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, December 31, 2008

Rewriting Dante to Fit the 21st Century

Yep. I've been away...I have been researching material in order to revise one of the most famous literary works of all time. No, "Horton Hears A Who" needs no refinement. It will survuve thousands of years, dog-eared and spit-sogged, but survive it will. I am speaking of the changes in world society that force me to spend days sequestered in the Fortress of Solitude located in an obscure part of the world (Miami) solely for the purpose of making a timeless classic of the written word even more timely: "The Inferno" has become a bit dated, and the cirlces of Hell are in need of serious refurbishing. I mean, a circle which featured a heavy, steady rain? (#3) That's hardly enough to strike fear into anyone's heart today. The violent storms of Circle #2 would scarcely raise an eyebrow here in Green Bay where we get torrential rains in December followed by freezing sleet and snow. The Horned Demons of Circle #7? Hey, the Vikings win the NFC North this year! See what I mean?
Granted, open, fiery tombs and having boiling pitch poured on sinners still carry a bit of weight, but since we really don't see that much, I think we need another way to strike fear into the very souls of people everywhere. I suggest a newer version of the Circles of Hell, and I think everyone would agree that I've hit on a genius idea: the Circles of Hell should now come to be known as...Holiday Airline Travel!
Having spent literally days researching this idea, I am here to present to you the new-look "Inferno."

Circle #1: Everyone, sinners and not-so-guilty alike, is forced to endure malfunctioning escalators and moving walkways only to find long lines at the security counter while listening to a TSA person shouting over and over: "laptops out, shoes off, and jackets and sweaters in a separate bin." By over and over, I mean for the 60 minutes it takes one to get through the serpentine lines at the security checkpoint. Forget to remove a belt of take the cell phone out of your pocket? It's the "wand" and the pat down search for you, my friend. Purgatory can be a tough place, it would seem.

Circle #2: For the somewhat more tainted devil-may-not-care types:they are forced to stand in the aisle behind someone trying in vain to stuff a bag the size of a Volkswagen into an overhead bin over row # 7 of a 35-row plane with people shoving from behind. These people have been delayed three times already and are in danger of missing a connecting flight. Then, upon landing this malefactors are forced to stand behind the SAME person struggling to retrieve the bag from the miniscule overhead bin...all the while watching the time tick away until the connecting flight has skittered down the runway to be lost in the eternal horizon of Stygian darkness.

Circles #3 and #4: Somewhat more nefarious sinners would find themselves missing luggage on the outgoing flight and on the returning flight as well. This would result in having to wear a sweatshirt, long pants and a stocking hat in St. Thomas for a week while awaiting a bag then standing on the jetway in Saskatchewan in a pair of plaid shorts, flip flops, and a "Thomas is my Favorite Saint" T-shirt searching for the same bag(containing the car keys)that has been sent to the Twilight Zone. Spending two weeks in the same underwear in a sub-tropical climate can be a pennance to more than the wearer, I assure you.

Moving deeper into the levels of Updated Perdition, one would encounter the following situations:

Getting up at 4 in the morning, anxiously awaiting a trip to warmer climes, only to have fog shroud an otherwise snow-covered tarmac, making any flight out impossible and insuring that every potential connecting flight will have taken off long before one can make it past the first leg of the journey; waiting in line for the service agent to say, "Oh, we'll get out in plenty of time," then watching the clock begin to spin like it does in cartoons until you know it's just not going to be the Pearly Gates today. A subsequent 90-minute wait in a line for rebooking nets exactly...nothing...the plane boards two hours and three connections late. It's not going to be your eternity.

Sprinting O.J.-like through a crowded terminal in hopes of gaining ANY connecting flight only to be told that absolutely no airline, not even Korean Air, will be headed where the sinner wants to go...and all flights in that direction on EVERY airline are booked solid for the next two days! (all said with a saintly smile or devilish grin...take your pick)

Being surrounded by hollow-eyed stranded travelers who constantly want to tell their sad tale of being stuck at O'Hare for three days with crying children, no food and a dead cell phone. These people stare constantly at the package of snack crackers one has been hoarding for just such an emergency, and they begin to encircle the unwary sinner...

For the unrepentant, any of the following scenarios could be possible:

Standing for over an hour in a rebooking line only to see some swarthy, slightly dangerous-looking guy cut through the line, walk right up to the counter, and hear the desk agent say, "Yes, how may I help you?" This is compounded by the fact that the transaction takes exactly 35 minutes, whereupon the agent puts on her coat and leaves the rest of the line with mouths agape (not a very promising posture in our new version of Hell).

Being told on Saturday that if one wanted to wait until Monday morning at 7 a.m. a flight COULD be arranged to the desired 80-degree temperate clime by sending the sinner to Montreal first, and THEN getting a direct flight out...just in time to fly back two days later.

For the utterly hopeless: the knowledge that the fare is non-refundable; that the airline disavows any responsibility because the weather delays are "Acts of God" (as if they care in Hell); that the SPF 50 sunscreen purchase is being mocked throughout the Underworld; and that there will be snow to shovel at the end of the journey.

And the final circle of hell...the absolute bottom of the pit...well, that one can remain the same. Instead of Satan being frozen in ice from the waist down, alternating thawing himself out with a beating of wings and refreezing over and over for all eternity, the 21st century sinner would find himself returning forlorn and hopeless to shovel the driveway because the snowblower was not going to work this day or any day; the worst of the sinners, frozen in the driveway, awaiting the spring thaw that will never come.

It's a real page-turner, isn't it?

Friday, December 26, 2008

I'm No George Bailey, But...

"It's A Wonderful Life" was on television again the other night,and I suspect anybody who chose to watch it did so more out of habit than belief. After all, the pluses of 2008 were few and far between...perhaps that's the reason we SHOULD watch it: things were going poorly for George, and the imminent destruction of not only his good name but his physical self cast an eerie similarity (at least to me) to the guy in France who just did himself in after losing a ton of money (just as George did) with the help of the Madoff guy. Apparently, there was no angel named Clarence around to help Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet figure a way out of a billion-dollar loss...sad, really. His unfortunate demise pointed out what many people already knew: this was a tough year, getting tougher all the time.
Any year with not one but TWO Black Fridays (neither of which did much to pull us out of the fiscal doldrums) has issues. Plummeting mortgage rates don't really help if a) banks aren't lending money anyway so they can give executive bonuses with bailout money, and b) everybody is broke as a result of the stock market nosedive, unemployment, or the exorbitant price of a talle latte at Starbucks...that's a different crowd, anyway.
So, I think it's time to express exactly WHY, in spite of everything, it MIGHT just be a wonderful life after all:

1. I'm not looking up at dirt. Seriously, every day is another opportunity to accomplish something, and I look forward to each one with far more enthusiasm than I did when I was much younger. Even finishing my first snow sculpture of the year filled me with enthusiasm, despite knowing that tomorrow's rainy, nasty weather will probably make it unrecognizable.

2. I still have something to eat and a place to stay warm and dry. This is not to be underestimated, particularly when there are many who have neither of these comforts.

3. I actually fixed my snowblower this weekend...just in time. There were those who advocated junking it simply becasue it was 28 years old and balky; my reasoning was that I was at my best at 28, and I should extend the same courtesy to a machine made of metal with no prostate gland to give it trouble. Thus, some TLC, and the mailbox was again cleared for the mail person...and there was no explosion, no fire, and no major leakage. (Now, if only the truck battery hadn't been dead this morning...yet another cdhallenge)

4. The Yankees got every free agent that mattered in the world during the offseason (though David Beckham was unavailable, he was on their short list, I suspect), guaranteeing that they will now be the most hated sports franchise of all time, besting even Notre Dame and the Chicago Bears. Of course, any baseball team that can charge several thousand dollars for a seat can pretty much call the shots, as far as I can tell.

5. I managed to send just about the same number of Christmas cards that we received. There are a few that will have to wait until my sojourn to Miami is complete, but, all in all, a fairly representative job, if I do say so myself. Next year's cards are already purchased...maybe I'll send them out in July this year just for fun.

6. The Green Bay Packers sent me a Christmas Card this, if only they could find one of those Reebok stocking hats from last year that sold out before I could get one for my grandson...simply because Brett wore one, they became the hot item and totally became unavailable. This year's version is rather lame...he'll have to adjust, I suppose.

So, at least for me, the year hasn't been a total debacle: losses? yes, but as you can see, it remains a "pretty good" life.
Thanks, Clarence.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Toyland, Toyland, All The Girls and Boy Land...

Flying Monkey

"Oh, Crap!"

It's the day before the Night Before Christmas, and, if you're like many folks (the ones, at least, who are not snowed in, without power, recently laid off from the auto industry or a victim of that Madoff guy) you probably have some last minute shopping to do. Like Charlie Brown who always gets the most scraggly Christmas tree, you are doomed to scour frantically through CostCo for what the earlier frenzy has left behind. Waht you'll find are Wii games like "Super Mario Learns to Spell" or "Rock Band 3: the KIngston Trio Years." No way you'll end up with something every kid wants, but you'll continue to fool yourself because that's what you do every year. While I know it's too late for you, I would like to tease you with what you COULD HAVE had...had you the forsight to actually plan ahead.

The "must have" toy for girls this year is something called "Baby Alive Learns To Potty." Seriously...It IS the one thing every little girl wants, according to Brigid Schulte, a staff writer for the Washington Post. Mothers have been wont to stand for hours in the cold, dark of the long winter or drive hundreds of miles in hopes of getting their hands on this golden child. As you might surmise, this doll actually comes with "green beans" and "bananas" which go in one end and, uh, come out the other. Put the doll on her pink plastic toilet, and she says, "I made a stinky," and, sure enough, there's, uh, "stuff" lying there...and it's not a talking Mr. Henkie the Christmas poo, either.
According to Kathleen Harrington, senior brand manager for Hasbro's Baby Alive dolls, " As adults, we might be a little grossed out. But it's so magical and so funny and so silly for these girls. The little doll is coming to life, so the little girl doesn't believe it's just a doll. It's her baby." She really said about gender intensification! And "magical"? Whatever happened to Mr. Wizard's science kit or magic kits for kids?
Even Jim Silver, the editor of "Time to Play," a Web magazine that reviews toys, says children want reality. "By the time they're 5 or 6, they don't want a play telephone, they want a real cell phone. This baby doll is all about nurturing."
To me, it seems like it's all about reinforcing the idea of motherhood for all girls without guys around to help. But that's just me.
BTW, this doll comes in the standard caucasian version as well as an African-American and Hispanic version. Check out the commercial:

For my money, though, the gift of the year is the Flying Monkey. About $50 cheaper than a doll that poops, the flying monkey zooms through the air while emitting screeching sounds. If you don't think that's fun, trust me...IT IS! I could have sold 20 of them this week when I demonstrated it at work. Originally, I bought it for my oldest son who maintains that the absolute best movies are those with aliens AND flying monkeys (don't even TRY to figure him out!). However, since my soujourn to Modern-Day Bethelhem (Chicago) for the census has been cancelled due to inclemency, I'll have to present it later. Actually, I had to order another one since his has been used constantly for three days, and it hardly seems right to give a thoroughly-used gift along with the gold, frankincense, etc.
A YouTube video of the Office Flying Monkey Olympiad is availabe if you are interested. Go to and the video is on the web site where you, too, can purchase the greatest gift ever! Sure to be the toy of choice for every kid from about 3 to about 93 who's a little left of center. AS I zoomed it past my unsuspecting daughter, she screamed at the top of her lungs and later explained that she thought I'd thrown a cat at her! What would PETA or the SPCA say? Me? A well-known cat lover? Perish the thought. Anyhow,I promise you will not be disappointed...AND, it's cheap!
There you have it: the two hottest toys on the planet which you will NOT be able to get for Christmas giving...but sure to be a big hit with your youngster anytime!
Me, I'm going to get all magical now and make a stinky with Gassy Gus (relegated to third place in the best toys of the year competition).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Exempli Gratia" for Example

Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing, I'm told. Actually, I figure it can't be worse than too LITTLE knowledge, but that's just me. Having spent the last semester "attending" classes, I was stimulated to learn a lot of things...some of them not necessarily on the syllabus, but interesting, nonetheless. Now that I have a whole month before returning, I figured that stimulation would be hard to find, or at least I thought so until today when I discovered a site called "" And I stumbled on it serendipitously, too. Gazing through today's newspaper (the real paper version not the internet version just to please my adopted mother Mother Blaser who virtually will read nothing on the internet if she can hold it in her hands...retired English teachers...sheesh!), I discovered that the abbreviation for "for example" which we use all the time as "e.g." is actually taken from two Latin words exempli gratia which mean, of course, "for example." Seeking the font of that wellspring of knowledge like Cortez looking for the Fountain of Youth, I found that was the source. Upon arriving there, I found a veritable plethora of interesting things to keep me occupied, including daily trivia in Jeopardy-type categories including movies, sound clips, geography (I managed to identify Japan by its outline in today's question)sports (Which team is the revamped Minnesota North Stars?)and a 3,000-question music trivia bout which I'm saving for later. The site is also a compendium of interesting questions like "What is a booger made of?" and "what do you call a group of..." which tests one's knowledge of plurality. New questions are featured every day, and I suspect the site could get to be Facebook-like in its addictive quality.
So, if you have a few minutes to kill in the cubicle or at one in the morning, I suggest a trip to and get those synapses firing.
I've got to go watch the finals of the NCAA Volleyball Championships, but I'll be there later answering the questions, e.g. "what's a booger made of?"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eating Good in My Neighborhood: 2075

I'll admit that going back to school was an interesting experience though the environment class I took with one of my students this semester left me a bit uncertain about the future of the world...though most everything will run out shortly after I'm dead so it won't REALLY matter all that much. One of the books we read was entitled The Long Emergency and it's basic premise was gloomy, to say the least. Without lapsing into tedium, it will suffice to say that all the resources will be depleted, and the global economy will retract to become a local one worldwide...those that don't have the capacity for growing food, say, in a desert or without irrigation, will die. Terrible stuff. However, there are those among us who are prepping for that eventuality; you'll recall my previous blog about folks raising chickens in cities as a substitute for other protein sources.
Here's where my class comes into play. The professor, who shall remain nameless until his/her book on the subject comes out, has begun devising what amounts to a cookbook for survival. Since it IS a professor at UW-Green Bay, let's call him/her "Professor Phoenix" (a pseudonym much like Deep Troat from the Nixon era who just died today or Dick Cheney, a pseudonym for a vice-president)
Realizing that the monoculture of huge grain fields and endless, methane-spewing cattle herds simply cannot exist in the future due to the lack of fossil fuels and a dearth of irrigation water, "Professor Phoenix" proposes the following items for everyone's table in the future:

Bird's Nest Soup as an appetizer. After all, while we still have birds, let's make use of their natural nesting nature. This is what's known as a "renewable resource" since birds will just build another one: labor intensive for them, easy for us; kind of like growing radishes.

Egg Drop Soup as an alternative. Remember the soup kitchens of the First Great Depression? Get ready for this staple at the Salvation Army's kitchen. The only real problem will be picking up the gooey stuff once we drop the eggs.

There's always chicken feet soup. (don't ask ME why she's so big on soups!) Figure it like this: we'll need chickens, but we don't want them conveniently "running away" to our neighbor's coop, so, instead of using all that wood for coops and wire for fences, we just chop off their feet, and ...soup's on! We can always take them to a farmer's market and label the eggs as coming from "free range" chickens.(That part was my idea)

I think he/she watches Rachel Ray too much, however, as the next few items might attest:

Toad a la Mode. Really, I'm not making this up! While I've eaten frogs' legs, it's never been in combination with ice cream. This one might take some getting used to. And the beer manufactureres will have something to say about it as well because since grains have become scarce with little irrigation, they'll need a substitute for hops, and I figure...well, you get it.

Chipped Gerbil on Toast, a.k.a. "rodent on a shingle" With enough creamed gravy, I think this could be a big hit. You know there would be no fat since those little guys just run on their little wheels all night. Of course, it would take a lot of them so the PetsMart would become the new SuperValu in the future. PETA would come to stand for "People Eating Tasty Animals."

Mice are Nice. Uh...I suppose, but I would want to make sure it didn't come from a university lab prior to being an entree. and, finally,

Ratatouille. I don't even want to know, but it sounds like more soup.

Roach Brioche is the final entry...for now. Professor "Phoenix" doesn't seem to want to divulge too much just yet...because we wouldn't need to buy the cookbook then. Fair enough.

Honestly, these actually came from a mostly-clear-thinking professor as emergency rations for the future. AS a pet owner, he/she probably didn't think of dishes like "Catcakes" or "Polly Is a Cracker," but the rabbits that have populated my neighborhgood lately are definitely not safe: "Bunny-on-a-Bun" will be the taste treat of the 21st century.
Me? I'm going to stick with hot dogs.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vote Early and Vote Often: Is Blago So Bad?


The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois has always been viewed askance for the, uh, irregularities in the electoral process. Upton Sinclair, in his book "The Jungle" was explicit about paying low-wage stockyard workers to vote Democratic, and that was 75 years ago or so. Thus, it ocmes as no surprise that in the wake of Richard Daley (J. OR M.)should come the latest scandal that is Gov. Rod least that's what everybody thinks. As a public service, I'm here to give you the skinny on REAL corruption in places which you may or may not have imagined. HINT: Illinois is FAR from the most corrupt place in this country. Let's look at the stats as compiled by the New York Times.
If one simply counts the number of government individuals found guilty in 2008 of corruption in local, state and federal cases, the best Illinois can do is 7th place behind (in this order) Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio. Of course, you've noted that all of those states are probably more populaous than Illinois so the numbers would naturally be higher...although anything over one seems high to me.
So...let's look at how many government officials were found guilty PER CAPITA in states around the country. In that case, Illinois doesn't even make the top ten! Weighing in at #1 with one government official convicted per 66.9 people...(you can probably guess) The District of Columbia! (a no-brainer which probably excludes lobbyists and cabinet officials pardoned by executive order), which was followed in the top five by The Virgin Islands, Guam, North Dakota, and Arkansas with Louisiana and Mississippi following. Guam? What kind of corruption can take place there? No Illinois.
OK, OK those are statistics. How about asking unbiased people, like, say, court reporters? (You have to admit that The Times is nothing if not thorough!) The "winners" by popular acclaim were, in order of criminality Rhode Island, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Delaware, Alabama, and Kentucky. I found it odd that there were no real crossovers except Louisiana, and Illinois was nowhere to be found.
If you are wondering about my adopted state, Wisconsin was #25 in total number of convictions with 122; we were 35th in per capita convictions at 2.2 per hundred people; and court reporters slotted Wisconsin in at #36. I was going to add up the numbers from Illinois, but it seems clear that the reputation for the Land of Lincoln as a sewer of corruption is totally unjustified.
They are still FIBs, though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Zola Would Never Have Guessed!

Police found a bomb today at Printemps, a Parisian department store that rivals Macy's in size and scope, taking up three complete buildings and probably more than a square city block. Actually, it wasn't much of a bomb: five sticks of dynamite, old dynamite at that, were tied together without benefit of a detonator. Crack Frech forces scurried in and cleared the store, telling employees that it was a "technical incident." (This reminds me of a bomb scare at my former school in which teachers were asked to go back in and search for a bomb...huh? And we did it? Well, yeah, it was friggin' cold outside. What's a hand worth, anyway? Workman's Comp!)
Anyway, the threat was an anonymous one by a group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front...or the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front or something. Anyway,Paris was teeming with Christmas shoppers so it made the New York Times and a host of other papers, I suspect, though, not surprisingly, not the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
"Why is all this noteworthy?" I hear you ask. Well, the store is a livng example of what Emile Zola described in Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies Delight)in the 19th century just as Paris was about to become a city of department stores instead of the smaller Mom-and-Pop specialty stores that catered to their customers and really cared about them. It was eerie to read that book and then see that small businesses were forced out of business in this century by the same tactics Zola first mentioned long ago. In the name of profit, the globalized market now gives us chep, lead-painted toys and other goods made to be used and thrown away instead of handcrafted things we can hand down to the next generation. Dimly-lit caves of fascinating discoveries have given way to glaring warehouses and end-cap specials on things nobody bought last year. Specialty shops are gone, swallowed up by strip malls and mega-malls just as Zola "predicted" in his novel.
I'll bet the real culprits in this case were members of the Small Business Bureau who'd simply had enough.
Look out, Wal-Mart!

Monday, December 15, 2008

I've Got Nothing

I have hit a particularly large black hole in imagination so I'm going to let others work for me today. The following are noted as the most quotable quotes of the least in Fred Shapiro's mind. Obviously, in an election year, that kind of stuff dominates the list, as you might imagine. Feel free to nominate your own favorites.

Author Fred R. Shapiro's
Most Notable Quotations of 2008

1. "I can see Russia from my house!" — Sarah Palin on her foreign-policy credentials, as satirized by Tina Fey, NBC "Saturday Night Live" broadcast, Sept. 13, 2008

2. "All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years." — Sarah Palin responding to Katie Couric's asking her to specifically name newspapers or magazines she reads, CBS News interview, Oct. 1, 2008

3. "We have sort of become a nation of whiners." — Phil Gramm on Americans concerned about the economy, quoted in Washington Times, July 10, 2008

4. "It's not based on any particular data point, we just wanted to choose a really large number." — Treasury spokeswoman explaining how the $700 billion number was chosen for the initial bailout, quoted on, Sept. 23, 2008

5. "The fundamentals of America's economy are strong." — John McCain, interview with Peter Cook on Bloomberg TV, Apr. 17, 2008

6. "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." — Department of the Treasury's proposed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, Sept. 2008

7. "Maybe 100." — John McCain on how many years U.S. troops could remain in Iraq, response at town hall meeting, Derry, N.H., Jan. 3, 2008

8. "I'll see you at the debates, bitches." — Paris Hilton, video responding to John McCain ad attacking Barack Obama as a celebrity, Aug. 2008

9. "At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he [Barack Obama] says we only have one president at a time. I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have." — Barney Frank, remark to consumer advocates, Dec. 4, 2008

10. (tie) "Cash for trash." — Paul Krugman on the financial bailout, New York Times, Sept. 22, 2008

10. (tie) "There are no atheists in foxholes and there are no libertarians in financial crises." — Paul Krugman, interview by Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time" broadcast, Sept. 19, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Turning Ordinary Life Into Cash

I don't know if you've ever said, "I should write a book" or "I would love to write a book," but I've said that many times and have gotten so far as to write a title. There it lies...mouldering with dust and age...never to be completed. It's not that I can't write, it's just that everything which seems to terribly fascinating at the time has probably already been done, or I can think of, maybe, four chapter titles before realizing how boring it would be. I have encouraged plenty of people to write fascinating accounts, especially Ryun who has led an amazing life that most people only dream about. That's part of the problem, I think: he has the fascinating life but isn't interested in interrupting his quest to be the world's best singer on "Rock Band" to write, and I have nothing to say but have time to say it (feel free to yawn now).I'm no Anna Sam,though,that's for sure!
Sam, a 29-yr.old from France, has turned her 9 years behind a checkout counter in a grocery store into a captivating book entitled "Tribulations of a Cashier." Laugh if you must, but it has sold more than 100,000 copies, and I'll bet YOU can't say that...nor can I or anybody I know. Is it just because people in France are easily amused, or is this actually interesting? Given the number of copies sold, does it really matter? The Brown County Library does not have a copy so it looks as if I will never know, personally, how good it is.
Not exactly a weighty tome: according to the author, "It's so easy to read that even customers in the supermarket can read it." Ouch! Anyway, she relates what it's like to be thought of as "part of the machinery...not a person at all" by the customers who are too busy reading Crime and Punishment, I guess. It does point to the fact that anyone can probably be an author though selling copies of a book might be another matter.
So, the next time you or someone you are speaking with utters the statement, "That would make a good book," give it some serious thought. We could be reading accounts of your fascinating life instead of spending time reading blogs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick, Hide the Mistletoe: Wear Ear Protection

Is it really a scream if you can't hear it?

Wow! This warning comes just in time for the holioday season, and you'll be thanking me for calling this to your attention while you can still hear. I look at it as a public service because there are folks out there who get all puckered up this time of year, and I would like them to be able to hear themselves sing "Auld Lang Syne" in a month or so.
Here's the scoop. It seems that a young woman in Zhuhai, China, was passionately kissing her paramour when her eardrum was punctured! Lest you think there's a misplaced knitting needle somewhere (not unlike the guy last week who who claimed to have shot his wife during a passionate moment of sex), there was a medical reason for it all, according to doctors.
"A hard kiss reduced the pressure in the mouth, pulled the eardrum out and caused a breakdowen of the ear," according to a press release. Pulled it out as in outside the ear? I'm puzzled. Another noted that an imbalance in ear pressure between two inner ears leads to a broken eardrum. Wow! That's some "hard" kiss! Maybe they do it differently in China.
All of this will come as good news to those who consider themselves the masters of restraint since it will give them a bona fide medical reason not to get too frisky.
Doctors in China are encouraging kissers to proceed with caution, and the 20-something young lady is expected to recover her hearing in a couple of months. That's going to be a LONG couple of months for a certain young man in China, I suspect...unless there are other activities which do not cause such air pressure. Hmmm!
So, either hide the mistletoe, engage in the peck-of-the-cheek type of kiss, or don't tell anyone else and hope it doesn't happen to you. If it does, don't come crying to me because I won't be able to hear you for a couple of months...if I play my proverbial cards right.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Uh, Point That The Other Way, Please

I have never owned a gun. I found a BB gun once in a ditch, and I think I still have it, but I don't know where it is. We used to hunt squiirels and rabbits when I was a kid, and I shot a gopher once with a bow and arrow, but I've never been big on having weapons around...too many accidental bad things could happen. Plaxico Burress can attest to that. Seriously, think about how BAD that could have been: he's got a pistol in his waistband for slips down his pants leg...he grabs for it...and POW! he pulls the trigger, firing a lead projectile into his thigh (what, no safety?). Maybe it's just me, but what if that gun would have been pointing more toward a, uh, sensitive area? See what I mean about dangerous? Hunting weapons, OK by me unless they are automatic weapons since I know how twitchy a trigger finger can get while hunting. Concealed in a waistband...uh, no. Just the thought of an accident in that region would scare me straight. Plax is lucky to have a friend like Joey Porter who has his back.
It seems Porter makes a logical case for packing heat: he listed the number of high-profile players who've been robbed, carjacked and shot, some to death, all because of a lack of protection. Me? I've never felt particularly threatened at the Piggly Wiggly, but I suppose megastars travel in slightly different circles. I mean, Porter should know. He got shot last year at a nightclub as an innocent bystander. He took a 9mm slug right where Forrest Gump got one (still too close to the "danger zone" for my money). Those of us in semi-rural mid-America just don't get it.
Some of my students tell me stories that would frighten anybody about how the city is just not a safe place. One student related his first incident with a drive-by shooting that happened before he was a teenager! Another student related a story in which his parents would ask HIM for money every month while he was a college student. There is a whole different world out there that most of us just don't get. We think of Plaxico Burress and shake our heads, saying, "Why would he need to have a gun in the first place?" or "Why would he be in a place that he feels danger?" Culture is why...a culture to which I do not belong nor will ever be a part of...and probably can say truthfully that I'm OK with that.
My life seems so simple these days in spite of the Dow falling like the horse Mungo smacks in "Blazing Saddles." In spite of higher prices and falling snowstorms, I do not have to worry about being shot on a regular basis. I don't worry much about somebody breaking into my house, though it's possible, and the only drive-by I worry about is people speeding down a street on which a lot of kids live.
I've got it good here in Mid-America, and I wouldn't give it up for the glitz and glamour of the high roller, club-hopping life of the soon-to-be-targets, even though I'd still like to play shortsop for the Yankees.
I doubt Jeter is worried about that.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gotta Get Away

In another 10 days, the semester will be, for all intents and purposes, over. I have to get out of here for a variety of reasons: 1. the damn city of Green Bay refuses to plow more than 20% of the city streets, waiting, I suppose, for the July thaw to get rid of the buildup. This oversight almost cost me a hammy pull today as my bike slid out from under me while trying to navigate the latest street adventure. I know gas is cheap, but it's the point! 2. School responsibilities are seriously getting to irritate me. I'm fine with my tasks, but to constantly have to babysit 20-year-olds who could care less about school is getting ridiculous. I mean, when a kid clears his throat for 20 minutes in an attempt to get me to feel sorry for him and send him home, it's a definite sign that I have not motivated him to the extent that I'd hoped. Couple that with the fact that he skipped two meetings (one with a reading tutor) today and made it to class only when a coach went to his dorm and woke him up...well, you get the idea. 3. Add another 8 inches of snow tonight for me to shovel before work tomorrow at 8 a.m. and I'm definitely ready to get out of Green Bay. Where to go is the issue.
I think I can cross out Athens as a venue of visitation. Student rioting there has paralyzed the government and created a very tense situation. I mean, rioting students even torched the city's Christmas tree following an incident in which a 15-yr. old student was shot and killed by police. Instead, I might try Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia, site of geocaching adventure and the "Screamin' Deamons, Dames of Mame" roller hockey team. Who says there's no culture in the South? For history buffs, there's the 100-mile Antebellum Trail featuring landscape that was mostly missed by General Sherman on his march to the sea. And, of course, since it's the holiday season, there's the Hip Holly Days thing going on.
I'm also not going to Australia due to new laws there that restrict beer drinking. As of this week, bars there can only serve beer in plastic containers after midnight, and they must also take 10-minute breaks so that drinkers can catch their breath. All of this regulation is an attempt to control both binge drinking and violent behavior, both of which seem to be out of control. Heck, and that's not even Wisconsin!
Canada is also out of the question since the government there is in serious disarray...not Thailand or Somalia-type disarray,but I'm still not going there until they get that whole thing figured out. It would be tough enough trying to change money, I'd suspect. Plus, the beaches would be, uh, cold.
So, it looks like Miami might be the choice...especially since I had alrady planned to go there to watch Blaine's team play some hoops in a holoday tourney. While there, though, I could tour the Everglades, learn to play dominoes from the Cuban guys, go for an airboat ride (ostensibly through the Everglades, killing two birds with one stone since nobody cares about the environment there, it seems). I might also try my hand at the racin' bidness at Richard Petty's Driving Experience. The beach is probably on the itinerary, but I've got to watch which one since Miami is no doubt home to some nekkid beaches and such. That would definitely mark the end of the trip for many tourists!
The impending end of a semester never looked so inviting.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Going Green In White

Let's get one thing straight at the outset: snow is great for sno-cones, those festive holiday globes and as a secret ingredient in Hostess Snowballs. The occasional sledding party is also fun if it's followed by hot chocolate, and I suppose there's a place for sculpting humongous piles of it into something resembling art. That's it. period. Two weeks of it is enough. But I've determined this winter to overcome it the green way in order to at least get some satisfaction out of the whole messy, winter thing.
I have thus decided that my trips to campus this winter will be made less by car than by other, more environmentally friendly modes of transport. The total distance one way is about 1.8 miles on the road and 1.4 miles if I cut through the woods by the golf course (not accessible by car, however. golf cart? maybe). This is made more feasible by the ability to dress in comfortable layers while packing my work clothes, showering once I get to campus, and generally getting a little exercise in the process.
Biking has become a bit treacherous on the streets-never-to-be-plowed-this-winter in our neighborhood, and the off-road trails are too deep already with snow to traverse without being a rabbit or applying some superhuman pedalling. Thus, the trip around the woods takes about 19 minutes on my bike. Walking quickly the other day, I managed a trip in just under 22 minutes, but I had the wind behind me. Skiing might be a possibility tomorrow since today's snow increased the depth on the streets to just below the telephone poles. Snowshoes are also a distinct possibility. The point is that I refuse to drive in "normal"weather.
When I return to campus at night, however, I drive since darkness is one thing, and being on the streets with people sliding all over in the dark is a totally different and scary thing.
I also must admit to using the snowblower once already this winter. I have shovelled a total of five times, including twice today, so I'm ahead in that category. As long as I'm not in a rush, my back doesn't hurt too much or my sweetie needs to get to work in a hurry, I plan to continue to remove the snow manually. The exercise is good, and I can enjoy some brisk but fresh air at the same time. Though I did repair the chute on the snowblower with a bolt and a wing nut today, it's just planning for the BIG one...Wednesday, supposedly.
All of this environmentally friendly winter activity is designed to make me more healthy, preserve the precious ozone layer and give me something to keep me away from the addiction of Wii...until I'm the featured character in my very own snow globe.
Spending Christmas in Miami will be nice...very, very nice.

Friday, December 05, 2008

...And I'm Not Kidding, Either

Every now and then, the world just gets so darned crazy that I have to stop, take a deep breath, and pretend it just isn't happening. Banks get billlions of dollars with no oversight, auto executive fly in corporate jets to beg money from, in essence, the people they've been screwing all these years, and the Chicago Cubs didn't win the World Series last year!
I thought with the most contentious election in my lifetime finally over, the pundits would have nothing to do...even Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert would have to take real jobs. But then, I pick up a newspaper and discover the zany, no, make that idiotic world continues unabated and unaware that stupidity will soon come back and bite people where they sit. Of the bizarre happenings this week, here are my "favorites" (oh, and I learned a new tech word, too!)

Let's start with that one: the new word is "sexting" and it means just about what you might think. Here I just got the hang of texting without accidentally sending the message in mid-word by hitting the "send" button, and I find that I'm already behind. The latest craze, it seems, is send compromising photos of yourself to people using the camera phone. It started, probably, wioth that chick from "High School Musical" a few months ago, and has developed (so to speak) into the latest thing. A group of cheerleaders (who will remain nameless but probably not anonymous all over the internet) did just that: they send semi-naked (or naked, for all I know) pictures to their boyfriends and subsequently got suspended from their high school (yes, HIGH SCHOOL) cheer squad. Mind you, this was not a couple of Carolina Panthers cheerleaders acting in an unseemly way in a bathroom (that was last year); these were kids! However, that's not the most bizarre part of it, as I see it. Following their suspension from the cheer squad, their parents hired lawyers and SUED THE SCHOOL! Hoo boy!

As long as I'm dogging the younger set, there was a young man in Milwaukee who was involved in a hit-and-run accident with some other adult's car (what was SHE thinking?), denied any kind of involvement and sent a text message to the woman whose car he had borrowed:
The first read, "Turn me n ull b n there I was no where near dat car I neva drove it." The second one read, "Telem u aint do smebdy cud took a set of your keys."
I don't blame him; I blame his English teachers. That's one uneducated young man. Those who bash education just got another load of ammo. Just for the record, I never, ever use abbreviations when I text, and only rarely do I even think about emoticons.

If you think it's just teens who've run amok, think again. Lorraine Henderson who works as an official who oversees majors internation seaports and Logan International Airport in Boston for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bureau got arrested seems she was harboring an illegal alien from Brazil: her housekeeper! This is the Border Patrol, people! And there's more! She had been warned by a coworker that continuing to employ the woman was illegal, and STILL she did nothing but try to figure out ways to keep her housekeeper...until today. Here's a question: can we deport someone who breaks immigration laws she is sworn to uphold? I'm just saying...

O.J Simpson was convicted today of killing his wife and her boyfriend...oh, no, that's not right, even though the blogosphere seems to think justice was served. He got convicted for breaking into a hotel room armed and holding up some collectible (yes, I spelled that right...many don't) dealer, ostensibly to regain possession of memorabilia stolen from him including his first wife's wedding ring, but more probably to pay all the money he owed on losing the civil suit inNicole Brown Simpson's and Goldman's deaths. Anyway, he got 33 years but could be out in nine...just about the time the latest recession turns into the Great Depression of the 21st century and my state retiree's fun goes totally broke, fixed or not!

And finally, loathe though I am to even broach (or maybe "brooch" would be better) the subject of the money the Republican National Committee spent outfitting God's Hockey Mom, I feel I must. Seriously, I have no problem with the on-camera wardrobe. Everybody at that level has tailor-made stuff that you and I could never afford. That's not it...image IS important. But this latest pronouncement that the figure (so to speak) last released was some $30,000 lower than the actual cost caught my attention...not so much for the dollar amount, but that the stores listed included Victoria's Secret! But wait! There's even MORE: all the clothing purchased will be donated to charity. So...who's in line for the Victoria's Secret stuff? EEEEWWWWWWW! Look for it on EBay soon, with a signed certificate of authenticity.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tossin' the Tube and Havin' Some Fun

This definitely beats The Office or 30 Rock

Cyndi Lauper might not approve...but then again, she just might. After all, fun comes in all sorts of sizes and flavors, especially if it has a touch screen or amaging graphics has surround sound. Madison Avenue has sold us "fun" since World War II ended, and we have bought into it wholeheartedly. I am no exception. Just today I was relating a madcap, rib-tickling story of how we used to wait for an operator before we could call someone on the phone! (this was in response to a question about how long cell phones have been today!) Anyway, so the latest craze to hit Los Angeles, where all the new, hip trends begin, is to fascinate oneself by watching ...chickens.
"Plainly said, chickens are just fun," says Dave Belanger, editor of Backyard Poultry Magazine . Don't tell me you haven't read it? The centerfold of that hen this month is...well, you've just got to see that for yourself.
Anyway, Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyle, authors of The Urban Homestead, have decided that raising chickens is beneficial on many fronts. Knutzen says that the chickens are "hypnotic" and more fun than television. He indicates that he couldn't get any work done because he spent so much time watching chickens. (I think when their eyes start going around in cirlces and turning red, they're trying to hypnotize people (that was on the South Park Thanksgiving special), but I'm just guessing since my poultry knowledge is limited to "dark meat or white meat?"
Diehl has even begun a blog to chart the progress of her raising chickens experiment: I know you'll want to check it out.
But surely, I hear you say, there are more beenfits to chickens than just the fun factor, and you are right. In fact, chickens have been mentioned a number of times in the environment class I'm taking as the next substitute for beef: they cost very little in terms of environmental pressure (raising feed, water, pasture land, manure and urine washing into the groundwater, methane pouring into the ozone are all problems associated with beef production), they're small and easy to keep. Plus, there's the fun factor. I mean, cows are simply NOT entertaining with all that one-sound mooing; they won't be my alarm clock, and all that plops of the rear end is poop or other cows, thereby increasing the "no fun" quotient. You just won't find me cackling over cattle.
On a serious note, raising chickens is on the cutting edge of environmental awareness...some would say "keeping abreast of the green trends." Here are the facts:
1. Chickens eliminate garbage because they will eat your scraps (of course, I know a guy who will pick stuff out of the garbage to eat at home so...that's a push.
2. Chickens will eat insects and caterpillars in your vegetable gardens. Of course that would mean one would have to also grow vegetables, but I've watched "VeggieTales," and they're gun to watch, too.
3. Chicken manure makes great material for you composters out there. I mean, you WILL need fertilizer for your veggies, and I don't picture you providing that material yourself (just to give you the straight poop). BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
4. There are always eggs, in addition. Local farmer's markets would be a great venue for your "free range chicken eggs" business. Add in your vegetable surplus, and you have veritable cornucopia for the locals. You'll be wealthy in no time...and YOU'LL BE HAVING FUN!
Diehl and Knutzen have one word of warning, however: do NOT name your chickens because you will get attached, and in case you ever get sick and want chicken's best not to know.
Of course, it's not just in L.A. either. I happen to know that in Madison, Wisconsin, the law permits keeping up to five chickens in your home coop! Say what you want about the Midwest, but there are SOME trends we're on top of.
Personally, this story is creeping me out since two weeks ago in Daytona, Florida (the place where trends end up last), I noticed a billboard which featured a cow with a paintprush in his or her mouth just above the simple statement: "Eat more chik'n." Creepy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Are the Chances?

I was waiting for Professor Larson yesterday because we needed to discuss the lack of progress occurring with a mutual student. She was a few minutes late so I sat outside the office perusing material I needed to study for an upcoming final test (sounds like I'm the one taking the test, but, thankfully, not so). As she rounded the corner, she said, "Darrell, you surely don't look like a typical student." Uncertain of just what she meant by that (the way I was dressed? my excellent posture? the fact that I was on time?), I simply smiled and indicated that I'd been called atypical all my life; in fact, I considered that a good thing. Now comes news that I may be more typical than I would have thought.
After a tough day of pounding information into skulls, I like to sit back, eat crappy food and find interesting tidbits for the blog. Usually, it isn't about me (Lynn Dickey notwithstanding), but today is different, thanks to economist Betsey Stevenson.
Stevenson designed a widget for which will predict a person's chances of divorce now and within five years. Basic marital data like age, education, what age one was at marriage and how long the current union has lasted ultimately lead to a prediction of sorts. Before we get to the good stuff, here are some statistics that might seem interesting.
Age at marriage and education seem to be the most promising predictors of successful marriages. To wit, male college graduates in their 30's who have been married for five years are in a demographic in which just 5% of them have divorced to this point. Additionally, a mere 7% of them are expected to divorce within the next five years.
On the other hand, male high school graduates in their early 20's divorced at a rate of 19% within the first five years, and a whopping 37% of them are expected to sever the knot during the next five years! Wow! Understand, of course, that currently in this country, roughly 50% of all first marriages end in divorces, and the number skyrockets for second marriages. So, get married later after colelge, guys!
Anyhow,the report states clearly that there is a wide variation across demographics, and I would suspect socioeconomic status has a role to play as well. Now to me...
Males with more than a bachelor's degree who married before 1980 and were 20 when the blissful day occurred will be happy to know that a mere 44% of us have already divorced, but there is NO prediction for the next five years!
On the other hand, women in the same cohort as my sweetie (no, I'm not giving out THOSE statistics...she often reads this)have been divorced at a rate of 53%. There was a variation in the questions asked for women, and I'm not sure why, but then, I've never understood them, anyway...EVER
So, there you have it. My sweetie is in the minority and I AM TYPICAL for once.
Here's the link because I know you are dying to find out the facts for yourself:

Also on the site (which seemed interesting, BTW) were helpful columns like "5 Tips For More 'Intimacy' in Marriage." Purely for research sake, I checked that out, but the tips didn't include anything really helpful like "Watch More TV Sports" or "How to Ask Politely if She'll Turn off the Vacuum While You're Napping." It was mostly girly stuff about relationships.
At least, for one brief moment, I was just like 56% of all the guys in my cohort in America. Happy day.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Why the Chinese Are Laughing Their @**$* Off

As if the problems of global warming, resource depletion, habitat destruction and overpopulation aren't enough (yes, I'm reading textbooks again), we've managed to irritate the Chinese with American culture...again. It's probably not as bad as the Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but it was a serious affront. However, as luck would have it, they get the last laugh.
It all started 17 years ago, I presume, when Guns 'N' Roses put out the last album. Not a Chinese person noticed, in all probability. However, now that Axl Rose and his mates have finally put out another album, the titled so rankled the Chinese government that they filed something of a protest over it. Now, of course, every dissident in the country is looking for a bootleg copy of "Chinese Democracy" if only to chortle at the ironic absurdity of the title. So why is anyone in that country's government laughing?
The Chinese have accupuncture, but we have Dr. Pepper, and therein lies the humor. The Dr. Pepper company offered everyone in America a free soda on the condition that G'N'R put out an album in 2008. The album was released last week, and the madcap turn of events began.
People desperate to cash in on the promotion were supposed to be able to go to Dr. Pepper's web site and download a coupon for a free soda. Apparently, there were so many fans of free anything (much like the Taco Bell giveaway during baseball season), that they crashed the site...which, by the eay was only available for 24 hours (a clever "catch" if I do say so). OK, a rib tickler so far, BUT IT GETS BETTER!
Fans, both gruntled and disgruntled have been inundating the blogosphere with complaints that it's THE BAND'S FAULT that they didn't get their free serving of phosphoric acid, high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine and artificial flavoring. Blaming the band for this only added to the hilarity, BUT THERE'S MORE!

Axl Rose is now threatening Dr. Pepper with a lawsuit because the fans are angry with HIM! Could this get any more stupid? Yes, and it will. Stay tuned. Better yet, go to the web site and get your free coupon and enjoy! Oh wait, I just went there, and there is NO promotion listed featuring "Chinese Democracy." I'm going back to the site and DEMAND my soda!
I can hear the Chinese chuckling from my front porch.

Monday, December 01, 2008

So Long Lynn Dickey, Hello Aaron Rogers

To celebrate the fact that the Green Bay Packers have become sports #1 market item, at least this year (after all, the poll was taken when #4 was still a member and the Pack was 13-3), I have decided to honor the occasion by once and for all putting the Lynn Dickey story to rest. While some of you will be mightily relieved and others have yet to hear the stirring tale of how I was responsible for his football career, it's being mothballed like the USS Missouri, USS Wisconsin and the rest of the fleet.
However, that does not mean you are off the hook with stories connectong me to Packers quarterbacks...not by a long stretch. I have a new one, though this one is not quite as personal in nature.
Last week, Packers fans everywhere cringed as Aaron Rogers first, threw an interception and second, threw his previously-injured shoulder as well as the rest of his body at the interceptee (?), forestalling for a brief moment the ensuing touchdown. Pundits threw out more opinions about whether or not this was a wise move than James Carville and his wife must bandy about political jibes at dinner. Some say it proved his toughness; some say it proved that he wasn't very smart; some say that he was just trying to impress Jessica Simpson (OK< that's only me that said that). I, however, was catapulted immediately back to lunchtime "Go Long Football" at Algoma High School.
My job was to organize and supervise activities, but I always played all-time quarterback on Thursdays, as much to have some fun with a sport I'd never played competitively as to insure that every kid who chose to play got at least one pass thrown his or her way. Noted for a quick release and rocket-like arm (so says the press release I meant to issue), the games were always high-scoring affairs, and my completion rate was stratospheric. Had it not been for Jeremy, my career would have been unbloodied, if not unblemished.
As it happened, I threw an interception one day to Jeremy Piesler. As he ran down the sideline of the bleachers, I was determined not to allow the ignominy of having him score on the play. Lightning quick (also in the press release), I sprinted to the endline to await his arrival, unaware of the volleyball net that lay in tangles just out of bounds (who the hell is responsible for that stuff anyway?). At something approaching warp speed, my foot contacted the volleyball net as I attempted to stop. Arms flailing, I plunged headlong into a steel door jamb...right, definitely NOT GOOD! A hushed silence fell over the crowd...and somewhere, a woman, not really, that was from a book I once read. I did, however, lie mostly comatose for the better part of an eternity, raising my head to a blurry world of red as blood coursed from my head onto the floor.
Some clear-thinking student asked if I was OK, obviously oblivious to the Red Sea of blood accumulating on the hardwood (fortunately, out of bounds). Ron Knoebel sped to the rescue, and I was whisked by helicopter (also in the press release) to the emergency medical facility known as the Weisse Clinic of Serious Head Injuries.
I recall there was a movement to hospitalize me for a month or so in order to check for serious brain trauma, but, in the end, the crack medical team decided that it would be hard to tell whether or not any damage had been done until I made a rational decision or two. was back to class, head swathed in 400 yards of gauze, kept together by 50 staples or so.
Funny, though, nobody from the press lauded my toughness or questioned my sanity for making that play. I guess they are all waiting for the uneditied version coming out in my tell-all autobiography which is due just before Christmas. I'll be signing copies at the Packers Hall of Fame in late December.