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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ora Pro Nobis

We never had the internet when I was a kid. Heck, we didn't even have a TV until I was in second grade...not that many other folks did, either, it's just that the medium was in its infancy. Atari was the first video system my kids owned, then Sega; now, it's Playstation 3, Nintendo and Wii. It's all a bit too much. It seems like one can find ANYTHING on the internet. The ability to buy things might ultimately be the cause of the demise of the malls in America as well, but I'm not here to go on and on about the internet. I'm talking religion today: prayer, specifically.
It occurred to me today as I sat in chuirch listening and responding to prayer requests that I really didn't even know any of the people for whom the pryer was being offered, and I must admit that I wasn't giving it my wholehearted attention (sorry, God!) So, one can only imagine my surprise when I discovered that there are many prayer sites on the internet! One simply writes in a request, and people somewhere offer prayers on your behalf. It's called "intercessory prayer," and it's available on, and (billed as a "religious Facebook")as well as many others, I'm sure. But I'm not sure about the whole deal: will total strangers take the time to really invest themselves in my needs? Beliefnet claims to have more than 1,000 active members and gets about 20 new prayer requests each day. Do they then divide the number of requests by the number of members, or do they simply create a generic prayer that fits everyone under one umbrella like that insurance company always advertises?
This has even become noted in the scientific community. Several studies have been done to determine the efficacy of praying in cyberspace for an unknown person, and sadly, the studies were not conclusive. It reminds me of the time Oral Roberts claimed that God would take him if he didn't get a ton of money by a certain date. I was all ready to believe in what he had to say if God did, indeed, strike him down for not getting the money. Alas, someone donated the money, and there was no proof in the offing though there was, apparently, enough money for Roberts' son to invest in his daughter's graduation party, lavish living and humopngous phone bills racked up by his wife calling a college guy at all hours. But I digress...
One scientist indicated that he felt the only real benefit was the comfort afforded to the petitioner. OK, I can go with that. Even if there isn't proof of intervention, making people feel better is a good thing.
Now, if lighting doesn't strike me in the next week or so...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Phun in Philly

I loved the South Park episode in which the AARP and the seniors of South Park were staging a takeover to get back their rights...mostly their driver's licenses. Our intrepid 4th graders stopped them by denying them their morning gathering at the local buffet restaurant. I had to laugh out loud. We've all seen the seniors gathering at McDonald's and other places for the morning socializing before heading off to walk at the mall. I don't laugh because I know the time is coming when I will be one of them. However, I have to say my food urges have taken a hit as I've aged.
I used to be all about cubic food: the most food per dollar spent. Good? It didn't have to be especially good as long as I left the restaurant "fuller than a tick at a blood bank" as my son Ryun is wont to say. When the Ponderosa on this side of town closed, I was heartbroken (though some would argue more heart healthy). Then, a Golden Corral opened on the west side, and it was like Nirvana (smells like...steak spirit). On my only visit, I was like a kid in a candy, more like a glutton in an all-you-can-eat-before-barfing establishment. Lately, though, it's not that appealing. I actually was treated to a buffet while traveling with a basketball team this year, and I ate very little: mostly desserts and fruit. It was then that I noticed something amiss. I should have been chowing down, but it just didn't appeal to me. It became apparent to me that John Squibb and Kobyashi were in no danger. Yet food is still an integral part of life.
The annual Philly Wing Bowl was held today, as it always is on the Friday prior to the Super Bowl. I've reported on every "if-you-can-eat-it-all" restaurant I've read about, and even some that include both ring bologna AND macaroni and cheese together in the same dish (this in Madison, Wisconsin, at a place called, rightfully, "The Old Fashioned). The Food Channel regularly reports on such places as Pimani Brothers in Pittsburg, PA, as gastronomical meccas (NOTE: I did NOT use a capital "M" because I want no fatah pronounced against me). But Squibb must certainly take the cake, er, wing.
This year's Wing Bowl was off-limits to professional eaters (would that be a great gig, or what?) so that amateurs like Squibb, 23, could participate. In something around 20 minutes, John ate 203 wings, cheered on by scantily-clad Wingettes (?). He bested Richard "Not Rich" Razzi who could only shove 180 wings down his gullet. For his efforts, the winner took home a car (no description given, but a hearse is likely), a $7500 diamond ring and a crown made of, well, chicken bones.
Remember the Roman Empire? It was said to be brought down by its would seem that America may be sliding down the same slippery slope, cheered on by scantily-clad women.
Oh yean, Exxon/Mobil reported making the greatest profit by an American company EVER.
Is any nearby country (not Thailand, thank you) taking boat people?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Earthshaking, But Still...

Every now and then, the planets align, or fail to align properly, and we get a whole week's worth of wierdness: some of it necessitating a "huh?" and some probably par for the course. In a moment, the results of my "most hated song" survey, but first, thses tidbits:

Zimbabwe officially no longer has any currency of its own. The inflation rate today was 1(followed by 24 zeros). That's a big number. The treasury secretary also today said he had a secret plan to reduce it to double figures...this was, of course, followed by raucous laughter by the media covering the announcement.

There seems to be real concern by some folks that players' long hair could be a problem in the Super that ALL they have to talk about now? Well, there's that Barry Bonds thing coming back and Joe Torre's book...They could also be giving some play to the Miller commercial during the Super Bowl which is supposed to be one second long.

A court in California has agreed that a parochial high school could, indeed, expel two teenage girls involved in a "personal relationship." According to a report in the Los Angeles Times,lawyers for the defense argued that because the courts ruled that private schools are not businesses and thus not bound by anti-discrimination laws, such schools would be free to discriminate against a wide variety of people. Well, DUH! Private schools have been discriminating against the not-so-smart forever, using "entrance exams" to weed out the undesirable...and special needs kids? Don't even think about it. And any kid who shows disrespect by being an independent thinker? Show him or her the door. And everybody wonders why public schools have a difficult time: they try to educate EVERYONE.

The "F-bomb" governor was thrown out of office today. Like I said, some of these are no-brainers. Talk show hosts are desperately seeking new material as I write.

Speaking of hilarity: non-partisanship remains a joke in Washington. In a stimulus bill passed by the House today, not one single Republican voted "yes." I don't know that I would have either, but it seems that at least one might have "crossed the aisle" as 11 Democrats did who voted "nay." The conservatives will crow; the liberals will whine, and the economy will soon rival that of Zimbabwe. That'll show YOU, Americal liberal voters! I don't know why we bother to think anything will ever change.

Finally, the list of songs that would serve as punishment for some of our readers:
1. "Cat's In the Cradle" (either the Chapin version or the one by Ugly Kid Joe)
2. "Who Let the Dogs Out?" woof, woof
3. "You Light Up My Life"...NOT!
4. "Last Kiss" (the Pearl Jam version)
5. "Little Blue Man" (maybe the worst of all time)
6. "I'm Not Lisa" nor are you a good tune.

Since those were the only responses I got, I figure we'd have to listen to each of them three times to make up the hour. I'd rather not even turn the radio in my car ON than have to do that. I plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of "The Day The Music Died" next week by playing only Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper all week.

Rave on!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Nastasia Wassili, Tulusak, Alaska

I think I read that today more than 11,000 people lost their jobs in this downward-spiraling economy. That's not good. I also read today that Michigan and Indiana are worse of than Wisconsin...I guess that's good news, but it's still quite cold here, and nothing very cheery is happening. Even the "Going Out of Business" sale at Circuit City could manage only a 10% discount on stuff. You KNOW things are tough when the bargains are being downsized. But, I refuse to complain. I do not live in Tuluksak or Emmonak, Alaska, or any of the other rural areas in our northernmost state. THOSE people are suffering.
In Tulusak, for example, many people like Ms Wassili (pictured above)often go days without eating or having either wood or fuel oil to HEAT THEIR HOUSE! Are you kidding me? In a town of about 500, people spend about $200 a week for heating oil...if they have the money. Ms. Wassili often does not, and recently she spent 3 days without heat because she had no firewood, either; compounding that situation, all her neighbors had run out of gas (and money for gas) for their snow machines so they couldn't get her any! Finally, the government airlifted some food, at least, to this outpost village...probably just in time.
In Emmonak, 65% of the population is out of work, according to a poll taken by resident Nicholas Tucker. Housing, typically, is small and primitive with no running water and more than an average number of people gathered together. While hunting and fishing used to help residents survive, there is a moratorium on moose sicnce its numbers are dwindling, and fishing for chinook is limited due to overfishing by large companies. Trapping animals for fur has lost any economic value, so a way of life is declining while prices for goods and service are going up:
A pound of hot dogs costs $7.39
A pound of cheese costs $8.75
A loaf of bread costs $5.85 (still less than in Zimbabwe, however!)
Gas? $6.58-$8.00 per gallon, and heating oil is $6.99 for a gallon.
PLUS They are freezing their behinds off! It just doesn't get any worse.

It's not that the government hasn't tried. Gov. Palin signed off on an emergency relief measure to ensure heating oil, but not all Alaskans are behind this aid. It seems that every citizen of Alaska already gets thousands of dollars from the government each year as part of an oil deal, and people in, say, Fairbanks, think it's unfair for the people who choose to live in outlying settlements to get even MORE money, saying that it's their choice to live there.
I doubt Nastasia Wassili has ever lived anywhere else. At 61, she's definitely not going to buy a condo in Anchorage and begin living the high life. She simply wants something to eat and a warm place to enjoy it.
That can't be asking too much; after all, this IS the United States of America.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hats Off To Fashion


It will take us months to get over everything concerned with the latest inauguration, as it usually does. Remember Bill Clinton playing the sax at one of his parties? Little did we know, a three-letter word beginning with an "s" and ending with an "x" would come to define his presidency for many people and make The Gap into an influential brand (now, of course, we have J. Crew). I know, I know, you're saying, "But seriously, Darrell, what the hell do you know about fashion?" And, generally speaking, you'd be right. I know more than my friend Mark but less than my wife and P. Diddy or Sean Jean. I started paying attention when Abercrombie & Fitch began using my photo for the huge posters of guys modeling their jeans with no shirt on...mostly because they never asked me if they could; thus, I know a little about the fashion industry though not necessarily the woman's fashion world other than what I can study while watching The Lingerie Bowl. However, I know a truly awful hat when I see one...unfortunately, both Aretha and Ellen do not.
Aretha Franklin, first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, gets my vote for singing every time (even though she was displeased with her performance). Amazing voice, and she killed me in The Blues Brothers' movies. She was Queen Latifah before Queen Latifah even thought about it. But the hat...not so hot, in my estimation. Even more, she helped design the hat at Mr. Song Millinery in Detroit. NEW ERA she isn't. It would never fly at the Kentucky Derby (or maybe it would). This is what she designed:

A heather-gray wool felt headgear with a prominent (you think?) bow lined with Swarovsky rhinestones. It was custom designed by her and Luke Song (current proprietor of a store his dad founded) at the shop where she has bought hats for 20 years. In addition, the hat was hand-molded over two days...I cannot even guess how that was accomplished. Cost of the hat: $500. Her cost: zero. The result? The store cannot keep up with orders flooding the business...seriously.
It is obvious to the casual onlooker that Ellen is not wearing the same hat but a replica, of sorts, replete with a satin ribbon. This chapeau can be had for $179 and I suspect this is what the fuss is all about.
Both women are mega stars but not fashion mavens. I should know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Diet Goes Green


Biofuels have certainly vaulted to the forefront in this country. Heck, I would imagine half of Iowa grows corn simply for the purpose of turning it into fuel. Fact is, it's worth more money to the mega-farmer to produce corn for fuel than it is to produce good eating corn (what would Orville say if he were alive today?). You wouldn't think that would bother someone in Indonesia, but you'd be wrong...and for them, maybe dead wrong.
We have proudly called the Midwest the "Breadbasket of the World," and for the longest time, this was true. We exported corn and soybeans to just about everywhere on earth. It got so that it was cheaper to buy those staples from us than to grow them in-country. Little did third-world countries know that the oil crunch would devastate their food supply. We now grow less soybeans and put more acreage into corn...not for food to export, but for fuel. The arable land in some third world countries has been taken over for factories and urban sprawl, meaning that growing their own grain has become nigh impossible, though they can use lead to paint toys for us by the millions. It's a good thing there are frogs in the world.
According to the BBC (the only news network sponsored by taxes instead of a corporation that controls the spin on the news) over one billion (think of Dr. Evil) frogs have been harvested worldwide as a food source in the last year. School lunches in Europe feature tasty legs, and high-end restaurants do as well. So far, no McRibbet has been marketed, and fish tacos still seem to be the only water-based life form in a taco shell; frogs, though, remain popular; in some areas of South America, frogs are liquified and promoted as an eneregy drink! Hey, it's no more icky than the derivative taurine in "Rockstar" and other things we drink here.
Indonesia remains the largest exporter of amphibians with over 5,000 tons sent out each year. The United States and France are the largest importers, according to "Conservation Biology" a magazine devoted to such things. Sadly, though, their researchers also report that one-third of all amphibious species are currently endangered, and a species like the red-legged frog has become extinct in this country due to over-harvesting. Thus, it seems, the frog population is following in the finsteps of the fishing population: overfishing has led to worldwide shortages and ecologists are screaming for some kind of controls to ensure the fisheries remain viable.
Restaurant fare? Energy drinks? What is next for the frog? I'll bet it won't be long before a worldwide shortage of hops has beer manufacturers looking to the frog as a substitute.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bringing Down the Commies With Shuo Chang


Being involved as we are and probably will be ad infinitum in the Middle East has been educational in many ways. We're friends with the Saudis who are among the worst when it comes to human rights, especially women's rights, forbidding them to walk unescorted by a family male or drive, etc. etc. We "dethroned" the Taliban in Afghanistan because they are even worse than the Saudis, decrying even a woman's right to an education. We have been denounced as The Great Satan by the Iranian leaders, and for the longest time our military seemed to be the only thing by which we could assert some influence. Russia was the first to fall; much of the Middle East has evolved as well. China, a once-hated bastion of intolerance has started making our shoes and lead-filled toys. India will soon have an affordable automobile for the masses...just in time to face a worldwide oil crunch.
Economists, military minds and politicians alike will offer varying reasons to support the fact that the world is becoming like us here in America. Whether that's good or bad is an individual decision; I'm here to tell you how we did it: media. It's that simple.
Wolfman Jack ushered in a whole new consciousness by broadcasting rock 'n'roll from a station across the border in Mexico. This was in an era when radio was strictly regulated, and there were NO 50,000 watt stations, no Sirius, no cable networks. Kids heard what their local musicians were more, no less. After the Wolfman and deregualtion, music spread across the country like wildfire: music that many decried as obscene or vulgar, and it propelled artists like Elvis and Buddy Holly to the be followed by The Beatles, Public Enemy and porn stars turned vocalists (one of whom performed at an inaguration ball just this week). That's how we've brought the rest of the world to our doorstep: a desire for huge gold chains, scantily-clad "fly" girls and all the trappings of stardom. It usually starts out as an underground thing because moist countries have, like, standards of behavior, and ours usually don't match. Eventually, though, the youth of any country feel the frustrations of alienation, and the music speaks to them. So it is in China today, where an underground explosion of Shuo Chang (hip hop) has taken over. Not officially sanctioned as an art form, it nonetheless has taken over clubs in Beijing with groups like Yin Ts'ang, comprised of two Americans, a Chines national and a Chines-Canadian, who pioneered the music form.
According to one DJ Wong Li:

"If you don’t have a nice car or cash

You won’t get no honeys

Don’t you know China is only a heaven for rich old men

You know this world is full of corruption

Babies die from drinking milk."

You'd have to hear it in Chinese, I suspect. The web site registered millions of hits in 2008 after only a few hundred took note in 2007. Shuo Chang which means "speak sing" has solidified a beachhead and is taking over, starting with the young people. In retrospect, it would seem that we've invested far too much money in a military-industrial complex when we should have poured it all into Sean Jean, DefJam Records and RUN D.M.C.
We'll get them all sooner or later. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (mad scientist laugh)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jump Starting the Economy

MARVELOUS MALIA & SWEET SASHA (I don't know which is which)

Microsoft just announced its first layoff ever. Unemployment is up across the globe, and dire straits is more than a country/rock band for millions. Still, ushering in a new administration has provided a potential goldmine for anyone in the collectible business. QVC lists more than 40,000 items directly related to the incoming president, his wife, his race and his potential pets. As you would imagine, commemorative coins are popular, and there is a gold-plated $5 bill (presumably, Lincoln gets axed on the replica); of course, the requisite newspapers from all major cities are available (many containing promotions for the final sales at bankrupt Circuit City, I suspect); T-shirts abound, mugs, coasters, and, of course, art posters/prints.
My favorite T-shirt design? "Barack 'n' Roll '08"
My favorite art work? a mini poster featuring the new president's image with the quote "I can see America from my house."
A magnet picturing Barack and Michelle in striped pajamas with the title "Obama Pajamas" was cute, but no way was I dropping $5 on it.
Lest you think it was all one-sided, rest assured it was not. One could get 5 "Obama Sucks" bumper stickers for $9, and a T-shirt that opines "I hated Obama before it was cool" are both part of the fare available as well.
If you were fortunate enough to come up with memorabilia during the last couple of years, there's even a web site named which lists hard and fast rules for how to cash in on Obama collectibles. I was amazed at the depth of stuff, but I quickly realized that I possessed two artifacts which are worth BIG money, according the the "rules" of how to cash in.
I have an original, signed-by-the-artist poster advertising the King Mango Stomp in Coconut Grove, Florida; a parade held every year...this year's poster featured a likeness of the would-be president and cajoled all comers to "do the MangoBama" at the revelry. Trust me, there is not one of these signed articles on EBay. I also have a T-shirt promoting the same event...worth hundreds, no doubt.
But enough is enough! I'm all for people taking the opportunity to use creativity to make some cash, especially if it doesn't hurt anyone else; however, the Ty, Inc. company has gone past what I would consider the limits of decorum by introducing their newest members of the "Ty Girlz" collection. "Marvelous Malia" and "Sweet Sasha" are now available for young girls and Beanie Baby collectors worldwide. It will be hard enough to be a kid in a new school, in a new town, with cameras and Secret Service guards everywhere. Immortalizing these kids in doll form CAN'T be a good thing. Oh yes, the Ty people say there is absolutely NO connection to the Obama girls. "They're just cute names," a company spokesperson indicated. Puuulleeez! Look at the dolls! Do they seriously think anybody is going to buy that line of bull hockey? The line of Ty Girlz (which, by the way, have a secret code attached which will allow the owner to go online for chats, shopping and games) already includes Happy Hillary, Bubbly Britney, Paris, Lindsay and Jenna. Featuring no plastic parts and "real doll hair," these are about to become all the rage.
Actually, I'm probably jealous that nobody thought to make a doll of me...except that one person who was sticking pins in it all the time.
The economy is about to boom, and the Supoer Bowl is still two weeks away!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soothing the Savage Breast With Music

Harry Chapin

Paul Sacco probably does not think of himself as a Renaissance man, and I doubt if he's ever read "The Mourning Bride" written by William Congreve in 1697, but he is certainly doing his musical best to "soften rocks or bend a knotted oak" as Congreve put it. Just to clarify, the first line of that poem is read correctly as " Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast" NOT "beast" as is commonly thought. So much for erudition. Back to Sacco...
Paul Sacco is a municipal court judge in Ft. Lupton, Colorado, and his credo must go something like "Let the punishment fit the crime." (tough love, Dr. Phil might say.) Anyway, he has arrived at an interesting punishment for miscreants hauled before him cited with disturbance of the peace via thumping subwoofers and incredibly loud music emanating from their automobiles as they cruise the streets of Ft. Lupton. The traditional punishment was a $95 fine, but Sacco realized that parents were simply anteing up the cash, and the offenders were not rehabilitated in any way. Not to stereotype these youthful offenders, but I have yet to hear somebody blasting a Toots and the Maytals or Flogging Molly tune from his or her slow-moving boombox on wheels. It's always been something I really didn't care to hear. Sacco felt this way as well. An instrument-playing music lover himself, he decided that music immersion was a novel way to punish offenders.
So, every Friday night, when the modern-day maestros would rather be out socializing and doing immeasurable damage to their inner ears, people convicted of disturbing the peace by way of loud music are ushered into a room in the courthouse and subjected to music of the judge's choice for one high decibel levels. Musical choices range from the theme from Barney and "All in the Family" (Edith can wreck ANY song), Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs",Bing Crosby, and even Beethoven, whose 9th Symphony is a favorite...but not among those sentenced to hear it. By the end of the hour, the prisoners are almost pleading to be set free, vowing NEVER to be in court again. Apparently, listening to music they don't like at levels not usually heard in elevators CAN be a crime deterrent.
The recidivism rate in Sacco's court is a mere 5%, and the number of disturbance from loud music cases he hears dropped from 56 in 2007 to 20 in all of 2008. That is not to say that all are reformed, but they DO know when loud music is unacceptable.
So, here's your challenge for the day. At about 3 minutes per song, try to pick the 20 songs you'd most HATE to hear played while being forced to listen.
I'll start:
I absolutely cannot stand Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle." I will immediately cross any station off my "favorites" list if I ever hear it. I don't know why, but I hate that song, even at a moderate level. Loud? It would destroy my will to live.
Now it's your turn. Let's hear from you; I'll compile a list from suggestions over the next week or so and let you know.
And remember, it's "sooth the savage breast."

AND, just in case you LIKE that song, here's the url for the video of it:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Barely Begun...But It Has Begun

The first Russian in space when we had not yet gone past the range of airplanes...The Beatles landing in America...The Korean War...Freedom Marches in the South... the KKK...JFK's assassination...Viet Nam...Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon...9/11...and now this: an African-American president. I've seen all of this and more: each has left an indelible mark on me and my cohort, and I hope the younger generations see these events as more than snippets of history.
I grew up in Kansas, not the Deep South, but not the upper Midwest, either. African-American families lived in my community, their kids went to school with us, and we played sports together. It wasn't until much later that I realized that most of them lived together in neighborhoods populated by few, if any, white families. I remember recognizing that the letter "A" in the A.M.E. on the church sign actually stood for "African." I was probably just too young to recognize differences. I'm older now, and I still don't recognize differences. I feel the distinction between myself and the urban kids I deal with more as an age thing than a race thing, but it is obvious that today is a day worth celebrating for all of us.
I know there will be people who complain that the focus has been too much on race, but I'll guarantee that their parents and grandparents didn't have to drink out of separate water fountains (bubblers, for Wisconsites), eat in different restaurants, and sit in specified places on public transportation. I'm often told that I cannot imagine what it was like, and I can agree to some extent. Even though I thought my family was really poor while growing up, I had it all...and didn't realize it...I had freedom many did not enjoy.
Maybe now we can all share the hope for freedom in all aspects.
Now, let's all get together and make this country great again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Conspiracy Theory & Other Madcap Happenings


Virtue without temptation is really no virtue at all. If one is not challenged by the joy of evildoing, he or she will be falsely righteous: at least that's my contention. Only by overcoming strong desire to do evil can one be truly virtuous. Not that it's germaine, but Krispy Kreme is no longer located in Green Bay...replaced ultimately by a Panera Bread establishment which is not the hedonistic pleasure of a wings party for ten of my closest friends at Hooter's (I could only find seven), but it's also not the gluttonous 250cal/doughnut place I used to go for my birthday, either. Tasty and healthful, but no real temptation to one of the Seven Deadly Sins...solid, All-American, family and date night food. Thus, my point (did you doubt that there would be one?) is that it will be impossible for me tomorrow to give into temptation and take a stand for abortions in this country...according to the American Life League's president Judie Brown. OK, OK, an explanation might clarify things just a bit.
See, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is offering a free doughnut to every oerson in America tomorrow to celebrate the inaguration (and generate revenue...who can eat just one?). So far, so good. In the promotion, KK indicates that it will give a "free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day." So? Well, Ms. Brown, speaking for her organization, had this to say, The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand. The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand."
Hoo boy! In case you want to avoid this controversy, Dunkin Donuts is premiering a special item for the day as well: "Stars and Stripes" for 89 cents. Since we have neither of those in Green Bay, I'll probably head over to Hooters for some wings.

If that's not wierd enough for you, how about some previously tasted sushi? You've no doubt heard about the ravenous desire for raw tuna worldwide creating a buying frenzy for freshly caught fish (no, this is not about killing dolphins. That's a whole other post). The most famous trading market for tuna is the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo where individual fish will sell for upwards of $10,000.00 Seriously! It appears that this is a HUGE tourist venue as well: watching auctioneers spout unintelligible words in Japanese apparently brings'em in droves. The market was closed to tourists for a week after a group of men decided to lick the raw fish as the tuna lay on the docket. Imagine, licking a fish worth 10 grand! Shocked and outraged by such incivility, the Japanese closed the market to tourists. I'm glad I didn't go all the way to Tokyo (and fight my way through my least favorite airport) just to be turned away at the fish market. One analyst remarked that it would be like going to the U.S. and not being able to see the Statue of Liberty (which was closed for repair a lot of last year!).
And, as if that's not enough to send you off muttering and shaking your head, be reminded not to anger Kelly Osborne. It seems a reporter from the London Daily Mirror had reported that Osborne's boyfriend was so dumb that he didn't know what caused earthquakes. Ozzy's daughter then proceeded to club the writer upside the head, only to be arrested...SEVEN MONTHS LATER! Claiming her boyfriend DID know what caused earthquakes, Osborne nontheless is scheduled to make a court appointment in April. Seriously, though, what kind of a boyfriend could she have if he allows her to slap a reporter for him? Wuss! If he thought he was taking grief from people before, just wait until this gets out! Kelly Osborne will never make it to Green Bay so I'm safe. Just be careful who's around when you relate this story!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Worse Than You Imagined

Of course, you've probably heard by now that we'll have a new president on Tuesday. I found out about it this weekend, and I must say I was not surprised. This changeover seems to be part of a trend: America is losing its megasized image. Some of it looks positive...imagine four more years of George Bush (I'm so glad he didn't run again); however, downsizing has become the fashion in American life. I think it started with Herve Villachaize (Tattoo) on "Fantasy Island" and continued with Gary Coleman then Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies. Things have spiraled downward and out of control...just ask the folks who used to work at Linens 'n' Things or Sharper Image. Just about every facet of life has taken on a different look. Circuit City has become Short-Circuited City, and the list goes on:

In the automotive world, the Big Three have used the bailout money to rebrand themselves as the Not-Toyota-Or-Honda-With-No-UAW Three, and their efforts at development through racing have changed, too. Next year, NASCAR will stand for "Now All Stock Cars Are Rebuilds" and the CART racing series will use, well, carts drawn by one horsepower...horses.

Raisin Bran will, in the coming months, announce a reduction to only one scoop of raisins in each box of its cereal.

The Super Bowl is about to be renamed The Super Cup, and advertisers will be limited to using the claymation characters from "Davey and Goliath" to hawk their products.

In order to save runway costs and eliminate airport congestion for air travellers, more airlines will begin landing on bodies of water. As an added benefit, business will pick up in the tour boat and crane businesses.

Americans will be limited to jelly sandwiches, eschewing the traditional peanut butter and jelly ones and saving millions of dollars in medical fees from salmonella cases. This will free up even more money for insurance companies to erect mammoth edifices to promote their newest drugs as well as halting the Southerners from going on and on about "goober peas."

Lance Armstrong has gotten on board with the new austerity plan as well; he gracefully finished in 64th place in the criterium portion of the Tour Down Under, saying that he wanted to save the team some money by not having to get him a new yellow jersey every day and vowing to ride the same bike for weeks at a time.

And, finally, in a cost-cutting measure, Governor Doyle of Wisconsin is presenting an idea to combine the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota in order to cut down on government duplication of services. There is talk of bringing Jesse Ventura back to head up the new state of Wissota (though people from here prefer "WisceySoda", Land of 24,000 Lakes.

It's getting tougher every day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Egg on My Face

It's no secret that I am not a scientist...I believe I made that perfectly clear. Now, Dave comes out of the woodwork to emphasize that fact emphatically, and destroying precious memories for my children as well. I only hope they don't hear about it because they'd be in therapy for years.
I do find it hard to believe that we managed to pick the EXACT time on various days to perform the "eggsperiment" with the chicken ovum, but Dave says we could have done it any time. I am going to begin tomorrow and try every hour of every day for, oh, a day or so just to see if he is right.
I think this is how the government tricks us all the time, too; they take perfectly good photographic evidence of, let's say, a spaceman flying over the desert or an actual corpse of one (or an egg standing on end) and have some egghead give us a lot of scientific jargon until we are convinced that what we saw was a result of those mushrooms we'd been eating. Anyway, what follows is the transcript of he missive from Dave (if that's his real name and not a government-given undercover moniker)regarding my previously reported story concerning the equinox and eggs:

I hate to disprove your family tradition of standing an egg at the equinoxes, but this in fact is only a coincidence and can be done on any day of the year.

There are definite gravity variations on the earth; most often a function of latitude and vary only by about 1%.

The equinoxes present nothing special as far as gravitational forces are concerned in our universe. Remember, earth's orbit is elliptical: perihelion and aphelion then should also disrupt earth's gravity, but yet it still doesn't vary by 1%.

Even if this "balance of gravity" occurred at the equinoxes, it would have to be done exactly at the correct time when the sun passed over the equator's zenith. The equinox doesn't last throughout the day, but only at that exact moment. Otherwise, there's already a "variation." Accordingly, latitude also would become a factor as the sun is not directly overhead everywhere on earth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yet Another Eggsperiment


"What about global warming," I hear you ask? "Is this just another myth being propagated by all the tree huggers?" I must admit that it would be difficult to attest to anything like, say, a warming of ANY kind today throughout most of the country. True, Los Angeles should be in the mid-80's, but you certainbly don't hear any of them whining about it. So why should people who live in the Midwest continually whine about how cold it gets? It's the Midwest, for crying out loud, and one of the earmarks of global warming is that storms and temperature ranges fluctuate a great deal in the middle of any continent. All of that aside, it IS cold here in Green Bay today...not as cold as it was in Minneapolis this morning where a weather person hammered a nail with a banana just to prove how frigid it was (see accompanying video URL if you want to feel somewhat warmer), but chilly nonetheless. He also froze soap bubbles which he blew, claiming that the frozen bubbles would last ten minutes before exploding into razor-sharp shards. That part is not on the video, however, because kids might have been watching.
Thus it was, with time on my hands before the dreaded dental appointment, that I decided an "eggsperiment" was necessary. If a guy can use bananas for hammers, I can at least make sure Frosty gets a good breakfast before going off to run and frolic with the school kids who were out of school today...bunch of sissies; why in MY day...
Anyway, we are used to using pre-birth poultry around here in scientific ways. Our kids used to take eggs to school every year during the autumnal equinox and stand them on end to the astonishment of their classmates--yes, this really does work twice a year: on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Not being remotely scientific, I cannot explain it, but it absolutely works. If you want, I can go through the family albums and show you all the photos we took of each event...of course, you'll have to see the vacation pictures as well, but the pictures are cute except for the ones in which the kids are putting two fingers up behind each others' heads or picking their noses or otherwise making the photo op as difficult as possible (they were children; that's what children DO!).
Placing a raw egg in a small teflon-coated skillet atop Frosty's lap on the front porch, I waited patiently for it to freeze into the solid mass that's just the way Frosty likes his eggs (though I observed from inside the house). Rock hard. It took almost 13 minutes, proving that it really was not all that cold here in Green Bay, but you can tell by Frosty's expression that he's pleased. It may have frozen more quickly had I placed it on the pavement, but Frosty wanted to help, and I'm all about kids helping out with food preparation.
So, if you're feeling unusually cold today, check out the video which also includes some chilling video from Iowa, get out the cocoa, and wait for spring.

Up next? Frozen watermelons for bowling balls.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thirsty, Anyone? I Am.

My Wii must be broken; there's something wrong somewhere, that's for sure! We got it in order to exercise using the WiiFit option during the winter when it's too dark and too darned cold outside to exercise (by "we" I don't mean's the editorial version of the word) I can work out at the posh fitness facility at the university where I work, and I do, but there are too many "young girls in sports bras" for my significant other so she avoids the place. Hence, the Wii. Back to its current malfunction.
I stepped on it yesterday for the first time since the weather got nasty, and it informed me that I now weighed 191 pounds. Right away, I knew there was a mistake: I have never in my life weighed that much. Even allowing that I was wearing "heavy" clothes, I was still uncomfortably beyond what I thought I should weigh. This was the second such revelation: somehow there was a photo taken of me on the beach in Miami a couple of weeks ago, and I actually thought my brother Fred (the more portly of us) was Photoshopped into the picture, but, sadly, it was I.
Confronted with the reality of porkiness, my first thought was to alibi: "I've been sitting too much while time to work out"; "With me doing the cooking, meals have gotten a higher fat content," and on and on. Fact is I've been snacking too much since I've been on break, and I've been drinking too much soda. "Men's Health" came along just in time with the advice that makes the most sense. According to their research, we consume more than 450 calories a day in beverages: twice what we used to ingest 30 years ago. All of this amounts to about 2 liters daily, and it's mostly NOT water. Thus, the pounds add up. While soda has been maligned a great deal, MH decided to list the worst beverage in each of 20 categories from light beer to smoothies, to soda to vitamin water, well, you get the idea. I'll include the link so you can read it yourself.
My only complaint is that the article listed only the worst in each category, and I'd like to have seen the top five or so. Anyway, here is but a sample:

WORST LIGHT BEER--Sam Adams Light 124 cal. and 10g of carb (still 'way better than most of the other beverages on this list!)

WORST "HEALTHY" DRINK--Glaceau Vitamin Water 130 cal. and 33g of sugar.

WORST ENERGY DRINK--Rockstar 280 cal. and 62g of sugar.

WORST ICED TEA--Lipton Iced Brisk Lemon 20oz 325 cal. and 81g. of sugar.

WORST SMOOTHIE--Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd Power Smoothie--1170 cal. and 169g. of sugar. Has more sugar than a bag of chocolate chips. And the worst part? It's the only thing I EVER order at Jamba Juice!!! Crap!

THE WORST DRINK IN AMERICA--(sounds like Keith Olbermann, doesn't it?) I'll leave that one a mystery in hopes you'll check out the URL and pick up Eat This, Not That at your local library as suggested by the article's author.

Looks like it's going to have to be a steady diet of water for me. And it's cold and dark outside as well...sigh

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If You've Got the Money...I've Got the Time

I would suspect that in his long and extremely well-traveled career, Willie Nelson has made it to Japan. Heck, he even played Green Bay so he MUST have gotten to Tokyo. While I'm not a stars-and-bars country music fan, I do rather like Willie, even the reggae album he did a couple of years ago...but this is not about him or music, except for the title to his song, "If You've Got the Money, Honey, I've Got the Time" about a predictable kind of relationship: a kind that occurs everywhere, I suspect, but has an odd twist in Tokyo where they have taken the term "cathouse" and made it into something less, er, reprehensible, while retaining the overall idea of trading money for companionship. Customers, usually single men, pay $10/hr for "short, intimate encounters with professionals." BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
The professionals, in this case, are professional pets...that's right, in Tokyo, one can go to any of 150 companies and rent a pet for an hour or more at the going rate. There are places like the Ja La La Cafe in Tokyo which is one of the more famous "cat cafes" in the city. In his visit to the establishment, BBC correspondent Duncan Bartlett found 12 cats and 7 customers who were either petting, scratching, teasing with rubber mice or in other forms of entertainment their chosen playmate. And it's not just cats, either, on the auctioneer's docket for rent.
Also in the companionship rental business, one can find rabbits, ferrets, beetles (don't ask!) and, of course, dogs. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Campus Cafes are becoming increasingly popular in Japanese cities as well. In such a place, located near college campuses, single men can "rent" a co-ed with whom to sit in the student union and share malteds. Seriously! These are not meant to be sexual encounters, just a way to fill some lonely space for single people. It seems that the geisha business has taken a downturn along with everything else. And lest you think it's just for "loser" guys, the service is expanded in other ways as well.
For example, single mothers can rent a "dad" to help with homework, discuss problematic situations with neighbors, talk to a headmaster about getting little children into the "right" schools and perform all "dad" functions. Me? I'd be willing to take kids to a baseball game or skiing, but doing homework? The pay would have to be above average for that. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
One company Hagamashi Tai whose name, roughly translated, means "I Want To Cheer Up" will even rent temporary husbands to see if a woman likes the marriage/household/sharing toothpaste/unrolling toilet paper thing before actually getting married; on the other hand, the service will also provide a woman who is considering a divorce someone to talk to about it. Whoever said that you can choose your friends but not your relatives definitely did not live in Japan.
The people press in Japan is serious, and I suspect that folks get to be isolated in such huge crowds, but having to hire a cat seems a bit over the top. However, I have a few relatives for whom I wouldn't mind substituting a rental.
Of course, there's the possibility that I would get to a family gathering to find out that I'd been replaced by something from the cathouse, too!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

$50 Billion Is A Lot Of Bread

We are lambasted daily with the sorry state of the economy. Such losses have not been seen in fifty years, and the figures for unemployment are going higher every day; if one wished to count the number of "underemployed" in the figures, the total would be close to double the official estimate of 7.2% We hear less about foreclosures, probably since just about everyone in danger has been forclosed upon: vacant, empty windows stare out of far too many "homes" these days. Gasoline, which had dropped precipitously just in time to put a stop to mutterings of riotous unrest and drive-off gas theft among many, has begun to creep upward, and I say it will continue until we reach levels higher than we bemoaned last year...but that's just my predicition. In spite of all of these gloom and doom facets of life here, most of us can, at least, buy a loaf of bread. And we don't need $25 billion to do it.
Lest you think I've inflated the economic parameters too far, don't go to Zimbabwe. I mentioned in a previous blog that the economy was so far inflated in that country that money was practically worthless. Now, it's worse than useless. In case you haven't been following the story, Robert Mugabe is the leader of Zimbabwe, but things were so bad in that country that new elections were held: elections which he lost but refused to give up. The opposition leader Morgan Tsvaugirai was forced to flee the country to avoid being "de-elected." As conditions worsened, Mugabe reluctantly agreed to "share" power with his victorious opponent, but months later, nothing substantive has happened because Mugabe insists on naming the cabinet posts: all this from a guy who LOST an election. But back to inflation.
Three weeks ago, the government began printing $10-billion dollar notes! With an inflation rate of more than 231%, they became useless in no time for any sort of purchase, so now the government has taken to printing bills worth $50 billion. What will a $50-billion dollar bill get you in Zimbabwe? Two, count them two, loaves of bread. Seriously. Two loaves of bread, and with unemployment hovering around 80%, not many people can even afford THAT! Very few businesses even accept the local currency anymore, preferring any kind of foreign currency. Just why the government continues to print its own is a mystery.
America is begiining to look like the land of milk, honey and bread that it was advertised to be!
On the other hand, one could move to Zimbabwe and own the whole country on a Social Security check. Think I'll stay put even though the high temperature on Thursday is supposed to be minus least I'll have bread to eat.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Staying Healthy While Avoiding the Bathroom

Of course, you realize that it's virtually impossible to avoid the bathroom at all costs though slightly less of a problem for guys than for females. Daily showers are overrated, especially when one considers that a good portion of the world NEVER gets a hot shower! My friend Leslie, living in San Salvador, NEVER gets hot water anyway, and the water is usually so tainted that showering with all orifices closed is the best suggestion. Needless to say, they were very quick affairs when I was visiting...after the initial shock of cold water (mouth agape with screaming), I doubt the soap got too much use: money saving tip!
Anyhow, I think of her every time I nearly scald myself in the shower while luxuriating for ten minutes or so just warming up, given that we keep the house at a balmy 62 degrees during the winter heating months. Even the shower is not a healthy environment,though, as I recently discovered.
In my somewhat irrational need to live longer, I regularly read health tips about what to eat, what not to eat (anything that tastes good), how much exercise to get, what kind of exercise to avoid (anything that requires a shower later), and on an on ad infinitum. Thus, the tidbit about the medicine cabinet caught my eye.
A reporter for the Chicago Tribune posted an article yesterday entitled, "Ten things to get out of the bathroom." I anticipated things like "toilet paper which unrolls from the bottom" or "toothpaste squeezed haphazardly," but what I found was a list of chemicals found in ordinary bath supplies which should be avoided as carcinogens!
To wit:
Triclosan--found in antibiotic soaps, toothpaste and other household cleaners. This is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a PESTICIDE. I don't need to tell you how that can be bad...of course, if I do, you've probably been exposed to it too much already. But, keep it handy for that obnoxious nephew who comes to visit too often!

Petrolatum and mineral oil--used on the skin, it acts as a kind of "Saran Wrap" which inhibits the flow of air in and out of the pores and leads to premature aging! Believe me, aging comes quickly enough (mostly when one is sleeping, I think) without adding to the effect in an attempt to soften the skin.

Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate--innocuous-sounding, but deadly, these compounds are found in makeup, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. In commercial uses, these compounds are used to CLEAN ENGINES AND GARAGE FLOORS AT CAR WASHES and the combinations in ones body can produce nitrosamines: good for us? Not so much.

And finally--common, everyday talcum powder; this is used as a drying agent for our bodies, our feet and our babies' bottoms. Avoid it because of its close relationship to ASBESTOS! Seriously, would you put insulation on your body or your baby's butt? didn't think so.

If you are not completely ready to give up bathroom products, read Not Just A Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan. I guarantee that will put a dent in Lancome.
As for me, I'm avoiding the whole bathroom business as much as possible.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Globetrotting on the Brain


I know I just returned from a warm-weather spot. I know, too, tht it's snowing like crazy in Chicago but not here. I know that the days are again getting longer with more available sunlight. Still...There's something about tavel that intrigues me, and I always marvel to hear people talk of their excusrsions to the grand palaces of Europe, the African safari, or the simply joy of a baguette and wine in Paris. Somehow, I've missed all of those as I was reminded today by the New York Times whose travel section featured two places I HAVE visited: Phuket, Thailand and Reykjavik, Iceland.
The deal with Phuket is the recovery from the awful tsunami of 2004, a scant three years after I'd lounged on the very same beaches that got inundated with death. On the Andaman Sea, Phuket was not yet too overrun with tourists unless the navy happened to be docking there in which case, the streets were impassible. I have three memories that will always remind me of that visit: trying to convince a friend of mine that kimonos were NOT Thai, my son sitting at the bar ordering drinks on MY hotel bill, and a wild adventure in which the wives simply vanished on a tuk-tuk with people who did not speak English: looking for cashews and Coke. Hilarious. Reading the Times article, it seems as if Phuket has emerged as a real hangout for the upper crust or at least those willing to I probably won't be going back.
Reykjavik is the stopover on the way to Sweden, which is the reason I was there. Totally made of volcanic rock, there is no wood at all on the island since the Vikings supposedly deforested it for ship material. Indeed, all the houses are made of poured concrete. I read a book recently by an NPR reporter who made a serious study of happiness (it's in a previous post), and he opined that Icelanders are the happiest people ON EARTH! I suspect it has something to do with the fact that bars stay open until 4 a.m. and it's dark about half the year so there's nothing else to do but drink. That's just a guess, though. Wool sweaters are marvelous there and cheap as well, but the landscape is decidedly forbidding with the exception of some hot water spas and, obviously, horseback riding in the winter (really?) If I recall, it's a direct flight from Chicago as well, just in case you're thinking about going. I just might...someday...but for now, I've got to get busy planning Spring Break, but not in Phuket.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bored: Looking Ahead

"Now that 90% of your work load is gone, I'll expect a 90% reduction in your salary." This from Rudy, the strength and conditioning coach at UWGB today. Semester break has obviously given him time to think about things other than punishing people on the Versa-Climber (7 minutes is my personal best). Truth be told, I've had a bit too much time to think lately as well. Having a four-week break between semesters is MUCH too long...I'm feeling stale. True, I have been working with a student who is preparing an essay for a graduate school application, but the days seem far too full of empty space, and three drafts is not complicated when there is nothing else pressing. Having worked at intense education for an average of 40 hours per week for the last semester, the hiatus gets a bit maddening. Since my project of last semester has left school for other pursuits in spite of a 3.165 G.P.A., it looked for a while like I could rest on my laurels for the upcoming term (it's a lot of pressure to walk on water and change F's into C's all the time).
"Since I worked twice as many hours as they paid me for last semester, I thought I'd just hang out here, get some exercise and look for snacks in the staff lounge," was my reply. And, of course, there's ESPN on the big-screen TV in the reception area of the athletics department. Sure beats scraping ice off the driveway as I've been doing every day since my return from Miami and bemoaning the fact that my snow sculptures for the year are fast fading into Frosty's Oblivion.
The dream of a relaxing semester sounded good, and it was...too good. I have inherited an athlete who sported a .94 GPA last semester (passing only the writing class with which I helped a bit). A message on my phone apprised me of another coach who has two, possibly three athletes in need on my brand of "personal involvement" tutoring. Whew! for a bit I was worried about being outsourced to Sylvan Learning Center, but it looks like I should merely enjoy the freedom to get up at 8, working out on my schedule and planning the cooking, cleaning and washing schedule here at home while I can. Goodness knows the pace will be frenetic soon enough.
But not so soon that I can't begin planning for Spring Break!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bailouts Gone Wild et al

Something for nothing: every sane person's idea of a good time. That's why we buy lotto tickets by the millions, eat at buffet restaurants even when we're not all that hungry and buy stuff we don't need when it's advertised as "2 for 1" or "but 1, get 1 free." There's something about a bargain or a freebie that enthralls us all...but now the current recession/depression has enlarged the scale to Godzilla-like proportions.
It started with the "economic stimulus package" proposed by President Bush in an attempt to convince people that he really cared about us little folks and that the economy would be fixed by an infusion of consumerism. And, if buying gas so we could get to work, forestalling the inevitable foreclosure with one more payment or managing to actually buy healthy food again count, that may be counted a success. Next, the banking industry jumped feet-first into the fray by declaring "bank"ruptcies, of course, because execs of failed companies, having parlayed complete arrogance into economic disaster, couldn't bear to be without their million-dollar bonuses this year. After all, the holiday season was upon us. Naturally, the auto industry wanted in once they saw how easy money was to come by. Never mind making cars that made sense in a global sense: they wanted cash and were reasonably sure they could get it by implying that we'd all soon be walking to Starbucks for out talle lattes. State governors, not wanting to be regarded as slackers by the voting constituencies, got together and decided it was time to demand a slice of the pie as well and announced a request for a trillion dollars to bail out, among other things, the education system (surely the government couldn't turn down tykes in school! No child left behind, and all that) All of that makes sense, but here's the latest and most cheeky (pun intended) request of all, and you'll NEVER guess the source of the request.
It seems that Larry Flynt of "Hustler" magazine and Joe Francis, CEO of "Girls Gone Wild" video productions were keeping abreast of the goings on and have asked for $5 billion dollars in bailout money for the adult entertainment industry! IN ALL SERIOUSNESS! Francis notes that the government should bail out this industry "just like it does any other industry that is cherished by the American people." Pardon the allusion, but it takes a serious set of cojones to front a proposal like that. I mean, really, how much can that stuff cost to produce? Even Eliot Spitzer's paramour got her start at a "Girls Gone Wild" get together, and they didn't even have to pay her! I'm left slackjawed by this one...but if they get it, I'm going to be "porn again!"
On a different but qually bizarre front is the latest in the Joe Wurzelbacher saga. Having hired a publicist following his aborted run for the White House plumbing job, it seems Joe has landed a gig as a (get ready for THIS one) foreign correspondent covering the Israeli/Palestinian dustup in Gaza for the internet version of the conservative Pajamas Media group (how can I take them seriously with a name like that?). Again, I could not possibly make stuff like this up! He will be reporting from Gaza on the Israeli perspective, and he is not concerned about the danger (I suggest he look at it from the Palestinian perspective if he's interested in danger!) Anyway, according to Joe, "Being a Christian, I'm pretty well protected by God, I believe. I mean, He won't stop a mortar for me, but you gotta (and you thought this kind of language went back to Alaska) take the chance.
Good luck Joe, Joe and Larry. You are decided proof that chutzpah is not just a Jewish thing.
I'm going to buy low in hopes of selling higher.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Now, Here's a Warranty!

The recent brouhaha over the American car makers' bailout probably didn't raise too many eyebrows. The automakers' insistence that the UAW was to blame was a smokescreen that fooled nobody except the executives of the Big Three. The fact is that Detroit hasn't been competitive in the auto business for quite a while. My dad was a Chevy guy until the day he died, though he did drive a Ford Fairlane 500 when I was a little kid. Big blocks and tailfins hung around far too long, and, I suspect, the automakers were in cahoots with the folks in the oil "bidness" to maintain the status quo...and all the while, the Asian imports were gaining more and more support because their cars were less expensive to buy and to operate, and they didn't break down nearly as much as the domestic versions. Of course, for a while, finding a reliable service technician was a problem, but that has long since gone the way of the Flivver (if you don't know, you're too young).
According to online research, the top ten cars selected to research this year were: 1. Honda Civic
2. Honda Accord
3. Toyota Camry
4. Toyota Corolla
5. Nissan Altima
6. Honda CR-V
7. Toyota Prius
8. Toyota Highlander
9. Toyota RAV4
10. Mazda3
and the top three have remained the same since 2004, though not always in that order. The Ford Mustang and the Chevy Malibu made the top 20, but that was it for American automotive design. So...what are American manufacturers doing to cope? Not much, really...oh, there's some zero percent financing things out there, and Chevy is promising the first plug-in hybrid this year (at a price reportedly in the $40,000 range!) Meanwhile, Toyota is developiong a solar-powered vehicle, and all the hybrids are trying to get more efficient, long-lasting batteries. But, I have to give the nod to Hyundai for creative advertising: the company is instituting a "we'll-take-it-back-if-you-lose-your-job" promotion in which the company will allow a buyer to return a car within the first 12 months of ownership if beset by unemployment! Actually, there are a number of reasons the company lists for accepting returns within the first 12 months! They include
1. involuntary unemployment
2. physical disability
3. loss of driver's license for medical reasons
4. a job transfer overseas
5. personal bankruptcy of a self-employed person


6. Accidental death!

Yes, it's good to know that a company would be willing to take its car back if one dies accidentally, but what happens if a person offs himself or herself? Who would the company go after for payment? Whose wages could be garnished? (not that I'm interested in personally finding out, but it's an interesting conundrum). Frankly, I wouldn't want ANY of those things to happen to me though being transferred overseas might be interesting, depending on the location; with my luck, it would be Somalia or Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Big Three offer things like Ford's "active park assist" feature which wil parallel park a car using cameras on each corner of the vehicle (a feature already found on Lexus, BTW). Nice, but who has the money to buy the Lincoln MKS to get this option? Oh yeah, all the CEO's with their bailout money.
America gets more and more strange all the time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Resolved: More Dogs This Year


I'll never be confused with an epicure, that's for sure. I know how to use a variety of silverware, and I know to start from the outside in any such arrangement. I'm equally comfortable with sporks as well, and I've eaten in some third-world countries where fingers are the utensil of choice...thus, you could say that I'm well-rounded when it comes to food. No matter where we go, one of the first "new" things to try is the local cuisine: sometimes we hit paydirt, and sometimes it seems we've just hit dirt. My only real regret of my recent Florida trip is that the closest we got to Cuban food was a taxi ride through Little Havana. Our hotel was situated too far from anything ethnic; such a pity.
However, closer to home, I've discovered what might be,arguably, the best hot dog ever. It certainly bests anything I've ingested anywhewre else on the dog front. Located on California Street in Chicago, a little hole-in-the-wall place called "Hot Doug's" tops them all, and by a LOT! Hours extend from mid-morning until 4 in the afternoon, and there is ALWAYS a line extending outside (so I'm told by regulars). The day we went, it was raining somewhat, and there were fifteen or so people lined up in front of us. Assured that there would probably not be inside seating by the time we got there, the prospects looked dismal. The line moved quickly, and, as we suspected, all the tables were full by the time we got inside the door; through some prestidigitation, a table was waiting for us just as Doug (the owner/proprietor and order-taker) handed us our food--mine was the Dave Kingman with Duck Fat Fries (available only on Friday and Saturday). While duck fat doesn't sound too tasty, none other than my wife, the french fry aficianado, proclaimed them the best EVER. Coming from a self-renowned picky eater, this was high praise.
As you can see from the accompanying menu, the food was cheap and plentiful...the wait outside being the only slight hitch in the outing. The Salma Hayak is next on my list as I work my way during the next year through the whole menu. Now, if I could only get Doug to deliver! Chicago: my kind of town!

The Salma Hayek
(formerly the Madonna, the Raquel Welch and the Ann-Margret)
Andouille Sausage: Mighty, mighty, mighty hot!

The Game of the Week
See the special's page for this week’s game sausage.

The Marty Allen
(formerly the Don Rickles)
Thuringer: Hello der beef, pork and garlic.

The Pete Shelley
(formerly the Steve Diggle and the Howard Devoto)
Vegetarian Dog: Meatless . . . and delicious!

The Dave Kingman
(formerly the Shawon Dunston and the Rick Reuschel)
Chicken Sausage: Classic Italian-style or zesty Sante Fe-style

The Sally Vega
(formerly the Ace Patrick and the “Psycho” Ronnie Raines)
Corn Dog: Deep fried to a golden splendor – it’s corntacular!
also: Veggie Corn Dog: $2.00

(So far still Just) The Charlie and James Sohn
Mini bagel dogs and tater tots – the kids love’em.

The (Your Name Here)
Today’s celebrity sausage: See the special's page.

Add Chili to any sausage: 50¢
Add Cheese to any sausage: 25¢

small ............... $1.50 large ............... $2.25

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Warner Brothers' Woes

Bye bye Taz

Notice the tumors?

It's not just my portfolio that is in desperate trouble this year. While not victimized by Madoff, I still would like to keep what I have...or what my parents left me. Celebrities are in dire staits (not the band) as well. The governor of New Mexico (Richardson) has asked out of the Obama cabinet as a result, I suspect, of being investigated by a grand jury for providing illegal contracts to contributors to his campaign. Manny Ramirez still doesn't have a contract, and Barry Bonds remains persona non grata. Peyton Manning is out of the national spotlight except for some commercials which are probably already made for Super Bowl week, just in case...oops! But faces are also extremely long at Warner Brothers these days, what with the cancer scare and all.
It would seem that the Tasmanian devil is succumbing at a rapid rate to cancerous tumors. Fully two-thirds of the world's population has already been decimated by this disease, and even animals that have been quarantined in hopes of surviving have shown tumorous symptoms. Scientists have debated building a fence to separate healthy Australian mammals from diseased ones in hopes of saving the rest of the world's largest carnivorous, four-legged mammal. Oh, you've still got your bandicoots, quolls, antechinus's, wombats and platypuses(platypi?), and there are a number of Tasmanian tigers running loose, but Warner Brothers has not adapted any of them to the cartoon lore like it has Taz. The extinction of the devil will cause a major headache for the studio. What, after all, are the options?
Bring back Casper, the friendly ghost?
Revitalize Mighty Mouse?
Popularize spinach again featuring Popeye? (what was WITH his eye, anyway?)
These are all basically "good" characters, while Taz was just enough of a bad boy to level the playing field.
Spnge Bob Square Pants? Seriously? we need a "Brat Pack" character again before the Tasmanian devil is completely wiped out.
I'm open to suggestion, as I'm sure the folks at Warner Brothers are.
I'm sure Madoff would welcome extinction about this time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Making a Splash in Florida

Of all the things that caught mny attention in Florida, the cruise lines made the biggest impression. Yes, the fact that English is a second language in South Florida definitely caught my ear; and there were thousands of kinds of vegetation growing there that would not survive a spring in Wisconsin let alone a winter; the dozens of skyscrapers aligned along the oceanfront were definitely impressive, too, but when we drove past three massive cruise ships lined up at the docks, I had to admit to being a bit slackjawed. Seriously, I'd watched "The Love Boat," and I had an idea that these things were behemoths, but I was totally unprepared for the sheer immensity...the S.S.Badger is a rowboat in comparison. And, just for a moment, I considered coming back to Miami and taking a four-day Bahamian cruise with the Carnival Line. I mean, what's NOT to like? We're talking about a ship so large that it had more than a thousand staterooms (imagine the MGM Grand afloat), 10 decks, and weighing in at more than 70,000 TONS (and still floating!). Heck, one of the five lounges on "The Sensation" would hold more than 1,000 revelers. Of course, there was the requisite casino, spa, pool, library (like ANYBODY would be reading on a cruise), mini golf, a jogging track and a basketball the least. I also noticed a Jumbotron on deck...turns out it is 12 x 22 feet, and it's placed next to the pool so travelers can watch their favorite entertainment while sipping their Morgan and Coke and soaking up rays. As I said, I was ready to commit until I remembered...
This was the same ship from which an off-duty entertainer fell into the sea just a couple of days earlier! Witnesses indicated that the incident was totally an accident, but after searching more than 1,000 miles of ocean, even the Coast Guard gave up. Really! How does one "accidentally" fall off a cruise ship? Don't they have rails around the edge? And can't they stop right there to look for somebody if witnesses saw the plunge? Even the Golden Gate Bridge required some actual effort in order to free fall, and the Empire State Building is virtually impossible to leave via the airwaves. So how come a person can just "fall" off a cruise ship? I'll admit to wishing Kate Winslet and that DiCaprio guy would fall off when they were butchering the real story behind the Titanic's disatrous plunge to the bottom, but in real life? One would think it impossible. If it's possible, I don't want to be anywhere NEAR one of those things. Of course, drowning in the ocean would not be an issue after going off the edge: as the late Paul Newman said to a swimming-challenged Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" when they were contemplating a long jump into a rushing river to avoid their pursuers: "Hell, the fall alone will kill you!" We're talking ten stories down into what probably feels like concrete at the speed you'll be going when you hit. I'm no Greg Louganis, so a belly flop would definitely be in the realm of possibility. Even imagining what that would feel like for the brief time I would be conscious is too horrifying to consider. There wouldn't be anything left for the sharks to eat.
Oh yes, and that plunge reminded me that yet another passenger had taken a flop a week earlier in the Gulf of Mexico from the deck of the Norwegian Pearl, yet another cruise ship. I realize that the percentages are with me because it's only two people out of hundreds of thousands weekly plying the waters off the coast, but that's two too many for me.
I'm staying put on the beach, and the only cruise I'll consider is the cruise control on my car. I'll find a buffet somewhere on dry land, thank you.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How Was Your New Year's Eve? need to check out this video. If you have not yet heard of Robbie Maddison, this video will leave you awestruck, especially those of you who have been to Vegas. Evel who?

Here's To the Polar Bears!

" Think it's time to go in the water?"

Maybe it has something to do with the Eastern European heritage...or maybe it has something to do with a Scandinavian heritage since those people are noted to roll around in snow following a stint in the sauna. Whatever it is about the people who live in Northeast Wisconsin, there is this undeniable urge to hit the water come January 1st and enter into membership in a polar bear club somewhere. The Milwaukee version started in the early 1900's, and it's spread to so many locations that it has become routine and hardly worthy of note. As a result, I don't feel the urge to join them even though the press gets all over it every year with photos, video and interviews...after all, with Lambeau covered for the winter in snow, there's not much news to report of a local nature.
This year I did manage to spend time in the water during the last week in December. I didn't expect any publicity since there were a few thousand people on the beach at the same time, not all of them brave enough to tackle the frigid water of Miami Beach. Truth be told, the beach sand was coarse and gritty, and there was an unknown material floating in the water, much like the algae in Algoma most of the year so I felt at home. Splashing bravely into the surf to the astonishment of, well, nobody, since hundreds were in as well, I felt like a polar bear since it was so close to the new year; however, with a water temperature of, maybe, 75 and an air temperature in the 80's, I guess I'd be more akin to a manatee than a polar bear. Yes, it's true...I was almost uncomfortably warm for five days.
As I did my best David Hasselhoff imitation running through the waves, I couldn't help but smile. Living dangerously, I did not apply sunscreen and dodged the UVA and UVB rays with abandon as I frolicked with porpoises and manatees. Cruise ships were leaving port for extended stays in the Carribean, but I was not a bit envious: I had my blanket, my beach towel, my iPod, and life was good.
I had never before ventured somewhere warm during the Christmas break, but this year I had a reason to go: Blaine's team was playing in a tournament at the U. of Miami, and that was excuse enough for us to head south. Cervezas by the pool and refreshing breezes from the ocean occupied many pleasant hours, and I seldom gave any thought to my previous life except to check on the Packers' score on Sunday when the Lions were reaching toward futility immortality. Otherwise, just being outside in shorts and a T-shirt made it hard to believe that I was in the same country that I'd left a scant few hours earlier.
No S.A.D. for me this year!
More on the trip later, but the sun deserves its own space for its contribution to the first annual Miami Manatee Plunge.