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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sometimes It's Hard To Be A Woman

"Go ahead, punk, make my day!"

"Please, sir, may I have another?"

Tammy Wynette may have been married at one time to George "No Show" Jones (given the nickname because he was often too drunk to show up for a concert), and goodness knows she had more than her share of trouble standing by her man, but in light of what happens around the world relating to the distaff set, she has nothing to complain about.
Take Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year old mother of two who lives in Malaysia. In one of those odd twists that seems to happen in countries where religion runs the civil courts, Shukarno is scheduled to be lashed six times with a cane for violating Islamic law. Her crime? Having a beer in public at a beachfront hotel. I'm not one to butt in other people's beliefs, but this strikes me (pun intended) as a bit harsh. Again, I am uncertain whether or not this law applies equally to men (my guess is that the morality police were men)under the same religious edict. In addition, it raises several questions which I would like answered. 1) Do they have SO LITTLE to do that enforcers wander around hotels trying to catch people secretly or publickly imbibing? 2) Don' they EVER want the NFL or NASCAR in Malaysia? Jeez! Imagine, if you will for just a moment, one of those venues at which nobody was allowed to drink. Attendance would suffer...extinction. Well, at least then I might be able to get tickets for less than the price of a new Benz.
So, how humiliating and painful would six lashes administered in public be? And would she have to be fully clothed as usual, or would it be like the pirate movies where the shirt gets ripped off her back and a bucket of salt water gets splashed afterwards. Certainly, there must be a prohibition against even "shameful" women appearing like that in public. Well, at least for her, it's "one and done." I'm not so sure it is for Rukhsana Kausar.
Kausar, 21, lives in the Rajouri District in Pakistan; this area is heavily wooded and said to be the major hiding place for militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group. They are notorious for their attack on the western hotel in India of which you have read.
Anyway, these militants often barge in on families, demanding food and a place to sleep. Most of the time, it's not problematic, but this time Rukhsana's dad said he wanted nothing to do with them. The militants began a systematic beating with sticks (what is it with this method?) as the young girl hid beneath her bed. Finally, she could no longer stand to hear her father being humiliated so she rushed out and attacked one of the militants ax! Not only THAT, but when the man dropped his AK47 in pain, she grabbed that and shot him to death...and wounded another would-be moocher as he was making a hasty retreat!
A made-for-TV movie? Maybe. Rukhsana indicated that she had never held nor fired any kind of a weapon. So, how did she know what to do? "I'd seen it done in movies," was her response. Wow! Now there can be NO argument against either movies or having assault rifles rural areas of Pakistan.
In a final twist, the man she killed just may have been Uzata Shah, a commander who has been wanted for years as a result of his activities. That means our plucky heroine might be rewarded with 4,000 pounds (you do the money math) as well as feted countrywide.
Of course, there is the small backstory concerning the militants who got away. I can just hear their friends in the locker room: "You let a GIRL shoot our leader and chase you away? What kind of Sallies are you guys?" and on and on.
She'd better keep the AK handy.
All of a sudden, an often-drunk husband seems tame...though still not much fun, at least there's a way out other than a failed liver.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Not Only in Boston

It's Banned Books Week again in this country. Sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Publishers Association and others, this promotion calls to the forefront attempts made throughout this past year as well as historically to ban books. Since the bulk of my reading during the school year involves textbooks, I seldom get a chance to delve into literature. Thus, I must humbly admit that I have not read any of the tomes on this year's top ten list. It appears that most of them are geared toward a middle school/high school audience, but I could be wrong...and without having read any of them, I can offer no opinioon concerning the objections listed. But here they are for you:

1.And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
2.His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
3.TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
4.Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
5.Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
6.The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
7.Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
8.Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
9.The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
10.Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

If you are a bit older and prefer"classic" literature, here's a URL which lists the classics that have been banned. We should have a contest to see who's read the most of these!

And, finaly, an interactive map depicting the what, when and where of book challenges since 2007:

Monday, September 28, 2009

First, The Whizzinator, Now This...


For every mousetrap, there evolves a smarter mouse. As the level of sophistication is ratcheted up, the level of intelligence rises in those looking to avoid a trap. I'm certain Darwin would be aware of the phenomenon, but I'm not sure how he would feel about the latest "invention" designed to fool the unsuspecting.
Onterrio Smith, late of the Minnesota Vikings, can tell you all about trying to escape detection of drug use with the help of the Whizzinator. Stopped in an airport in April of 2005 for something suspicious in his bags (turned out to be toothpaste), Smith was then detained for possession of vials of white powder which he claimed to be dried urine (ick) and the aforementioned Whizzinator, a prosthetic penis designed to be used to thwart would-be drug testers (no need to explain how it works). Needless to say, his level of sophistication was not yet developed to the point where he could elude ALL of the authorities. In a story similar to this (though really scary in some aspects), we have the "female virginity-faking device." Seriously. I'm not kidding.
It has come to light recently as Abdul Mouti Bayouni, an Islamic scholar at al-Azhar University in Egypt, has decried users and suppliers of this device as people who "spread vice in society," and, as such, should be put to death as indicated by the Islamic Sharia law. Really. Here's the backstory, provided by our unbiased friends at the BBC:
Virginity is seen as an absolute in Muslim least for women. Marrying a woman who is not virginal is unheard of by any righteous Muslim in certain parts of the world. The trouble is...young women (and young men) are probably the same all over the world, and sexual experimentation, well, happens. For Muslim women, however, this is a really, really bad thing. Again, for women.
To this point, some young women were paying for something called "hymen repair surgery" done in secret in some parts (and, perhaps alleys) of the Arab world. I don't even want to know what that's all about! Now, however, through the marvels of Chinese technology, they can avoid that procedure.
For a mere $15 in Syria (and probably black markets throughout the Arab world), a woman can buy a device which (I think) fits inside and releases a blood-like liquid on her wedding night (like a guy is going to check? He's already asleep!).
Bayouni has called for an outright ban on such a device, saying that it "undermines the moral deterrent to fornication"...again, punishable by death...for women. It could be for men, too, for all I know. I will admit to ignorance about the finer points of Muslim religious law, but it seems like women who have to go to such a radical extreme are getting to speak.
This controversy has even reached the parliament which called for the total ban on imports of this item. This, of course, will make every single woman want one and elevate the price. It will also return women to the medical procedure mentioned earlier.
And you thought the internet was a major advancement!
China will own us all in no time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Of Pins and Needles

I would never want to be a yogi: aren't they those guys who lie on beds of sharpened nails, purporting to use mental power not to experience pain? At any rate, the expression that involves to be waiting "on pins and needles" (or "needles and pins")makes little sense to me. Expecting something to happen at any time and being excited/nervous/anxious about it would seem to be the meaning ascribed to the expression. "On tenterhooks" is said to have the same connotation...but it sounds a LOT more painful. I imagine it to be like some of the Sioux manhood rituals portrayed in movies. Anyway, here's how it all affects me:
We are awaiting the imminent arrival of a granddaughter: the first among our immediate descendents. There have been quizzes over doctor's reports and allusions to "that crazy baby" as well as sleepless nights and the typical cravings...and that's just the grandparents-to be! So, when the phone rang at 7 a.m. this morning, I leaped (well, staggered groggily) to get is, sure that the endgame was in progress. I mean, who the hell calls at 7 in the morning? A call from the police would be in the middle of the night, and an exultant hurrah from my friend Mark to recite his winning lottery numbers could surely wait until at least, say, 8. So, it was with great anticipation that I grabbed the blower (to use a Kinky Friedman expression).
Typical of many births, it was a false alarm. In fact, it had nothing to do with the upcoming (or outcoming) of the child.
Another daughter-in-law was running her first organized 10k in a different time zone, and she wanted to know why she'd gotten only two safety pins for her number when there were clearly four holes to attach said number. A brief discussion followed concerning the efficacy of four pins over two pins, and she went off to find more pins. Of course, in a race that used a timing chip, using paper numbers seemed a bit redundant and wasteful to me. Of course, after a rigorous training schedul over the last three months, she was understandably concerned that everything was just right.
However, the rest of the day passed quietly. I'll get out the pointy things tonight just before I go to bed so I can practice my yogi impression and continue to wait.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On the Bandwagon...Sort of

Within the last year or so, all I seem to read about is obesity: the epidemic set to kill more Americans than H1N1 and leprosy combined. I supposed this social ill deserves its's not like we've always had a corpulent population: just since fast food and white collar jobs, would be my guess. And there are no end of experts telling us what to do about it.
One of the blows which struck home as I listened to then-Senator Obama on campus a year ago was that parents need to get kids off the couch and away from the television and computer/video screens. Schools needed to do more for physical education, in spite of budget constraints.
It's all too easy to blame soda and junk food manufacturers and distributors, and they DO have some culpability. But, if nobody bought these items, demand would drop, and the products would disappear. So, we are all to blame: no secret, but what to do about it that we can ALL do? That's where the Center for Screen-time Awareness comes in.
This organization sponsors a "turn off the video screens" week twice a year: one in April, and one, well, this week. The group's claim that screen time is the single biggest cause of obesity is hard to validate, I suspect, but they do have a point. Researchers have determined that screen time in some countries exceeds nine hours a day ON AVERAGE! While the countries were not named, I think we can make a good go at which ones they might be. What, exactly IS screen time?
It's time that a person spends in front of a television, computer/video game screen (including individual ones featured on Gameboy and iPods) and downloading or looking at pictures, games, etc. on cell phones...anything, in short, that involves a sedentary viewing of an electronic screen and is not related to work.
Gameplayers might be the biggest offenders. Nielsen, a company that tracks such things, indicates that the average War Craft game player spends 892 minutes a week engaging in game play. That's more than two hours a day right there! Of course, one could make the point that such a player is not out committing crimes during that two hours, but I think that's a week point. But give all of that up for an entire week?
I am willing to go along, to a certain point. My television watching is usually limited to Sports Center highlights or Baseball Tonight, a brief check on the new South Park episodes (most are lame at this juncture), the opening monologue from David Letterman, and a cursory glance at the Packers on Sunday (though usually in conjunction with some other mindless activity like homework). So, giving up television is not that big of a deal. My computer, though, is another story.
In addition to this blog, there is the occasional Facebook posting as well as my daily read of six newspapers as well as email. I spend, maybe an hour in total, depending on how significant a rant I work up for the blog.
But I exercise virtually every day.
I eat more or less helathy food, including ice cream as a major food group.
I generally drink soda only on the weekend and try to limit it even then.
And since my iPod has only music on it, no worries there.
Could I do more? Certainly, but I don't want to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Seconds To Liftoff!

I like to think I've lived long enough to know that there are very few problems that rate getting irate about. Experience has taught me that, sooner or later, I'm going to die and everything before that won't have mattered much. I will, however, be backing up a U-Haul truck and taking everything with me, contrary to popular wisdom. Hey, if the pharaohs can do it...
To imply that I have reached a state of meditative calm would be, uh, less than truthful. Admittedly, there are still some things that have me counting to 50 and STILL fuming a bit. Wet seats, for one.
It happened again today...the weather person didn't tell me it would rain so I parked my bike at school and did not bother attaching the shower cap to the seat like I do when it's going to rain. Well, it rained, and I was forced to endure a wet get seat for the ride home. It was just such an icky feeling in the worst possible place. I did have the foresight to put the shower cap on for the ride at least my hair didn't get wet!
That encouraged me to think about other things that really get to me but shouldn' incompetent clerks.
I stopped at Walgreen's today to lay in a supply of Lemonheads (favored by just about everyone who stops in my office); the 3 boxes for $3 sale was on, so I bought three and gave the clerk a $20 bill since it was all I had. Now, there was absolutely nobody in line or about to BE in line. The clerk took $20.10 for a bill of $3.09 and handed me three cents back. When I asked for the other $17, she looked at me like I'd just come out of a pod. She took the receipt, looked at it and said, "This says you only gave me $3.10." Apoplexy could barely do justice to the way I felt. I had given her the money less than a minute earlier! I pressed the issue so she called her supervisor, who also looked at the receipt and then very dubiously at me. "I'll have to total out to find it," she noted. Ten minutes later, she turned to me and said, "We seem to be two dollars short for the day." This, of course, means that they were really $19 dollars short by three in the afternoon. In addition to abject apologies of sorts, all I got was a promise that if they found my money, they would call me. They must still be looking. I wish I could sing because there would soon be a YouTube video out there like the one the guy made when United Airlines broke his guitar.
And that was just today!
Normally, opening the refrigerator for that last morsel of something only to find it gone elevates my blood pressure...something I had been looking forward to all day simply disappeared...or opening the ice cream container to find barely a spoonful left.
And bags under my eyes: I never noticed them before this morning; and I got no sympathy from my sweetie. In fact, all I got was derisive laughter. I will admit, though, that the facial abnormality really didn't upset me too long.
That wet seat, though...and my money...and other people eating my Lemonheads!
Oh well, there's always tomorrow; and I've heard of a convenience store in Green Bay that has Grapeheads: something I've been looking for since the company stopped calling them Alexander the Grape.
See? My life just doesn't have enough serious issues. That's why I ahve to make them up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

They Call Me Lots of Things

"What's in a name?" Shakespeare posed the question in Romeo and Juliet, and we mostly don't give it much thought...until we have to name some new family member. I guess I've always been somewhat fascinated by the process and what people think about their given name when they are old enough to have serious thoughts about it. i mean, there's your name, and then there's your "playground name," the one all the kids call you when adults are not around. This has come to the fore recently for me.
First of all, there's a grandchild about to be born: the first girl. Her given name will be something very specific as dictated by her maternal grandmother and the folkways of Cambodia. Needless to say, it won't be "Mary." The middle name is important because I suspect the playground name might emanate from that one. But, that's not for me to decide unless I buy the naming rights. However, there are some interesting ones out there: "Braidy," for example, or "Tiki."
The scorekeeper for tonight's volleyball matches was named Tanika...probably not so odd in the worldwide scope of things, but she lives in a very small town populated by primarily Eastern European descendents. I knew there was a story there so I asked her why her mother chose the name. My search of the geneaology of names indicated that "Tanika" was a girl's name that originated in India and means "rope." Uh, sure...why would that be a girl's name? None of the kids in Slumdog Millionaire had that name so I was puzzled. Of course, there are a gazillion people in India, and I suppose it's possible that they ran out of typical names and began naming children after inanimate objects like "Floor" or "Cat" or "Ganges." However, when I asked Tanika about her "playground names," she said with a wry smile, "Oh, they call me LOTS of things." When I pressed for specifics, she volunteered "Tiki" and "Braidy," the second owing to the fact that she wore her hair in braids during softball games. HEY! "rope" "Braidy": almost makes sense now that I establish the connection.
Anyway, back to her naming day: I expected something exootic, given the ancestral background of the parents. Turns out, her mother had a dream that the baby would be a girl, and she would name it "Tanika." My guess is that the dream followed one of those pregnant woman things with pickles or ice cream at 2 a.m.
My father-in-law's name was Rembert, but everybody called him Humpy. Since he had good posture, I asked where the name originated, and he said it was a baseball term used when he was a kid for a batter who had a hitch in his swing. Now that makes sense.
I asked my mother why she picked my name, and she said that she selected it because it was unusual and nobody she knew had used it. Thanks, Mom. I'm constantly being asked about "My brother Darrell and my brother Larry," characters in an old TV show. I don't even want to TELL you my playground names. Some things should never see the light of day.
"Braidy" could be OK. "Tiki" makes me think of torches with citronella fumes coming out, or one of those giant wooden heads we see in every movie about Hawaii.
I won't tell anybody that "Tanika" actually means "rope." That probably shouldn't get around.
After all, "What's in a name?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's All A Matter of Perspective

Ben Bernanke says it's over. Many states are reporting rebounding employment numbers. The auto industry seems to have bounced back a bit. The folks at Circuit City don't buy it. The unemployed don't see any proof, nor do the now-legions of under-employed people. Still, I think the jury is out on the "recession" which, to most people, was more like "depression." Everybody got hit this time: rich and poor suffered (although the poor suffered proportionately worse, I'd say, having no second and third homes to sell or luxury autos to be repossessed). All the evidence points to its having been a bad year duh there. Some very big players in the corporate world lost everything (mostly financial institutions), but there were a few that prospered. I was surprised to read that. So, here's a little quiz for you:
I will name eight of the top ten corporations in America and list the figures for the top five. Your job is to tell me 1. Which company do you think fell the farthest 2. Which company remained on top and 3. Which company fell the farthest. and 4. In what order is the top 5 listed?
Here's the list
1. sales of $68.73 billion
2. Sales of $60.21 billion
3. Sales of $56.65 billion
4. Sales of $47.78 billion
5. Sales of $34.87 billion

The companies: GE, IBM, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Microsoft, Google, Nokia, and Disney

Which company lost the most?
Which company led the way in earnings?
Which company fell the farthest?

Scroll down

General Electric was off 10%, followed closely by Toyota at 8%

Coca-Cola was again the top producing company in America

Google gained the most, a whopping 25%. Next closest? Coke, up 3%

Top Five: 1. Coke 2. IBM 3. Microsoft 4. G.E. 5. Nokia (really!)

It ain't over until it's over.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Waking Up In Vegas

What happens in Vegas these days apparently does NOT stay in Vegas. Now, for my money, you can have Las Vegas. I visited twice when my son's basketball team was playing a conference tournament there...and it was March in Wisconsin ('nuf said). The most memorable thing for me was the discovery of a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut topped with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries at the ESPN Zone and the apparent sky in Caesar's Palace that rained. Gambling? no so fact, not at all. I did take a chance that I could find my way out of the MGM Grand and to the Thomas and Mack Convention Center on foot without getting lost...not so lucky there, either. Of course, it would help if ANY of the hotel staff spoke the same language as I do, or they had big maps with "you are here, you dumb Midwesterner" located conveniently.
The numerous guys handing out cards for strip clubs (and MORE) all along the street were annoying but not threatening. Most of them didn't speak English, anyway, so there was little chance of anything happening.
But, apparently, Vegas is STILL "Sin City." In July, Planet Hollywood was fined $500,000 for what was termed "topless and lewd activity" in its private nightclub. In addition, the citation noted that many club goers were dumped in the casino "in various stages of unconsciousness." Wow! I thought they were just mesmerized by the slots.
Rio closed its topless pool following 10 arrests for offenses ranging from prositution of drug use/sale.
The Hard Rock pool club Rehab suffered eight arrests over the Labor Day weekend for the same kind of sex/drug actions.
Even though Vegas still tries to promote itself as family-friendly, wet boxer short contests and a bevy of buxom beauties going sans shirts is a regularity...and someone forgot to emphasize that putting body paint on a naked body is NOT the same as wearing clothes. Yeah, yeah, of COURSE they do it in Sports Illustrated, but THAT'S art, not sleaze.
So, if you're planning to go, my suggestion is the Dancing Waters and a warm Krispy Kreme. If not..."that's what you get for waking up in Vegas."
You're on your own.

Friday, September 18, 2009

...When You Pry That BPH-loaded Bottle From My...

Enough is enough, I say. BPA, DEHP, yada, yada, yada. No Gatorade? No Capri Sun? What in the world has happened to our country? It used to be that I was free to do whatever I wanted to myself (cigarettes, for example). Now the namby-pamby "scientists" are telling me a) to reduce, reuse and recycle and b) NOT to do any of those things with plastic bottles...including the ever-so-hip water bottle I got at REI or Eddie Bauer or someplace. And that's not the worst of it.
Oh sure, Bisphenol A is a carcinogen that will probably kill me...I can live with that (at least for a while). But now...NOW...(apoplexy is setting in)...
the politicians are pondering financing health care BY TAXING soda, certain fruit drinks, sports drinks and ready-to-drink teas as well as MOST diet beverages! The projected cost of all this "health care" is 1.2 trillion dollars, and the government figures that if it added three cents' tax on every 12 ounce container (notice, there's no mention of the 20 oz. containers we mostly use! We're talking, maybe FIVE CENTS here)) of "unhealthy" drinks, it could recoup 24 billion dollars over four years. This information provided by those think-tankers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Oh sure, blame these liquid favorites for obesity, diabetes and a host of other maladies and claim that national health care will cost less if we're all more healthy. Note that at least a dozen states already have a tax on such beverages. That's just MORE government interference. If I want to ruin my health, I should not have to pay extra to do fact, it should be cheaper for me!
Oh, I get it now...those socialists want me to live longer so I can put more back into Social Security! Well, I'm on to that game.
I'm going right our and buy some beverages in plastic containers...then reuse them several times each! I'll show those bureacrats that they're not messing with MY "unhealthy" beverages. They can have that plastic bottle when they can pry it...well, Charlton Heston can give you the rest.
I may just go out and buy cigarettes, too, just to prove my point.
They can't push me around.
Damn government interference.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Looking Over My Shoulder

Conscience supposedly supplies the filter to warn us if we are about to do something, let's say, like yelling "You lie!" in the wrong place. It would seem that not everyone has one of those. It might also be possible that we have this little voice in our heads (or many voices,for some people)that tell us that under NO circumstances should we verbalize what just popped into our heads (I'd like to shove this bleeping ball down your bleeping throat"). Some people don't appear to have THAT safeguard, either. So, I'm making a possibly radical proposal tonight: I think everyone should be assigned a personal "editor." Let me quantify.
First of all, a personal editor is not merely the person sitting next to me in the car who says innocently, "What's the speed limit here?" or, in less serene moments, "S#@%! We're going to die!" as she grabs for the arm rest or scrambles for the door lock.
My personal editor is also not necessarily the person who walks into the garage on the 5th of September and notes casually that the garage hadn't been cleaned this summer or asks every day for a week whether or not I had emptied the dehumidifier when I got home from an arduous five hours of work.
No, my ideal personal editor is someone like my buddy Dan who was kind enough to point out an egregious error in a recent blog. Stupidly, I noted that Derek Jeter had just passed Joe DiMaggio on the Yankees' hit list when, in fact, it was Lou Gehrig's record that had been broken. I definitely should have known better, but it took Dan's polite message to inform me of my error. He also noted that it was Ted Williams whose kids were fighting over his cryogenically frozen body NOT Joe D. See, this kind of stuff is important, and I felt grateful to Dan for alerting me, enabling me to go back and amend the blog.
My son Ryun is also a good example of an ideal editor. No matter HOW MANY times I screw up the distinction between using "that" and "which," he is always patient and understanding in his remonstrance...think restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. (Of course, I get the impression that he's inwardly shaking his head and saying to himself," The poor doddering fool has forgotten again. I'll humor him.")
Similarly, no matter HOW MANY times my iTunes folders get messed up with no hope of my retrieving them, he'll sit at the keyboard for an hour or so late at night when I'm sleeping and make everything right. It's not that I'm an idiot, I don't think; it's just that somehow I lose control of a mental function here and there, and my editors keep me more or less on the straight and narrow.
Of course, this organization can be said of the first kind of editor as's just that I feel differently in those situations. I get defensive and tend, sometimes, to overreact.
All in all, though, I think everyone should have a personal editor because, left to our own devices, we might not always make the best decisions, especially if we are devoid of conscience and voices in our heads.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bombs Away!

It was quite a weekend for the potty-mouthed if the world! I'm not about to cast aspersions at Serena or Roger, Kanye or even the President...I've been known to go volcanic a time or two myself. If you're honest, you will admit that you, too, have used a few ill-chosen words in anger or frustration or...just because it feels good to explode once in a while. Relieving the pressure with expletives is all fine and dandy, unless there's a microphone handy or unless you are somewhat violently shaking a tennis raquet in your hand at the time.
It usually only takes mere seconds to realize when you've said something untoward: something that felt good at the time but that you realize should have been placed in the "Don't SAY that, you idiot!" file before escaping your lips. After that, it becomes a matter of damage control.
I'm relatively adept at apologizing...I think because I've had so much practice, perhaps. I can and will look you in the face and admit that I was, in fact, an idiot, and I will attempt never to be so again (though I'm not making any promises in that regard). I'd like to focus on two recent incidents and examine how the damage control was handled.
Kanye West interrupted an award presentation to Taylor Swift Sunday night, berating everyone who didn't know that the award should have gone to Beyonce. Maybe, maybe not. I barely know either of the women's work. His moment of truth came last night when Jay Leno asked him about it by saying, "What would your mother have thought of what you did?" Ouch. Either a very good actor or truly remorseful, West could barely speak for a minute: Jay had to put words into his mouth to get him to speak. I actually squirmed in my seat watching it. I don't remember hearing him actually say, "I was an idiot," but what he did say seemed contrite.
Serena Williams, having already smashed a raquet for causing her to lose a set (?) threatened to shove a ball down a lineswoman's "F'ing" throat while brandishing a raquet (though I thought she was just emphasizing the words NOT threatening to hit the poor woman). Anyway, the next day, when given a chance in an interview to apologize, she refused to do it, saying simply she'd like to give the affronted woman a "big hug." Her apology appeared on her website. Seriously. If you've got the guts to demean someone in person, DO NOT offer the apology in an electronic media form. Of course, she may have done that by now...I stopped following the story. Did she get hosed on the foot fault call because she was a woman or African-American? Don't know. Was the line judge especially offended because SHE was a woman? Don't know. However, I DO know that:
Roger Federer dropepd the same F-bomb several times on a tennis official during his final match at the U.S. Open: no fine, no loss of point, and no apology.
Say what you want, but watch for microphones.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not Too Late For The Rest of Us...

My friend Kate thinks that her family might have H1N1 flu. Notice that I've refrained from using the porcine nickname for it...because the USDA told me to. Apparently, it's given people second thoughts about consuming the "other white meat" so the USDA has leaped into the fray. But back to Kate and her family.
Kate appears to be an enormously conscientious mother who might eventually morph into one of those helicopter parents, but this is not unusual in a mother of two children under the age of four. Still, she's plucky enough to allow her older child to leap from chair to chair until sustaining a bump on the noggin, and STILL takes the child out in public where scrutiny can be of the "tsk, tsk" variety. Good for her! The flu disdains such pluckiness apparently, and it seems that the symtoms are too close for comfort, as they would be for any concerned parent. It's a pity she had not previously heard of Flu Armour, a New Jersey company set to arm the world against the horrid disease about to eclipse the plague as the world's most paranoia-inducing malady...and without rats.
In business since 2005 (knowing a good thing when it sees one!), the company sells protection from communicable diseases in the form of masks, goggles, etc. In what almost seems like a Popeil ad, I'm tempted to say, "But wait, there's more!" Here's the deal:
For a paltry $69, you can be fully, and I mean from head to toe fully, protected. You can order, for that price, 20 masks, 50 pairs of protective gloves, 1 set of industrial strength goggles, a tub of germicidal disinfectant, and a tub of antimicrobial hand wipes. For an extra $6.75, the trul desperate can get a white paper jumpsuit to ward off everything from germs to would-be conversationalists.
In all honesty, Flu Armour says that these measures are really designed for people who come into regular contact with specified germs...or, perhaps, extraterrestrial stuff. Overkill is better than being overdead, I say.
Ariel Kaminer of the New York Times decided to see exactly what savvy New Yorkers would say if she wandered about ehr daily tasks in such a getup. You can read her report if you follow the attached link.

As for me, I hope Kate and her family get better soon...or better yet, are not really infected with H1N1. Imagine all the kids on the playground making oinking noises.
Lots of rest, drink fluids and try to keep that newborn and his somewhat older sister quiet, now!
I'm looking through the couch and my sweetie's handbag for loose change amounting to $69.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'll Have A Filet O' Peanut Butter, Please


Fortunately, Lent is not just around the corner; otherwise, panic would be epidemic in nature. From fillets to steaks to sushi, it seems people worldwide cannot get enough fish. Remember the orange roughy? Can't get that much anymore: overfished. The same thing might be happening to the hoki (pictured above).
You might say to yourself that you don't eat that, but chances are, you have. It is a major component of fish meals at places like Denny's, Long John Silver's and, yes, McDonalds restaurants, who alone uses 15 million pounds of this ugly critter every year. This four-foot long fish resides in the deep, deep waters (half a mile deep to be exact) off New Zealand, and it was thought to be a never-ending supply of fish flesh. Its 25-year lifespan made it an ideal reproduction tool for a sustainable fishery...except it hasn't exactly worked out that way.
In fact, New Zealand cut harvest limits from 275,000 tons per year in the year 2000 to 100,000 tons per year in 2007. That is significant. The decline is not just from overfishing, though; damage to the ecosystem as well as accidental killing of skates and sharks in the area have limited growth potential as well. I am not sure why fewer skates and sharks equal fewer hoki, but would the New York Times lie? OK, trick question.
Spokespeople for all the restaurants named indicate that they are now using far less hoki and far more "other" whitefish for their entrees.
"Like what?' I'd like to ask.
I think I'll switch to the meaty peanut for my protein since beef is already out and the hoki is on its way out.
I wonder if anybody told them at Virginia Tech that they are endangered?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Today's Tech vs the "Good Old Days"

I'm not one of those people who say, "back in the day," and then proceed to note how just about everything about the bygone era was superior to the newfangled modern age. In fact, I think a lot of the technological advances have been a boon to all of mankind: disposable diapers, for example. WE used cloth...had to rinse 'em out and store 'em in a container for a couple of days (which often melted the container!) until we had enough to wash. And that ammonia smell? It brought tears to my eyes every time! Not so any more.
Or the telephone: party lines and interminable waits when you were in a hurry. Now? Send a text from your phone anywhere you happen to be. As soon as the telemarketers hit my cell number, the apocalypse will be near.
Even something as simple as the bicycle has evolved into a more user-friendly model. Having ridden a single-speed bike as recently as last March, I say, "hurray!" for the invention of geared bicycles. Now, those single-speed deals with no brakes...another story.
I must admit, though, that the modern day technological advances have somewhat ruined my enjoyment of sports events. I absolutely relished poring over a box score in the paper of the previous day's games and waiting for ABC's "Wide World of Sports" to show me what I'd missed. An occasional event like the Olympics or the World Series on television was cause for skipping out of every chore for the duration. It was mesmerizing. I read endlessly about the sporting accomplishments of larger-than-life people...even to the extent of watching "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" every week. Now, sadly enough, the fabulous world of sports has been reduced to sensationalism.
It wasn't enough that we could watch Melanie Oudin (she of the fabulous shoes!) in this year's U.S. Open tennis tournament. Now, we get to be informed of her parents' impending divorce over a supposed affair between the mother and the tennis coach. This ruins everything.
Derek Jeter will surpass Joe Dimaggio for the most hits in Yankees history, but we're treated to articles concerning the view of other big leaguers who say he's overrated.
Who's cheating on whom? Who's got a drug or alcohol problem? Who's changing teams just to stick it to his or her former employers (who provided millions in compensation). It's all just too much and too sordid. I want sports news, not sports gossip.
My theory is that cable television and the internet allow us to see every contest worldwide, thus negating the need for sportswriters: no more necessity for Red Smith, Grantland Rice or even Ronald Reagan behind the mike doing radio baseball. Sportswriters have become the paparazzi: rumor-mongers and sensationalists...because we already KNOW how the contest came out. There is no need for them anymore. Prove this to yourself by watching a contest with no sound; if you can follow the action without commentators, how much LESS of an impact do those actually writing about the game have?
I miss reading the sports page for news and endless statistics which identify the outcome as either good or not so good. By the time the report hits the paper, I've already read about it on the internet.
Sad, really, that our children will not have the opportunity to share the same joyful anticipation.
Of course, I COULD turn off the television and computer, subscribe to a newspaper that's real paper instead of reading it online, and get the old transistor radio out...but then I'd be accused of being an anachronism.
It's worth a try.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Brought to You by the Number 9: Wednesday!

I am not well-versed on numerology, nor do I particularly care to be. I leave such things to people like Pythagoras who deal (or dealt, in his case)exclusively in numbers. I'm laying that off on my mother who wanted a girl. Deeply disappointed that I was not to be "Mary Catherine," she set about raising me differently. As a result, I have supposed "girl" talents in reading and writing instead of "boy" talents in math and science. Well, it's as good of a theory as I can come up with to explain my hopeless ability with math. Anyway, if you're into numbers, Wednesday of this week is your day: 09/09/09.
Lucky? Unlucky? It all depends on which theory you choose to believe. It is, however you look at it, the last time we will experience a repetition of single digits until 01/01/2101. (you and I won't be around to see that one).
Numerologists ascribe both positive and negative traits with the number nine. On the positive side, nine can represent forgiveness, compassion and success. However, there's a dark side which represents arrogance and self-righteousness...not exactly qualities designed to endear one to others. Back to Pythagoras.
He noted (and if you are smarter than a fifth-grader, you know this also) that the result of adding any two digits resulting from nine multiplied by any other single digits would equal nine (9x3=27...7+2=9) play with it yourself. I don't DO math.
In the Asian world, the number nine has opposite connotations. For the Chinese, that number is second only to the number eight in terms of good fortune...remember the opening of the last Olympics on 08/08/08? Supposedly, the number nine was considered to be so lucky that the palace in the Forbidden City is thought to have 9,999 rooms. Hmmmmm.
If you reside in Japan, though, avoid the number nine at all costs! Second only to the number four in terms of bad karma, the number nine represents suffering...four equates to death...eek! In fact, it is said that some builders in Japan even avoid the number nine in buildings like we avoid the number 13. I guess they'd avoid four as well.
There you have it. Now you know to either get out of bed tomorrow or burrow deeply under the covers. Either way, let's hope that we all make it to Thursday.

Monday, September 07, 2009

One Minute You're Up, the Next...


LeGarrette Blount and Byron Hout embarrassed not only themselves this past week: he embarrassed anyone ever associated with athletics, and probably a few more who've yet to BE associated with athletics. If you haven't seen the replay yet, I'm sure it's available on YouTube...and will be for a long time, I suspect.
Briefly, Blount, a running back for my Ducks at the University of Oregon, took exception to some smack-talking from Byron Hout of Boise State after the Broncos beat the Ducks the other night. His response? A blindsided punch to the head which knocked Hout to the ground even as Hout's coach was trying to pull him away and castigate him for his mouthiness and poor sportsmanship. It was an ugly incident which served to remind college athletic haters exactly WHY they dislike the game so much: unrestrained anger and poor sportsmanship (even after a win) by young men who should have been taught better. Of course, they are STILL young men without fully-developed frontal lobes, but then, there's Shawne Merriman who reportedly choked and restrained Tia Tequila from leaving his apartment...Steve McNair: murdered by a woman not his wife in an apartment unknown to his wife...etc. etc. etc.
What it comes down to is a sense of entitlement that many folks feel athletes have. Whether they do or not, the case against them is splashed repeatedly and luridly throughout the media. The role models and outstanding citizens among our college and professional athletes get no play...because they're boring.
I just hope people can realize that not everyone associated with atheltics is an immature doofus.

Oh yeah, Melanie Oudin has some GREAT shoes! If you missed them at the U.S. Open tennis tourney, you saw 'em here first!

Friday, September 04, 2009

It Pays To Be A Foreigner...Sort Of

Susan Atkins is dying: terminal brain cancer has left her unable to sit up since she is paralyzed over 85% of her body. She will, no doubt, die sometime soon...though too soon for some and, perhaps, not soon enough for others.
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is also terminally ill, destined to be pushing up daisies in the somewhat near future...prostate cancer, I think, but I'm not sure. He, too has suppporters and detractors.
So, what's the common thread for these two folks? A place in history: Atkins became known worldwide in 1969 when, at age 21, she stabbed pregnant actress Sharon Tate 16 times despite horrifying pleas for mercy; known to the Manson family as "Sadie Mae Gluzz," Atkins wrote "pig" in blood over the doorway in the murder room.
She's since become a "model" prisoner, shuns Charles Manson and everything about her former life,and has a website updated by her husband James Whitehouse (just in case you are interested in her story).
al-Megrahi remains the only person convicted in the Pan Am disater over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. To my limited knowledge, he has never acknowledged remorse over the dead, and Libyans certainly feted him as a conquering hero when he was released by an English court a while ago.
That's the difference:
In this country, Susan Atkins will die in prison while al-Megrahi will die in the comfort of his home.
Maybe there are international implications here, but the only ones I can find have to do with Libyan oil for Great Britain...mind you, the Scottish governing body refused his "parole," only to be overruled by John Bull. Detail after detail continue to emerge as I read the London Telegraph, and it does seem just a bit too fishy, and there is outrage a'plenty.
Maybe if Atkins were a foreigner, things would be diffeent. I mean, all it took was Bill Clinton to get two reporters released from a torturous vacation in a North Korean work camp. just doesn't seem right.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Social Justice: With Pretzels

We are generally surrounded by the mundane, the ordinary. It's truly too seldom that we glimpse more than a fleeting glance of innovation, creativity and fun...all in the cause of social justice. Fortunately, there's Ben & Jerry's.
The Vermont ice cream maker, founded in 1978 by a pair of self-confessed hippies, has long been the standard for providing a quality product yet adhering to the principles of social awareness. Even though the original duo sold out to Unilever Corporation in the year 2000, it would seem that the company maintains its tie-dyed roots.
Of course, we've all been anxious to see what the latest flavor would be, and we've been treated to such taste-tinglers as
Mission to Marzipan
Cherry Garcia
Cinnamon Buns
Chocolate Therapy
, and the aforementioned
Imagine Whirled Peace
. For those waistline watcher, there's even sherbet(NOT "sherbert")flavors like
Berried Treasure
"Social justice can and should be something that every human being is entitled to," according to current CEO Walt Freese (How's THAT for an appropriate name?)
So, naturally, following the latest policital to-do, the company emerged with
Yes Pecan
, a clever take on a favored political slogan. However, the stated goal to "celebrate with peace, love and plenty of ice cream" has been elevated to a new level of social consciousness by its latest flavor venture.
Chubby Hubby
, a flavor comprised of a vanilla malt ice cream filled with chocolate covered, peanut butter-filled pretzel nuggets and laced with ripples of fudge and peanut butter, recently got a name makeover. On Tuesday, Vermont became the latest state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples; in honor of this momentous occasion, Ben & Jerry's rechristened
Chubby Hubby
Hubby Hubby
Now, like or hate the social implications of the arrangement and/or the law, you have to admit that Ben & Jerry's is a company with a knack for marketing.
'Way better than vanilla...which we already have in excess!
Hubby Hubby will be available for one month in Vermont. We, however, can still get the great flavors in Chubby Hubby...before loosening our belts a notch or two.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Take Me When I'm Gone to Forest Lawn

Michael Jackson, a.k.a. "The King of Pop" has definitely passed from our midst, but like Elvis or Sarah, he simply won't go away. Word today is that his estate will agree to pay for his interrment, whenever and wherever that may be. Huh?
His estate? Who else? I mean, if you or I bit the dust, the city or country surely wouldn't put up the dough to provide us with our dirt napping place. The announcement struck me as a bit odd...especially since the state of California has such money troubles anyway. Seriously, who else? Maybe that's why it's taken so long to plant him...that or he's with those at the Cryogenics Institute in Michigan. I think, though, that there's a part in there about paying for traffic control and security around what promises to be a destination as popular as Graceland.That will take some serious cash, and I guess it makes sense at that.
Anyway, when I noted that the final, uh, "resting" place would be at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Gelndale, California (just in case you want to visit), it reminded me of a song about that place: an obscure one that John Denver did at one time that I found highly entertaining. I'm willing to share it with you as a final tribute to the latest "King" of music.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It Took, Roughly, Fifteen Minutes

The transition from high school to college is widely anticipated by students, parents and professors alike. We warn of cataclysmic changes such as, "You know, Google is NOT considered scholarly research like it was in high school," or "Your Mom won't be here to wake you up, clean up after you and remind you to cover all the details every day." Universities often spend days preparing incoming prospects with orientations, mock lectures, meet-and-greet sessions with teachers and classmates and dormitory RAs. Heck, at most universities, students and staff line up to carry the 5,000 pounds of crap students bring to school up flights of stairs under brutal conditions: freshmen usually don't need to do anything! It's almost as if we don't want to scare them away.
Then, there are the requisite cookouts and assorted get-togethers: some including parents, but most not. Freshmen are still embarrassed by their parents, and I suspect that the parents are anxious to see just how that "empty nest" thing feels. It's always fun to watch moving day since kids run away to their rooms while parents alternately sniffle a bit and /or run to their cars in hopes of eating at a restaurant with actual plates for a change.
As part of the FOCUS orientation program again this year, I was matched with a professor and an upperclass student for two days. Our jobs involved making the students feel like they knew someone in their class as well as passing along pertinent information. The transformation was amazing.
By the second day, half of our students failed to show up, and most of the students who deigned to return to us were sitting comatose in their desks. Questions? They had no questions! Want to walk around and see where the classes are? nah. Want to work up a skit for the variety show in hopes of winning BIG prizes? nope.
We had even varied our approach for the second day: instead of doing the fun activities and games first as we had done on day one, we did the "sit-in-the-desk-" stuff first in order to create some anticipation for more fun games later.
They just chose to sit until we released them.
Far too much like college students.
We didn't even get to play the outstanding activities I had planned.
Yep, they've already become college students: checking the time and packing their backpacks with five minutes to go.