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, June 30, 2009

Life As An Obit

Farah Fawcett died recently, but you would hardly know it. As the first memorable figure (as it were) on the television road to the T & A programming which has become a staple, she was certainly an iconic figure. She just had the bad luck to die at roughly the same time as Michael Jackson in addition to a governor growing AWOL and getting caught, uncovering a veritable iceberg of sleaze.
So, poor Farrah really didn't get the ink in death that she should have gotten; no great clamoring over legal hassles or child protection; no father trying to cash in once again on her fame, and no public moral outrage over scurrilous behavior. It seems she fought cancer bravely and died unobtrusively...which, got me to thinking about what gets said after one dies. Who writes the obit? Usually, it's family members, but how much would my kids know about me, really? Presuming my sweetie has not preceded me, she would have some necessary info but might not be up to the task. Maybe I should write my own ahead of time!
After all, who knows my life story better than I? Who could provide details that even my family might not know except for me? After all, there was more to my early life than drinking out of water puddles on the way home from school or running into several cars while pedalling my bike. This might be an idea worth researching.
Trevor Jensen, an obituary writer for the Chicago Tribune says that the effective obit is NOT a laundry list of jobs held, places lived and a statement of love for the family (EVERYONE loves the family). He writes that an effective closing statement should be thought of in the simple terms of telling a story, not just listing facts. Of course, there is the requisite information: birthdate, hometown, parents, siiblings, education, marriage, kids and the like. But Jensen also stresses that necessary information might also include aspirations, friends, hardships, challenges, missteps, obstacles overcome, heartache, triumph and surprises. In other words, the "me" that few people really know about, mostly because I chose not to share it or they were simply too young to care at the time.
Odd though it might be, I already have the musical playlist for the funeral service (in whatever form that may take). The recorded CD is in the hands of the eldest son who has been enjoined to play three specific songs but has been left to make what he considers appropriate selections from the remaining tracks. I simply will NOT have "Amazing Grace" played at my's not me. It's a fine tune, but not me. Some of the songs have a religious overtone, and some are directed especially at loved ones and dear friends (Del Shannon's version of "Oh, How Happy You Have Made Me") and some echo words of advice (Buddy Holly's "Rave On," for instance) And no egg salad sandwiches at the meal, if there is one. I hate egg salad...devilled eggs are ok, but egg salad is strictly prohibited.
While there is no risk of my funeral proceedings causing much of a stir, I'd still like it to be done right.
I'll get right on that obit...and review that playlist.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It'll Be The Rascal For Me

Every day I need to take a few minutes to straighten out the kinks before I get out of bed. I need to stretch a bit so I can get my knees and body contorted to a position from which I can put my socks on, and it always takes me a few minutes to loosen up the movement joints and muscles if I've been sitting for a bit. All of this comes with the territory, I guess, of a person closer to 80 than to 30. But the latest news about older folks has me a bit nervous.
A study to be published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society focuses on falls suffered by people over the age of 65. The study took place between January of 2001 and December of 2006 and examined results from emergency rooms in 66 hospitals. The researchers dealt solely with those individuals who had suffered injury as a result of an unintentional fall...while using either a walker or a cane! This places such accidents in a different category than the fall suffered by my mother years ago when she mistakenly got taken out on our driveway during a basketball game (was it a block or was it a charge? They're STILL looking at the replay). I mean, she didn't call time out or anything...just decided to amble across the driveway to the snack bar. The resulting collision was not a good thing. She, however, was not burdened with a walker or a cane when going down as were the people in the study though she certainly was after the fall. But back to current info.
Here's the statistical skinny:
It was estimated as a result that there are 47,312 accidental falls a year among people over 65. Of the fallen victims studied, 87% of them fell while using a walker, and 12% of them fell while using a cane. Sixty percent of these accidents occurred at home while 16% of them occurred in nursing homes. One can only guess where the remaining 24% happened: The Who concerts, the buffet line at The Golden Corral or Country Kitchen, pickle ball matches, or getting trampled by runaway grocery carts pushed maniacally by tots at the big box stores. But, I do see a light at the end of the walkway for me: The Rascal.
I'm sure there are many varieties of "power chairs" and "mobility products" which enable otherwise walking-challenged folks to enjoy a sense of normalcy with regard to transportation, but the Rascal is for me. I've toyed with the idea of a Segway, but in that case, I'm still standing up with a long way to fall...helmet notwithstanding. So, it's the Rascal. Priced from $995 to $6995, this conveyance will allow me total freedom of movement as long as there is a handicap-accesible ramp. No word whether or not they're street legal, but for seven thousand bucks, it had better be mnore complete than to have racing stripes.
Come to think of it, I could get a new Tata (I laugh every time I read that as a name for a car)from India for half that much, and I could take a couple of geriatric pals along with me. We just wouldn't be able to get out of the car.
Luckily, there are still places with car hops.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Inked Up

Ray Bradbury would not be impressed, I'm sure. I'm not even sure the guys of the OCC would look twice, but it was something that I had to do...In addition, there's very little danger of The Mongols or Hell's Angels gang members stopping by to take a gander so it was more of a gesture than an actual statement...more of a hedged bet impulse, I'd say. People have spent hundreds for the same effect that I got for a measley five that wasn't even mine: I got it for stopping in to view a new car model (the flyer said I'd WON a new car, but the fine print said it was just 5 bucks). Plenty for what I had in mind.
I felt it WAS time to make a statement of sorts. That's what tattoos are all about, and why I had to get one, well, two actually: one on my hand and one on my leg. My sweetie was taken aback, to be sure, but I think she was generally more amused than anything...mumbling something about not being able to leave me alone at Bayfest for more than five minutes and looking around to buy one of those harnesses people put toddlers in. Suurounded by counter-culture types in a flutter tent, I managed to indicate that it was REAL but not permanent. Street fairs always have stuff like this, and I just figured I would do it for the shock value, so I got an English letter "D" inside a star on my hand and a star on my left leg. The catch, of course, is that they were henna: plant-based and temporary (with no pain or chemical injected into my body), but real nonetheless.
There were shocked comments galore: just the effect for which I had planned; some of the moneyed boosters at the Duquesne Barbecue were seriously impressed that I'd selected their version of the letter "D" for adornment, and I got more than my money's worth out of the effect...until...
My son Blaine (who actually has a REAL, PERMANENT tattoo) looked at it and merely said, "Real men get REAL tattoos." That was it. The thrill of being tatted was gone, and I spent the rest of the weekend with my hand in my pocket as much as possible in order to avoid shaming the real men out there.
I wonder if women (other than dancers) who get inked are designated as "real" too?
Maybe a pierced ear instead of the glue-on thing I have now...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Major League Cojones

I don't figure Mark Sanford is Jewish. Politicians in the South from both major parties are generally of some kind of Christian persuasion, and they really like to emphasize that fact...particularly in the South. You know, the region that gave us segregation, promoted anti-Semitism and a whole raft of other not-so-nice effronteries to the religious beliefs they so adamantly (not to be confused with Adam Ant of the 80s music scene)spout. That being noted, the term "chutzpah" certainly comes to mind when dealing with last week's news...and it IS last week's news already...overshadowed by the recent deaths of Farah Fawcett of the million-selling poster and Michael Jackson of the billion-selling music bidness.
Anyway, politicians and affairs (not including the affairs of state), like ordinary people and such trysts, really aren't that newsworthy, though as a head of the State of South Carolina, it would have been handy to be in touch with someone other than the mysterious lady in question. But, as I said, this is not the story. The real story, it occurs to me, is the amount of unmitigated GALL this guy possesses. I think I'm actually a bit jealous of his attitude of "So what? I'm the governor." Here's what I mean.
He was able to convince the state Commerce Department to adjust a foreign trade discussion, originally scheduled for only Brazil, to include Argentina. Seriously, I may be in the dark here on foreign trade, but what could Argentina have that they need in South Carolina that isn't already coming from China? Was it, "Hey, I'm in South America anyway, why not just see what they have to say to me in...uh...Argentina?" That's ballsy move number one.
Number two involves something I cannot even comprehend. According to his wife who discovered the affair early in the year by finding a paper copy of an email in his filing system (seriously, how dumb IS this guy?), Sanford ASKED HER PERMISSION TO GO VISIT HIS MISTRESS! Are you kidding me? And she didn't smite him mightily for it?That has to be the single most audacious thing EVER! Your partner catches you in an affair, you admit it, then ask for permission to go see the new squeeze? Not on my life would I do that!(primarily because it would be my last living, breathing act)
However, the most amazing (to me, anyway) display of arrogance was Sanford's use of a Biblical reference when asked if he was going to resign as governor. He referred to the passage in which David seduces Bathsheba while her husband is off fighting for Israel, finds out that she is pregnant and tries to get Uriah (her hubby) to go home to sleep with his wife so the baby will appear legitimate. When Uriah refuses because his troops are fighting and he feels that he should not be comfortable while they struggle, King David tells Uriah's commander to attack the enemy with Uriah in front, then withdraw, leaving Uriah in a heap of trouble. Of course, Uriah gets killed, David marries Bathsheba, and the baby seems legit. Sanford noted that David was able to resume a successful political career even after committing the lustful sin. Of course, Sanford, like so many other Bible thumpers, didn't mention the next part about the prophet Nathan pointing out that David would be punished threefold by the Lord: the child would die (it did), David's kingdom would be at war for the length of his reign (it was) and his wives would be carried into captivity (they were).
Still, all in all, Mark Sanford gets my vote for the guy with the biggest pair so far this year.
His sniveling apology was fooling nobody.
We're all just jealous because we couldn't pull any one of the trifecta off, and he almost got all of them.
Big League style.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Full Contact Kegling

But does it weigh 12 pounds?

Any product that has several usage warnings and various disclaimers has GOT to be good. I mean, not like the parental advisory thing or the old Catholic Legion of Decency ratings for movies...though I guess all the disclaimers act in a similar way: they pique our interest and make us want to do something we shouldn't do EVEN MORE! I don't know whether it's the allure of danger or the thrill of potentially getting caught at something naughty (like going to Argentina to see your mistress instead of going hiking!), but I suspect we all have that urge to get guilty every now and then.
Fortunately, there's not much temptation for me these days, but there's something looming on the horizon that just might make me waver. Besides, I could use a bigger screen TV.
If you haven't seen it, a company named CTA Digital has come up with the latest (and possibly most thrillingly dangerous) accessory for the Wii system invented and marketed by Nintendo. It has put on the market and ACTUAL ROUND BALL to be used with the various bowling games Nintendo makes. Can you imagine? Actually holding a REAL ball in your hand, swinging it backwards and then flinging it forward at mach 4 toward your 62" flat screen television? Wow! What a rush of adrenalin as you feel the ball sliding out of your sweat-soaked palm toward the plasma. It CAN'T get much better than that and be legal!
The Wiimote fits inside the ball, then the operator slides three fingers into ready made holes just like in a bowling ball. A kid nicknamed "Dumb Dave" once broke a TV with a hammer as part of a "talent" show at school. The resulting explosion was stunning, if nothing else. Just imagine what the newer technology could do as the bowling ball smacks into the 1-3 pocket on the screen! It would be better than the Shopko fireworks on the 4th of July. This would occur immediately before the lecture on being an idiot for not attaching the "safety" strap. (WE don't need no stinking safety strap)
Nintendo disavows any connection with the product, stating that it is "...not licensed, designed, sponsored or manufactured by the Nintendo Corporation." See? That ALONE should make you want to heft the orb and get down to serious kegling.
I'm getting the old RCA Victor TV out before I start lining up the second arrow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three-Day Tour:Odyssey of the East

To my knowledge, Prometheus was nowhere to be seen, bound or unbound, sighted or blinded. I could swear, however, that I entered the Land of the Dead and had a close brush with the Bag of Winds which pushed me back to the starting spot just like it did to Odysseus' men on their way home from the Trojan War. While I did not get turned into a pig, I certainly felt like one after the long journey home (it seemed like ten years, too, though there were no suitors to shoot upon arrival, thankfully)
I am referring to my latest scrape with what I consider to be the problem which will cause the next mass protests in this country: airline travel. In fact, I think our new president should forget about all this Iran stuff and fix MY problems...shared by, I daresay, millions of others in this country.
It was supposed to be two, one-stop flights from Milwaukee to Cleveland to Pittsburgh and back leaving on a Wednesday (who flies anywhere on a Wednesday?) to work a basketball camp for my son Blaine with the return on a Sunday...late. Having another son working for the airlines, naturally I chose the $30 version of the round trip on standby instead of a regular fare (STILL without snacks) that would eat up my salary for camp figuring that my travel times would be OK. Not so much. I got to Cleveland with little trouble, but getting to Pitt required, finally, a shuttle of "Let's meet halfway and tag team with Dad" thing. I wanted to rent a car for my four-day stay at basketball camp, but NO, I got talked out of it. So far, so good. The return, however, took the better part of three days! Here's how it went:
Nothing out of Pittsburgh on Sunday late. An early morning flight to Cleveland on Monday was filled so I got to sit. The gate agent booked me on a flight to Newark two hours later so I could get a direct flight to Milwaukee with no problem. OK, a slight delay was better than getting stranded in Pittsburgh...little did I know. About 20 minutes later, I saw so familiar-looking people walking up to the gate...lots of them. As it dawned on me that these were the folks that were ahead of me on the early flight to Cleveland, I laughed that I was lucky to have missed that flight, especially when I learned that the reason for their return was an engine failure in mid-air! I felt like I had dodged a bullet there as the proverbial bag of winds had blown them back to Pittsburgh. The humor, however, was short-lived, because many of them were subsequenbtly booked to the nearest hub of that airline, located in, you guessed it, Newark. No 12:30 flight to Newark; no 2:30 flight to Newark, and no seats left on the next flight to Cleveland. Of course, my Monday flight to Milwaukee (the only one with seats remaining for the day) had long since departed Cleveland. All of this left me with but three options: sleep in Pittsburgh's airport (nice, as airports go, with free Wi-Fi); rent a car one-way for the two-hour drive to Cleveland (at $200, this was almost twice as much as my original plan to rent a car in Cleveland for 4 days!); or humble myself, call both daughters-in-law and beg for another relay-of-Dad between the two cities. I chose option #2 and spent the rest of the day apologizing for the inconvenience...What? Of course they had other things to do, but by this point I think everyone knew that I was on the cusp of a meltdown. It was now two days into the odyssey that was my return from camp. Staying overnight in Cleveland wasn't bad: I got to play with the grandkids for several hours, cleaning the cat crap out of the sandbox and brushing sand off one kid's feet who hated sand and generally hang out, fielding calls from coaches wondering where I was and when I would be back to meet with their students; to thse queries, I replied, "I'll text you when I get home."
Tuesday morning's 7:30 flight out of Cleveland had 23 seats available, so it was seemingly a sure thing; however, a flight leaving that early required an arrival at the gate time that was far too early to get two young kids out of bed (their Mom began work at 4:30 and was unavailable) so it was the cab company for me.
Arriving at the airport, I produced a credit card to pay for the cab, grabbed my bags and headed for security. The lines were long, and I had stood for five minutes getting nervous when my phone rang with the message that I'd left my wallet in the cab. Needing an ID for the TSA folks, I rushed to the curb, retrieved my wallet (glad to have tipped generously upon the first exit!) and stood while the X-Ray machine decided whther or not the balls that I had in my bag which lit up when hit were dangerous (in the outgoing flight from Milwaukee, they actually opened my bag and X-rayed the balls separately). Perilously close to boarding time, I had to remind myself that the orthopedist had strictly enjoined me NOT TO RUN for fear of doing damage to my achilles which had suvived camp activities.
Boarding the plane, I discovered that the coffee machine had broken.
Driving through Milwaukee, I discovered Trader Joe's didn't open for another 45 minutes.
Arriving in Green Bay, I discovered it was going to be 90 degrees yesterday.
It almost made me long for the coolness of the Pittsburgh airport.
I'm renting a car in Cleveland next year, no matter what anyone says.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pickles, Sure, But the Internet?

Just a followup on the chocolate bacon thing before I begin: it was a huge hit in the neighborhood. So there. And bacon is supposedly one of the "good" foods, I hear because most of the fats are monosaturated...or something. That's just what Jennifer told me, anyway.
When it comes to food, I know some very picky eaters: people who eat only the chocolate from the E.L. Fudge cookies; people who scrounge for leftovers in the garbage receptacle at home; people who won't eat fruit, consuming it only as a juice; people who won't eat bacon unless it is crunchy; and people who will eat bread only if it is toasted with the crusts cut off (I mean, what's the point of cutting crunchy parts off of crunchy bread?). There are, of course, people who will eat just about anything (think Mikey from the Life cereal commercials...and me, if you don't count mushy vegetables). There are people who won't eat from sunup to sundown for a month in a religious observance, and there are people who won't eat anything from a cloven-hoofed animal...rendering (in a manner of speaking)bacon out of the question. The ultra-orthodox religious people of the Jewish faith will not eat anything that hasn't been prepared under the watchful eye of a rabbi to make certain that there's NOTHING in the same building in which the food is being prepared that is unacceptable. Now THOSE people are fussy easter! "Kosher," it's called, and it's all about preparing food according to strict guidelines. OK, I get it, and I somewhat admire their diligence (though leaving bacon out eliminates me from becoming the next Sammy Davis, Jr.). And, lest you think otherwise, these strict rules apply to things other than food; they also apply to things that an orthodox person would not have in the a television. This is where "Koogle" comes in.
It seems that there is a search engine now that is aimed at just such orthodox Hebrew people. It's called "Koogle" and is named to resemble not only the "Google" with which the world is familiar, but also the Jewish noodle pudding called "Kugel." "Noodle pudding," I thought...could be OK. The recipe is included later.
Anyway, searching Koogle for information limits the searcher to just those things not forbidden by orthodox beliefs. That means things like sexual content are unavailable as well as pictures and depictions of women or anyone else considered as unacceptable. Jewish searchers cannot buy a television online from this site though I did notice ads for some well-known electronic brands, cars and credit cards. In addition, one cannot post ANYTHING on the Jewish Sabbath...the site simply refuses to allow it: rather cool, in a more Jon & Kate Make 8 or whatever that is.
If you're curious, as I was, you can go to and explore. Of course, the drawback I had when I got there was that the writing is all in Hebrew. This brought me back to David, one of my students who is a soccer player from Israel: his computer keyboard has all these characters that I cannot figure out. I suppose if I'd been better at touch typing instead of looking-at-the-keyboard typing, I could use it. Anyway, here's the recepie for Kugel. Surprise your Jewish friends (or me)and have them (or me) over for a tasty repast. No bacon, though, unless I'm coming.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Anonymity Not So Bad

I'll cheerfully admit that I blog mostly for myself; it began as a way to chronicle my last two years of teaching and has since somewhat taken on a life of its own. Unlike 90% of other people who start blogs, I've continued mine because...well, because it's fun. It allows me to be creative (in a sense), and it forces me to focus on the discipline involved in writing and in using words. Ther are a few people who read it...mostly the bored or friends who can't sleep at night and who don't have the benefit of reading my master's thesis as a sleep aid. But,as I noted, it's really for me. Not so April's Mom...and she's paying a dear price for it.
In case you missed it, a woman identifying herself only as "B" or "April's Mom" has been blogging for the past few months about her soon-to-be-born daughter who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness while in the womb. The blog contained Biblical quotes, anti-abortion messages and a soundtrack of Christian inspirational music. Thousands logged on every day, offering prayers, sharing stories and messages of hope. People sent photos of their own children who had been spared the horror of abortion; some sent gifts to a post office box; a few sent money.
On June 7, the blog reported that April Rose had been born but had subsequently died a few hours later. The outpouring of grief was impressive and unrelenting: over a million hits had been logged before Elizabeth Russell found it...and the end result was a nightmare that I would not wish on anyone...except the deserving. Maybe Dante should have constructed a separate level of Hell just for such people.
Russell is a doll maker in Buffalo, and when she noted the photo of April Rose, her first comment was, "That's a doll. I have one just like it." Soon, the horrible secret was out. "B" had made the whole thing up. She quickly erased her Facebook and Twitter accounts, but not in time. Enraged Christians and anti-abortion adherents tracked her down, and the vitriol was venomous. The bile being spilled would horrify anyone...but then, think of the pain these people must have felt after being duped! (caveat emptor!)
There's more to "B's" earlier failed pregnancy...a blog written for a few friends until it was getting 1,000 hits a much to stop...incredible fame...
Fortunately, I know nothing about those issues. And I don't want to, either.
Most people who read my stuff understand the Martk Twain philosophy to which I adhere about "stretchers" and don't take too much of what I write seriously...unless I admit I'm up on a soap box that day.
For now, though, let's just be sad for "B."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gao Kao and No Spring Break in Aruba, Either


We in education hear it all the time: how the foreign countries are kicking our collective behinds when it comes to putting quality education out there, measured, I suspect, in the number of engineers each country turns out. For awhile, it was Japan, but now it seems to be that the last Red Menace (China) has taken over as the paragon of educational production. Enrollement in universities has increased sixfold in the last decade so you know it's not just more Yao Mings they're tuning out like Model Ts. An additional five million students wish to enter the university system every year, according to a report in today's New York Times.
"So what?" I hear you query. Well, for starters, being admitted to a university in China is a big deal. Roughly 60% of applicants get accepted. Here, it seems that if you can pay the tuition, they'll find some kind of waiver for even the worst of students (particularly if you have a skill which might earn the university money). Not so in China. Liu Quicha is a perfect example. This young man is purported to have studied 14-16 hours a day for a YEAR just to take the test, called gao kao (high test). Knowing he needed breaks, he took one day off from his studies every three weeks! Picture an American kid even taking one day off every three weeks from his or her cell phone! Study? uh, not so much. And you don't want to mess with the proctors of that test, either. A young woman arrived four minutes late in 2007 and was refused admittance to take the test! This in spite of the fact that both she AND her mother got on their knees and begged the proctor to admit the young lady. Groveling to a teacher in this country? Picture THAT in the USA. More like going to the superintendent and demanding someone get fired! The girl in question had to wait a year for the next test since it is given only on an annual basis. Long hours of study come at some expense, especially in Sichuan Province where students actually go to the hospital to study...taking advantage of extra oxygen to help with concentration.
As one might imagine, the parents are worse than ANY Little League moms and dads here in America. They bribe their kids with fabulous prizes if they get admitted into a first-tier university (think Harvard)--meaning their future wealth will be assured, I guess. Even getting into a second-tier university (think Emporia State University...home of the Hornets)--is a boon to parents and students alike. As a result, sophisticated ways of cheating have been devised. One father equipped his child with an earphone, wheedled professors into giving him the test questions, and provided answers to his child; another father managed to get a mini scanner in with his kid and had NINE (count 'em 9) teachers standing by to help with the answers! All in all, there were 2,645 students (and, presumably parents) caught cheating last year. And Liu?
He didn't pass the test and shamed his parents. His mother would not talk to him except to say, "All these years of raising you and washing your clothes and cooking for you, and YOU earn such a low score." During the following year, Liu attended a "prep" school at a cost of 38,500 renminibi per year (roughly $5640.00) WELL beyond what his aprents could afford. His reward? A test score which allowed him entrance to a first-tier university and a mother who will again be proud to call him her progeny.
Want to bet HIS Saturdays will be spent at Starbucks or at the local bar quaffing a few and talking smack with his buddies?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing our system: one that teaches independent thinking and creativity at the expense, sometimes, of rote memorization (long been a criticism of the educational methods around the world). But who's buying bonds from whom these days?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pigs In A...Cocoa Bean


I sometimes watch the Food Channel when it features places with gastonomical dynamite: thee-pound burgers and diners where the waiters throw rolls at the customers. We definitely have a fascination with food in this country...of course, there's a fascination with food in sub-Saharan Africa, too, but if girth is any measure (and it is), we take the cake (and pie and dinner rolls) when it comes to gut-busting binging. But every now and then, a recipe comes to light that piques my curiosity just enough that I give it a try. Mostly, the result is less than fulfilling, but the latest one tops them all for rubbing-my-stomach goodness. Yes, I'm talking about chocolate-covered bacon.
I was all set yesterday to try it but then discovered that we didn't have parchment paper, a necessary item somehow. Normally, this grease-proof lining is used to preclude greasing the bottom of cookie sheets so cookies don't stick to the pan. I was relatively certain that the bacon wasn't going to stick to the pan, but recipes are recipes. I asked several neighbors if they had any, but they did not though one was headed to the store so she picked some up with the assurance that she and her 4-year-old would get to sample the result.
Waiting for Joe to get home from preschool, I managed to coat a pound of bacon, several grapes, some Oreos, a few chips and two chunks of Jalapeno cheese with chocolate. Having some goo left after all that, I put peanut butter on some crackers and spreadd them with the brown stuff as well (as well as the stove, the counter, and my shirt and socks...don't ask). Licking the spoon or pan was not viable since I'm really not that much of a chocolate fan. Seriously. I could take it or leave it, but on bacon? I just had to try it.
Preschool let out by four, and Joe was on the stoop by 4:15 asking for his sample. His mom came along just to make certain I wasn't doing the "Hansel and Gretel" thing with her younger son (who wanders over here in search of candy frequently, always taking additional swag "for my brother." I had not tried the result, preferring to have Joe drop over if the combination was combustible or caused some molecular shift in the ingredients bringing on the swine flu...I mean H1N1.
However, Joe pronounced it "good" and rubbed his stomach for emphasis. Mom chewed thoughtfully and proclaimed that it was "strangely...good!" By that time, there was a queue of people awaiting the result. No fewer than five other people, including a Packers' scout, an elementary principal, my daughter and her boyfriend and even my sweetie nodded in approval as they munched on morsels. "This is really bad for you, though," my sweetie tut-tutted, always the mother-type person. Yes, it is, but since nobody got more than two pieces, I think we'll survive...for now.
My neighbor even deemed the concoction worthy of a gift for her dad on Father's Day. She must figure prominently in the will. Anyway, you can bet there'll be bacon abounding in our neighborhood soon.
BTW: the cheese chunks were quite tasty!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Windmilling On the Slippery Slope

Now, before I begin: THIS IS NOT ME WRITING. THE OPINIONS THAT FOLLOW ARE NOT NECESSARILY MINE. There, having cleared that up, I hope I can escape being lumped together with David Letterman whose latest "jokes" have turned on him. I like Letterman, but crude humor even hinting at the kind of stuff he referred to the other night with regard to the Palin daughter is not acceptable. (that is the editorial portion of our program...on with the blog)
Meghan Daun of the Los Angeles Times reported today on research done by the National Bureau of Economic Research in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania. This research indicates without question that women today are less happy than they were in the 70s. The actual quote is "women's subjective well-being has declined both absolutely and relatively to men." So, while men aren't getting any happier, either, women's joi de vivre appears to be plummeting like the DJIA over the last two years.
This isn't some study done for the sake of doing one: it featured a cross-sectional data base of various ethnic and socioeconomic groups in several industrialized countries. Thus, it seems like an accurate study. The same questiosn, I would guess, were asked both in the 70s and in this decade, and the results were irrefutable.("But did they ask the SAME women," I hear you query. No idea)
What ISN'T suggested are any reasons for this. An hypothesis and study with conclusions but no discussion of results seems a bit chicken-hearted to me, but then again, maybe they found just what they were looking for...or they were men like me and wary of sticking their necks out...again, like me.
This didn't stop Daun and other columnists from weighing in on possible reasons for this marked drop in personal satisfaction. And remember, before you start writing ME hate mail castigating me as atypical male idiot, these are options proposed by others and reported by me! I know the looks of a dangerously slippery slope when I see one!

1. One potential cause of all this angst might be the feminist movement of the 70s...not because of all the now-sagging tissue as a reult of wearing less underwear (no personal information on whether this ultimately hurts, but it would seem to), but because that movement promised something that ultimately could not be delivered. The feminist movement seemed to say to women that they could, in fact, have it all (up to and including a Virginia Slims-induced cancer). Facts are, though, that women still make less than men, the glass ceiling iremains a reality, women who have both a job and kids STILL have to do most of the work around the house while hubby watches "Sports Center," and kids, well, can be kids. Thus, while raising expectations for a segment of the population dying to have a slice of the pie, the movement ultimately set women up for a la mode.

2. The demands on working mothers, especially single working mothers are overwhelming and cause for not only great stress but greater unhappiness. One pundit went so far as to say that the romantic idea of a single mother has been embraced by so many woman who "don't need a man" has been tempered by the harsh realities of raising a child or children. It's not easy being both the good cop and the bad cop. And given the statistics on teen prgnancies, this gets downright scary. But then, of course, what can one do ex post facto?

3. Daun even proposed, somewhat tongue in cheek, that Angelina Jolie and others of her ilk were the source of the problem. Here is a woman who CAN have it all, including Brad Pitt, action movie roles, any kid she wants, botox, a vial of blood around your neck if you want to,etc. which, in turn, is bound to make any other woman feel like something the cat dragged it. Maybe, maybe not. If you believe the tabloids, it's not all peaches and cream for Brangelina, either. Who still wants to trade?

I have several of my own theories on this, and though I hesitate to put them out there, I'm feeling reckless (especially since I'm going to cover bacon with chocolate tomorrow and give myself cemented arterial walls). I actually posed the question to my sweetie as to whether or not she was happier in the 70s than she is today, and she said, "Yes" without hesitation although she refused to elaborate in the name of scientific discovery. "Am I the reason," I foolishly asked, knowing all the while that I should just shut up. The subsequent look I got when I persisted convinced me that I had better just turn around and begin the blog.
On second thought, I'm going to keep my electronic mouth shut. My opinions are best kept unspoken.
The slope is terrifyingly slippery.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Summer...New List

It was probably a byproduct of having no friends as a kid...seriously. All the available playmates in the neighborhood were my brother's age,and I was summarily shunned with regularity. Maybe it had something to do with my mother and dad who always wanted some things for their kids that they did not have. Mom couldn't swim--she was terrified of water; so, off to swimming lessons we went. Dad made it out of 6th grade, and Mom finished high school when she was in her 40s, so education was important. Fortunately for them, Fred was a good student and a mostly dutiful son. I, on the other hand, was...well, never mind. One thing that I DID get from my mother was a love of books and of reading. She tended toward Perry Mason mysteries, but I ranged a bit farther though I loved baseball books and sports books in general. I read Lank of the Little League a dozen times, easily. I'm sure I could tell you all about it even now except that you really don't want to hear it. Booth Tarkington's Penrod was another book that I wore out by reading it, as was Huckleberry Finn. Reading was the highlight of the summer...after baseball.
Our local library, like most of them, had summer reading programs for kids, and I divided my time between the diamond and the stacks every summer. I was without equal when the final tally was counted for the title of the kid who'd read the most. I don't remember if we got prizes or just the feeling of accomplishment, but I cherished every book experience. And that continues.
Nowadays, I spend most of my time reading textbooks in order to help students. This is all very fine, but I don't read for enjoyment or even to learn something: I read to help kids understand concepts well enough to pass tests. By the time my day is over, I hardly have the energy to open a book and read for fun. Not so in the summer, however, and this summer has gotten off to something of a peculiar start.
I've always considered myself somewhat eclectic in many things: I like almost any kind of music, I'm not picky about food (though raw hamburger makes me queasy), and I definitely am willing to read anything. And that's the way it has gone thus far.
I began this summer with a book I promised a student that I would read almost two years ago: Robert Jordan's Eye of the World, the first in a proposed 12-part fantasy series. I promised I would read it because John said his folks refused, and he wanted someone else to read it for discussion's sake. He, in turn, promised to read Louis L'Amour's Last of the Breed,one of my all-time favorite books. I will not be reading the next eleven in the Wheel of Time series, but for fantasy, it was OK. Actually, Jordan died before he could finish the 12th so it will be completed by an author named Brandon Sanderson (just in case you're interested).
Next came a book I had actually bought and was saving for just the right moment: Christopher Moore's Fool, an hilarious account of Shakespeare's King Lear told from the perspective of the court jester. I laughed all the way through and finished much too quickly!
People of the Book followed. It is a quasi-mystery thing which deals with tracing the history of a rare Jewish book through the eyes of a young woman whose job it is to restore the ancient tome. Saved by countless people throughout history, including several Muslims who saved it from destruction at the hands of the Nazis ("I hate Nazis") and the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition, the book is a regular Maco Polo of the literary world. I found it riveting, especially since there was so much about book restoration and the clues available that I had heretofore not known.
Then, alas, came a book I had promised to read but really had no desire to do so. However, a promise is a promise, and I trudged through Nicholas Sparks' Message in a Bottle. One of my students trumpeted this as the best book ever, and, though I feared she was overstating the case, agreed to read it. Probably for all the reasons I've refrained from reading romance novels (except the Louis L'Amour westerns which are, undeniably, romance novels) I did not particularly like this one. I found myself scanning pages of sappy dialogue, skipping through the interminable sex scenes and asking myself over and over, "So, what happens?" That one is already back at the library.
Up next, Kinky Friedman...subject of at least one blog when he was running for political office in Texas, and definitely the prototypical character. My kind of summer reading!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pig Lickers, Part Deux

Every now and then, something catches my attention and holds on like a tick hound on a raccoon. I mean it...I just can't get this out of my head...though, granted that there's a lot of room for various ideas to hide in there. And, as is often the case, this one relates to the latest food item craze...and it concerns bacon...again. I've begun making plans for the hog days of summer which include August 6-16, and the Wisconsin State Fair.
Now, as long as I've lived here, I've never had the hankerin' (to quote Sarah You-Know-Who) to go to the state fair. I hate crowds, the rides all make me dizzy until I throw up, and most of the musical acts are far too recent for me to enjoy. Nonetheless, when bacon is a'bakin' on the midway...
Our state fair is noted for two things that might be considered a bit unusual: cream puffs and food on a stick. In fact, this year's menu from vendors includes more than 40 items one could purchase that are perched on a stick. From the obvious: lollipops and caramel apples to the not-so-obvious: fried peanut butter and jelly, deep fried oreos and chilled cookie dough. There are also some that are downright head scratchers like cherry pie on a stick, macaroni and cheese on a stick, reubens on a stick and something mysterious (to me, anyway): cow pops. Being it is the state fair, I thought the writer had misspelled "cow poops" (hey, nothing would surprise me!) but maybe not. But the topper, and the reason I'm going to go to the fair this year is...chocolate-covered bacon on a stick!I can hear the guffaws even from here, but I honestly think it could be good!
Of course, Wisconsin is not the first place this delightful delectable has been delivered. That would be at the Famous Dave's stand last year at the Minnesota State Fair. That concoction, called Pig Lickers, also featured a sprinkling of sea salt as well. Just try to imagine those three flavors on your tongue. Interesting, isn't it? Almost like the jalapeno lemonade I got from Crate and Barrel last week: sweet on the tip of my tongue and slightly spicy in my throat: definitely a taste sensation. But back to pig lickers.
Just in case you are unable to make it to the Wisconsin State Fair this summer (although a much better family outing than seeing the world's largest muskie or a statue of Paul Bunyan) I have, through devious methods, found the recipe whereby you can make your own bacon on a stick liberally coated with chocolate.
Try it. You know you want to.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Day of Marvelous Discovery

I thought it would never happen again, but it has. In the five-minutes-per-patient world of medical professionals of all sorts, I discovered today a person (and a specialist at that) who took me back to "Marcus Welby, M.D." By that I mean a person who took as much time as I needed/wanted, answered all of my questions wnile posing more than a few in my direction, offered me the opportunity to direct my own health care, and THANKED ME FOR COMING! Seriously. I was taken aback in no uncertain terms by this treatment. Did I mention I was half an hour late for my appointment due to unforeseen circumstances? Did I mention the specialist thing? Well, this was not just any specialist, either. As an orthopedist, this doctor studied under and eventually worked with Dr. James Andrews before settling here in Green Bay. (If you are unfamiliar with the reputation of Andrews, you don't follow sports much)
Recommended by our athletic trainer, I finally conceded a visit to the doctor after three months of pain in an achilles issue that I noticed over spring break but ignored until a marble-sized swelling occurred just above my ankle. (turns out that I'm a "classic" case of a person about to potentially rupture a tendon...eek!) Anyway, my amazement at being treated like I knew something about my body in addition to being given complete control over what to do next (MRI) left me stunned. It had been a long time.
Our family doctor who aided us in Algoma was like that. He never rushed me, he asked how I felt about things, and he never gave up searching for a proper diagnosis. It was a joy to have him as a primary care physician because I always felt that I mattered...and he always referred to specialists if he thought it was appropriate. Of course, one might excuse that as the Welby-type behavior of a small-town medico, but I know it was more than that. And until today, I never thought I would feel so lucky to have such a doctor in my corner.
What happens next remains to be seen. I'll deal with the tendon based on what is suggested by the MRI. I won't like it...I've never been patient...but I'll do it.
Then, as today's Welby impersonator suggested, I'll do something for my knees.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Do You Have A Life?

I've been unavailable for a couple of days: garage sale--display, sell, box, put away, don't want to know.
However, it did occur to me during that time that popular culture has become important to everyone. For example, it seemed to MATTER to people rummaging that Taylor Hicks was/was not appearing locally in a production of "Grease" or that AT&T might have influenced the outcome of the latest "American Idol" competition. I, of course, cared about neither but knew about both. so, I devised this short quiz for you in order to dertermine just HOW in tune you are with pop the point of having no real life of your own. By my estimation, if you know more than half answers to the following questions, you need a hobby. Here we go:

1. Who is the woman in the picture at the top of the page?

2. Where is she from?

3. For what is she famous?

4. How did this sudden fame affect her?

5. How long has it taken her to recover?

6. What is the name of the place of recovery?

7. What kind of pet does she have?

8. What is this pet's name?

9. She's reportedly been offered 300,000 British pounds to do what?

10. Finish this sentence: She's never been .....

Now, do you or do you not have a real life? QUIZ ANSWERS BELOW

1. Susan Boyle 2. Scotland 3. 2nd place on "Britain's Got Talent" 4. mental/physical exhaustion 5. 4 days in rehab facility 6. The Priory 7. A cat 8. Pebbles 9. sing at Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore's anniversary party 10. kissed

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

How To Handle Tough Times

I've always been a fan of comic strips. They didn't have to elicit guffaws...they could be serious like "Dick Tracy," "Prince Valiant," or "The Phantom," and I always saved the comic strip section of the paper for last. I still do. And "Get Fuzzy" is the last one I read...every time, especially now that the local paper doesn't carry "Overboard" anymore. Of course, times change, and even strip writers get tired and retire, usually leaving a gaping hole in my newsday. But, I adjust and move on. I had just gotten to look forward to "In the Bleachers" when it disappeared. "Bloom County seemed to go on forever, and then, one day, "poof!" it was gone...replaced by one comic that I have never been interested enough to read: "Dilbert." Maybe because the subject matter usually involves the business/corporate world from the lower management (cubicle) point of view, I just didn't get into it. I couldn't tell you who the character Dilbert is; is it the dog? Is it the guy with glasses and no eyes with hair that looks like Beetle Bailey's hat? The cat? Don't know, don't care. But this week was serendipitous.
For an unknown reason, I decided to read it last Sunday. In the strip, a character (maybe Dilbert) is talking to his mother bemoaning his fate: doing the job of three people, taking a 20% pay cut, invesments tumbling and no promising mates in sight. He claims that his life has no meaning and asks his mother for some maternal advice.
"Shake it off, you big wuss!" she responds, then ...well, you can read it.
I almost fell off the couch when I read that. What amazing advice from a mother. I was so impressed that I blew up the panel featuring his mother and posted it on my office door. Now, students will get the benefit of motherly advice.
And "Dilbert" will get another read from me on Sunday.
Read it yourself by following this URL:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How Dare You, California?

As a teenager, I was totally convinced that I was crazy...seriously deranged. I had thoughts that I figured cemented my position as a Looney Tunes character, and just knew that I would end up in a suit which featured a jacket with really long arms which could be conveniently tied behind my back. I never understood any of it until Holden Caulfield came into my life. He suddenly made me seem almost "normal," and I began to see myself in a slightly different way: oh, STILL crazy, but not alone. Not the only half-empty (as opposed to half-full) picnic basket in the park.
I must have read his story over and over, almost eclipsing the number of times I had read Huck Finn, and I always felt better. The peace of mind Holden provided me carried me through serious bouts of depression and self-loathing and learn to deal more effectively with an uncanny abilitiy to alienate myself from almost everyone around me. Fortunately, I survived, thanks to Holden. If I had ever fathered a daughter, the plan was to name her Phoebe. Fortunately for the would-be child, my only daughter came with a name attached!
Salinger wrote very little after that book was published in 1951 and became something of a recluse so you can imagine my surprise when I noticed his name appearing on the BBC website. It seems that he, once again, is guarding his privacy via the lawsuit. Previously, he had rebuffed every overture to make The Catcher in the Rye a movie, and there have been many. Now, Salinger finds himself embroiled in a controversy he HAD to see coming: someone has written a "sequel" to his most famous work!
A person from Sweden using the pseudonym of John David California has written a book entitled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, dedicated it to Salinger and claims the book is a story about "an author and his character." Unless the lawsuit filed this week in New York halts printing, the book is due to be published later this summer by Windupbird Publishing in the U.K. with distribution for the States scheduled for later in the year.
Salinger, now 90, is neither honored or amused. Calling the book "a ripoff, plain and simple," he plans to fight it out in court (via his lawyers...Salinger has not appeared in public for years). Good for him. Holden Caulfield needs to remain firmly planted in my mind just as he was more than 40 years ago when he convinced me that there were other crazy kids in the world...some crazier than I.
If Salinger's suit fails, I will not be breathlessly waiting in line to buy the first copy. I will ignore its phony existence...Mark David Chapman might be the only one to read it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Want My MTV

"Are you serious?"

The music didn't die that February night in Clear Lake, Iowa. Oh sure, Buddy and Ritchie and the Big Bopper did, but that was only a hiccup, as I see it, in the protracted choking spasms of music for the masses. I mean, face it, when the summer touring schedule features individuals and band members in their 60s (not lost in the 60s...60 years old!) charging aging wannabe rockers $100 just to hear music the way they remember it (somewhat), things are askew.Also cited as evidence is the Simpsons episode in which Homer goes to rock 'n' roll camp with said aging rockers as instructors. D'oh!
For awhile there, it looked like MTV was going to be the visual savior that Rolling Stone magazine had tried to be for the reading public. What we've seen lately is definitely not what producers imagined in 1981 when The Buggles were aired as the very first music video in their performance of "Video Killed the Radio Star." Little did we know it would also kill music on TV as well! MTV has turned into a freak sideshow totally unlike the relevance of airing the first video by an African-American artist (Michael Jackson's world premier of "Beat It"), or its daring release of the premier of the 14-minute video of "Thriller." It has fallen precipitously from meaningful programming like the 17 hours of Live Aid...back when performers were socially conscious, I guess. So what do we have now?
Prents sitting on the couch with teens watching a video of someone else dating the teen's steady girlfriend/boyfriend; private (turned public) lives of people randomly thrown together in an approximation of "real life." This reached its nadir this year when filming began on the University of Wisconsin campus, detailing the social life (e.g. drinking) that goes on across campus. Some recruiting tool! But the Cohen, Slim Shady deal has got to be to topper...or "bottomer" if you prefer.
The MTV Awards Show has always shown a penchant for the bizarre...generally, the more bizarre, the "better." Sunday night proved no exception. Sacha Baron Cohen(Borat)-- suspended by wires above the audience, dressed in white with feathered wings, portraying the flamboyantly gay character Bruno--claims to experience mechanical difficulty and asks to be lowered...and ends up in Eminem's lap. Ah, but that's not the "best" part: seems Cohen has no underwear on and brushes very close to the oft-said-to-be-homophobic rapper's face before landing in Slim Shady's lap. "Explosive" would be the best way to describe the reaction by the rapper, who shouted "Are you serious?" in his best John McEnroe impression before storming out of the theater (conveniently filmed by well-positioned camera people!)...but not before Cohen could say, "Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?" happened. Now the ocntroversy began: was it orchestrated or did Eminem have NO idea this was going to happen?
The internet is abuzz with opinions on both sides of the issue. Of course, that is fueled by the fact that NOBODY is talking: not Cohen, not Eminem, and not MTV reps. By now, you are either so interested as to check it out yourself, or back to your Facebook account, so I'll just leave it at this:
I want my MTV back: music videos and veejays who knew music. It's no wonder my iPod gets more play than MTV.