Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beating the Rush to April Fool's Day (and Conficker)


I have to get this out before the newest "end-of-the-cyber-world-as-we-know-it" computer bug shucks out of the larvae stage and destroys our ability to do anything but order porn online.
You'll remember, of course, the infamous "Y2K" bug that was going to do the same thing nine years ago...well, we're still here but getting a bit complacent, in all probability. So it's good to keep resurrecting fears like this...or the Pakistani Taliban's threat to attack the White House--which could happen! Anyway, as if eradication of the auto industry isn't enough and continued layoffs in the middle-class nanny industry (seriously, this is an issue for the middle class: those making $500,000/yr)haven't convinced us that the end is near, the latest round of craziness just might push me over the edge.
To wit:
Suisan Levin, a staff dietician for a Washington group called the Committee for Responsible Medicine has sent a letter to the Grand Rapids minor league baseball team featured here just a few days ago insisting that it put a warning label on its 4.8 pound burger indicating that it is a "dietary disaster." Seriously? A warning label? As if people who would dare try to eat something like that (such as me) would not a) realize the dietary implications or b) give a rat's rear end whether there was a warning or not. Surely there are better things for her to do.

Then, there's the little matter of the 'Green Death" in Massachussetts. In a preseason letter to parents of 6 and 7-year old female soccer players, a coach suggested to mothers tha tthey feed their daughter "undercooked, red meat," that "Losing is for losers," and that the players should expect to "bleed a little." Mothers were not about to take that lying down even though the (now) former coach was known to have a "wry, sarcastic" sense of humor. More wackiness will ensue, I'm certain.

A web site is available if one needs to find out the life of a product following its opening. This will be handy for one of my friends who routinely checks through the garbage bag to find tasty morsels thought to be out of a healthy range by his wife (who probably knows Susan Levin). BTW, an open jar of pickles or oyster sauce will last up to two years (just thought you'd like to know)

Feel like horsing around as the weather gets nicer? Buy a pair of Ranchos (pictured) Seriously, these are Italian leather and made for the discriminating buyr (i.e. horses). And you thought high heels were an invention of the devil?

And finally, the somewhat mystifying, somewhat bizarre story of the Chicago divorce attorney who is suing Playboy for sexual harrassment. This woman wrote a legal column for (what? "Playboy legal issues after dark"?) and subsequently posed without her business suit. So far, it's only odd. The lawyer then contends that she was sexually harrassed by a supervisor in emails and phone messages; she claims to have been groped by this person and then relieved of her column when she resisted the guy's advances. You can see why people would be shaking their heads over this one. Me, I'm on her side...nobody should be subjected to that kind of treatment even if, by taking one's clothes off it might appear that the moral character was a bit loose. I hope she gets the 4.8 million she wants, and I hope the now-unemployed guy eats a 4 3/4lb burger and explodes his heart.

This crazy world is spinning out of control!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hope For the Economy

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush was derided for his suggestion that people go out and spend money. As Chrysler and GM are slipping beneath the waves tailfins and huge engines last into possible oblivion, Americans are once again being asked to stimulate the economy by spending money...apparently only companies which have been poorly run actually get to have the government GIVE them money to go out and spend: you and I and all the "Joe-Whatevers" are on our own.
I recently did my part by purchasing two books and two compoact discs. Yes, I know I could download the music and save the expense of the plastic, etc. but I like to give my dough to local companies whenever possible. And, I could go to the library, but one simply does NOT borrow books which will be part of his or her legacy (to be given away upon demise by children looking for money). Other than a couple of pair of shoes, this has been a sparse year for purchasing items for me. Luckily, there are more than eight million women in this country between the ages of 15 and 49 to help out.
In one of the more, uh, interesting research studies I've read lately (and I read a LOT of them), Professor Karen Pine author of the book Sheconomics and professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England has completed research that showed that women of child-bearing age (at least the 443 surveyed in England)were far more likely to go on a shopping spree within 10 days of the onset of their monthly period. (No rationale provided for the study). She and others posit that the shopping binge is a reaction to rapid fluctuations in hormone production which causes a loss of inhibitory control...hence: extravagant purchases.
In her study, two-thirds of the women questioned admitted that during the luteal phase of the monthly cycle they had bought something on impulse and generally spent at least 25 pounds MORE than they should have. (I cannot do the money exchange thing, but it's MORE than $25)
What's more, MOST of the purchases were for,as Pine puts it, "adornment" such as jewelry, makeup and high heels. Another assumption made by the researchers was that women "dress to impress during their fertile period."
As a caveat, I would say that this is a reputable (I think) researcher at an accreditied university (I think) and reported by the BBC whom I trust implicitly. While fewer than 500 people might be a rather smallsample, isn't that the way most studies work? Longitudinal studies take, well, TOO LONG.
I am personally not making any comment on this other than to report it. This sounds like an argument just waiting to argument that a guy would undoubtedly lose.
I do intend to go to the library and check out Sheconomics, though. After all, I found Freakonomics educational, and this can't be much different.
Interested in the book and its author? Here's the URL:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomes to Titilate

It's been a long winter around here. Punctuated by a souple of warm-weather trips to Miami and San Diego, it has almost seemed bearable at times; today, however, with the wind howling and snow swirling,my only salvation was literary. Without the latest offering from Robert B. Parker, Jr. I think I'd have simply had a meltdown necessitating a spatula to get me up off the floor. Well, there was homework, too, but that doesn't count.
So it is with books: reading so many textbooks really gives me little time for reading that I'd LIKE to do, but the occasional curl-up does wonders for me. The latest off the press from Christopher Moore (perhaps my favorite waste of paraphrase Marshall Crenshaw and now, Freedy Johnston)is on the way, and I have run perilously close to finishing every book I'd put on my New Year's list, so I turned to the guide from The London Telegraph for some provocative titles, supposedly all in English.
In one recent article, the Telegraph published the finalists for the coveted Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. First created in 1978 by Bruce Robertson to quell stupor at a book fair, the award is now an annual affair with the winner being selected on the basis of votes from the reading public. Past winners, all of whom were richly deserving, I suspect include the following:

Vegetarian Personality
How to Avoid Huge Ships
Highlights in the History of Concrete
Oral Sadism

Only six finalists are named ach year, and this year, a couple that did not make the cut included Excrement in the Late Middle Ages and All Dogs Have ADHD. Now, admit it, there are several on the above lists that you would like to at least look at, right? On to this year's finalist list:

Curbside Consultation of the Colon by Brooks D. Cash
Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy L. Chaney
Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring by Leitai Yang
The Large Sieve and its Applications byEmmanuel Kowalski
Strip and Knit With Style by Mark Hordyszynski
The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais

Go to to find out which title won this year, then rush off to the public library in your locale...but be redy to find yourself on an extensive waiting list as I did for Parker's latest.
Spring, REAL spring cannot get here fast enough!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

At Least It Wasn't Opera...Mostly

I have to admit that I'm something of a philistine when it comes to what is generally termed "art." Growing up during the infancy of rock and roll jaded me somewhat to other performances genres. Having no friends but the radio and having parents who decried popular music as something degenerate really cemnented my relationship with that single form of "art." As my teaching career progressed, however, I delved into both ballroom and hip hop dance as a way of broadening my students' lives, and, as such, I can appreciate dance much moreso than I can, say, painting or classical music (though stuck in my head is Mendelsshon's "Italian Symphony" because it was played every night at 9 p.m. when I was in high school, signalling only a half hour more of study hall for the day). Thus it was that I headed off to school this evening for the "Danceworks" performance.
Mind you, I didn't go (and drag my sweetie along :0) because I liked dance: there were several of my basketball guys who were performing a hip hop number as part of the program, and watching 6'9" guys dance hip hop is a treat. Little did I know, though I probably suspected, that the evening would be, uh, fraught with frustration.
First of all, I was told that the performance began at 7 when, in fact, it did not begin until a half hour later. That meant sitting outside the theater awaiting the entrance while reading grammatical mistakes in the school paper @#***@!
We finally gained entrance only to find, scanning the program, that my guys would be appearing almost at the end of the evening which was expected to take 90 minutes. I could feel the sweat begin to trickle down my neck as I realized that I was going to decimate a whole weekend evening with my sweetie who was probably not all that keen on being there. The dancing began.
Sometimes, it featured a single interpretive dancer, and sometimes it was a bevy of them in some form of choreographed movement. "What's up with the floor stuff?" my sweetie wanted to know as almost every number had some writhing around on the floor followed by leaps and shoulder-popping, exaggerated arm movements. After ten or twelve numbers, each dance resembled the others, but then, I'm not an aficianado of this kind of stuff. I CAN appreciate how hard it was to do a lot of those movements, but it did seem a bit repetitious.
After each number, there was darkness for a few seconds, followed by a brief curtain call for the performer(s); then, the lights came on for a couple of minutes, and we all just sort of looked at each other. The lights would dim, and another number began.
Following a fifteen-minute halftime, er, intermission, the first number featured some woman singing in Italian while three women and a guy capered across the stage enacting some kind of obscure story...providing me with yet another reason to prove why I would never attend an opera. At one point, the male left the stage, and the audience began polite applause, whereupon, the women started dancing again. I was thoroughly confused by this part.
Eventually, we got to the hip hop number, and it was about 3 minutes worth of toe-tapping, leg-kicking, arm-flailing excitement. The guys were a big hit as the screams and whistles testified; one guy even did a back flip, eliciting huzzahs a'plenty from the audience. For my money, we could have ended it there...but no.
A few more dance numbers followed before we were allowed to escape to the solace of home where I tried to convince my sweetie that those three minutes made the whole evening worthwhile, but she just kept repeating that everything else just seemed the same and wondering what the heck was up with all the rolling around on the floor.
Well, enough culture for the I have to write a letter to the editor of the school paper decrying the fact that the writers and copy editors don't know the difference between the use of "bring" and the use of "take."
What's college coming to?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dealing With the Sagging Economy


In my duty to keep you abreast of the latest information on stress relief in these troubled times,so here it is:
As the economy continues to, uh, bottom out, a not-so-new idea is being disclosed to help alleviate the stress we're all feeling. Back when the financial peril looked ominous last summer, we all decided to take "staycations" in which we remained rather close to home and discovered our own backyard, as it were. We saved money and still managed to get the feeling of a bit of freedom from the same old same old. Now, it is said that "nakations" are the best way to relieve the stress we're all feeling. Uh...sure.
According to Erich Schuttauf, the head of a national organization of nudists, this 400 million dollar business is booming around the country. "Just as we're losing the shirt off our backs, we're finding that taking them off is the quickest way to relax." That's HIM saying that, not me.
Cost is definitely on our side since sunblock is really the only thing one needs to bring along in this time of boom or (mostly) bust in the economy. And it would seem that there are plenty of places where one can get together in the alltogether. As you might expect, Kissimmee, Florida hosts just such a place as does Wilton, an added bonus there, the site offers free tours from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday...seriously. No, I really AM serious.
However, I doubt I'd think about going to Union City, Michigan, at ANY time. It just cannot be warm enough. Mark Hammond, manager and co-owner indicates that attendance has risen 9% over the last year. "We're nudists, but we're not stupid," Hammond indicates as he mentions the rooms for winter guests ($42-$90/night). The 11,000 ft. clubhouse offers plenty of indoor room for tennis, volleyball and dancing. "We pump in a lot of heat," Hammond notes. I would hope so!
The topper might just be located in West Virginia where one establishment has a library for naked reading in addition to naked wine tasting and a naked New Year's Eve gala in which men are reuired to wear a bow tie and a cummerbun.
As for me, I just don't know. Sure the economy is sagging, but the idea of my standing around (or playing volleyball, for that matter) sans clothing is just, well, too icky to consider. That would be one way to decrease attendance, so for the sake of the economy, I think I'll disrobe, grab a glass of riesling and read a book right here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Ballpark Eats


Ballpark food is the only way my sweetie judges the allure of a sporting contest. She likes watching baseball, as long as nachos or hot dogs are somehow involved. She even managed to eat more than usual last summer at a local baseball promotion of "all-you-can-eat-and-drink-in-the-rightfield-seats." Our trip was sponsored by my summer employers, the Green Bay Packers, so everything was free. My kind of food. Anyway, she was still discerning enough to rip Yankee Stadium for not having nachos while noting that world famous Nathan's hot dogs were not nearly as good as Salmon's natural casing dogs from right here in Wisconsin. As a sidenote, she was once again rewarded this week by the Packers with a winning lottery number which would allow her to buy four seats this season for $60 apiece. I got nothing...again. :( However, back to the food thing.
This is especially dedicated to my buddy Jeff who has made summer touring of minor league ballparks in the Midwest a habit. He and his dad routinely traverse all over the Midwest, taking in an entire league's worth of games during a summer roadtrip. Generally, he comes back with a hat, a program and other memorabilia. Now, he (and you) can come back with something more: heartburn. And it's closer than you might imagine.
The Western Michigan Whitecaps playing in Grand Rapids at Fifth Third Ballpark (?)have struck first in this summer's food extravaganza promotion. It seems that every summer some city tries to outdo all others in a gargantuan food tantalizer. Remember the Krispy Kreme burger of a few years ago? Well, here's this year's first salvo:
This burger, weighing in at a hefty 4 pounds and 4800 calories, contains the following:
5 beef burgers
5 slices of cheese
a cup of chili
low-calorie salsa
corn chips
an 8-in sesame seed bun

All of this for $20--the price of three admissions (a guess). I imagine one would have to have a seat somewhere alone so that the view of other paying customers was not obstructed and wear old clothes because there's NO WAY all that chili is going to stay inside the bun! It might take the entire game to prepare and eat the thing as well. No telling how many cups of beer would be required.
Are you busy this summer, Jeff? Let's go to Grand Rapids...unless you've been there already.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Having A Dam Good Time

We spent part of this year's spring break in San Diego. The initial draw was sunshine, of course, leaving six inches of snow on my front lawn. We are not the kind to simply sit in the hot tub or by the pool for very long, either: 20 minutes is max for any of us. So it is, when we travel, we try to do something adventurous though not death-defying. We still have not fallen/jumped/been pushed out of an airplane with parachutes on; we have not hang glided; nor have we walked foolishly onto an island in Indonesia populated by komodo dragon lizards (though one man did this week, and he is no longer around to tell the tale). That's not to say that we'd classify a wusses, either. We've kayaked down a river in Thailand, miles from anything but that snake in the tree overhead and the monkeys on the hillside. We've trekked through seriously trackless jungles atop elephants, and we've eaten native food in foreign countries...not counting the McDonalds in Chang Mai. So sea kayaking was an adventure which piqued our curiousity.
Getting into a wetsuit was among the most torturous activities (though nothing compared to getting OUT of one!) we endured. Then, there was heading bow-first into the crashing waves of the Pacific. Being the taller and heavier of the pair, I got to sit in back while my sweetie was blasted by the onrushing waves...hence the need for the wetsuit. I remained basically dry during that part. The trip itself was actually no less dangerous than some of our jaunts in Lake Michigan, but it was the idea of the OCEAN...and the sharks swimming below us, though NOT, according to our guides, the deadly kind. All in all, not as spine-tingling as some of our adventures, but we're NOT on the same level as Pedro Olivia, that's for sure.
Pedro falls into a category called "extreme" kayakers. His latest adventure involved going over the highest waterfall in South America: a drop of 127 feet which took him all of 2.9 seconds at 70 m.p.h.! The accompanying URL will show you the video.
Though not as outright scary, some yakkers in Wales have decided that cruising down the 300 feet of the tallest dam in Wales is a joyride they like to take. Check the BBC site when looking at the first one, and you'll see a link for the guys from Wales.

Adventuresome? Eager for Death Wish 5? No

Monday, March 23, 2009

Handing It To Lefties


Our family of six has four and a half right-handed people, and one and a half left-handers. That means we're just above the norm in a world where one in ten people are left-handed. The "half" comes as a result of one of our children who does most everything but bat and hit a golf ball right-handed. It seems that the most successful major league hitters are left-handed so the kid was taught to hit lefty when he first began to bat, thus...the "half."
Our new president (well, not so new anymore) is a left-handed person, but so are four of the last six presidents! Ford, Reagan, the elder Bush and Clinton were all of that persuasion while Carter and George W. Bush are righties. Now, that degree of lateralization seems odd to me, and it has caught the imagination of scientists as well...though they have no idea what to make of it. In fact, they don't know for sure where a person's "handedness" originates. Best guess? Culture, environment and/or genes--well, THAT certainly narrows it down! High fives all around!
What they DO know, however, is that almost anything with a brain is subject to this lateralization: meaning all the animals one could think of with extended extremities as well as animals with NO hands or feet like fish, and even animals with no backbone, hands or feet like honeybees (with the exception of the bee on the ceral box...he has hands) display a tendency to create movement more from one side of the body than the other.
So why do we have this capacity at all? Scientists seem to think that by dividing the brain into hemispheres, we can multi-task, doing more than one thing at a time, NOT including texting and driving a car. Dividing tasks by brain hemispheres saves space and working capacity which can make us more efficient (by "us" I mean any species in which action is dominant from one side). In addition, you may or may not know that the left side of our brains controls the right side of our bodies and vice versa. Ergo, left-handed people should be right-brained, and right-handed people should be left-brained. Scientists don't claim that this is a hard fact, though.
However, there seems to be some evidence that lefties are statistically more likely to die from accidents and suffer from immune disorder diseases. One the other hand (so to speak), they seem to do better in fights as evidenced by societies which are dominated by lefties.
Well, now! Be sure to keep that left guard up!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

All a' Twitter Over This Minute


Just when I'd gotten used to emailing my students to stay in touch and call their attention to things, everybody began to use Instant Messaging (IM) and text messaging instead. At that point, my students seldom returned my emails or even claimed to know that I'd sent them something...looking at their email account showed me why: they never, ever, ever clean out their "in" box. It is invariably filled with messages from months previous. Begrudging the new technology, I got a cell phone so I could send text mesages when I needed their attention. It worked wonderfully, for the most part. They could still, of course, refuse to answer the message, and some did that when they knew I wanted them to do something like, say, work when they didn't want to.
I found that texting worked great for my family and friends as well since it didn't require much time, and my cell phone company charged me very little for outgoing messaging while incoming messages were free. At last, I'd caught up with technology. What I didn't realize was that I needed to keep up with the information superhighway ALL THE TIME!
I pay for a simple phone/text plan, but the rest of the world, it seems, has the fancy schmancy phones with internet, email and all the other technical advances, meaning I'm still behind. I seriously doubt that I need to be able to access real time baseball scores or up-to-the-minute weather alerts (I usually just stick my head outside), and there CANNOT be any family news so important that I can't be simply called. Email can wait, I figure.
Now, though, everyone has jumped on the Twitter's as if Professor Harold Hill just strolled into town and convinced everyone that we should, no, NEEDED to keep in touch EVERY STINKING MINUTE OF THE DAY! And, by and large, people have bought into the idea like so many musical instruments...politicians are using Twitter to show their constituents how tech savvy they are, though the Rep[ublicans are just now getting off the rotary phone thing, it would seem. Anyway, I figured I owed it to myself and my readers who are stuck like me in the Paleolithic period to find out the skinny on Twitter. It started with Charlie Villanueva.
Villanueva a professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks used his cell phone to send a Twitter message (140 characters or less) to his fans...during halftime of a game against the Boston Celtics this week! Needlees to say, Coach Scott Skiles was less than enthused about such an activity. What about the rest of us?
Twitter provides a free service by which anyone can send "...short, bite-sized updates" about himself or herself at any time of the day...all day and all night. Messages are limited to 140 characters, and are based on the simple question, "What are you doing?" It would appear that many of us actually think other poeople CARE about what we're doing every freaking minute of the day, but judging by its popularity, it must be so.
I generally don't care enough to update people on my activities...I usually don't even fill in that box on Facebook when I go there. After all, in a minute after posting, I'll just be doing something else anyway. As a result, I don't see the point.
As for thanks. I have an actual life to live. I cannot be trapped in the minutiae of others' lives. If you need something from me, text me or call my cell. Otherwise, how important can it really be? I'm MUCH too much worried about my life to be totally immersed in yours.
Of course, that's just the "seal" in me coming out. I'll have a mackerel to go, please.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Slogan or Motto? College or University? Fountain or Bubbler?

Semantics make for interesting hair-splitting on many occasions. Sometimes a distinction between synonyms can clarify, but often it simply raises hackles. However, I believe our ability to laugh at ourselves and our foibles a) keeps us sane and b) separates us from chimps (who, by the way, have recently been proven to have the ability to PLAN for future events like throwing rocks at zoo visitors!)
Thus it is that I return to the topic of the motto (or slogan, if you prefer) chosen by the state tourism board here in Wisconsin: "Live Like You Mean It." Apparently, I am not alone, as a basic search conducted by my friend "He Whose Name Must Not Be Mentioned" evidenced. People from all over are weighing in in on the subject, and most deride it mercilessly and offer their own suggestions. That's for later. Just to show that we are not the only state attempting to pump up its tourism with a catchy slogan (or motto, if you prefer), here are some examples from other locales:
Maryland--"Seize the Day Off" or "You Can Only Come On the Weekends."
Colorado--"Enter a Higher State." or "Rocky Mountain High In More Ways Than One."
Washington--"Say Wa!" or "We're Sick of Californians Moving Here."
Oregon--"Things Look Different Here" or "Where the Colorado Grass Ends."
Illinois--"Mile After Magnificent Mile" or "All Roads Lead to Indiana."
Minnesota--"Explore Minnesota" or "Stop Fishing in Wisconsin."
Kansas--"As Big As You Think" or "Are We Ever Getting To Colorado?"

So you see that it's considered the thing to do to have a catchy phrase designed to tease tourists. Now for some of the more, uh, printable ones posed by folk on the web for Wisconsin's new catchphrase (or slogan or motto, if you prefer):

"Drink Like You Mean It."
"Not So Boring If You're Drunk" (sense a theme here?)
"Wisconsin. Hey, der!"
"Halfway Between Minnesota and Illinois." (my personal favorite)

To these, I feel it uncumbent on me to add my own since, after all, it IS my blog. Here goes:
"Brats and Beer...Come Here"
"Wisconsin: Purveyors of Foam Headwear."
"Get Paid to Shovel Lambeau!"
"Wisconsin: Fishing for Tourists."
"Great Lakes, Great State."
"Wisconsin: Playground of the FIBs."
"This Brew's For You!"

So, you can see that I have far less creativity than others, but at least it did not cost $50,000 to get any of my ideas: discuss.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's March, and I'm Mad

I blame Paul O'Neill as much as I blame myself, though it is also helpful to have other people to blame as well...mostly people who have the unmitigated gall to point out the obvious. But, really, I guess I have to blame, uh, my uncles Al and John. That's can't be my fault so they are the easiest to blame (mostly because they are the farthest away!).
Being an A+ competitve personality, I have a tendency to come unwound at times, usually at times when I have NO control over the situation. Paul O'Neill hitting into a double play in the World Series ten years or so ago is a perfect example. The remote flew out of my hand, out the door of the TV room, over the railing, hit the main floor, bounced up into a chair and smacked into a big window! The only casualties in this event were the remote (rendered totally useless) and my emotional state when reminded that I was being childish and should grow up (adding combustible liquid to an already raging inferno). So, I didn't take that reminder well. Had the window shattered, though, it would have been MUCH worse.
It is similar every March when favorite basketball teams get bounced from a tournament as happened twice already this week. Bothe the UW-Green Bay men's team and the Duquesne University women's teams fell agonizingly short of a tourney victory. Losing, I guess, I can take (if I absolutely HAVE to), but playing poorly and losing a close contest drives me crazy. It is a proven fact that shouting at the television or the internet broadcast of a game is probably useless, but I continue to do it, though, strangesly, I rarely do this when attending a game in person. Ranting at raving at the computer did not help my son's college team win tonight, but I put the blame for that on the announcers.
The situation: the Dukes were up by two with a minute or so to go. A foul is committed on the opposing team's post player, and the announcers go on and on about what a terrible free throw shooter she is...naturally, she makes both shots. A foul is committed on the other end, and the announcers pointedly note what a great free throw shooter the Dukes have...naturally, she misses one of two, the opposing team runs the floor and hits a layup A FREAKING LAYUP! with 2 seconds on the over..."we" lose. Even media people should know that the surest way to defy convention is to TALK about it! Geez!
Of course, I was out of my chair, swearing and throwing things before being reminded that I was again acting childishly and that "it's only a game." Aetna, Mt. St. Helens, Vesuvius, get the idea. This is not something that's going to go away. It will take weeks to get over this.
Childish, you say? Possibly, but it's not my's reaction. I'm pointing the finger straight at people who encouraged me to be competitive, the people who taught me that there are some things that transcend normalcy when goals are at stake...that there is a need for passion in life, even if it gets misplaced sometimes over situations which may NOT be the most critical to life as we know it.
Maybe, just maybe, it's OK to be childish sometimes if the remote isn't involved.
So, how did I manage to calm myself a bit tonight after two nights of frustration? I watched Japan and Korea play baseball and didn't care who won...Japan did.
But, you know what? I wouldn't change me for anything (though I cannot say that other people feel the same!).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Laughing It Up In Topeka


Discussion turned this past week, for some unknown reason, to the University of Wisconsin. Perhaps it's because we were out of state wearing Wisconsin and UW-Green Bay apparel, but it came up somehow. One guy chased me down the street to question whether my "Green Bay Basketball" emblazoned shirt was a joke: as far as he knew, nobody in Green Bay played basketball, just football. Anyhow, as we discussed all things Wisconsin among our small but loyal group, the Barry Alvarez "Ugliest Statue In the World That Looks More Like A Penis Than Anything" came up as well as his copyright on the logo for the University of Wisconsin: the "flying W." At this point, I regaled my counterparts with the ongoing controversy concerning the "theft" of the logo by Washburn University, a small college in Topeka, and how my Uncle Al was positively beside himself (no easy task) at the suit filed over a trademark infringement. Washburn was not alone, mind you: high schools have also been subject to potential litigation over the use of that same logo, registered by Barry Alvarez the athletics director at UW-Madison. Anyway, we all had a good chuckle...until we got a look at the new State of Wisconsin tourism logo/slogan.
It's not so much that I see almost nobody around here doing cartwheels; it's not so much that the font is a combination of squiggles; it's not so much that the state paid $50,000.00 for development of the whole thing (well, MAYBE that's part of it). It's really all about the fact that the slogan "Live Like You Mean It" has two things wrong with it. First of all, to be absolutely correct, it should read "Live As If You Mean It." Secondly, at least one other entity has a trademark on that very collection of words.
A lawyer in Lexington, Kentucky, registered those words as a trademark for a local real estate developer in 2007. Not enough? Singer/songwriter Carla Seidl of Huntigton, New York, released a song so entitled. Notable is the first line of her song: "Live like you mean it. Leave the cubicle of supposed to." Bacardi even had this as a catch phrase for their marketing of rum, though they dropped it last year, and Sheri Mortko, a life coach in Kansas City uses "Live Like You Mean It" as part of her motivational series title. So it's not like ANYBODY with the state tourism department couldn't have found this information out before signing the check for 50k! Of course, they were probably just anxious to shed the previous tourism slogan...what? you didn't know there WAS one? A perfect reason to get rid of "Life's So Good."
So, in the public interest,I will work hard this evening to come up with an acceptable alternative for the Badger state. Any ideas out there?
As far as Uncle Al and the folks at Washburn...enjoy the yuks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Three-Dollar Minimum

Baudelaire wrote that the newly-discovered technique of taking photographs (at that time)was going to be a detriment because taking pictures of an event reduced our use of memory, a thing he considered necessary. And I guess if one really thinks about it, it's true. We only take pictures of, say, a vacation, so that we can relive the days sometime in the future. And I must confess that I am an unrelenting photographers on vacations, often interrupting an otherwise beautiful sunset just to take the photo to look at later: miss the moment, capture the "memory." So, on the last night of our vacation in San Diego, we all sat down and spent ten minutes writing down what we'd learned that we would not like to forget...there being few, if any, pictures of the events (don't ask). Some of these things might be fascinating to everyone, but many of them have meaning only to us as "inside" jokes. We just don't want to forget, and when one is pushing 60 rather strenuously, these things can slip away quickly.

1. La Jolla, north of San Diego, is pronounced "La Hoya" and is very exclusive. How exclusive? Even the panhandlers there have a three-dollar minimum and wear suits when they accost one on the street! (especially the Norwegian veteran we came across!)

2. Palm trees are not native to Southern California: they have been artificially grown there through use of vast water resources which are now drying up.

3. Multi-million dollar homes overlooking the Pacific will be in the ocean within 75 years, and the city of San Diego charges more than $100,000 to anyone whose house falls into the ocean! The rumor is that these were being given to AIG execs in lieu of their next bonus.

4. Lobster fishing is best at 7:30 p.m. even though rubber remnants can find their way into the lobster baskets. Trout heads make good bait, and there is a seven lobster limit. Crawling over the rail of a 60-ft.pier to untangle your lobster basket is guaranteed to bring out the people who love to see the cliff divers in Mexico.

5. "Pushing the envelope" by kayaking into sea caves, boating with sharks and kayak surfing with the self-styled "bad-ass" tour guides Ben and Devon from the Bike and Kayak tours of La Jolla is a treat for anyone who can take it. Flipping out of the kayak in an attempt to do some "extreme fishing" (I think) is fun for spectators.

6. Tiger, no zebra, no leopard sharks cannot bite a kayak in half. In fact, they can only chew: they suck up crabs from the ocean floor and chew them for food. There was no scary music playing while we cavorted with these sharks.

7. Pelicans and cormorants are completely different. Pelicans dive into the water to snare their fish, sometimes reaching 60 miles an hour. Cormorants dive up to 80 feet deep, then sneak up on fish from the underside where they cannot be seen! Pelicans eventually go blind because they keep their eyes open while diving into the water, and the continual collisions with the water eventually render them sightless. AND, while the birds often share the same habitat, they never mix with each other in any way.

8. How does one tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion? Sea lions will be on rocks and are very friendly, often swimming alongside snorkelers. Seals lie on the sand and avoid human contact. "Aloof" Is the word best used to describe them. Carol is a sea lion,and the rest of us were adjudged by Carol to be seals.

9. When making reservations through Expedia-AARP, keep in mind that a "reservation" really means a "request." Hotels do NOT have to give you what you think you paid for! "King-sized bed? Oh, that was just a request.WE figured you didn't really need one so we gave you two double beds overlooking the noisiest portion of the grounds." Old people get no love at all.

10. The boardwalk along the ocean in Mission Bay where we stayed, is not made of boards but of concrete: great for skateboarding, biking, inline skating, walking, jogging and panhandling, all of which get done simultaneously (and extremely slowly, I might add).

11. For $99 one can buy a beach bike: single speed, balloon tires, hi-rise handlebars,padded seat and all! If you are not familiar with coaster brakes, be careful!Carol loves them, but I find myself grabbing the handgrips to stop instead of pedaling backwards: not good when one is about to careen into a transient on inline skates making his way toward you with a demonic look on his face.

12. Wet suits are really warm! Unfortunately, the photos of us in them are lost forever. The tiger, no zebra, no leopard sharks got them.

13. BLAT: bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich.

14. We will NEVER know just how far it is from Mission Bay to the sea caves at La Jolla: some will swear it's 22 miles round trip, and others say less. One thing is certain: we covered every inch of it on bikes and on foot. You'd think that a place with a famous golf course (Torrey Pines, site of the Buick Open) would be more obvious, but our cab driver couldn't find it without GPS, and the elderly (older than we are) woman who turned right in front of our cab then simply satin the middle of the intersection didn't seem to know where SHE was going, either. That CANNOT be us some day!

15 Finally, because I had to end somewhere, kelp grows 18 inches a day. It is the fastest growing plant on earth except for bamboo. Kelp is used in makeup and that slimy stuff between the meat in Lunchables. EEEWWW!

Our list of things we have learned in this short period of time is really quite extensive. For now, these made the top of the chart. More to come probably, and ALL the photos on Flickr one of these days just in case we DO forget what, when and where.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If They Would Only Listen To Me

Sometimes,it's the little irritants that get to be the biggest pain in the butt: that nagging little thought that you've left something undone or the smallest hitch in the greatest plan ever. Normally, I'd like to think I'm the kind of person who doesn't let little things grow into big things...usually, I get really upset, yell or swear about something, then let it go. However, vacation time seems to bring out the worst in me in this respect. This fact has been emerging lately to most people's amusement but mine. For example, I'm STILL hearing about my whining to a guy about having to pay an exit fee for a short boat ride after having already paid the fee for the ride. The fact that the fee was approximately five cents, and the guy only spoke Thai means nothing. I still get irritated about it. This time, I've added to that list of pesky irritants, and they, too, will become stuff of legend.
First of all, why don't airplanes load from the back anymore? I know they load the window seats right after the first class passengers, but by the time my group is called, we are forced to stand on the jetway for ten minutes while various people in the front of the plane try to stuff bags clearly too large into overhead bins. If we loaded from the back, we'd all get in sooner, and there would be no clogging up the aisle, slowing things down. I mean, hey, if I can come up with that, why can't the airlines?
Also, when I make a hotel reservation and pay in advance, I'd like to get what I ostensibly paid for. Upon arriving in San Diego, my room with a king-sized bed was instead decorated with two twin beds! My call to the management resulted in this response: " Sir, what you filled out with Expedia-AARP was merely a request. It doesn't guarantee you anything." My protestations did little good, but the whole deal still rankles me. My request that they refund part of the upfront money met with only a stony silence.
The resort promised "exotic birds on the grounds." What we got was three different kinds of duck and some albino goldfish in a pond. Not a parrot or macaw was to be emus or toucans, either. Heck, the ducks even swam (and probably pooped) in the pool! I could not lure them into the hot tub, or we could have had soup.
West Coast sunsets are supposed to be spectacular from this famous (I'm told) pier across the street. Dutifully armed with my camera, I trudged to the end of this pier only to discover a cloud bank moving in and obliterating any hope for a glorious sunset. However, as a compensatory bonus, we did get to see dolphins cavorting a hundred meters away and spoke with a lobster fisherman for a bit.
So,I've got some suggestions for all the major players on this trip thus far, and there are still two days to go! I'll have he West Coast tourist industry as well as the airlines shaped up in no time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the Road Again

With apologies to Willie Nelson, it's time for another saga of life on the road, and, as always, the trip has great promise. We have a few days off for spring break, and like most college kids, we're hitting the sun, sand and warm weather: except we'll be in San Diego: no drug wars and drunken orgies on the beach, and...hey,wait a minute! Really? I have to read the travel brochure more closely. There are numerous great things about this, and all will be part of the lore that is travel for us. No elephants in the jungle or threatening government soldiers pointing guns at me for pointing a camera at them, but the signs are promising.
First of all, we are traveling with a couple of veteran that mean people who can actually stand to be with us throughout our crazy adventures (oftentimes adding their own zaniness to the outing). Patty has assured us that her iron levels are up so that means no snit in the middle of a bike trip. I have agreed to put late financial losses on the back burner so I won't be crabby the whole time, and the weather promises to be excellent for hiking, biking, kayaking and drinking margaritas. There may be other things on the itinerary, but those are the projected highlights...oh yeah, food, too.
As usual, the fun started right away and probably should have been recorded for display on,, whatever. I'll have to ask Matt.
Matt is a 21-year-old union carpenter who was trying to access the internet in the lobby of our hotel tonight while we sat on the couches watching South Park, talking politics and a host of other probably-not-very-interesting-to-Matt topics. I mentioned that a student had shown me a YouTube video today featuring a young man who was terrified of which my sweetie replied that our oldest son had heard that YouTube was in Chicago the other day, but it was too cold for Ryun to go out to see him. Yeah, I see it: you are as confused as I was. Turns out,she was referring to Bono and U2 who are in this country this week promoting a new album!
"Well, then, what's YouTube?" she queried. At this point, I could see that Matt's shoulders were bobbing up and down as he tried not to laugh out loud at the funny woman who had no idea about videos on YouTube. Of course, I called him on it, and he proceeded to show my sweetie exactly what YouTube was, all the time in bemused wonder.
I have to admit that I know how she felt: every time I learn something that seemingly everyone knows, I feel the same way. It was just hilarious that all of this happened in front of a stranger who even tried to make her feel better in a very nice way.
Yes,it's going to be fun on the road again. Breakfast at 5. And I forgot my noise-canceling headphones for my iPod.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My 30% or Their 30%?

My parents would be nauseatingly dizzy except for the fact that they cannot literally spin in thier graves despite the quaint expression about doing so. They would be saying things like, "I TOLD you to spend that and not give it to that idiot!" "Hunh! College degree! What good did THAT do him? He's still an idiot!"
Fortunately, none of those things can physically happen as far as I know, but every time I get a report from the investments I've made with the money they left me, I get the feelings of inadequacy so familiar to me from my younger days. It's not easy being the white sheep in a family, I'll tell you! Anyway, upon perusing the nearly 30% drop in holdings recently, I figured that their strategy of just keeping it in CDs and savings accounts was FAR smarter than my decision to try to invest it and make more. Yes, I thought I was smarter, and I was not..OK? Still, I have not lost billions as some have, according to the BBC.
In a report issued today, the BBC notes that the youngest group of billionaires lost as much as 30% of their holdings over the last year due to the same kind of investment strategies I employed. Here's a partial list:
Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis (age 25 and the youngest billionaire of all) was worth approximately 2.9 billion dollars, but his fortune has shrunk by 10% over the last year to 2.1 billion. His money is "old" money--he did not earn it, he inherited it, just ass I did. His family made money investing in real estate and forest land (not in the taxi business as I had guessed). Mine made it working hard in the auto body shop and on the night nursing shift.
Google founders (and Stanfortd dropouts)Sergey Brin (35) and Larry Page (36) lost 6.5 billion dollars last year as their stock prices suffered a 30% decline. And, if you haven't heard this by now, Google is being lambasted by environmentalists for the amount of CO2 released by their computers every time a search is instituted, contributing mightily to ozone depletion. They're losing on ALL fronts!
Jarry Yang, founder of Yahoo, suffered a 55% share loss and is left with a measly net worth of 1.1 billion, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has fallen OFF the list of young billionaires this year after heading the list last year.
So, the question involves whether the 30% hurts easch of us equally, or if one of us suffers less. I say 30% is 30%. They might be giving up caviar, pedicures and Ferraris while I'm giving up bi-monthly haircuts and ice cream, but I rather think a serious change in lifestyle is the issue.
Of course, my broker Rick continually reminds me that it's not REAL money at this point.
Sure, Rick, it's not YOUR real money.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Making the Tough Choices

Saving money any way I can

I got a call tonight from the lawn service I'd used for a couple of years since the developer hadn't bothered to do anything for the lawn except let 5,000 varieties of weeds grow to heights which blocked out the sun. Normally, I'm a low-chemical kind of homeowner, and I had cut back to only three treatments the last few years. Tonight, Greg called me for the third time almost begging me to reconsider renewing my service for the coming summer and fall...
I felt bad telling him that even fewer treatments were not feasible this year: the economy is forcing cutbacks in many areas, and even the few hundred dollars that I spent on my lawn is money I'll need for something else this year. I could hear the pain in his voice because I knew that the economy was killing him as well, and my bailing on him did not help. I would presume I'm not the only customer who's given him the bad news this year. So...lawn service has been sacrificed, but that's not going to be the only thing to go.
In addition, I think I'm going to cease going to the barbershop eight times a year and go back to my twice-yearly "trims". Over the remainder of my life, I could save quite a bit of cash.
I am also going to eliminate EBay from my "favorites" just so I will not be tempted to shop. It will also save me gas, too, because that means no going to the mall, either. Total austerity. Besides, most of what I wear now was in style 15 years ago, and it's still good...though I have no shirts with epaulets, at least.
All of this will require resolve; while I'm not the only one going through this now, there ARE some things I'm not sure I could sacrifice to the economic gods.
In fact, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune recently posted a poll to find out what people were absolutely UNWILLING to sacrifice even in the toughest of times. Of course, that also begged the question as to what one WOULD be willing to sacrifice, and in what order. An interesting question, and my response actually surprised me a bit.
I find that I'm less and less attached to things as I get older. Extra automobiles? take ' long as we have one so my sweetie can get to work so we can still have an income! I can walk to "work" even in bad weather. I take my bike whenever possible. So, transportation: take it, but leave one car and one bike. If Green Bay had a Zip Car franchise, we might not even need a car, but it doesn't...

Clothes? shoes? I have far more than I need now, and I believe that, without a doubt, I could survive with a coat for cold weather, hat and gloves, a raincoat, five Tshirts, a sweater, underwear, socks and two sets of workout gear. Take the rest. It would hurt, of course, to give up my fabulous shoe collection (showing my feminine side), but I could do it if you left running shoes and one pair of black athletic shoes. My Cole-Haan/Nike dress shoes? In a tough economy, I would have nowhere to go that would require dressing up beyond my cleanest Tshirt.

Tech stuff? Wow! that would be hard...I need my cell phone for contacting stuidents, but I could always walk to my office and use the school texting, though. That would be hard since I doubt college students even talk on the phone anymore. Computer? Again, that would be hard, but I could always scrounge for yesterday's newspaper and sit in offices reading magazines. TV, stereo, iPod? I'd have to keep my largest-capacity iPod: you can take the other two (I know...overkill).

My collection of 250 pulp fiction novels, including Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, The Avenger which I have spent my entire adult life collecting? Take 'em: my kids will just sell them when I die anyway. As long as I have a library card, I'm good to go. I can bike there easily.

So...what would I absolutely NOT give up under any circumstance, even if I were starving?
One bike, one pair of comfy shoes, basic clothing necessities, and my sweetie.
And maybe just ONE haircut a year.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Where's the Beef? Lessons From the Bovine World


It's not really a tradition born of necessity or resulting from the downward spiral in the economy. It's not because, as a retired person, I'm on a fixed income. (face it, how many people do you know that AREN'T on a fixed income?). It's just that the convenience of having a movie delivered to my mailbox then picked up from the same spot without my paying postage is a no-brainer for me. For 10 bucks a month, my sweetie and I have "Movie Night" every Friday night down in the "Love Shack." Popcorn is cheaper from Orville, and the couch is 'way more comfy than any theater seating so it seems like a natural. And there's always the possibility that...On the other hand...
We don't always agree on the merits of a particular selection, and each of us has been known to sneak into our queue and change the order to fit what we want to see, regardless of the consensus ("Mama Mia" being a good example). If I don't like a flick, I just whine and complain about how stupid it is...if she's not happy with a particular movie (westerns, for example, or episodes from "Saturday Night Live" of fifteen years ago) my sweetie merely falls asleep. Of course, she's worked all week and it IS 7 p.m. on a Friday, so maybe she's entitled. Occasionally, though, issues arise that carry on for a while. So it was this week with the cow/bull issue.
Simply put, the movie "Someone Like You," is a romantic comedy and mostly exemplifies what we watch. The folks at Netflix gave it a 3.8 out of 5 as their guess as to how "we" would like it, so I should have been more leery. Ashley Judd stars as a woman who falls in love with a soon-to-be-single guy who (too predictably) dumps her and returns to the other woman; at this point, Judd's character posits this theory based on the similarities between men and bulls: a bull will never, ever go back to a cow he's been, uh, involved with...the bull will ALWAYS go off looking for the next one to come along...leaving the "old cow" for the "new cow." She applies this to men and via the fictitious person of an aging psychologist who never appears in public becomes the toast of the man-hating talk show circuit. The "all men are alike" thing got old about 10 seconds after it was evidenced, but that's not the point of this blog entry (and you thought there wasn't a point! Shame on you!)
THE POINT IS that throughout the movie, there were four, maybe five opportunities for my sweetie to gaze longingly in my direction and say something akin to, "Gee, honey, I'm sure glad I got the exception to the 'bull finds a new cow' rule...I love you." This, in fact, is what I expected to happen. I did not...not even close. When I mentioned the oversight, I was greeted with something like, "See, this movie wasn't as stupid as you kept saying it was! I heard you laugh at least twice! I should be picking ALL the movies from now on!" I was left alone to clean up around my stall, mooing unhappily; this was met with derisive laughter.
I'm finishing up here, then I'm going to put the seven seasons of "Saturday Night Live" back on the playlist.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Visonary Learners and Other Randomness


Casey Stengel is dead and has been for some time, according to all reports. Jim Gantner has retired, and we seldom hear from him anymore. Yogi Berra is still seen and heard from on occasion, but it's not like the old days when coaches would say stuff like, "You want to know why I wear #38? It's so you'll know my waist size if you ever want to buy me a pair of pants." Fortunately, Lorenzo Romar to the rescue...
His Washington Huskies won the Pac-10 basketball title yesterday, beating Tony Bennett's Washington State club. OK, it was expected. Romar, though, got my attention when he spoke of bringing out a pair of scissors at halftime as a motivational tool...implying that he was ready to cut the nets down AFTER the win. Unusual to look ahead like that, but the quote was even better: when asked why he performed such a risky maneuver at halftime, Coach Romar noted "Some guys are visionary learners, and I wanted something to get them to tighten the chinstraps a little bit more." WOW! not one, but TWO malaprops in the same sentence. To be honest, the chinstrap comment was more of a mixed metaphor, but you get the idea. I say that Romar gets this week's award for abusing the English language for our amusement. Not as good as manay of the "Yogi-isms" or Gantner's gaffes, but good nonetheless.

As for randomness...Manny Ramirez will take three innings in his first game to earn what I do in a year. I would have to work 450 years at my current pace to earn what Mark Teixeira will earn this year with the Yankees, and 560 years to garner what A-Rod will take home this season...though he will undoubtedly be giving a good chunk of that to his ex-wife and the kabala.

I must also admit that I loved watching "Pudge" Rodriguez hit a couple of home runs yesterday in the World Baseball tournament, and it was gratifying to hear American players speak of their game against Canada with a sense of patriotic pride...just like last summer's Olympic basketball guys. It's nice to know that it's not ALL about the fame or the money, even though all of these guys have both.

One of the student-athletes was in my office on Wednesday, almost in tears suffering from a tooth issue which resulted in a root canal being performed...three days before a big tournament game. As much as I hate face pain, I really wanted to say, "Hey, man up here and quit being such a baby." long as it's not MY face, I can talk tough.

Spring break in San Diego next week...and six inches of snow predicted here in Titletown (no, I do NOT live in Valdosta, Georgia) today...heavy sigh.

"It ain't over 'til it's over."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Selling Myself Cheaply

BUT I get free shirts on occasion

Times are tough, and many erstwhile full-time employees are forced to take part-timne work because they have nothing else. Had I known or even suspected this was coming, my buddy Bobby would still be looking for a job because I would not have retired. However, working part-time is better than not working at all, at least as far as money is concerned. Lucky me, I still have a life partner who continues to work, my retirement fund hasn't been completely dvastated yet, and I have a part-time job. Only now I find out that there are far more lucrative possibilities for people with my skills!
Of the ten top part-time jobs available in this economy, I am eminently qualified for at least three of them, and all seem to pay more than I make...a lot more. I could not be a tax preparer because I think math skills are involved. My computer tech skills are limited to calling my son Ryun for help, so that's out as well, and being a direct seller is definitely not for me...EBay is the best I can do. However, Rachel Goldman makes $100 per document that she works on as a copy editor, and I do that all the time. Of course, she started with colelge kids' papers (sounds very familiar)and worked up to the big money. Private tutors for school-age children get between $60 and $80 per hour, and I KNOW I don't get that. Let's see...32 hours a week at $ I said, math skills are not part of my repertoire, but I know that's a lot more than I make in a MONTH!
There's always substitute teaching, and these folks make approximately $100 per day in this area, and some schools include a free lunch! While eminently qualified, that's another of those jobs that I won't do unless I am desperate for money or a free lunch. I figure if that's what I wanted to do, I would have kept my full-time gig two years ago.
Still, it DOES rankle a bit to see how much people with my skill set are commanding for their talents. I have a half a mind to walk in on Monday and a raise for next fall. After the laughter died down, I would be on my way to Wal-Mart: I hear they need greeters there.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Only in America...Probably..Oink, Oink

As Yakov Smirnov, noted Russian comic that's as "yesterday" as the bacon explosion, used to marvel, "America...what a country!" I have to totally agree with the sentiment. The country that gave us the assembly line and March Madness is also home to some amazing culinary delights, The Golden Corral notwithstanding, and I consider it my duty to inform you of them whenever I find something too good to pass up.
Sometimes, travel is involved, like visiting Pimani Brothers in Pittsburgh for their sandwich which is loaded with everything...including fries and cole slaw...between the bread! Honestly, when I had one, it was too complicated, what with pieces falling out of the bread and onto my lap with regularity and a total inability on my part to talk while eating. Still...worthwhile. Also in Pennsylvania is the restaurant north of Pittsburgh that serves the two-pound burger. I noted that in an earlier blog. I'll probably give that a pass the next time I'm in the Keystone State, but it's got to be a winner. What with all the "pork" the government is loading up on, it appears that it's bacon that this country is going whole hog over.
It started, as far as I know, with the bacon explosion that was all the rage on the internet and hit prominence in time for Super Bowl parties like the one my brother-in-law Mike hosted. He claimed it was fabulous but demurred when I suggested we make it the next time he's back in Wisconsin...said it was more of a Super Bowl thing. Ok, so I'll have to do it myself. BUT...I have yet another bacon creation that I discovered today that I WILL make the next time Mike is around: the bacon-cheeseburger pizza. I cannot even begin to do the description justice, so I will merely post the URL so anyone can check it out.
Let's just say it contains two whole pizzas, a pig's worth of bacon, enough cheese to keep the Wisconsin economy recession-proof and more ground beef than fast food restaurants use in a day (OK, OK, so they don't use all that much ACTUAL beef...still...)
Here's the link. Let's strap on the feedbag, as my old buddy Karl used to say. (and have the parmedics standing by).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Doomed From the Start!


I remember the day we got TV: I was in grade school, forced to walk something like five miles to and from school...uphill both ways, of course. I had not yet taken up band so I was not forced to carry the tuba all that way like I did much later after I got a bike. Anyway, I saw the TV antenna (cable? HA! Good one!) from about five blocks away and began to run and pray simultaneously, "Oh God, please let that be on my house. I will never, ever talk back to the nuns in school again!"
It was, but I couldn't keep my vow longer than two days, dooming me to the fifth level of Dante's Hell FOREVER. That was it: three DVD...just TV. Our time was strictly limited, and we were expected to read and do homework. "Bored? I'll GIVE you something to do, young man!" no, we were never bored, and both Fred and I ended up relatively intelligent, though I must admit that he is superior in the intellect department. That's why I pity today's babies. They are doomed from the beginning.
Modern parents have been duped into believing that DVD/VCR programs like Baby Genius and Baby Einstein will turn their toddler into a genius. Research has now begun to show that such programs are ineffective AT BEST and could be harmful. This from Research Children's Hospital in Boston in conjunction with Harvard Medical School. In a study of more than 800 children from 0-3 years old, researchers discovered babies who were exposed to these programs understood fewer words at age 3 than those babies who had not watched the programs designed to "encourage discovery and inspire."
This study is not the only such statement made concerning the efficacy of such programs. An earlier study done by the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital found nearly identical results. There was no evidence of significant delay, but some delay was noted. This, of course, is pooh poohed by the Baby Einstein folks who claim to receive hundreds of testimonials every year from parents. Claiming to feature the fundamental core themes of art, music and nature, such programs could easily convince young parents who probably don't have a lot of time for their new children.
Indeed, Dr. Michael Rich, one of the researchers in Boston, noted that the sole benefit of such programs was to alleviate guilt felt by parents who could not spend as much quality time with their infants as they might like. Dr. Rich suggest personal interaction with toddler in the form of reading and stacking blocks.
Besides, didn't Einstein fail to graduate from high school?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Melissa, I Feel Your Pain :(

It was a rather sunny, pleasant afternoon in the summer of my, oh, sixteenth year, I suppose. Of course, since I was in Kansas, it was no doubt hotter than a grill at the family barbecue and miserable, but a young man in love never notices things like that. I was on my way to visit my then-first romance, and life was grand (so how much of a geek WAS I to use words like "grand"?). Little did I know that the storm clouds of rejection were about to rear their distasteful visage and rain like hell all over my parade.
In brief: I walked into her house, and her mother (who never really liked me) gave me a very odd look, which of course, was standard. Her older sister (who thought I was cute in a geeky kind of way) laughed out loud when I walked in, and her father (who worked with my dad and probably reported the whole episode for yucks) merely shook his head sadly. Undaunted, I walked into the living room, where the "hi, nice to see you..." trailed off into a strangled sort of gurgle. I was expecting to find the girl of my boyhood dreams, and I did, sort of. She was there, smiling a bit awkwardly as she held hands with some college kid on the sofa. Seriously...everything went red, I got really hot and thought I would fall over imminently, and I think I probably forgot to breathe for about ten minutes. The rest of the story (in deference to Paul Harvey who recently died) is too grim to recount. Things eventually turned around, of course, and I found a girl who liked me more than the college guys she knew, and the rest is history. Why am I disclosing this? Empathy for Melissa.
In case you missed it (as I did because I didn't care), the latest season of The Bachelor ended yesterday, and the way it ended has bloggers and call-in respondents livid.
Our bachelor, Jason Mesnick, decided after all was said and done that Melissa was the girl for him, and the engagement was complete: happy ever after, etc. yada yada.
HOWEVER, last night ON TV, Jason dumped Melissa for the runner-up, Molly! Apparently, Melissa did not take the rejection well. There was some name calling and ugliness involved on both parts. Adding insult to injury, Jason then proceeds to "explore dental work" with Molly and send viewers into the same dizzying tizzy that I must have felt all those years ago. Molly, of course, called it a dream come true...just how dumb is she? Any clown who would proceed as Jason did will not last long with her, either.
Mind you, I'm not even mildly interested in what happens, but the parallel was simply too strong to go unnoticed.
At least I got dumped in front of family and not an entire television viewing audience.
The latest word from Jason? His bosses at ABC "made" him dump his first choice to enhance ratings.
If you are interested, you've probably already watched it, but if not, is supposedly streaming it on the 'net.
I won't be watching.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sleeping in the Miata

Remember to be careful of the stick shift!

Goals are not unusual. I would have to believe that almost everyone has them. At some point in life, they are either realized or realized to be unattainable and discarded for something more realistic...say, waking up just once without "Bed head." I have long since given up my goal of playing shortsop for the New York Yankees, mostly due to two factors: curve balls and Derek Jeter who is somewhat younger. Other than those things...
Anyway, one of my sweetie's goals was to buy a new bed before retiring (no, NOT retiring as in "going to bed"...retiring as in "joining her deadbeat husband on the porch sipping a cool one and talking stupid.") We've had the present one for about fifteen years, minimum, and she felt it incumbent upon her to be able to purchase something that didn't have hills and valleys in it, despite constant repositioning of the mattress. No matter how hard I tried to snuggle up, there was always that downhill roll into the depression I'd made since I put on weight (yes, I know: too much information). So, we went to the store and bought a new bed.
We were really taken by the solid foam thing from Sweden or someplace, you know, the kind that contours to your body then springs back as if you were not there, but it was a jillion dollars, and I'm not sure I'll even be around long enough to get that kind of use out of a bed. Of course, can one really put a price on comfort? yes.
We bought the moderately expensive one (in my mind, anyway), and it's to be delivered tomorrow. Lugging the old one downstairs to the basement(a.k.a. The Love Shack or the Miata was a chore, and I figured we'd better do it ahead of time since there was no way I could do it myself (she said so...emphatically). The problem was, that left us with only the full-sized bed in the guest room upstairs on which to sleep for two nights. (After a king-sized bed, anything smaller is as crowded as the circus clowns in their little car!)
At any rate, last night was spent in any of fifteen uncomfortable positions in a strange room, barely inches from each other. Now, ordinarily, I would be all about that, but one of us tends to sleep stretched out further than our kids used to elongate Stretch all directions. This made for constant pokes, jabs, kicks and all-around discomfort. My suggestion that we treat this as a hotel room in San Diego (our spring break destination) was met with a derisive, "Oh great! you KNOW I don't sleep well in hotels." sigh
Today, I suggested a foam topper for this bed so it would at least be comfortable. The response? "I wasn't uncomfortable. The bed was fine; I just didn't have enough room." Not being totally bereft of intelligence, I took that as my cue to sleep in the basement for one night. BTW, the references made previously to the B-52's song and the automobile? Faithful readers will know what they mean. I won't rehash because this is already too long, and I've got the Miata warming up downstairs.
In my dreams, I will imagine my sweetie getting lonely and tiptoeing downstairs and...well, to quote Annie Lennox: "Sweet dreams are made of these."
Goodnight, sweet prince.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lipstick = Happiness

I've never been much of a cosmetics fancier. That is, I've never really thought women needed to spend wads of cash in an effort to beautify themselves. Knowing nearly nothing about the distaff set (having only Fred as a sibling), it always seemed sort of, well, insecure to me that females worked so hard to cover every little flaw or to enhance even the most radiant complexion. But, then again, I know nothing about their motives. I do know that the industry is a multi-billion dollar one and has been ever since ANYTHING was multi-billion dollar. Now comes word that such an item can forecast economic downturns and has for years! Who knew? Leonard Lauder, that's who.
Lauder, the chairman of Estee Lauder, has coined the term "lipstick effect" to denote the fact that during hard times, sales of color cosmetics lke eye shadow and lipstick actually go up! During the Great Depression (before the current one), sales of red lipstick skyrocketed, and that trend continued even after the 9/11 disaster: cosmetics were hot! During the year 2008, sales of color cosmetics were up 4.4%, and I defy you to name anything else that rose in sales by that much. The question is, why?
It is posited that during tough economic times, people restrict their buying because they have lost a job or fear losing one; perhaps inflation has gotten out of control. Whatever the reason, people tend to stop buying luxuries and begin counting their Lincolns carefully (pennies, not five-dollar bills). Now, you and I both know that such an activity is not a good time-hardly fulfilling-so the tendency is to buy small items of a "feel-good" nature, hence, the upsurge in cosmetics sales.
Supposedly, this is about maintaining some kind of control over one's life: there is no control over the stock market, the cost of goods and services, the Saudi or Venezuelan oil prices, etc. but one CAN exert control when buying small, superfluous items. I think it's somewhat akin to the old "when women get depressed, they buy a hat" theory.
Men are not immune to this, either. New cars are replaced by smaller, less expensive electronic gizmos and gadgets (Miatas are replaced by basement renovations). The big one for guys is purported to be fast food. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. Eating four or five double cheeseburgers has a way of making me forget all about the economy, the mortgage or the fact that I'm not allowed to buy lipstick...even for the pig.
The $.99 menu has a whole new meaning.