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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What's Fur For?

Rawhide chew additional

I will be the first to admit that I'm not a cat lover...actually, every cat with which I've come in contact might be the first to admit that, but you get the idea. I guess since we never had cats when I was a kid, I never got used to them being around. It's somewhat like raw beef: I mean, they eat it all the time in Wisconsin as a delicacy, but I grew up thinking that all food of the beef variety should be cooked thoroughly in order to halt the growth of intestinal parasites. But maybe it's just that we were backwards where I come from. I mean, we called a thing which spouted water for drinking a "water fountain" while here it's known as a "bubbler." We had "sacks" and here it's "bags." Confusing...but at least we were on similar footing with pets. Come to think of it, NOBODY I knew as a kid had a cat, but lots of my friends owned dogs...which leds me to conclude something with regard to the sexes:
"Dogs are a man's best friend," but "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." Seems like I'm getting gypped here.
Anyway, now for dog owners comes the accessory we've all been anxiously awaiting, especially the guys among us. It's the Dog Snuggie! That's right: even though we have our OWN Snuggie to keep our hands free for working the remote control, now we can assure our canine friends of the same comfort!
Purveyors of this product estimate that there are more than 74 million dogs kept as family pets...and, seriously, they are getting tired of receiving rawhide chews EVERY holiday!
I mean, more than 5 million Snuggies have been sold to people so you just know there's a market for those people's doggies, what with summer being a misnomer and winter fast approaching.
This item goes on sale in August at PetSmart (or is it PetsMart?), Petco and CVS Pharmacies. For a mere $9.99, YOUR favorite pet can keep snuggly warm on the couch with you watching "Lassie" reruns.
And have his or her paws free to work the remote.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's In A Name?

Shakespeare posed the question in "Romeo and Juliet" about the importance of specific names. Surely, the name Capulet or Montague didn't mean much to the two lovers, but to everyone else, it was significant. The ending for these two was unfortunate, and I suspect Justin Barrett will find the same, unhappy termination to the latest episode.
I rarely discuss politics because people refuse to be swayed by the opinions of toehrs...and I'm no different. But in this age of political correctness (some of which is ludicrous), the term "banana-eating jungle monkey can mean only one thing...and it's NOT that Doctor Doolittle is coming to town with his menagerie including the Push-Me-Pull-You. And Justin Barrett should know that.
The sordid tale concerning Officer Crowley and Professor Gates has just taken a nasty turn. While I suspect there was enough blame to go around on all sides of the original discrepancy, this latest salvo will come to rest squarely on soon-to-be-ex-officer Barrett.
The two-year veteran of Boston Police and captain in the National Guard, referred to Prof. Gates as the aforementioned "banana-eating jungle monkey"...and not just to friends at a bar after work. He sent a letter to the Boston Globe and emails to the National Guard folks, repeating the epithet several times during the course of his diatribe and explaining graphically what HE would have done in the same situation.
This is a story that won't die because the "I'm not a racist" people like Barrett won't let it.
And gun sales continue to go up in this country. Go figure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sure, But How Do the Cows Feel?

I will readily admit that living in the upper Midwest has some drawbacks. Not watching television much or listening to the radio a lot can also be drawbacks when it comes to finding things out. I generally am among the last to know popular culture. Fortunately, I have at least one child who feels it his duty to keep me relatively abreast of the world. And, of course, reading six newspapers every day keeps me at least on the fringe of contemporary things. But I admit to being totally befuddled by Cytosport's "Muscle Milk" and the latest in a long line of lawsuits surrounding the company.
In case you have yet to realize its existence, "Muscle Milk" is marketed to athletic types by the company as a nutritional shake, and such luminaries as Shaq have touted its benefits. Who knew? Not me. Anyway, Cytosport has been ruthless in filing suit against any person or company that uses the word "milk" in its trademark. Thus, "Warrior Milk," a product supposedly engineered by a nutrition expert, has come under the legal wrath of the Cytosport legal beagles. So has "Angel Milk," a similar product aimed at pregnant and nursing mothers. The lawsuit eventually cost so much that "Angel Milk" is no longer offered for sale. All of this makes the latest legal wrangling somewhat interesting: Cytosport is itself being sued by the Nestle Corporation (the world's largest food company with sales of more than $800 billion last year). The reason for the suit? Nestle claims "deceptively misdescription" (?) because "Muscle Milk" has actually NO MILK IN IT! Obviously, the FDA has a loose interpretation of what can be called "milk."
According to the Cytosport folks, this product is "designed after one of nature's most balanced foods: mother's milk." That description alone would probably cause me to eschew its use, but that's just me. At any rate, this product does contain whey as does regular milk, but it contains no lactose and no fat. It DOES contain "fast-burning medium-chain diglycerides"...almost sounds like fat to me.
I seriously doubt that Nestle will run out of money to continue litigation, and I will add this to my ever-expanding list of things to do on Monday:
9. Find "Muscle Milk" while trying not to think about lactating mothers...bless their hearts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why I'm Not the Boss of Me

I was touring a wedding group at Lambeau the other day: bride was a big Packers' fan, and the groom from Illinois was a Bears' fan. When a couple of women with the group found out that weddings happen all the time at Lambeau, they were disappointed to have missed out on the opportunity. I posed the question as to why this particular wedding was being held elsewhere in Green Bay, and they responded with the facts about divided loyalty. "Yes," I said, "but doesn't the woman get he final say in weighty decisions?" They stood, momentarily taken aback, before the realization hit them. "You're RIGHT!" they said in unison. "Something is definitely wrong with that girl! How could she let HIM make that decision?"
Having sown enough discord to thoroughly disrupt the post-ceremony imbibing, I remarked that I made all the decisions for me,too, after getting the OK from my sweetie. "As it should be," they replied.
Carol Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Brand Officer for the media company Elle seemed to echo those exact statements in an interview recently in the New York Times in which she was asked about gender differences when it comes to managing.
"Women are better managers, advisors, mentors and rational thinkers," she said. She added that females are better "...list-makers; they prioritize their to-do lists, and they make sure everything gets done. They are also the first to confront problems head on."
Men, according to Smith, love to hear themselves talk and, as a result, waste too much time at the beginning of meetings talking about golf, football and telling jokes. She prefers to get to meetings chaired by men at least fifteen minutes into the purported agenda so she doesn't have to waste her time. Men, it seems, are on the hook for wasting time with water cooler discussions of little importance.
Not that she lets women completely off the hook, either. She notes that women take things too personally while men are much better at letting things roll off their backs, as it were.
All in all, Smith feels that a mixed-gender environment is the best solution, but added that when one is at work, one should be working, not wasting time.
While I'm not so sure about the "confronting problems head on" idea, I fully concur with Smith on the rest of her outlook. Testosterone can be a negative, especially when differing ideas emerge.
I'm perfectly content to have a manager because I know that there will always be a completed to-do list lying my benefit.
Actually, I'm a rather effective list-maker and completer as well, but not as good as most women I know.
Vive le difference!

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Need A Bigger Nose

As I peered down at my knees today while touring folks at Lambeau, I noticed signs of sweat soaking through my pants. At about the same time, a ticklish trickle of perspiration wended its way southward from my underarm area...despite the anti-perspirant (or was it merely deodorant?) that I'd generously applied earlier in the day after a strenuous session with WiiFit. It would appear that the dog days of summer are upon us. While dogs pant with their tongues out to alleviate the problem of overheating, and rabbits and elephants have the same function performed by their vast ears, people just sweat, and it's none too attractive. I wistfully wished to be a toucan in order to solve my persipration problem. Of course, that would cause other difficulties: giving tours would be more difficult, and there would be an insatiable desire for Froot Loops, but at least I could cool off discreetly.
That's because, according to researchers from Canada and Brazil, toucans have a thermal radiator one-third the size of their bodies: their beaks.
Darwin postulated that toucan had such large probosci in order to attract mates, though mating itself must have been difficult. Others have ventured a guess that the extremely large bills have to do with peeling fruit or providing a visual warning of some kind; but now, the truth seems to be out: the elongated beak is merely the radiator that regulates body temperatures for these birds.
Dr. Glenn Tattersall from Brock University in Canada used a thermal imaging camera to assess the surface temperature of the toucans' bill in temperatures ranging from 10-35 degress celsius and found undeniably that as the air temperature got warmer, so did the birds' bills. In the evening, as the air cooled, almost NO heat emanated from the bills. This is apparently due to a network of blood vessels in the beak (who knew?) that can either increase or restrict the flow of blood as a method of controlling body heat. Having a thermal window that is one-third the size of the body means that these birds can heat up or cool off very quickly.
Me? I just sweat, and it's not very attractive. Effective, yes; but attractive, not so much.
Oh for a beak one-third of my body length! (and stronger neck muscles)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can Anyone Cast the First Stone?

It really hurts me to think that people in general, and men in particular, are so predictable. It's also too ironic that whenever anything remotely scandalous happens, the finger-pointing begins in earnest as each involved party tries to appear guiltless and above suspicion while painting the others involved as moral degenerates...and I'm not just talking about politics and politicians. Sadly for her, Erin Andrews gets to be the latest poster child for this, "Not ME, it's YOU who is degenerate" game.
Andrews, 31, is a widely-known, attractive sideline reporter for ESPN at sporting events...mainly football, I think. I know who she is but have never paid attention. I guess I always just watch the games. Anyway, nude photos of her have been splashed all over the web and in the New York Post this week. She was somehow photographed in her hotel room doing normal things: no sex, no orgy, just ironing her clothes, checking her figure and walking about the room. I'm sure it took great ingenuity to invade this young woman's privacy, but that's not the story as I see it.
The New York Post published some of the pictures recently, then proceeded to cover its behind (and hers) with judiciously placed black bars. "It's news because it's Erin Andrews," the tabloid seems to be saying. Anything to sell papers.
TMZ, a website that specializes in digging up video dirt on the famous, refused to show the photos, claiming that they were a gross invasion of privacy. Really? For a website that spcializes in invasion of privacy, this sounded a little too high-handed to me. I'll bet they were outbid for the prints by the Post.
ESPN doesn't get off by my count, either. It has taken the moral high road by banning Post reporters from its new coverage events. Sounds goo...and moral...and right. But who created the larger-than-life Andrews in the first place? With at lest three analysts for each and every football game on television, did we NEED an attractive woman on the sidelines reporting on such things as what the coach plans to do in the second half? I would never denigrate Andrews' or anyone else's ability to be a reporter, but think about it...guys like football (stereotypically), and guys like to ogle attractive women (think swimsuit editions of "sports" magazines); putting the two together made perfect sense for sports networks. Don't for a minute think her inclusion was to convince women to watch football...they are too smart to fall for a ploy like that. As a result, Andrews has become, perhaps, the most photographed woman in sports not to be part of a swimsuit issue. So, ESPN is complicit here: they created the sexy sports reporter persona. Claiming to be outraged sounds hollow to me. Won't this increase viewership of ESPN coverage? You bet it will.
Does Andrews capitalize on her attractiveness? probably; but it would seem that she still has to be knowledgable. It's sad to think that women still have to depend on physical attractiveness to get a foot in the door in some professions. I guess there's enough blame for everyone.
Oh, I haven't forgotten the photographer. He (or she) will claim to be making a living the best way possible...after all, scandal is where the money is. "I'm just trying to feed my family." This is the same story we get from athletes who need an additional $20 million dollars on a five-year deal. Sounds fishy to me.
But then, I just watch the games.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yet Another Coverup

When I have not been walking all day giving tours at Lambeau Field ("The home of YOUR Green Bay Packers!") I will head out for a 45-minute walk with my sweetie around the neighborhood and adjoining nature preserve at UW-Green Bay. And every time we're out, it seems that a large percentage of drivers we meet along the way is chatting somebody up on a cell phone. I think that during one lengthy stroll, I could count only three drivers who WERE NOT on the phone. As a pedestrian, I always get a little nervous about these people. I mean, I wouldn't have much chance to survive if someone lost focus and swerved into my path: steel on flesh? Bet on the steel every time.(though I would make an excellent hood ornament) What I didn't realize until today that, while various talking heads have waxed eloquent about the dangers of phoning, texting, and driving simultaneously, there have actually been notable studies done...studies whose results were NEVER published for fear of angering lawmakers! really.
A study completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2003 examined the effects of cell phone use while driving. The study encompassed 10,000 individuals as well as taking police reports into account of accidents, and the results were conclusive...but the report was squashed until this week when the New York Times broke the story after getting an actual copy of the report through the Freedom of Information Act. Here's what researchers found:
In 2002, there were 955 fatalities in this country directly attributable to cell phone use by drivers. There were a reported 240,000 accidents due in part to the same attempt at multi-tasking with a phone and an automobile!(though no word on those who read, eat or apply makeup while driving) The study concluded that drivers are four times more likely to be involved in an accident if they are using a phone than if they are not; 6% of all drivers are using a phone at any given time (I would have guessed at least 50% based on my observations) and that people using a phone while driving have the same risk of accident as someone with a .08% alcohol content in their bloodstream!
So, why was this suppressed? Congress apparently wanted the data from the research but did not want to NHTSA to try to convince states that cell phone use while driving was a bad idea. It threatened to withold funding if the report were to see the light of day. Can you say "lobbyists?" I knew you could.
Think of the lives that could have been saved in the last 6 years or so!
Oh, and another point: the study indicates that hands-free phone communication is just as dangerous becuase it's not so much the physical act of using the phone which causes accidents as it is the loss of focus drivers experience while engaged in a conversation.
Kind of makes you wonder what else we should know about but don't, doesn't it?
I need to get my OWN lobbyist, it seems, to tell me what else has been hidden.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tales From the Road

Traveling can be exhausting, to say the least. Sleeping away from home only exacerbates the situation; then, there's eating away from home. With all of those negatives to consider (did I mention driving in traffic?), one has to wonder why we even leave home at all. I am questioning that item even now.
It is now Monday evening, and we have been in Chicago since Friday: not all that long as far as time goes, but plenty long enough for me on a couple of fronts. Sitting in stop and go traffic for more than an hour when I had to "go" in more than a casual way portended some less-than-pleasant moments. Fortunately, the traffic moved just quickly enough for me to spot the portable bathroom in a park before, well, before what parents call euphemistically an "accident."
Parking on the streets in Chicago is also designed to instill a kind of madness in those of us who generally can park just about anywhere we want to at any time, barring legal restrictions. There's something less than green about driving around for 20 minutes, only to spot a parking space on a street seven blocks from ones destination. Could the excitement that abounds in the city lure me from my "rural" home surroundings? Not likely. However, there have been compensatory items.
Not far from our temporary abode with our son and daughter-in-law is Lakeshore Drive which follows the contours of Lake Michigan and features a bike/walking path with extends for many miles...some say all the way to Indiana. Of course, the gonzo bikers tend to dominate the path by zipping along at 30 mph while the more pedestrian of us choose to take our time and look at the sights. My sweetie and I biked downtown to Millenium Park, had a hot dog, splashed in the fountain a bit and watched a parade from Chinatown before heading back. It made for a pleasant afternoon though there was a slight temptation to stop at Navy Pier to ride the giant ferris wheel (on my part only).
We earned our keep by painting a bathroom and offering suggestions on parenting for the upcoming parents. My main suggestion was that I really had no idea how we'd done anything, but I did volunteer to make a changing table.
Our vacations usually feature two things: exercise and food. This was no different. I've eaten hot dogs in several places (the best from a stand in Millennium Park and the worst by far at the Cubby Bear bar adjacent to Wrigley Field: seriously, the bun was so stale that one could have used it to discipline an unruly child by swinging it overhead in a threatening manner...and the fries were almost warm. sad)
Of course, we got to our favorite Scandinavian restaurant for cinnamon rolls, Jamb Juice for our favorite smoothie (rated the LEAST healthy by Men's Health Magazine), bakery from a Swedish bakery in the neighborhood and Garrett's popcorn, my personal favorite being the Chicago mix.
Actual meals? not so much.
Miles and miles of additional walking justified all the caloric input (or was it the other way around?) At any rate, back home tomorrow, sleeping in a familiar bed and having an actual meal will be quite comforting.
One of us did some shopping,too, with birthday money, but spent too little of it.
There's no place like home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Change in America?

Sitting in my son and daughter-in-law's living room in the Windy City (Chicago, NOT Dodge City, Kansas, the most windy city in the country, according to Guinness Records)watching television today, I was stunned beyond belief. Of course, there were two mitigating factors: this is America, and I was sitting in Chicago. Those two circumstances were the only reasons I did not lose my mind completely. Here's the scene:
An African-American man in a dark suit with a flag pin in his lapel was standing behind a podium giving a speech. Behind him, a huge American flag was draped on the wall, and his wife and two daughters were standing in rapt attention just downstage right. The speaker's basic theme was "Change has come to America." After 30 seconds or so, it became apparent that the change he was speaking about had to do with an automobile...Nissan, to be precise. Within seconds, the dealership's name was prominently displayed on the screen, and I was this close to apoplexy. Not that political figures cannot be useful as the punch line for jokes, especially given the way many of them behave; but, like it or not, electing an African-American president has been a precedent-setting occurrence, and to present a caricature of him and his family merely to sell an automobile?
But, then again, it IS Chicago, a city where politicians have seldom risen above flawed mortality. And it IS Chicago, a city with more than a few African-Americans who buy cars...and in state where office can seemingly be bought and sold. Tasteful? I didn't think so, but then again, I'm relatively certain that the commercial was not aimed at me,anyway. Local markets are probably highly competitive, and this ad was certainly designed to get attention.
How would it play in Peoria? I haven't heard yet.
Free "speech" is alive and well. Now, if we could only solve the damn parking on the street problem here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pushing Our Buttons Purposely

It never fails. Whenever I visit someone who owns a cat, the stupid thing finds me irresistible: it purrs gently as it rubs its body against my ankles or crawls up on a couch or chair where I happen to be sitting. It takes a great deal of restraint on my part not to make these pests contestants in the "kitty punting" contest of the day. There, I've said it: I do not like cats. I do not like them in the room, I'd like to hit them with a broom. I do not like them underfoot. I'd like to give them all the boot (OK...slant rhyme there). I have no rational reason for this distaste on my part. After all, they're rather fuzzy and cute...though I'm reminded of a poem by Ogden Nash (I think) on the subject:

"The problem with a kitten is that
eventually, it becomes a cat."

I've had dogs most of my life, and they're fun to be with but somewhat needy in the attention department. They'll chase sticks and balls, slobber all over you, and really pretend to be glad to see you when you return home after a long day at the salt mines. Cats will do none of those things. While it has been proven that no matter how much dog owners believe it to be true, dogs really don't love their owners: they see us merely as food providers. All that tail waggin' (an Alaskan dog, no doubt) is a ploy. Cats, though, seem to be more directly manipulative, and that make me dislike them even more.
Dr. Karen McComb, a researcher in England, recently published an article in "Current Biology" magazine in which she postulated that cats DIRECTLY use the tone of their purr to manipulate humans into getting them food. She calls it a "soliciting purr" which cats use especially in the morning to get the owners' attention in order that the Whiskas might soon be in the bowl. McComb typifies the sound as "more urgent and less pleasant due to the relative level of embedded high-frequency sound" as cats imbed a high-pitched cry into an otherwise relaxing purr.
McComb also noted distinct similarities between this specific cat noise and the cry of a human baby...I don't even want to THINK about that process.
But then, I'm not big on crying babies, either.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

That Crazy Baby


Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a baby-yet-to-be-born eat so much. I know it had to be the soon-to-be-granddaughter eating it all because of the kind of food being consumed. Of course, it could be just that pregnancy thing with which I have no real experience, too. I can only guess at how that works.
Here's the deal: our oldest son and his wife are expecting their first child in October, and it promises to be a rare experience as cultures collide. Sopanya is from Cambodia, and,as such, really eats very little American food. She especially doesn't like anything that's sweet: obviously something not found in Khmer culture where fruits and vegetables are featured along with rice and peppers that singe the nostrils just smelling them. It's one of the healthiest diets I've ever tried (almost totally lacking in saturated fats or fats of any kind), and we revel in the dishes that she makes when they come to visit as they did this weekend. That's why this sudden gustatory happening gets blamed on "that crazy baby." Cookies disappeared as if by magic; a chocolate chip pie was disappearing faster than the world's oil reserves...all due to "that crazy baby." Dinner with guests still featured a lot fo great Asian food, but the cravings for sweets was humorous...and we tried to recall is "we" were that funny prior to having that first child. The humor extended (for me, anyway) to hilarity when my wife explained that the baby was not done growing, and our daughter-in-law would get even bigger in the coming months! The look of consternation which that brought to an erstwhile size 3 petite was priceless. Even the description of the baby moving around provoked laughter (again...from me). My son, oblivious in some ways to this stuff, was busy figuring out how to hook up his iTunes to the stroller: "No 'Rockabye Baby' for my child!" he quipped. It's going to be fun for the next couple of months.
As long as it's not me.
As long as there is sugar in the house for "that crazy baby."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Flying The Unfriendly Skies

What used to be the experience of a lifetime-- taking a cross country flight--has become the biggest nightmare off of Elm Street. Anyone who's flown knows the sad, lamentable tale: missed connections, extended layovers, three stops to go 500 miles, crabby TSA people, no snacks without paying for them, and, yes, lost and/or destroyed luggage. I finally got so fed up with it that I go absolutely nowhere with any bag that I have to check. If it can't be carried on, it won't go. Travelling Asia for two weeks simply meant washing stuff out in the sink or smelling like the surroundings when the temps were over 100. Just recently, I madea trip to work my son's basketball camp in Pittsburgh and carried one bag with the equipment needed to do the drills I had planned, and I carried all my clothes and laptop in a backpack: four days' pair of shoes and flip flops...Tshirts and shorts...underwear and socks. While it gets heavy lugging it around, perhaps, I know that it will be with me wherever I go. Too bad Dave Carroll could not have done it that way...but then, a guitar probablky won't fir under the seat anyway.
I cannot tell you the story nearly as well as the media can, so I will simply include the URL. The YouTube video is MUST SEE!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Still Scratching My Head Over...

Every now and then, I think the moon affects more than tides in the world. Sometimes it just seems that things are just getting too wierd for words...and that's saying a lot when we look at the seeming total collapse of energy, food, water, air and good sense which occur with too much frequency. I searched and searched for something "normal" today, but even relaxing in the hammock didn't do it: damn telemarketers who must have found out that I was home! I refused to watch the obsequies for Michael Jackson because I just knew it would be a circus; there was probably a red carpet for celebs to pose before entering the Staples Center...and you KNOW Al Sharpton and JJ got their 156 minutes in. Anyway, a list of the unnerving wierdness lately follows (as I see it, of course. This might be totally normal to you):

Remember Mark Sanford, the governor who sought permission from his wife to visit his mistress? He's still governor, but admit it, THAT whole thing was skewed from the outset. Now, he's apologized to everyone but me and determined to win back the trust of South Carolina. Want to bet?

You've probably also heard of Rick Strandlof, aka Rick Duncan. He's the guy who for the last few months has been masquerading as an ex-marine captain who had served three Iraq tours and been wounded. He stumped for congressmen, advocated for veterans publicly and spoke about opposition to the war in Iraq...a LOT. Turns out, he was none of the things he purported to be. It's one thing to dress up and play make-believe in your own home, but this guy deceived lots of people, and many of them were vets...probably not the group one wishes to antagonize.

Sarah Palin, love her or hate her, she knows how to get an audience. However, when Kathleen Parker, my absolute favorite conservative columnist, rips her...that's wierdness personified. Let's go slay some salmon!

Michael Jackson was, perhaps,as much of an innovator as Elvis and the Beatles. He certainly defined pop music, dance moves, and, face it, wierdness on occasion. In a twist that NOBODY thought odd, a line of circus elephants wound its way toward the Staples Center today prior to the funeral "performance." Trouble was, it was totally unrelated to MJ, but people totally bought into it. Seems that Barnum and Bailey Circus is performing soon, and the elephants were simply being moved to their new quarters. Leave it to MJ...nobody thought a line of elephants was unexpected. Is this what entertainment's become today? Perhaps. I'm going to work on mastering the "Thriller" dance.

Finally, the Steve McNair saga has left me totally speechless. EVERYONE has been carrying on, eulogizing him for his great ability and his community work, both of which were prodigious. However, they pooh pooh the fact that he was a married man who was practically living with another woman: people in the condo thought the two were a couple, he was there so often. How can we lionize a person while his widow and kids get no mention? Even the iconic Brett Favre made a comment sending condolences to McNair's MOTHER but NOT his wife and kids! What the hell? That's wierd, if you ask me. Call me Puritanical, but passing off adultery as "we're all human and we make mistakes" is just wrong.
I'm sending my condolences to McNair's poor wife and kids who have to live with this for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes, the wierdness becomes stifling.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Not Exactly A Meyers Cocktail, But...

The imperviousness of youth has long since been replaced by armor plating made of...say, something the consistency of peanut brittle. As I walked, bent, stretched and otherwise contorted myself today in a session of physical therapy, it occurred to me that I might never be the same...might never be what I used to be...might never be what I want to be in terms of physical health. Maybe this means that I have to learn to accept that the downhill slide of my physical self will go much more quickly than the downhill dropoff of my mental self, which, to all accounts, began some time ago. I mean, if Michael Jackson couldn't make it with all the holistic (and otherwise) medicines and remedies that he imbibed, what chance do I have?
"Eat your fruits and vegetables," I hear you say. Yes, I should, and here's why, according to the lates news from the friendly (potentially senile) folks at AARP:
Eat beets...they are great brain food.
Grapes and grape juice are excellent ways to refresh the memory.
Green iced tea is also a boost to memory, while black tea has ramifications for aiding Alzheimer's patients (as noted yesterday).
Eating blueberries will help avoid the accumulation of belly fat...probably in addition to a cessation of beer drinking.
Noshing on broccoli provides good stuff for the heart.
Bananas, long a source of "good" things, will help provide potassium and allow 3-6 additional pounds of muscle instead of fat.
Watermelon is supposedly good to maintain strong, healthy bones, and mushrooms are a source of antioxidants. Who knew?
Garlic is an infection fighter, probably because nobody will want to get close to you after eating a clove or two...and not just vampires, either.
In all of this, no mention of bacon, Cheetos or beer.
The rest of my life (until I don't recognize it) sounds miserable.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Good for Me? Bad For Me? Decide Already!

If one is approaching middle age and is male, there are certain conditions he hopes to avoid: of course, the embarrassing ED is one of them but hardly the most serious. If one is to believe the television commercials, most of us will be affected by the horrifying condition that develops as the prostate glad enlarges, creating a myriad of problems, not the least of which is the constant urgency to urinate. Of course the real issue is not so much that it is a constant need which interrupts biking and canoeing trips, baseball games and meetings (to cite the TV ads) but the fact that the need is IMMEDIATE, as in "If I don't get to the bathroom in the next 20 seconds, it will be embarrassing." Well, yeah, I can see how that might be problematic. One thing doctors seem to suggest with frequency is that men limit the intake of caffeine. I understand the diuretic nature of caffeine, and we have, as a nation, decried young people's fixation on soda, energy drinks and all sorts of caffeine-laced beverages. Turns out that we might have been wrong.
Dr. Gary Arendash of the University of Florida recently conducted a study on the benefits of caffeine as a method to REVERSE the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. Seriously. According to a report in the BBC, Dr. Arendash's study was conducted using 55 mice who had been specifically bred to have the issues with memory that are similar to Alzheimer's patients at age 70.
Half the group was given caffeine in its water while the other half continued with plain water. The serving of caffeine amounted to the quivalent of 500 milligrams of caffeine (roughly 2 lattes from Starbucks, 14 cups of tea or 20 soft drinks...eek!) After two months, the mice on caffeine not only failed to get worse, their memory improved markedly while the mice getting only water continued to deteriorate with regard to memory functions. Caffeine is thought to have been responsible for a 50% drop in the levels of beta amyloid protein which forms destructive lumps in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
In a related study, younger mice that were fed caffeine failed to develop the memory problems associated with older mice in the word whether they were also subjected to MTV programming or text messaging.
Yes, I get the fact that it was mice, and we're men not mice, but a protein is a protein...I think. Obviously testing must be done with human patients before anyone can rush to judgment on this.
All I know is that coffee makes me go to the bathroom far more often than I want to and there are elements in soda that will positively do me in. Still...a good memory will enable me to remember which of my kids was nice to me when they all put me in the home!
Drink up!

Friday, July 03, 2009


Go here:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Either Way, You're Dead :(

People are unceasingly lazy...we look for short cuts to solve just about anything. I usually refer to this as 'McDonaldization" but that's not to denigrate the fast food giant. After all, I DID rush to have some fries in Thailand after weeks of vegetables and rice. It's just that we always get ourselves into situations and then look for ways to get out of them with less pain and travail. For example, just yesterday, a student with whom I have been working indicated that he was having difficulty with some test questions on an online program. His suggestion for success? Read the book? Take notes? Nope...he wanted me to sit beside him when he took the next test and help him with the answers! (I hope you are as stunned as I was).
Anyway, we sometimes find ourselves in need of help to escape those jams we've gotten into; this has resulted in a plethora of support groups, 12-step programs and other artificial aids like hypnosis to get us through the battles we face. More often than not, the golden bullet is a drug of some kind. It is, many times, a drug that people turn to when attempting to quit smoking.
My parents both died as a result of smoking too much over too long a period. When both my brother and I demanded they quit, my father's response was twofold: "I'd rather do something I enjoy and die than live and be miserable." "Quitting is easy, I do it every day." The simplicity of his "logic" defied any explanation I could offer. He did manage to finally quit by simply stopping: no drugs, no patch; he just decided he had to do it: six months before the effects of smoking killed him.
Not being burdened with this kind of addiction, it was always hard for me to understand how people could continue when they KNEW that it was a potentially deadly addiction...but continue they did, until drugs like Zyban and Chantix came along and the FDA approved them for use in cessation programs. Only, the FDA missed something.
It seems that both of these drugs are great at helping peole quit smoking, but they often leave people with changes in behavior and mood, including hostility, agitation, depression and visitation of suicidal thoughts. The temptation of suicide seems to be so prevalent among users that the FDA is now requiring a special warning with each drug indicating that suicide and depression can be real side effects.
Wow! It's like all the other "cures" I see on television for ED and other malfunctions: the list of potential side effects is so scary that I'd be satisfied with a basic bodily dysfunction!
Smokers, it seems, have found themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Here's a potentially helpful web site:
Good luck. I still miss my parents.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Not For The Faint of Stomach

I don't know if you've seen the movie "The Bucket List" in which two men played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman decide to take life into their own hands and do the things they've always wanted to do prior to "kicking the bucket." It's Nicholson's idea, and his money so the adventure begins. I actually thought the movie was just OK, but, like many things, it did start me thinking about the things I've always wanted to do but failed to do because of time, money or permission from my sweetie. Topping the list would be playing shortstop in a fantasy baseball camp for the New York Yankees (which might happen if the economy ever gives me back the money it took last year). I suppose there are places to see and things to do like falling out of an airplane with a parchute attached...hey, if George Bush, Sr. can do it at his age, I can handle it. Heights have always fascinated me, and standing atop the Empire State Building was very cool, "Sleepless in Seattle" notwithstanding. I have to admit that going to the top of the Hemisfair Needle in San Antonio was a little scary. Designed like the Space Needle in Seattle, there's only the floor between spectators and a spectacular's not like there's a building there underfoot. I'll admit to a little nervousness and give major props to my sweetie who wanted NOTHING to do with it but agreed to go up because I wanted to.
Now, there's a new vertical thrill, and it's relatively close: "The Ledge" located on, I think, the 103rd floor of the soon-to-be-renamed Sears Tower in Chicago opened today, and it looks fabulous. Basically, it involves glass-enclosed boxes which jut out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck on the Sears Tower. The walls are glass, and the floor is glass, offering a relatively unobstructed view of the Windy City (on a clear day, you can see Sheboygan). Each glass panel weighs 1500 pounds and is comprised of three layers of 1/2 inch thick glass. At $14.95, it is a cheap thrill at its best, offering a slack-jawed look straight down 1,353 feet where, no doubt, the people really DO look like ants.
However, for the larger thrill (and longer drop), one has to go to the Grand Canyon, where the Hualapia Indian tribe has constructed a U-shaped glass walkway which extends a death-defying 70 feet out over the west rim of the canyon, providing a stomach-churning look 4,000 feet straight down toward the Colorado River. As Paul Newman said to Robert Redford as they prepared to jump off a cliff into a river, "You can't swim? Don't worry about it. The fall alone will kill you." Of course, with greater thrill comes greater cost: the trip out on the walkway will set you back $75. Still up for the thrill? Put that on your bucket list.
Me, too, but I'm heading to Chicago first chance I get.
I've included a URL of a reporter's-eye view from The Ledge for the not-so-squeamish (Mark...look away)