Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

...But I'm Not Gloating

I just hate it when people say, "I told you so," and I do it as little as humanly possible. It's enough to have that smug feeling of superiority for having been 'way smarter than all the mere mortals out there. Hence, I will NOT say it...but I'm tempted. The object of this non-gloat is a survey just released by the Nielsen folks which indicate that Twitter has, perhaps, reached its zenith as a social networking tool and is headed toward its nadir as we speak, soon to be barely a Cheep. You've suffered through my rants about how stupid I think it is so I won't beat THAT dead horse anymore.(besides, it's already at your local McDonald's)
It's enough to say that 60% of all new Twitter accounts are cancelled after one month. Twitter "hitters" (those who return to Twitter on sequential months) have become Twitter "quitters" in vast numbers. "How vast?" I hear you asked, and I'm glad that you did so.
David Martin, the vice-president for primary research at the Nielsen group indicates that a retention rate MUST be over 50%, and 60%-70% is more likely where a site wants to be. Twitter's percentage of 40% retention qualifies it as lacking, though it was better last month than it had been before Oprah landed in the nest, as it were. (in comparison, the three people who read this blog on a regular basis come back month after month, giving me a 100% retention rate!)So how does Twitter stack up against the big boys: Facebook and MySpace?
In March, Facebook was visited by 41% of all United States web users.(mostly at work, I would guess, or listening to my lecture in class)
MySpace garnered a 33% share of web users.
Twitter managed to clutch a mere 8.2% of all web users in this country, counting Shaq, Oprah and Ashton Kutcher.
There is an hilarious video put out by the college humor people which shows a person doing the Twitter thing aloud with real people. You can find it at
I guarantee you that you will think it's funny, especially if you think the whole Twitter thing is a bit like too much information.
Thanks for the link, Ryun.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kenya Believe It?


It's possible that if you were paying attention in 2007, you read the news about the disputed Kenyan national election. The loser was a sore one and instigated violence, and before the U.N. could step in, 1,500 people were dead and more than 300,000 people were left homeless. This was big news, and the dispute seemed to be solved recently when elected president Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga decided that ruling over living Kenyans was better than ruling over dead bodies...and decided to share power. That would seem to be a likely resolution, but the transition has been getting more and more acrimonious with each man claiming to be disrespected by the other, yada, yada, yada.
Well, it would seem that the women of Kenya have had enough. As in most nations, women in Kenya really don't have a lot of power to influence policy, but it is common knowledge that women are smarter than men: at least women are (generally) not driven so completely by sex as men seem to be. So, the Federation of Women Lawyers in conjunction with the Women's Development Organization coalition has decreed a seven-day ban on sex with husbands in Kenya in hopes that this show of coercion will convince the men to do something right for a change. Now that's some pressure!
Without getting myself into too much hot water, it occurs to me that a week without sex would, uh, not be tremendously burdensome because...well, never mind that one. Let's just say there are some masters of restraint out there. Not so in Kenya, apparently, according to Anne Waithera, a correspondent for the BBC. She claims there will be (and I quote) "stiff resistance" from the males of that country who seem to think two days' abstinence would be too hard on them. Again, I'm not going to, uh, get into it; it's up to those fellows.
I rather suspect, though, that the legal sex workers (which are present in Kenya) will be doing a land office business even though they are being asked to join the boycott (and mancott, apparently, as well).
Hey, if it takes that to get some peace and quiet and a reasonable government in Kenya, I say "go for it!" They've got enough troubles as it is.
I still have to worry about getting the flu.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Days of Swine and...Sniffles

Let's get one thing straight from the outset here. The current flu epi(or pan)demic has been mislabeled by doomsayers. Everyone from the United States Agriculture Secretary to the World Organization for Animal Health to the Israeli Health Minister insist that what's happening is NOT swine flu. The Israelis because they are not allowed to have contact with pigs in any form as per religious beliefs, and the rest because they prefer either the technical name (H1N1 virus) or prefer to name it like we have many of the flu pan(or epi)demics of the past: by its country of origin. Thus, we've had the Spanish flu of 1918 (not to be confused with Spanish fly which is a different matter entirely, I'm told); we had the Asian flu of 1957; and we had the Hong Kong flu in 1967. Curious to me was the fact that the outbreaks were all contained within a, I guess we just have to stay alive until 2010.
Anyway, this has been called the Mexican Flu though Mexican authorities swear it was brought to Mexico incubating in a traveler from Eurasia (THAT'S broad enough!). It's also being called the North American Flu--again due to region of origin. Thus far, it hasn't arrived in Wisconsin, and it might not since the weather is so cold most of the time that germs can barely survive. However, I, like so many others, have begun to take precautions.

1. I will not travel to Mexico in the coming year. By then, all the drug activity will have ceased becuase all the gangs will have contracted the flu and died...we hope. In addition, the tourist palces will be so hurting for money that they might pay ME to stay there.

2. I will begin wearing a mask at ALL times, not just when I'm entering the 7-11 for some extra cash.

3. My breakfast order at Perkins will now consist of eggs and toast: no ham or bacon. All I can say is that it's a good thing Easter is over!

4. My television watching will alter drastically: no more Green Acres, starring Arnold Ziffel; no more Looney Tunes (That's ALL, folks!).

5. Some of my favorite movies just got crossed off my Netflix queue: Toy Story, featuring Hamm, Charlotte's Web with Wilbur as a star, and Babe will all be going back.

I'm hoping this gets over soon so I can read the Winnie the Pooh stories to my grandson and look forward to eating pork and beans again with my Old Wisconsin hot dogs. I'm not so sure it will be quick, though.
My chimney's had the flu for years and just can't seem to shake it.
We can run, but we can't hide.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Did I Say "D"? I Meant "B!"

Every Spring when our collegiate track team ventured to Austin, Texas, for the Texas Relays, I always got a little nervous. Not nervous like before a big meet: that would involve not eating for two days and throwing up for hours before the race (this happened a LOT). No, this nervousness caused me to glance around campus, no matter where I was, to be sure there was nobody in the Tower. For those of you not around on August first of 1966, this might have been the scene of the first mass school shooting of note. Charles Whitman took a rifle to the observation deck of the 307-foot tower and began a shooting spree that lasted more than 90 minutes and ended in death for 14 people on campus as well as injuries to dozens of others. While I'm not sure how old Rep. Joe Driver is, it's my guess that he has heard of Whitman's act, and it's in the back of his mind these days.'s a whole 'nother state of mind.
Mind you, this is the state in which a politician running for office two years ago suggested that every student be issued a book to keep at his or her desk just for the sake of holding it in front to deflect bullets in case a shooter came into the classroom. I am NOT kidding, and neither was he. This would-be politico even went to the extent of TESTING several books to see which might be most effective (to nobody's surprise, the physics book won out). Thus, the latest idea attributed to Rep. Driver is not the least bit surprising.
Legislation currently making its way through the channels in Texas with a CERTAINTY of having the votes to pass is one which will allow concealed handguns ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES IN THE STATE OF TEXAS. Rationale is simple: we'll get the shooter while he or she is reloading. Somebody (Rep. Driver) actually said that. He and others reckon (it IS Texas, after all) if people have the time to video assaults with their camera phones, they have time to gun down a shooter. I work with enough college students to know that the frontal lobe has not yet fully developed: that's the part that helps us make reasonable decisions (mostly). Add to this impulsive nature the typical things found on campus like alcohol--yes, mother and dad, alcohol--and social anxiety...whew! that's a trifecta for trouble. Note also the number of suicides among college students, and add accessibility to guns to THAT!
Of course, Texas is not unique in its desire to arm folks. A representative in Wisconsin suggested arming teachers just three years ago. His reasoning was that it had worked great in Thailand...terrorists hardly ever kidnapped any kids once the teachers were armed. Of course, in Wisconsin, the teachers would have to lock their sidearms up in the vault...and go check them out when a shooter entered their classroom. He was SERIOUS as were the other 18 state legislators who proposed some sort of concealed carry law on campuses. All, thankfully, failed. I was glad because some of MY students failed, too, and I would hate to give them the bad news if they were packin.' did I say "failed"? I meant "D minus."
If I remember tomorrow, I'll tell you about my experience in police training with a handgun...scary.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Avast, Ye Lubbers-Hey, Quit That!

I will be the first to admit that I'm not comfortable with guns. We hunted squirrels rabbits with a .22 when I was a kid for food (tastes like chicken), and laser tag was fun when the kids were little. Grandkids get a charge out of the marshmallow shooter, and I've experienced paintball conflict with the men's basketball team at UWGB...but real guns, with real bullets? Not so much. Hunting in Wisconsin is right up there (and mostly concurrent with) beer drinking and the Packers as sponsored activities, but even the thought of venturing into the woods with trigger-happy folks is enough to keep me ensconced in the man cave during hunting season. Obviously, though, I'm one of the few who eschew armed confrontation.
Given the veritable plethora of armed conflicts throughout the world involving governments and rebels and collateral damage, etc. the skirmishes with pirates off the Somali coast seemed almost secondary, especially since their economic plight is well-known. Three things brought it back to my atention:

1. South Park had an episode featuring piracy in Africa. Cartman as a pirate captain? I just happened to see it the other night though I am uncertain how new the episode was since I usually work on Wednesday nights when the new episodes first air.

2. The Discovery Channel had a program about a "weapon" currently used by at least one ship to foil would-be buccaneers: this device emits an ear-shattering noise which drops would-be attackers in their tracks. Actual footage of the thing in action was shown, and the pirates at first tried to shoot the device and/or its operator before falling to their knees and scuttling off without making a serious attempt. Imagine if they'd brought a dog along!

3. Finally, something happened which involved an Italian cruise ship this weekend which made me wonder why it had not happened previously: the ship had a security force which opened fire on pirates attempting to take over...the pirates left in a hurry.
Seriously, if I had a multi-million (or billion) dollar vessel, cargo and/or passengers likely to be held for months in lieu of several million dollars in ransom, I would have hired a security force a LONG time ago. It can't cost millions to hire guys to stand at the rail with automatic weapons and RPGs waiting for guys in small boats to drive up. I would think it would cut down on insurance premiums as well! How hard could it be? Put some holes in a small boat, it begins to sink, then we capture the pirates and hold THEM for ransom!
Why hasn't anyone thought of this?
Even peace-loving, non-confrontational guys like me get fed up every now and then.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's Not Enough That It's Raining...

Today promises to be the absolute worst day in, well, a couple of days. The euphoria reached a couple of days ago when I got to lecture to two college classes has ebbed, the Yankees lost in extras to Boston last night, it's a Saturday and raining hard here in Titletown, and now I find out that eating crap at fast food places is bad for me!
I suspect I knew it all along, but just HOW bad the potential heart-stopping foods were, I'd chosen to push back out of working memory. I knew that each Krispy Kreme was 200 calories, but I never ate more than 10 or so at a time and rarely ate more than three or four times a day on the days when I knew I was going to gorge myself later. So, when the "Eat This, Not That" website promised to tell me how to eat better, I figured I'd sneak a peek...bad move. While most of the things I eat when I'm fast-fooding it are relatively benign, comparing the worst "drive-thru" (their spelling, NOT mine) meal to Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts was hitting below the belt (which, at this point, I can still see: I checked) Here are some of the high (or low, depending) lights of the list. As always, there's a website URL below so you can ruin YOUR whole day, too!

1. Worst fast food shake: McDonald's triple-thick chocolate shake featuring 1160 calories. Supposedly, two quarter pounders would be mnore healthy for me. As it is, A&W is offering root beer floats for $.99 so there's no chance I'm going for this one.

2. Worst "value-menu" item: Burger King Spicy Chicken Crisp Sandwich, weighing in with 30 grams of fat, 450 calories and 810 milligrams of sodium.
Even at $.99, this is no bargain. I usually eat from the $.99 menu, too!

3. Worst Mexican entree: Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Beef Burrito: dumping a whopping 2120 milligrams of sodium down my gullet in addition to 680 calories. Fine, but I wouldn't eat this anyway...if a restaurant cannot spell "stuffed" correctly, I'm not eating it.

4. If breakfast is your chosen eat-out meal, skip biscuits entirely. Anything made with biscuits is a killer. Scrambled eggs? I can make those at home. I suppose that means biscuits and gravy at Big Boy is on the no-no list, too. The South is going to fall again!

And finally, (drum roll) AMERICA'S WORST DRIVE THROUGH MEAL: comes in the form of Carl's Jr. Double $6 Burger meal which also comes with medium fries and a 32 oz. drink. That doesn't sound just too horrible, does it? I mean, it's not a Caesar salad with dressing (on the side, of course), but I've eaten stuff like this before. Anyway, here are the details:
This meal has
a salt combination equal to 7 1/2 servings of large fries at McDonald's (2892 mg.)
a saturated fat component equal to 52 strips of bacon (mmmm, bacon!)
449 grams of fat, of which 51.5 grams are saturated
2618 calories (just a few more than a week's worth for senior citizens like myself)
The caloric output (well, input, really) of 13 KRISPY KREME GLAZED DOUGHNUTS. Ouch! That hurts.
And it's not even the Dough-Vo donuts, either.
My day is ruined. Back to the tofu for me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Of Tiny Teddies and Vo-Vos

Every so often, I get this feeling that I have been living in a vacuum...or at the very least, a cave in far off Borneo with only a volleyball for a companion (OK, so the volleyball thing was in a movie: sue me!) One of the reasons I read so many newspapers is that I don't want ot be surprised by something like the end of the world in 2012 or being totally swallowed up by the floating plastic melange is the western Pacific Ocean that's four times the size of France. Really, look it up! If swine flu is headed my way, I want to know as well, so seeing "Tiny Teddies" in an article made me think there was something I'd missed out on. "Hmmm, maybe that's what I've been missing...on the bright side, Mother's Day IS coming up!" Unfortunately, it was nothing like I'd imagined. In fact, it brought up yet another painful memory I'd hoped to obliterate.
Tiny Teddies, it seems, are little Australian "biscuits" (really more like graham crackers) in the shape of, you guessed it, teddy bears. As if that weren't enough, I had to find out about Vo-Vos which completely ruined my evening by dredging up the memory of the sorrowful day that Krispy Kreme left Green Bay, only to be replaced by Panera Bread.
See, I LOVED Krispy Kreme. I ate there every time the "hot" sign was lighted as I was driving by, sometimes, taking the free one and pretending to look over the selection until another customer came up and I could make a hasty exit, wiping frosting off my guilty chin. It was my birthday treat, my Father's Day outing, my Take Your Kid To Work Day lunch get the idea. I have an artist's rendition of a Krispy Kreme doughnut hanging on my wall right in front of me, thanks to friends would would graciously feed my addiciton on occasion. "So," I hear you asking, "what does this have to do with Tiny Teddies or Vo-Vos?" Good question.
It seems that KK somewhere other than here is promoting Australian theme week/month/whatever, and they are producing a doughnut named the "Iced Dough-Vo" which is filled with raspberry jam and topped with pink frosting and coconut: perhaps my four all-time favorite things! (you have to count the doughnut). Well, Arnott's, an Australian cookie/"biscuit" maker, is threatening legal action because it says the copyright from 1906 on their product is being infringed upon by the KK spite of the fact that the Vo-Vo: "beloved by Australians for generations" is a BISCUIT! It's flat like, say, an E.L. Fudge cookie before the fudge is placed between the two halves (or, in Patty's case, AFTER the fudge has been licked off!) This "biscuit" is covered with STRAWBERRY jam,something called "fondant" which is some kind of frosting, I guess (recipe included later) and topped with coconut. confection and coconut=SAME; raspberry and strawberry= NOT SAME; biscuit and doughnut=What? Are you blind?
Anyway, after the disappointment of the Tiny Teddy discovery and the castigation of my unreachable goal, the depression is just too much. I'm going to go to bed, cover my head with a sheet, and cry myself to sleep...dreaming, no doubt, of pink doughnuts with tiny teddies on.
It's not easy being me.
How to make fondant.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It Serves Them Right!


You might have noticed the financial crisis we are experiencing on this planet...yes, I said "planet." Every country I read about is on an economic roller coaster, though the vomit-and-scream-inducing drops are far more precipitous than the exhilarating rises. This is not news: you knew that already; the news is that teenagers are feeling the pinch as well. Those freewheeling get-the-card-from-Mom-and-head-to-the-mall days are over, boys and girls, and it's evident everywhere, especially at the malls of America (as opposed to THE Mall of America which can always count on Russian tourists and the overflow crowd from IKEA). Noted teen money holes like Abercrombie & Fitch are feeling the pain like never before. Teens used to drop $80 on jeans and $30 on a T-shirt like you and I would on a talle mocha frappaccino (hold the whipped cream) at Starbucks. Moms didn't flinch (much) because, well, they HAD to have SOMETHING to wear, and kids wouldn't even GO to school if they had to wear something from Macy's or, gasp, Sears. No longer, it seems.
Teen spending is off 14%, say those who track such things. Abercrombie & Fitch stores across America saw a 34% decrease in sales duing the month of March compared with last year's sales in the same month. Why? It's simple, according to Chelsea Orcutt of Buffalo, New York: "It's the crisis." Not everyone is suffereing equally, though. A&F traditionally doesn't advertise sales as a way to bring in customers. Seldom does an A&F store even HAVE a sale. Other places like Hot Topic and The Buckle capitalize on advertising as well as having prices 15% lower. Of course, Hot Topic has benefitted from merchandise tied to the "Twilight" series of books and movies as well as those red hot "Hello Kitty" hoodies that are "must-haves" this year! (Yeah, I don't get it, either).
But I'm not at all sad to see Abercrombie & Fitch serves them right. I TOLD them in a letter to the corporate headquarters to cease and desist using pictures of me in their stores, advertising clothing for young men. Their response was that those guys pictured were not me...but when I showed up at the local A&F and, doffing my shirt, struck a pose which is pictured at the top, they could hardly deny it. Still, no money was offered, and the photos stayed in the store on display.
Serves 'em right!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm Not Telling Him!

"Come on...tell the KNOW you'll feel better if you do." That was the way my sweetie used to cajole our kids into fessing up to whatever horrible crime they'd committed, like bleaching the dog's fur or spilling juice on the carpet. Invariably, they would cave in because she'd just badger them (being in Wisconsin, after all) until they did. I was duly entertained watching them squirm before the baleful eye and unflinching determination to uncover the truth...I mean, as long as it wasn't ME she was directing that gaze at! I was never good at it, and, as a result, "Not me" is still being held responsible for the dent in the garage door; and I didn't even know "Not me" could drive. He/she was always ghostlike in the comic strips. But I digress: this is all about delivering some bad news with regard to Jackie Chan.
It seems that Chan, a Chinese national raised in Hong Kong (I think) noted the other day that he didn't think freedom and the Chinese people were good for each other. "I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not. If we're not controlled, we'll just do what we want," he is purported to have said. Of course, that caused as much stir in the Asian community as a story might have about a South American bishop who fathered three kids...oh yeah, that DID happen though only recently brought to light by the BBC.
Chan is also said to have indicated that the societies of Hong Kong and Taiwan (both previously part of China) were "chaotic" as a result of the freedom they enjoyed. No sooner than one could say "Ship him to North Korea to see how he likes THAT," than such a group was in evidence on, you guessed it, Facebook, as more than 2,600 people thought to suggest that very course of action! North Korea, indeed!
Chan, of course, claims to have been misquoted, indicating that he was discussing the film industry and NOT society in general. RIIIIGGGHHT!
Anyway, the thought of being able to do whatever one wanted is an intriguing one; for example, the Chinese would be free to spit in public, though they can be arrested for it at this point. They would be able to litter, which is also currently prohibited. Chines children would also be permitted the educational opportunity of watching SpongeBob SquarePants and Japanese manga cartoons which are currently forbidden.
And Jackie Chan would not have to go to North Korea.
Besides, who would dare to tell him? I know he's fallen a bit with Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, but, seriously, he could still kick all our butts. Whatever he wants to say, he can say for my money.
After all, I can still do whatever I long as it doesn't result in "Come on...tell the KNOW you'll feel better."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Time To Get A Grip, People!


One of my coworkers was bummed today...well, maybe "nonplussed" is a better way to describe it. He proffered two pictures of a woman dated about 20 years ago or so and mentioned that this person was the only woman with whom he had a discussion about marriage: the rest were just not close enough. The fact that he's single today is a good indication that things did not work out, and he'd lost touch.
Until Facebook.
He opened his account yesterday to find a picture of "her" and a message which seemingly indicated a desire to rekindle a romance...this in spite of the facts that she's married and has a couple of teenage kids and lives a long way from here. He was truly numbed by the whole thing: the "proposal. the contact after so long, and the fact that he could barely recognize her given her physical changes over time. Seriously, he looked as dazed as if someone had whacked him upside his head with a hammer. He just sat there, shaking his head. My advice? "Burn the pictures and let it go. Things are different now." Whether that's good advice or not, it brings up a phenomenon noted by the social networking site GottaLoveThem of Sheboygan notes that she knows of three marriages which have foundered as a result of people"finding" their high school or college love interest on Facebook then divorcing the current Mr. or Mrs. "Right" for the old flame.
What the hell is wrong with people? You broke up for a very good reason, and twenty years is not going to change that, especially since there are others involved! I just don't get it, but I pondered on it for a while.
If an old girlfriend were to contact me via Facebook, I doubt that I would accept her as a friend...not because I cannot be friends with old romances, but because it would imply to my current sweetie that she's not the only one. Face it, there WERE great times with those old romances, but I've had MANY more great times with THIS one. Why would I even think about hurting her, even slightly?
I'm still shaking my head.
Oh yeah, don't think I spend my time going to sites like because I don't, but if it's reported somewhere in a newspaper, I'll find it. That's where I go instead of social networking sites for an hour every day.
Really, I mean it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Are you serious? This is Australia's entrant in the Miss Universe thing?

I'm not a fan of beauty contests...I'm not a fan of poularity polls...I'm not a fan of Prom Courts and Homecoming Courts, and I'm not a fan of dodgeball in gym class...and all for the same reason: they are exclusionary activities in which people are told that they're not good enough.(To make it worse in dodgeball, losers have to sit and watch other people get to play: a horrible crime in my book) That Simon guy on the British and American versions of talent shows is a perfect example of the kind of look-down-my-nose-because-I'm-better-than-you attitude that seems to have become an epidemic worldwide.
Sure, we all need to know that we're not perfect, and we all need to know that we have to adjust to failure because adjusting means we're going to try harder or realistically view our real talents...I get that, but somewhere along the line, I think we should be given a dose of confidence. Seriously, how many times do you read about violence occurring after a romantic breakup? Somebody just wasn't good enough; or how about the mass shootings that occur because someone lost a job or feels picked on, or...well, you get the idea. When we are told repeatedly that we are simply not good enough, it HAS to get frustrating.
Think of all the frustration evidenced on the "elimination" TV shows. Don't we (editorially speaking) watch those things partly to see people suffer much like we go to hockey to see fights or (ugh!) NASCAR racing just for the crashes or the confrontations between drivers over some paint-swapping? This fascination with not being good enough is mystifying. Kara Goucher is a prime example.
Of course, you don't know hwo she is...I didn't either until today, mostly because I don't pay attention much to running anymore because it's just a painful reminder that I can no longer run...or barely jog, for that matter. (That's MY not-good-enough for now).
Anyway, Goucher finished third in this year's Boston Marathon today and immediately broke into tears. She noted that she wanted to win it for "everybody." Having an American so close to the front has seldom happened lately...the last American winner was in 1985 when the American women went 1-2-3, and the men finished 2-3. Prolonged chants of "U.S.A." could be heard all along the course as Goucher and Ryan Hall both finished third. And yet, by finishing third, Goucher concluded that she just wasn't good enough. Yes, it was a slow race by most standards, but it was THE BOSTON MARATHON, for God's sake, and it was run into a serious headwind (Heartbreak Hill isn't enough?). I'm sorry, but that finish doesn't say to me that she's not good enough, especially since my best finish at that race was somewhere around 650th. Perhaps she'll reflect on just what an accomplishment this was. She's definitely good enough in my book.
It's a pity we all can't feel that way.
Say it with me:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"It's the End of the World As We Know It..."

"...and I feel fine."
OK, maybe you weren't listening to music in 1987 when REM's album Document came out, but I was. And maybe you're not a doomsdaying naysayer who is already looking toward the, neither; but if the Myans were anything like the astonomers they were cracked up to be, it's time to take out a 5-year A.R.M. mortgage, buy that Porsche, and kick it: we've got a little more than two years to live.
The Mayans, of course, are finished as a civilization--have been for a couple of thousand years since their heyday between 900-300 B.C. but they are revered as the "Greeks of the Northern Hemisphere" by scientists who continue to marvel at their advanced civilization (I hear you saying, "If they were so darned advanced, why are they all gone?"). Good point, I suppose, though people of Mayan ancestry still populate the earth, as evidenced by two of our children who have mixed Mayan and Indian blood. So...
The Mayan Long Count Calendar reckons that the world will end on December 21st of the year 2012: just a few short years off. This calendar has been ticking off the days metronomically,according to the Mayans, since the mythical creation of the earth in 3114 B.C. and we're just a heartbeat away from extinction (in relative terms). The 21st that year marks the beginning of the winter solstice and occurs just four scant shopping days before Christmas, so save your money on the "it" gift and blow it all on yourself!
Of course, there have been doomsday prophets around since, well, since 3114 B.C. probably, and people like Nostradamus and Oral Roberts have predicted with amazing accuracy (according to some) the events of the future...but the exact day? I'm a bit skeptical, as is Dave Gibbons.
Gibbons, the illustrator for the Watchmen graphic novel indicated that he figured it would probably happen on a "Tuesday afternoon. When no one's looking." This is as good an explanation as any, but it spooks me a bit since Dave Barry, noted seer, indicated years ago that history would be much simpler if everything happened on a TUESDAY! Yikes...that's just TOO much of a coincidence!
I'm buying a new Miata with a 60-month payment schedule.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I have to admit to being something of a pack rat. If there's an ounce of usefulness in something, I usually keep it around until it disintegrates. My family will tell you that's why I dress like I do and listen to the music that I do...I mean, those 8-track tapes are still good, and my reel-to-reel deck works just fine. Of course, it IS a bit harder to carry around than my iPod shuffle, but...still.
I'm sure we're still using things we got as wedding or shower gifts almost 40 years ago, like the fondue pot and some of the towels we have in the bathroom (not the guest bathroom, though, if you're planning to visit). I got tired recently of drying off in towels that were so threadbare that they got soaked in the first few seconds, focing me to use three towels to get dry. Of course, after I figured out that turning the shower off before beginning the drying process made it a bit less bothersome. Anyway, I decided that I was going to be assertive on the matter and get a couple of new bath towels.
Since we seldom use the dryer but prefer hanging stuff to dry, our towels never really get that soft, Downy fluffiness. That's why bamboo appealed to me. I discovered that towels made mostly of bamboo were supposed to be the softest EVER and retained that softness no matter how many times they were used and washed and used and washed... So, I kept an eye out for a sale since there was no real reason to pay $25 for a towel even if it WAS super soft. Heck, that's what hotels are for!
I managed to spot a sale and picked up a couple of really luxurious bamboo towels. In addition to the softness, they are considered to be eco-friendly to a high degree, and I'm all about being "green."
On first use (it was winter), the towel seemed to push the water around instead of absorbing it: a chilly feeling. But then, ALL towels do that when they are new, so I figured a couple of washings would take that aspect of it right out. Since I shower at school after working out most days, I really haven't had an opportunity to check out the towels recently. I noticed that my sweetie uses them, and she doesn't complain. All the age-old towels are sitting in the towel box, and she continues to use the bamboo ones.
Today, however, I finished lawn work and needed a shower. I grabbed the bamboo towel to dry off, and it was VERY soft. I halfway expected it to shred like tissue due to the softness. But NO! It remained soft and in one piece...I anticipated a comforting brush of environmentally friendly bamboo gently caressing the water from my body... but I still got the same feeling that it was pushing water around instead of absorbing it...very disconcerting. I hate that feeling. Since it was warm, it wasn't too bad, but I like to feel toasty while drying off, not mildly chilly. As a result, being eco-friendly didn't feel so friendly anymore.
Perhaps I should have bought the full-price ones.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TMI, Tweeters

Oh great! Oprah sent her first "tweet" today. That gives the official stamp of approval to the millions who have the arrogance to think I actually give a crap about what they are doing every few minutes/hours or so. NO, I DON'T! If you have so little to do with your time, volunteer at the animal shelter or a food pantry or clean up the neighborhood...anything but sit around endlessly sending out 140-word missives on your favorite Shakespeare quote for the day or what you had for breakfast or what you think of my blog. Geez! Oprah is in it for the money, the fame, the adoration of "ordinary" people who can now send her idiotic messages. I can just hear the screams echoing the paroxysm of joy worldwide in places like The Sudan and Ciudad Juarez. I'll bet within weeks she'll have someone doing it for her. Ugh!
You might consider a blog equally wasteful in terms of time management...and you could be correct. I blog because I want to get my thoughts down before they're lost due to senility. Sometimes, there's a gem of truth...sometimes it's just me writing for myself. I don't really expect anybody to read or respond though it happens at times. The point is: I do it for ME. This Twitter business of chronicling the minutiae of everyday life just does not make sense to me. I'm not a technophobe. I have a portable communicating device called a cell phone. Of course, my cell phone is used to call people and to text my students who no longer respond to email. That's internet, no sports scores 24/7, no fantasy leagues...nothing...just communication; oh, and I don't abbreviate words while texting, either: I feel it necessary to set a good example with regard to the use of the written word.
Shaq and Ashton Kutcher are soon-to-be has-beens and probably need to keep their names out in the public eye so they can reap huge rewards before they are no longer "it." Perhaps Oprah is feeling the same way, or perhaps she can't line up enough authors who lied in non-fiction tales or guests who are Dr. Phil rejects.
I was just chatting tonight with a couple in the neighborhood, and the topic of social networking came up. Keeping up with people you know or knew but have lost touch with...I'm fine with that. I go to Facebook every three or four days, but I don't have time to hang out and chat for hours. I'm not a curmudgeon, but, seriously, I have stuff to do! Don't you?
So, Oprah, Ashton and Shaq: enjoy all the free time you have. Money gets you a LOT of that; ordinary "Joe Workers" like myself just don't have it in us to keep up with your thrill-a-minute lives though we know you're DYING to hear about how MY day is going.
Have your people email my people, and we'll chat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Swashbuckling With RPGs

"Why can't the pirate go to the movie? Because it was rated 'AARRRGGHHH'!" That the latest from an eight-year-old wannabe comic, complete with an eye half-closed and appropriate sneer but sans parrot or peg leg. It seems the romantic Johnny Depp version no longer exists as piracy has taken a whole new twist off the east coast of Africa. The media has protrayed them as uncivilized, uneducated villains while the Somali people see them as protectors of a land without an actual government since 1991. "Ha!" you exclaim, "Protect them from what, exactly?" It would seem that, in spite of everything in the press, there are some issues at stake of which we are generally ignorant. But first, some facts:
110 out of 1,000 babies born in Somalia will die as infants.
Life expectancy for women is 51.12 years; for men, it's a measly 47.43 (no joking about why women live longer, either)
The per capita income is about $600 a year, and half the country's population of 7 million would starve if not for the free food given at a rate of 43,000 tons per month or 260,000 tons last year, mostly from organizations like the World Food Program, CARE International and others like them. So, what gives?
After the government was overthrown in 1991, warlords basically began a nationwide gang war for power...a gang war which nobody has been able to win. Ethiopia tried to restore some order but failed: its last troops just pulled out recently, as did CARE International following threats by Islamic militants. Now, even ships destined to bring food to the people get hijacked. The MV Sea Horse was on its way to India to pick up 7,327 tons of food for the people of Somalia, but now it lies at anchor in the hands of the piratical faction who are now threatening to kill any French or American sailors they happen to capture. These are really bad guys, right? Yes and maybe not.
Most of the pirates used to be fisherman off the east coast of Somalia, able to feed their families and make some money as well through diligent effort, until two things happened.
1. Ships from all over Europe began cruising the area and dumping toxic waste close enough to affect the people of Somalia who suffered mysterious rashes and more serious ailments where there were none previously.

2. In addition, the vast fishing fleets of the Eastern and Western megacountries, having depleted much of the world's population of fish through mindless overfishing, began trolling through Somalian waters, taking the only real economic source available to an admittedly impoverished country.

So, what were they to do? Social security, food stamps and welfare checks were not coming anytime soon. Drought had taken away most of the food-producing capability (and continues unabated), leaving an entire population hungry, thirsty and afraid.
If you believe Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the pirates in Somalia, the operation began as a simple one to try to get countries to stop overfishing and dumping crap in the water then slipping away to their "clean" countries. The policy of NIMB (not in my backyard) is one developed countries have followed for years, so why should we be surprised when somebody finally gets angry enough to fight back?
I have no solution; violence really only begets more violence, and simply providing a free ride isn't effective, either (unless you are a major financial institution or GM), but desperate people will resort to desperate measures.
We should know this by now.
After all, weren't some people desperate enough at one time to dump a whole cargo of tea into Boston's harbor?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Evolution of the Drunken Crane

actual cranes
karate kid crane
drunken master kung fu.

drunken crane makers

I suppose I should have known better and found something to do, but in my naivete, I figured, "How out of control can four women get while doing a good deed?" Little did I know...or suspect...and, I wanted pizza because I knew four women would NOT eat two whole pies! Nothing is ever free so I knew that if I wanted to eat, I'd have to help first. Thus it was, that I got sucked into the "1,000 Crane Club."
This tradition goes 'way back to somewhere in ancient Japan, I suppose. I know Genghis Khan wouldn't have done it what with all the slashing and burning he was about, but folding paper into the shape of a crane had to start somewhere, and I'll lay it on the Japanese. Traditionally, a bride-to-be who completes the folding of 1,000 cranes before her wedding will be blessed with a good and happy marriage. (From what I know of Japanese marriage tradition, it doesn't seem that rosy to me, but then, maybe all the wowmen in stories I've read couldn't get the crane thing done) This task, called "sembazuru," is modeled after the crane who mates for life and is said to live a thousand years. Anyway, the origami tradition continues whenever one has a wish to fulfill, whether it be for peace, health or luck. Fortunately, the task now generally includes many people on one project...believe me, if you've ever folded ONE crane, you'd realize why this is true.
Anyway, this particular project of love was begun by a small group of people who wish for recuperative powers for a sister/cousin/friend suffering from cancer. It is truly a gesture of love, and given the amount of time and energy expended on a solitary paper bird, I was touched deeply by the glow of energy emanating from love that surrounded them tonight. I paused to think how many of the world's problems could be solved by people getting together and swearing over origami.
I'm a beer guy, plain and simple, but the ladies made a festive occasion of the event by noshing (barely) on pizza (more for me!) a veggie tray and assorted chocolate things while delicately sipping wine from Grandma's antique wine glasses, brought over, no doubt, from the "old country."
As the sedge (I knew you'd want to know the plural form) of cranes grew, and the focus got more intense, the sense of urgency grew as well. Maybe it was because I tried to make it a competitive event: "Did you hear Carol say how good Patti's was?" Somehow, though, talking smack really didn't do was not a Type A group in crane making, anyway. Maybe it was because they realized that a thousand was a hell of a lot of cranes to fold according to 28-step directions and rushing was just not a great idea. Whatever the case, food was forgotten: it was all cranes and wine.
Finally spent from the effort, these symbolic descendents of the first oragamists (?) decided to call it a night. The first and only really necessary clue was the shocking demise of a wine glass . It could have been two women simply clinging to each other in fond farewell; it could have been a congratulatory, sisterly hug by two people joined in a common, hope-filled cause; OR, it could have been Patti and Kirsten lunging simulatenously for the dregs in a glass which teetered between them momentarily before smashing to smithereens on the dining room floor. I missed the first part, busy as I was swearing at the creased paper in front of me ("Oh, YOU took the expensive paper, I see.") Tears streaming from my eyes as I remembered Grandma gently caressing that wine glass, I carefully collected the fragments (even the tiniest) to save in her memory. I'll especially remember her every time that humongous sliver in my big toe digs into my flesh.
Fortunately, my Big Gulp cup from 7-11 was fine when I knocked it over reaching in vain for the wine glass.
As of now, we're about 900 cranes short, but once Steve and I get the hang of it and can do it without swearing, we'll be golden.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Habaneros Are For Sissies


Hailing as I do from somewhere far south of here, spicy chillis are not unfamiliar to me. Though my mother never really used them much, I got into the habit of eating them during my road crew work days when we would stop at a local pub (well...juke joint, actually. I doubt Kansas HAD "pubs" in those days!) to finish our days with an hour or so of eating jalapenos and drinking beer...which, surprisingly, tasted like soda pop after the peppers.
Anyway, I introduced them to my sweetie when I started making cornbread with chillis in it, and she gradually became accustomed to the tase; however, when our Cambodian daughter-in-law began to cook for us, we found out what hot and spicy REALLY was. The Cambodian/Thai peppers were seriously eye-watering,destroyers-of-all-four- regions-of taste-in-the-mouth searing hot. She moderated it a bit for us, but we've gotten to enjoy the zip in her cooking. Now it turns out that we were not even anywhere NEAR the top of the Scoville Unit Scale for sizzle!
William Scoville decided in 1912 that there needed to be an arbitrary means of gauging degree of spiciness in foods like chillis so he invented the Scoville Scale which measures the amount of capasaicinoids in peppers. The higher the number, the higher the concentration of what makes these babies smoke. Your basic green chilli pepper tops the Scoville Scale at around 1500 units. Jalapenos barely register in the top tier of peppers; the Asian peppers we've become somewhat accustomed to rate between 50,000 and 100,000 units on the scale...yeah, I know: it sounds like a LOT to me, too. But wait...there's more! Habaneros add some serious kick to the pepper game since they average around 500,000 Scoville Units. It makes my nose run just thinking about it. And it turns out that habanero lovers are wthe weak sisters when it comes to REALLY hot peppers. Just ask Anadita Dutta Tamully, a 26-yera-old woman from somewhere in India: she just set a new Guiness World Record for consuming hot chillis; but it's not so much the record (since the previous record holder averaged a mere 8 jalapenos per minute) was they type of chilli AND the finale that left everyone gasping for air.
This woman gobbled 51 of the hottest peppers known to mankind: the so-called "ghost chillis" in two minutes to literally swallow the old recod up. "How hot are these peppers," you ask? To ape Don Adams (the original Maxwell Smart), would you believe these peppers are rated at a MILLION Scoville Units? Tamully apologized for letting the crowd down since she had ingested 60 peppers at an earlier local contest. BUT, THAT'S NOT ALL! To top her performance, this woman actually rubbed hot prpper seeds ON HER EYES!!!! not once, but several times to the stunnedjaw-drops of the crowd! I am not kidding...I saw the video. You can, too, if you follow the link provided.

This is not Kobyashi and Nathan's dogs: this is some serious stomach-riddling stuff here. And just imagine what it might feel like when those peppers emerge from the colon! I just keep seeing the image of Cartman on South Park in the episode where he cannot stop releasing methane into the atmosphere...I'm now wiping my eyes from laughing so much instead of chilli peppers.
I wonder if the lining of the, uh, orifice gets, like calloused or something from eating and eventually expelling that stuff.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It's Lent...Go For the Fish

You've heard about a lot of exotic healing methods and strange religious rites, I'm sure: my daughter will put hot stones on your back as part of her massage therapy gig. Remember the use of leeches in the Middle Ages? It has returned in some places to heal lacerated areas without using stitches (I'll stick with Superglue, if you don't mind). Now, the Midwest is discovering the garra rufa fish as a sort of "medical treatment" for our feet. In fact, a store named Doctor Fish Magnifique located in a mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has been doing a booming business since it opened last week. If you happen to be uninitiated to the benefits of this critter, let me enlighten you.
The use of this particular fish to exfoliate dead skin (sorry, there's no easy way to say this) began in Turkey as a remedy for psoriasis and eczema. Initial experiments with tilapia (yes, the fish you can buy at the store to eat!) seem to give way to the garra rufa, also known as the "doctor fish." This is due to the fact that tilapia merely chewed the dry skin off while the doctor fish actually had a chemical in its saliva which healed certain skin diseses like the ones I mentioned. Now that treatment is available right here in the Upper Midwest!
For $35, owner Gerald Williamson will allow you to dangle your feet in a pool of fish for 15 minutes. The fish will, in turn, nibble at the skin, removing the dry, flaky, icky stuff and supposedly leaving your feet in fine shape. Of course, there is some indecision about whether all of this is legal since establishments giving pedicures and other such reatments are required to sanitize the equipment after each use. Sanitizing a fish has turned out to be, uh, difficult. Williamson claims that this is NOT a pedicure; hence, no sanitizing is necessary.
I know you are breathless with curiosity so I have included the URL to a blog which illustrates a visit to such a place, complete with photos.
Lent without fish? Inconceivable...but then, we're usually eating them not vice versa.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Detroit's Segway To The Future



Rick Newman of U.S. News and World Report recently commented on what he felt were the most egregious blunders made in Detroit over the last, say forty years. These blunders, he feels, have led us to the brink of disaster in the auto industry, wallowing in the wake of Asian car makers who have long known the value of an inexpensive, small automobile made with quality. What do we get from Detroit today? the new two-person P.U.M.A. concept vehicle: basically a two-person Segway. This vehicle is merely a concept, but is this the best General Motors can do? Yes, I know the Volt is coming: plug-in hybrid...for $40,000. Can anyone but a laid off executive afford this? Anyway, back to what drove Detroit down.
If you are old enough, you'll recognize the second vehicle as a Ford Pinto, circa 1972; this was Ford's response to Toyota and Honda: an inexpensive car for the masses. Unfortunately, Ford neglected the "quality" part in constructioon. It also forgot to put the gas tank somewhere so it would not explode during a rear-end collision...which it did so frequently that Ford had to recall the model. I, however, had just graduated from college and with new teaching contract in hand for the princely sum of $6,000 per annum, waltzed into Broeckert Brothers in St. Nazianz and ordered a new Pinto from Art. At $1800. it was a bit pricey for a new teacher, but I was enamored with my newfound wealth and wanted a new set of wheels...and a Pinto was all I could afford. Remember the aforementioned rear-end collision? Well, I was involved in one and lived to tell the story, thanks to the religious bent of my mother's family.
My wife and I were teaching near Wichita, Kansas, and were about to head home for Thanksgiving dinner when Mom called and asked if I'd pick up one of her sisters in the city and bring her along for dinner. One of her sisters was Sister Helen (in fact, all six of her sisters were nuns at one point!), and I assented to the task being the good son that I was trying to be. As we sat in a line of traffic at a stoplight outside an aircraft manufacturing plant prior to picking Sister Helen up, a Chevy Caprice came roaring out of the parking lot and smacked my Pinto into something of an accordion shape, banging me into the car idling in front (I had to get out to see what hit me since the rear view mirror was missing--detached from the windshield by my head, as it turned out); The result, fortunately, was not a fireball, but a totalled Ford Pinto (it was only later that this model began to explode with regularity. Of course, those people were not on a mission from God as were Jake, Elwood, and myself.
I often think of how absolutely fortunate we were not to be crispy critters that day. In case you're wondering, the next car was a Dodge Demon: from divine to devilish all in one week!
So, Detroit's blind insistence that we have huge cars has led us to the brink of everyine puttering around at 35 m.p.h. on the latest Segway model. Of course, my friend George at The Villages already drives a golf cart everywhere so he won't mind. Me? I've survived one near-death experience in a Pinto. I'm driving a Toyota (which, by the way, is a palindrome: "a Toyota" printed backwards is "atoyoTa."
Cool, huh?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mea Culpa, Fred. Sincerely, Mary Catherine

My dad used to tell this story over and over...possibly to irritate my mother, and, quite possibly, to make me feel like an unwanted idiot. whatever, the case, I can see a lot more clearly now than I could years ago.
Mom wanted a girl in the worst way; in her pregnant certainty, she had even gone to the extreme of picking out a girl's name: Mary Catherine. Remember, this was in the days long before ultrasound could provide parents with the "inside scoop" as it were, on the gender of the as-yet-unborn progeny. They'd already filled out the male part of the All-american family: Fred was not quite two years old when Darrell Eugene emerged, no doubt to the shock and chagrin of my mother (all of this according to my dad, of course). So much for the "Father Knows Best" family construction.
To tell the truth, my mother always got upset when my dad told the story and had some sharp words for him. None of them, however, sounded like "JC! That's not true!" To me, the whole exchange sounded like, "Hey, he's right THERE! He's not supposed to know!" What probably was a contentious beginning really never got a respite. Now I know why the result was a great deal of conflict between siblings.
Researchers at the University of Ulster have just released the findings of their study in which they found that, undeniably, sisters were vital to a sense of happiness in a family! Having only male siblings was shown to lead to a great deal of distress while having at least one female child (and preferably more than one)led to a greater degree of feelings of openness and a willingness to discuss feelings. That certainly was not the case, as I recall it!
The study, conducted with 571 participants ages 17-25 showed a great deal of happiness followed when the children were girls or of different genders. Boys were typically known to internalize problems and showed very little tendency to discuss them with anyone. The discrepancy was even more pronounced in families of divorce. Fortunately, we did not have that dynamic to work through since JC and Martha made it past 50 years together.
I never thought it too strange that there were never any more children...perhaps Mom was just too disheartened...more likely, though, she was just too tired from refereeing all the fights, cooking hours on end trying to make economic ends meet on one salary, and going to school to talk to the principal about my behavior...endlessly! (I did learn how to bake and iron clothes, though.)
Thanks, Mom. Sorry, Fred.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Who's Fooling Who? (Whom?)


OK, so the stock market rallied for the month of March, ending a six-month downturn. "Huzzahs!" can be heard everywhere, particularly from the CEOs of those companies that are poster children for the whole damn thing (the pressure on them is easing up, and protesters aren't picketing their 8,000sq/ft homes anymore and goes back to being on A-Rod). The top guy at GM was forced to resign himself (in more ways than one)to what we've known for a long time: a Hummer can't compete with a Prius. He's gone...floating peacefully to earth uder a parachute made of fine, woven gold, hopefully in a modern rendition of the Icarus story. But are you ready to start shelling out the money in a spending spree? I'm guessing not...unless you just haven't been paying attention to things. Of course it's not's like in the movies when someone looks out into the darkness and says, "It's quiet out there...TOO quiet...ugh!" and a bullet or an arrow slams into his chest and the screen explodes (sending my popcorn skyward!). Anyway, Forbes Magazine is nudging us to get out the wallet as they have listed the top ten things to BUY before the economy starts the Bull Run of 2010 (not to be confused with the Bull Run battles of the Civil War (1861, 1862---OR the Battles of Manassas, if you are from the South: same battles, different names since the South named battles after geographic landmarks like towns and the North named them after landmarks like rivers, as in this case).

Here are the top ten things Forbes recommends we all buy before the price goes up:
10. Furniture
9. Televisions
8. Women's clothing
7. Diamonds
6. Laptop computers
5. High-dividend stocks
4. Toys (huh?)
3. Erstwhile pricey vacations
2. Automobiles (natch!) guessed it: a house

If you want more info, here's the URL:

Me? I would get some of that stuff...if I had any damn money! Who are they trying to kid? I mean, other than me>

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Who's Laughing Now?

Kobe, are you serious?

I don't claim to be a fashion maven, and my family will be happy to tell you that, perhaps, the exact opposite is true. If I like a particular shirt in a particular style, I'm apt to buy several in a variety of colors. This always elicits groans, snickers, and rolled eyes from anyone in my shopping vicinity...this, of course, precludes my kids since they see it coming and beat a hasty retreat long before I get to the checkout counter and THOSE sidelong glances...and just prior to the clerk saying in a patronizing voice, "Sir, did you see the orange shirt just like this on the rack?"
Generally, though, I get the most head-shaking response from my collection of sneakers. I'll admit to being closest to my "feminine" side when perusing shoes online, in magazines or in a store (of all places!). I love color, and orange, blue and yellow high-top basketball shoes are perfect for me, as are the yellow, black and red running shoes with orange flames running along the sides...even if they were on sale. (I know, can you believe such an item would be LESS than the original price...and in my size!)
Thus, it is with great joy that I present the article I found today listing someone's opinion about the 10 MOST horrible sneakers in the last 20 years; I am excited because I do not own ANY of them and probably would not be found wearing any of them, either, especially the ones featuring a zipper.
Check 'em out then apologize to me for all the snide comments you've made.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What Perks Do YOU Get?


I'll start by saying that I'm jealous of John Calipari...trembling, nauseous, green with envy jealous. In the fast-fading (though somewhat resurgent lately) economy, he was able to snare his "dream job" which will pay him 4 million per over the next 8 years. Wow! Not that I begrudge him his dough. He's talented, a proven winner, and it's a lockdown guarantee that he will have a winner at the University of Kentucky. I could in no way match that combination, so why am I jealous? Perks.
During a sometimes illustrious career in education, I can remember getting an actual "perk" only a few times. The most memorable was the $.25 I got as a signing bonus a few years ago when I complained that Brett had just gotten 4 mil to resign, and I was expected to do it for nothing in spite of my previous year's coronation as the Wisconsin High School PE Teacher of the Year. The superintendent dragged a handful of change from his pocket and proceeded to give me two bits: not the whole handful, mind you, just one coin. I also got a table clock "perk" to celebrate my longevity; the clock ceased working about two months after I retired (hmmmm. I stopped, and IT stopped...hmmm!) And, of course, I got the "perk" of having a full-time job all those years.
Since restructuring to my new position, I've gotten six university T-shirts from a variety of coaches, one pair of shoes, a winter down-filled coat and all the bagels I can get away with after the monthly athletic department meetings. In addition, I can attend all sporting events gratis, though for a must-see game I get seats up with the pigoens. Still, free is free.I consider that something of a "perk," but let's consider what Calipari gets in addition to a bucketful of money:
Two late-model cars with gas and mileage included.
An all-fees-paid membership to the country club of his choice which probably includes greens fees.
20 prime lower-level season tickets to UK basketball home games (so he can have his friends sit next to Ashley Judd).
8 season tickets to UK football games...OK, I know...that's not exactly a "perk."
In addition, if he gets fired before his 8 year contract is up, he gets 3.7 million dollars for each year left on the contract.
He also gets paid a bonus if 75% of his players graduate as well as bunus bucks for reaching certain levels in the SEC championship and the NCAA tournament (pronounced "toor nament" if you want to affect the East Coast cool everyone seems to want these days).
AND, if he stays the entire 8 years, he gets a bonus of 3 million dollars. Hell, I stayed 29 years at my last job and didn't even get an especially fond farewell!

Of course, to be fair, I don't think anybody EVER paid to watch me work, and there were no 20,000 season ticket holders to see education happen. Sad to think that a person's value is dependent on such things, but that's the way it goes.
I could have used a few more "attaboy's" as we all could, but I'm just thankful I didn't have big bucks boosters (or "Boo-Stirs" as Karl used to say: "boo the coach and stir up trouble") asking for my head on a plate every time there was a slight hiccup in the system.
And I DID have employment all those years and continue to do so.
When taking it all in perspective, I'm not so jealous after all...well, maybe just a little.