjacent lane checking my watch to make sure of the date) There are almost two months to go before Christmas; sure, the retailers are hurting, and the Chinese people getting paid $.50 an hour need the work, but playing Christmas music this early is going to get someone killed. It can't just be me that finds this horribly offensive. Had they played "The Little Drummer Boy," I'd have gone right to the station and done something drastic. Unbelievable!
It was at this point in my rant that my now-wide-awake passenger reminded me that we have tickets to see the Radio City Musical Hall Christmas Special on Tuesday. Well, yeah, but that will have the Rockettes in it so it's technically like, oh say, watching the Chippendales while the men are out supposedly hunting up nort' hey. Besides, the show will be gone in a day, and I can resume my peaceful won't be playing 24/7 for the next six weeks!
If I'm like this already, how will I ever make 'til Christmas...or even Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rodney, Part Deux

Seriously, should we be discussing the First Dog in the papers? Maybe the First Dog ON the papers, but, really, give it up. Do I care to read endless columns detailing a major rift in the McCain/Palin ticket over things like a wardrobe or her wanting to give a concession speech on election night? No. I don't even care about Michelle Obama's wardrobe. I would like the endless prattle to simply vanish. It's almost the "talk me down" idea that follows big sporting events during which analysts describe minutiae for all of us who have just watched the game.Puhleeze!
Besides, I've got my own issues to deal with.
I'm not ordinarily sensitive to critical/just-joking remarks about my lack of style or how one ear is lower than the other or how I'm the oldest person in the room, but it seemed today that everyone was piling on for some reason. It could have been the big target on my back or, perhaps, it was just my turn.
In a class of 250 or so, the instructor had just outed herself because we were discussing GLBTQ relationships today in a human development class. The question was put to the class: "Who was the first person you were attracted to?" I let the obvious grammatical error slide (because I figured the discussion was going to be difficult enough, anyway). As the class pondered the weighty issue, a student sitting a couple of seats away leaned over and said, "Darrell, don't worry if you can't remember, we know it's been a long time." I let it slide until the professor picked it up and repeated it for everyone's amusement. Big laugh. Still, I let it go choosing to be above a cynical retort, though I did exact a measure of revenge when the instructor began discussing how cruel kids could be, especially to GLBTQ kids. I made sure my ex-buddy Mike got the point. To which he replied, "I was just joking!" See if I help him study for the next test :( Fast forward..........
Discussing a complex biology essay I was asked to edit with the assistant volleyball coach who knows much more about the topic, he made the comment that most of my female students thought I was "cute" though how he knew was beyond me. When I noted the vast age difference, he agreed. "I mean they think you're cute like their grandpa is cute or the people at the nursing home can be cute." Joseph is 45 so he must be getting to the cute stage himself. I am definitely going to have to learn more about codons so I can stop talking to him! Strike two.....
Lory, one of my students who probably thinks I'm "cute," was reviewing the readings about Roman history for a western culture test. We were discussing the history and the leaders (she had never heard "the die is cast": sigh!), and the inevitable tangle of Roman emperors wound around Cleopatra's feet. She had no idea how the battle ended with the legions of Rome, so I filled her in on Cleopatra's "cowardice" and the subsequent carnage. I noted that she, of course, knew how the Antony and Cleopatra saga ended, and she opined, "They broke up?" Seriously, what DO they teach these kids? Anyway, when I gave her the scoop about their subsequent suicides, she said, "No, they didn't." (at least it wasn't "Oh No, they dihun!")I was aghast that she would question my response to something about which she knew NOTHING! I'm old, I'm "cute" and I would make up stuff in a tutoring session...that was too much. I went home, leving her to decipher the Flavians and Julio-Claudians by herself.
Besides, I had to get the Metamucil and get to work on Just For Men some more.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Now I've Seen It All: the G's Rejoice

I remember the Russians sending Sputnik into space and how freaked out our entire country became...fearing that we would soon be destroyed from the outer limits.
I remember electing JFK as president and how amazed everyone was that the Pope didn't immediately take over our country as had been rumored to happen in the wake of a Catholic president being elected.And I remember when he died.
I was conscious for Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and feeling an incredible sense of awe as that happened. Was there nothing our country couldn't do? We had to be the greatest nation on earth.
Since those halcyon days...Viet Nam, Watergate, Iran Contra, disgraced presidency, wars begun with lies, and on and on. ...and though the Berlin Wall fell...Our policies have been decried universally,and our status as the greatest nation on earth has been eroded to a potential joke status.
Now...America has proven to be much more than most people gave us credit for. Not all of us swill beer by the six-pack; not all of us fail to grasp the difference between $40,000 and $250,000 dollars in taxable income; not all of us think any election is about only one issue; and not all of us think of our country as white, middle-class and not all that smart that we can be fooled by innuendo and outright lies. This is a country unafraid to use the letter "g" at the end of words like "going," "voting," and a host of others. We CAN think, we CAN speak correctly, and we CAN do simple math. We also CAN disagree without being nasty, and we CAN have hope that our country will regain its status in the world...not as the biggest and the best, but as a country wiling to share what we have and grant others their beliefs without insisting they believe as we do.
SO...I plan to use as many words ending in the letter "g" as I can tomorrow, and I cannot fully express my pride in all of our children who took the time to be part of the process and vote...
God Bless America!

Monday, November 03, 2008


If you haven't noticed by now, the economy is going down faster than a chili cheese burrito. Sales at General Motors were off more than 40% in October, and their Suburban model was off more than 60% (go figure...what were they thinking?) I checked my sandwich bread this morning...what used to be whole wheat is now only three-quarters wheat. My "all natural" yogurt claims to be "as natural as we can make it with only part of our staff still working." I've heard rumors that Starbucks will now feature only moderately tall drinks. The economy is definitely on the decline. The State of Wisconsin Retirement Board sent all of us retirees a notice last week which basically said, "Uh, maybe you should consider going back to work since the retirement checks will be, uh, somewhat smaller by May." To which the letter added that, of course, the economy could turn around tomorrow, and things would be peachy keen again. Today's good news even hinted that school districts and municipalities might have to lay off staff to cover the additional funds to pay retirees. Where's that Florida bridge you're trying to unload? AARP just became UURP!
Anyway, all of that is part of the big picture. My transportation is a bike for the most part; I did, however, splurge $15 on a pair of fenders so I don't get muddy in bad weather. I still have food and can, as of this evening anyway, make the mortgage payments and provide heat, light and food ("More! You want more?"). So...I look for the little things to signal that something big and bad is afoot. That bad news came today. Something stinks with Twinkies.
Hostess announced that, beginning Monday, they will be "downsizing" Twinkies! Was that a collective gasp I just heard worldwide? Yeah, I know...bad news is hard to take. The "new" Twinkies will have only 100 calories instead of their usual 150, and the elongated shape will be replaced by three round, bite-sized morsels. "They will eat like Twinkies, smell like Twinkies and taste like Twinkies," according to David Leavitt, the vice president for snack marketing for Hostess.
Lest you think this is no big deal, consider this: more than 5 million Twinkies are sold and consumed every year! This marks a major snack adjustment. Why three instead of the usual elongated one? Leavitt again: "People like to take more bites than one." Wait a minute...nobody other than my friend Mark eats a Twinkie in just one bite. Something is amiss here. Someone has to put a stop to all of this downsizing...the next thing you know, we'll be outsourcing production to the United Arab Emirates (after they run out of oil...soon).
I'm mad as heck, and I'm not going to take it any more. I have half a mind (most would agree I could stop right there) to go out and buy two packages and eat them both right away, consuming 200 calories at once, just to spite the Hostess folks...but then, they'd make more money wouldn't they? And I'd just get obese, wouldn't I? And I'd have less money for healthy stuff like Cheetos (real cheese added) wouldn't I? It's truly a conundrum, isn't it?
What would Little Debbie do?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

On Being An Anachronism

Getting older provides various opportunities to look back (and forward) and determine whether or not one was born too soon or too late (as in the case of the Poni-Tails). I had a moment of epiphany today when I realized that I was probably where I should be and at the appropriate time.
I was working for the Horizon Leagure cross country championships...riding between selected points on my bike, reading split times. That was my assigned task, at least. Otherwise, I was simply walking around taking pictures of the fans (some painted green!) and the runners in an attempt to get a flavor of the event. Two things caught my eye which reminded me that I was fortuante to be detached from the coaching least at this timne and at this level.

1. Fifteen minutes prior to a race, I observed a runner talking on her cell phone as if it were an ordinary day. As a coach, I would have had apoplexy at the sight of an athlete preoccupied with her life at the moment we'd worked for all season. I had visions of myself running over there, grabbing the phone and flinging it about as far as I could without doing significant damage to my arm, stomping on it, and informing the athlete that she'd better arrange a ride home...or finish in the top ten!

2. As the teams were divesting themselves of sewatsutis, etc. in serious preparation for the beginning of the race, I detected another athlete kissing her boyfriend, and I thought I would have a heart attack on the spot. How can any athlete be thinking about something like that before the last meet, in many cases, of the season? I was muttering to myself for the next ten minutes at least, and almost missed starting my stopwatch on time.

All of this hearkened back to the days of coaching junior high girls basketball during which winning and losing were much the same (to them, at least), and I recalled the urge to simply scream at the top of my lungs. Getting pounded by a nearby foe was tough to take for me, but not for them. OK, OK, I get it: junior high isn't such a big deal, but college athletes?
Makes me glad I was simply working and spectating. Coaching...I couldn't handle it.