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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not Exactly Will Rogers Material...

Traveling provides a great education. Noted writers like Louis L'Amour as well as songwriters like Woody Guthrie and humorists like Will Rogers all found that their travels provided them with the material from which their professional careers were fashioned. I'm not talking about googling something to find out more...I'm talking about being keen observers both of people and of life in general and having the wit to make sense of it all. of course, these people and others of their ilk are world-renowned for the depth of their observations concerning the human condition. I will never be so recognized.
Spending the better part of five days on the road in places more or less unfamiliar to me gave me a great opportunity to try my hand at making insightful notes while watching the people all around me. I had never been to North (or South) Carolina, never been to Philadelphia's airport, and thus, I was equipped with a whole new set of people to watch. To all appearances, only the voice inflections differ in the Southeast: people are people. But here are some of the more notable things I noticed.
*Bad behavior, like good behavior, is learned. OK, no surprise here. I watched a ten-year old boy positively melt down at a basketball game when an official's call did not go the way of his sister's team. He was literally screaming, kicking and pounding on the bleachers with his fists...and crying. His dad forced him to settle down though it took him several tense minutes. But then, ten minutes later, the father was shouting at the officials...only to be corrected by his wife. He took his son up to the very top of the arena for the rest of that game and the game played the next night.

*Hispanic people don't seem to use airports. Seriously, I saw many people of all nationalities during the holiday rush, but none of them was of hispanic origin. Of course, this might mean that the segment of the country which I was visiting has a very small Hispanic population to begin with...but O'Hare Airport in Chicago? I think everybody in the world goes through there during the holiday season. Or maybe it's a socioeconomic thing. I really don't know, but I was surprised as it became more and more obvious.

* There are a few fashion trends this least one held over from past years.
1. UGG brand boots. I think they look ridiculous without any real arch support or , well, style, but they are everywhere, and not just on the East Coast-wannabes who took to wearing so much black a few years ago.
2. Over-the-calf boots are in. Every woman who was nOT wearing UGGs seemed to be wearing boots that extended almost to the knee. These look odd to me because they get all wrinkly around the ankles. It's almost like they sag at that point.
3. Women continue to wear shoes with very pointy toes and the highest, thinnest heels. I would kill myself if I tried anything like that. I would even go with UGGs before this kind of death-dealing contraption.
4. EVERYBODY has a scarf on. Mind you, it's not really wintery enough to dig out a scarf so I presume this is a fashion trend. men, women, kids, everybody but me seemed to have a scarf wrapped loosely about his or her neck. Personally, if it's cold, I'll take a scarf and wind it around inside my coat...wear it as a fashion accessory? Nope.

*Technology has convinced us that we do not really have to think anymore. I used a GPS in a rental car for the first time this weekend. When I thought I knew where I was going yet was told something different by the automated voice, I followed the voice instead of my instincts. Of course, NOT doing so would preclude the reason I bought the darn thing, but...
At one point, the verbal turn-by-turn function stopped working so I had to constantly look at the screen to see where I was going. Map? I don't need no stinking map! Leaving at 5 a.m. for the airport, I was relieved to find that the voice prompts were back on, but somewhat taken aback to find out that the language being used was nothing I'd programmed in (turned out to be Africaan). Fortunately, I had looked at a map, and there was almost no traffic so it was easy...if a bit unnerving.

*The easiest way to get people to leave you alone is to put on headphones and begin to nod in rhythm or drum on something (thus giving away your total lack of actual rhythm). Of course, when the iPod battery dies and there is no music...there's that dependence on technology thing again.

*The Atlantic Ocean looks just about like the Pacific Ocean, and Lake Michigan, and the Indian Ocean...but the water temps are completely different with completely different things washed up on the beach to entice beach-combing.

Like I noted, not exactly Will Rogers material, but then, it was only a few days not several years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Minimum, P.I.

The trouble with being on the road with a basketball team is that there is a lot of down time. I've spent the last three days in Wilmington, N.C. with the Duquesne women's teams. The two games were interesting enough: one terribly played win and one well-played (for the most part) win. That only took about six hours of the time, though so there was a lot of time to spend elsewhere.
The beach took a couple of hours, beachcombing and watching dolphins. Eating took up a good deal of time from the deep-fried pickles to trying to choose among 57 different kinds of hot dogs at the #2 rated place to eat in Wilmington. Some TV watching filed in a bit of time...and, of course, sleeping was on the program. That left time for lots of amateur sleuthing thanks to Tiger Woods.
The minute I heard that he had wrecked his SUV under "interesting" circumstances,I began to postulate about possible scenarios...and I think I came darned close! My buddy Joseph, a major Tiger fan, and I continued to text throughout the evening...I was watching basketball, and he filled me in on the details. He provided me with some background info that Tiger had been "supposedly" having an affair,and I came to the brilliant conclusion that his injuries were wife-induced. Here's my reasoning:
1. It was 2:25 a.m. Not even Tiger goes out at that time...with his wife still awake.
2. Alcohol was not said to be involved. That means unless my friend Mark was trying to back out of the driveway, Tiger was leaving in something of a hurry...never a good sign...and NOT at that time.
3. The air bag had not deployed on his how did his face get mangled if he hit something with such little force?
And with that, I jokingly postulated that his wife had actually hit him with the golf club, laying him out in the middle of the street, then smashing out the back window to make it look like she was trying to save him.
Of course, given their reticence to speak with the police even today means that a good story is being concocted.
It probably won't fit my scenario, but I'll know I'm right anyway.
Even if I don't look like Tom Selleck.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not Enough Friends

I sense that I've been going about this all wrong. It has always been my practice to do what I was supposed to do (mostly), try not to annoy people, and generally be honest. While I have not attracted much worldwide attention, I haven't been arrested, either. Maybe I just need to be a bit more overreaching...
like the Sarahis.
This is the story of the couple who "crashed" the White House dinner the other day. Of course, their publicist indicates that such a thing definitely did not happen, despite the dozens of pictures of the Mrs. with Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel and others. Why would anyone want to do such a thing and risk federal scrutiny, you ask?
Well, it appears that the woman is a finalist for Bravo's new show "Housewives of D.C" and has been taping their lives for the past few months...I guess for the purpose of seeing if she's the kind of polo-playing hottie that would garner ratings.
It seems that their auto was turned away by the Secret Service for their not having an invitation; subsequently, they hopped out of the car with a makeup person, a hair stylist and a video cameraman in tow, and headed for the line of walk-up folks in order to get into the dinner.
Seriously...walk-up traffic to a White House dinner? What,do people take the bus in a tuxedo? I suppose cabs are possible, but,'s the White House! Limos, please!
Anyway, within minutes of their arrival, this woman's Facebook page (to be seen by her reportedly more than 4,000 friends, not including me)had all sorts of photos posted to confirm her presence at this gala affair. Somewhere along the line, they were found out and forced to leave...perhaps when all the guests were seated at the dinner and there were no name cards for them!
Bravo, of course, claims no culpability here, having been assured by the couple that they DID have an doubt left in the OTHER tuxedo.
I say,enough already. Do something about global warming, sponsor cancer/HIV research to get your 15 minutes of fame (though this type of person doesn't usually WANT fame) or just try to live a life that benefits people other than yourselves. Even spending countless hours cultivating friends online has to be a more positive activity than we've seen lately from these egotists trying to become reality television stars.
While self-promotion seems to be all the rage these days, I just can't see rewarding these folks.
I'm sure the White House is not amused. Merely passing through a metal detector should not be the sole security measure, either. The "good taste" police should have been on duty.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Were THAAAAT Close!

I've been around the world, mostly. By that I mean I've been halfway around he world and returned by the same route, so technically, I didn't go ALL the way around the world. Still, Mileage is mileage,and I'm counting it. I have not visited all five continents and probably won't. I saw March of the Penguins and Australia on DVD so I think I've got those two covered. My wanderlust has its limits.
I've learned never to check baggage...not because it now costs money on most flights but because it eliminates waiting around for the carousel to rotate addition to encouraging overpacking. Still, there are some things about travel that make me cringe. In fact, the two most odious words to me are Chicago O'Hare, especially when used together like that (though, I cannot imagine using them both in the same sentence in any other context). Today, though, my trip through that airport was flawless, and it occurred to me that I might be in for that rarest of travel experience: a flawless flight from start to finish.
Today began with my finding a parking space three cars from he overhead awning at the airport: good because it was raining. I just knew the omens were in my favor when the ticketing agent handed us confirmed boarding passes for all our flights...despite not being able to print them off ahead of time as we normally do.
As we approached O'Hare, a deep-seated fear began to push its way forward and upward. I'd never gotten into or out of that place unscathed; today, though, went smoothly: in on time and out on time headed to Philly.
Uneventful to this point, we landed in Philadelphia with plenty of time tofind our gate which would be our port of entry for the final leg of our journey to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we intended to spend the next four days watching a basketball tournament.
I was only mildly upset when the gate agent indicated that our plane would be a few minutes late getting in, thus causing the first small delay for the day. When we were subsequently told that the delay would be another 4 minutes due to a seat problem on the plane, I began to fret a bit. Of course, this was the last leg, and we didn't have to be there at a certain time, but had been perfect to this point.
The seat problem turned out to be such that the captain's seat had malfunctioned and couldn't be set in a position which would allow the pilot to see out the window...something of a detriment even though computers do a lot of the work; now, the delay had stretched into an hour and evinced thoughts of having to rent a car or hotel room...and try to travel on Thanksgiving day when not even truck stops served food!(Certainly, there would be nothing to compare with the deep-fried pickles we had this evening with our seafood!)
However, there was an extra plane just lying around so we were ushered on board and were a mere 90 minutes late arriving at our destination. My newly-purchased GPS got the rental car to the hotel, and I was left wondering how I would feel about the "perfect" trip.
Hopefully, I will find out on Sunday, but I am not betting on it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Naomi Watts: Best Value?

Consumer Reports magazine is generally an interesting read. Unless I'm looking to purchase electronics (in which case I go to, I generally try to be a wise consumer and get specific information ahead of time. I've bought everything from small appliances to cars this way, and I have generally not been disappointed. However, I never really thought of rating actors and actresses in this way, until now. At this time, no less a financial empire than Forbes Magazine has deemed it necessary to list the top ten group of actors who give the best "bang for the buck" as it were...hunting season notwithstanding.
The theory is that for every dollar an actor or actress gets paid, the gross returns could be used to measure how much of a cash cow said performer is...presumably in terms of getting hired for the NEXT blockbuster.
I've spoiled it all by telling you who made the most per dollar earned, so I guess I need to go through the bottom feeders on the list: those who are relatively poor bargains for the studios. Money noted includes not only theater sales but TV rights and DVD sales as well...the whole enchilada, as it were.
The list I saw didn't contain many names, just the most noteworthy ones, I guess. Drew Barrymore was the seventh worst value in Hollywood as she garnered $7.43 for every dollar earned...gee, I think her movies are generally OK though I see most of them on Netflix. Tom Cruise was sixth on the list, bringing in $7.18 for every dollar he was paid.
You get the idea, so let's just skip through the bottom four: Ice Cube (he makes movies?), Eddie Murphy (some real stinkos lately), Billy Bob Thornton (who can watch a guy who wore a vial of Angelina's blood around his neck at one time?), Ewan McGregor (couldn't name anything he's been in), and our winner...the Hollywood megastar who managed to bring in a paltry $3.29 for every dollar he was paid lately...
Will Farrell.
I know a lot of people who think he's just hilarious...I'll admit I chuckled a bit at Semi Pro, but generally, I have avoided him for quite some time. (not that I'm any great judge of quality movies)
So, there you have you rush out on Black-eyed Friday in hopes of scoring some value, just remember not to pick up any DVDs by the bottom six on the list.
I still think Drew Barrymore's movies are can you NOT love ET?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Burgers It Is!

A quasi-wonderful thing happened yesterday as I sat in my seat at Lambeau Field for the Packers' game (the seat I pay for every time I buy something in Brown County, by the way...and no, I'm not bitter) The occasion, of course, that I was allowed "18 inches of pure aluminum pleasure" as we say in the tour guide business, was the success my sweetie had in the lottery this year: Brown County residents have the chance to win the lottery and subsequently pay $240 to get four seats to a game chosen at random by the organization. Really! IOt's the only lottery in existence that I know of in which winners have to write a check!
Anyway, I discovered that at the game, there was such a thing as a bottomless tub of popcorn! That's right! For $6 I could eat popcorn for three solid hours, and then some! Even a beer costs almost that much with NO free refills! This was my idea of heaven before Netflix and The Love Shack so to find it at a sporting event for cheap was amazing...until I remembered something I'd read recently.
It seems that an organization called The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a study of three major movie theater chains in an attempt to gauge the health quotient of their popcorn (the only reason I'd go anymore). Under scrutiny were the Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Movie Theatres (must be British!) and Cinemark. Each chain's medium-sized popcorn was analyzed for calories, saturated fat and sodium, and, well, if you're squeamish, don't read the rest.
At Regal, the medium-sized tub o' corn contained 20 cups as well as 1200 calories, 60g of saturated fat and 980mg of sodium. Oh, you want butter? Add 200 calories per 1.5 tablespoons.
AMC Theatres' medium held only 9 cups of product and contained 590 calories, 33g of saturated fat and, apparently, let the customer put as much salt on as possible since no quantity was listed.
Finally, Cinemark's 14-cup size medium corn contained a mere 760 calories and a miniscule 3g of saturated fat due to its use of canola oil instead of coconut oil favored by the other two.
All in all, the estimated caloric intake for a medium tub of popcorn and a soda amounted to the equivalent of three of McDonald's Quarter-Pounders topped with 12 pats of butter! Presumably, you'll be drinking water with that!
Remembering that caused me to stop eating popcorn in the middle of the 4th quarter...just to preserve my health...although salt is a great preservative, I hear.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cashing In On the Name Game

Shirley Ellis had no idea...not a clue. When she was singing "Shirley, Shirley, Bo Birley,,,Mi My Mo Merley." that there was money to be had in the name game. Oh sure, she had a hit song and cheerleaders throughout the world copied the cadence, but we're talking serious cash here: the kind of money Today's Translation gets.
Of course, we all try to find that special name for our child...that one-in-a-million, never-to-be-copied name that will set our child apart as the next genius (or savant, depending). Most of us try to consider eminent family members or significant people in our lives, and some even go to the extent of searching reference books for just the right name in terms of meaning. That's where it's important to know about Today's TRanslation. For a fee, that company will search more than a hundred languages in order to be certain that you have not picked unwisely. While most of us generally try to stick with a name that won't cause fights on the playground, others go far beyond to something so unique that few will emulate it. Take TomKat (Cruise and Homes). They probably would never have guessed that "Suri" in Japanese means "pickpocket," or "turned sour" in French, let alone "horse mackerels" in Italian. Just wait until the playground bullies get ahold of that one!
Nor did Wayne Rooney guess that his son Kai could be called "probably" if he were in Finland, "Pier" if he ventured into Estonia, or "Stop it!" in the expanses of Western Africa.
So you can see how important knowing these things might be prior to establishing a name for which your child might forever hate you.
So it will be for the Stephani/Rossdale child when the playmates discover that, yes, it does mean "peace" in Zuni, it also means "Lord frowns in anger" in one of the ancient Aztec tongues.
Poor kids
I know the next time I have to name a child, I will pony up the $1700 and do it right. Having a child with the letter "u" where an "a" should be is bad least it is according to him.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Save the Hallowe'en Decorations!

With a pile of plastic and trash as big as Texas floating out in the Pacific (really! I'm NOT making that up!) and women continuing to be stoned in Somalia, and Jon and Kate STILL broken up, I realize there are bigger problems in the world than the one I'm about to bring up. However, in the interest of family unity, I feel it's my duty to encourage all of you to get out there and gather all the pumpkins left over from Hallowe'en. Just this evening, I had to rush to our local dump and wrest a few of the better ones away from the deer who venture out every night to the delight of several dozen onlookers who think it's the darn zoo. Fortunately, the neighborhood teenagers only destroyed about half of those dotting the stoops (we live in a very posh neighborhood, obviously). And it's fortunate for you that I am willing to share this potentially horrifying news with you: there might NOT be enough canned pumpkin for this year's Thanksgiving dinner...and I'm serious about this as well.
It seems that the Nestle Company has a virtual monopoly on all the processed pumpkin in this country, and it's in serious trouble! You're familiar, of course, with the big cans of Libby's canned know, the one that has the recipe on the label for that PERFECT pumpkin pie. Well, the farm that grows those pumpkins had a terrible year.
Located in Morton, Illinois (trust the FIBs to mess it up!) suffered some of the worst weather just about harvest time this year. In fact, there was so much rain that most of the "product" went unpicked. Well, how much can that really BE, I hear you thinking. If all of the pumpkins on that particular farm had been made into pies, there would be 90 million pumpkin pies. See what we're going to miss? Of course, Nestle doesn't make ALL of the pumpkin...just between 80%-90%. That means there might still be some other brand out there...but only for those quick enough to get to the store NOW! Surely, there's a 24-hour market near you. Go NOW! You won't be sorry.
I was smart enough to get mine. Don't disappoint your family.
Or, you could end up substituting sweet potatoes like my mother used to do...really!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another No-Brainer From Researchers


I often wonder about researchers in terms of how they select the topic to study. "Is there water on the moon?" sounds like a great study...until you have to crash a rocket worth millions (if not billions) into the darn thing just to find out. Of course, there was no real way to poll people, either, I guess. It's just that polls and surveys and research often comes to conclusions that make us stop and wonder how WE can get money to come up with results that are basically common this one
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was comprised based on information from a wide group of people who were asked to gauge their happiness. The only difference between the groups was that one group smoked and one did not. The findings? As you can see, non-smokers are happier! More on that in a bit.
The opinion poll was based on 10 different self-reported facts, among them frequency of smiling/laughing. learning or doing something interesting, and experiencing sadness or worry. The groups were compared in several different income categories as well, and in each one, smokers were less happy.
In addition, smokers were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression at one time, and they were less likely to have access to basic necessities like food, shelter and medical care. This trend was especially noted in low-income groups.
Ya think?
Smokers spend up to six bucks for one pack of cigarettes (it might be more or less where you live). Even at one pack a day, that's, uh, $42 per week or $168 per month or, well, that's enough math for me. It's darned expensive is all I know. If folks are low-income already and spending that kind of money on smoking, it's no wonder they have nothing for other things like dinner at the Golden Corral. This would make ANYONE unhappy.
Of course, the more well-to-do have other issues, I suspect. They probably are not allowed to smoke in the five-star restaurants that took a month to get reservations. Hacking up phlegm is probably viewed distastefully a the club, and it certainly messes up the mane on the polo pony and the seats in the Lambo. Then, of course, the upper crust smokers are probably not inhaling Salems, either, but something foreign to show off their good taste. Though, you WILL note that the difference between happy and not happy is greatest among low-income people.
This might mean that smoking is their ONLY enjoyment...or they smoke because they know it will hasten the inevitable and hope for something better later!
There you have it once again. The unintended proof from the research that having money can make you less miserable than being poor.
And who didn't know that?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still Plenty of Time


While most people think the holiday gift-giving season begins, oh, say, the middle of July when Fleet Farm opens up its Toyland at 5 a.m that's really not it. The official start of the shopping season begins in early November...two weeks before my birthday. By the time December rolls around, all the really good stuff has been flying off the shelves for weeks in celebration of my nativity. However, I think this year might be a bit different. It seems like some of the manufacturers have been holding out for the last major push which starts on Black Friday.
Don't let them kid you: Black Friday is not a designation for the time when sales are so brisk that retailers emerge from the red ink into the black for the's really for how dark the sky is when people start to stand in line and how dark their mood is when they find out that the fine print on the ad mentioned briefly that quantities of that must-have item were, in fact, limited to five. So, in order to prepare you for that onslaught...or maybe allow you to do some casual online shopping while still getting the needed shuteye, here are a few of the holiday gifts that have caught my eye. Of course, if you are feeling a bit red-faced for not getting me an actual gift for my birthday...well, let's just leave it at that.

Those of us who live seemingly north of the Arctic Circle will appreciate having a Cypher PS+ under the tree. This item is a heat vest that uses far-infrared fibers to redirect heat back into the body with pads conveniently placed over the kidneys. A rechargeable battery keeps the liquids flowing in even the coldest temperature. Of course, if you're wearing it at a football game and you take your shirt off, everyone will know you for the Sally that you are.

For the readers out there...the kindle is SO last year. Now we have the Nook from Barnes and Noble (I think). It not only has book capability, it is part of the 3G system and is WiFi enabled. Not only that, it has the capability for you to lend "books" to your friends (similarly equipped, I imagine) for up to 14 days! Wow! Now you can charge your friends for overdue books and short circuit the library. Of course, if you're like my friend Kathleen, you wouldn't be caught dead reading something that wasn't actually printed on paper, so...this might not be for you.

If you are a National Public Radio groupie (and, really, who isn't?) your world has just exploded. Now you can purchase (or request as a gift) an NPR radio. This beauty can get you "Morning Edition," "Car Talk" or "Classics By Request" in addition to Michael Feldman or any other program on one of 800 stations! REally. In addition, this radio will call in 16,000 internet radio stations so you will never, ever, ever miss one moment of the pledge drives. Absent for a while? It will also record and store a program for two weeks. But wait, There's MORE! It's also an alarm clock.

I was just about the buy what I thought was the latest iPod shuffle the other day since I was amazed at the $55 price tag. Now, I know why it had dropped to such a low price: Apple is introducing a 4GB stainless steel version of the iPod shuffle. Imagine running, biking, walking or doing virtually anything with 1,000 tracks at your disposal. Heck, you could probably hike the whole of the Appalachian Trail and never hear a song repeated. Gotta get one. Mine holds a measly 240 tracks. Outdated.

Finally, there's the Darth Vader robotic arm. How can you NOT want one of these babies? it is comprised of 45 separate pieces, and the recipient of this fine gift gets to put it together! "We have the technology. We CAN rebuild him!" I can hear myself now...breathing into one hand menacingly while choking someone who really deserves it with my robotic arm...and leaving NO FINGERPRINTS! This is an absolute must-have, as I'm sure you can see.
Just when I thought there was nothing else for me to want.
Health, happiness,more than enough food, shelter,and clothing? I have all that; but I do NOT have a robotic arm.
Maybe this comes under the category of "Be careful what you wish for..."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fading Into An Anachronism...2L8

It all began with Twitter, and my friend Karl who didn't quite get the fact that "twitter" was a noun, not a verb. Karl is unique because he does not own a television...hasn't for 30 years. While I see this as a positive, it does eliminate a lot of cultural information that he might otherwise pick the fact that "tweet" is the verb which many folks use when sending inane messages about their immediate thoughts or whereabouts.
During the ensuing confusion of my explaining this to Karl, he attempted to pass off his confusion by saying something like, "I began to get lost when past participles were introduced." This, of course, send the party crowd into a tizzy...not because they were aghast at his lack of knowledge in the participial arena but that he, having been out of school for quite some time, would remember such a construction existed! As the resident grammar geek, I found myself under the scrutiny of all while I attempted to dislodge the memory from Karl's mind, clearly making the distinction among both present and pst participles and their lookalike(in some cases) the gerund.
I realize that, at this point, you are bemoaning the fact that YOU were not invited to this party to engage in such stimulatingly erudite discourse. But, wait! There's MORE! (Billy Mays here) Later when the karaoke got going, we were all rollicking to the theme song from "Gilligan's Island" (well, humming the more obscure parts). And of course, you are now asking yourself, "What the hell is rambling on about?" This is all about being an anachronism.
Though I was at a party until almost midnight, it wasn't a birthday bash even though I, personally, was celebrating one. We were all about the same age, most of us attended parochial grade schools "back in the day" and were subjected to learning things like past participles. We lamented the fact that today's students wouldn't know a participle even if 50 Cent used one in every line. Sadly, though, I really care that I know about them. I think it makes me a more complete (though somewhat maladjusted) person, and I wish that modern students cared enough to use the language to its greatest beauty. Mind you, I see students butcher the written word every day so I'm in the front lines of keeping language alive.
Language that's fading fast into the uselessness evidenced by "RU OK? LOL, IDK!"
It's not just participles that are becoming anachronistic.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can You Make the Grade? Do You Want To?

I will never forget the conversation my mother and I had about exclusivity. She was describing in glowing terms an acquaintance's daughter's inclusion in some sorority somewhere. After impatiently listening for what seemed like an eternity, I asked, "Why? Didn't she have her own personality?" Of course, Mom was befuddled by the query, thinking that inclusion in such an obviously elite group was to be trumpeted. I, on the other hand, thought of all the times I couldn't go to the country club to swim or play golf because my parents were not members. Relegated to the city pool, I had to swim through a much less sophisticated stream of little kids', um, well, urine than the cool kids at the country club. (the story of how we "broke" in one night just to swim is a whole other story!)
Anyway, when I read about the other day, I was much bemused and figured you might be as well...or maybe YOU, too, could be included! Here's your chance. is an "elite dating site" from Denmark which went global only last year. It has 360,000 members, and is soliciting only beautiful people to join. In a recent article, Britons were excoriated as the lest beautiful people on earth...apparently, they care nothing about their looks or their degree of fitness. I think living in a crappy climate would do that to anybody, but that's just me. So, who ARE the most beautiful people? According to the article, Swedish men and Norwegian women rate the highest. Of course, that might have been before the site was opened globally.
How exclusive IS this site? only one out of ten men have been accepted, and merely three in twenty women get the nod. Now THAT'S exclusive. Now, of course, I've piqued your curiosity enough to get you to wonder whether or not you'd make the cut. Here's how it works:
Would-be beautiful people have to submit a brief biography and photo, then all the club members of the opposite sex have 48 hours to vote on whether or not to accept you. The vote is simple: there are four choices: "Yes, definitely;" "Hmm yes, OK:" "Hmmm no, not really:" and "No, definitely not." If you're a little nervous about taking the initial risk of being rejected by thousands, you can take a free peek in order to gauge the possibilities. There is a link on the home page that says, (and I'm NOT kidding) "Too ugly to join? Click here for a free preview."
Should you decide to do this either seriously or for fun and get rejected, don't feel bad. More than 1.8 million people have already been rejected from 190 countries. I could take the rejection, particularly after looking at the free preview.
Yes, I looked.
I'm as beautiful as most of the guys on there.
This says something about looks as a determiner of worth...
or inclusion into a sorority.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

If Carrie Prejean Can...

Fifteen minutes is generally a long time: it takes me that long to bike to work (usually into the wind going AND coming back...somewhat akin to walking uphill both ways); the fifteen minutes it takes me to fall asleep are interminable; the fifteen minutes until opening time on Black Friday is eternal...especially at those temperatures. Those are just some of the reasons that I don't think I would want fifteen minutes of fame. I mean, just look at how these stories of nobody-type people that just keep going and going: the balloon boy and his parents (who will plead guilty this week, I hear); previously unknown and insignificant celebrities who get into it with paparazzi (won't Mike Tyson EVER go away?); the Octomom and/or Jon & Kate.
I mean, really, I have as much talent as any of them (don't let Tyson find out) yet I really don't want to be cast in the bright spotlight of fame as they seem to want to. None of them, in my estimation, has less to offer yet continues to squeeze every last second of fame out than the former Miss California
Seriously, now we find out that her body wasn't really hers in the first place...the pageant is asking for the return of the money it spent on, uh, augmentation surgery. Really? I'm shocked.
I have no problem with her being outspoken with regard to her a way, I wish more people were that honest; but casting herself as the poster girl for "values" in this country only to be featured in a (sort of) sex tape really strikes me as odd. Of course, there's "The View" and "Today" and all of the other talk shows on which she is allowed to continue her tirade that people are "out to smear me." Really?
I had to guffaw a bit when she said, with a straight face, that the tape in question was not a "sex tape" since there was no one else in the was just her, and she was...well, you can figure it out. Her rejoinder that she was 17 and sending it to a boyfriend she thought she could trust sounded 'way too much like all the steroid users who got caught in the latest baseball scandal. "It was the biggest mistake of my life" No, the biggest mistake was thinking it would never surface. Doesn't she read the papers/tabloids? This stuff happens ALL the time.
Of course, with a book coming out to extend her fame time even more, this is titillating stuff (so to speak).
Maybe I'm just too jaded, but I'm not buying any of this...yet, here I am, extending her fifteen minutes by the time it takes to write this and for you to read it.
I just hope I'm never famous. Of course, if I could just make a tape...or go to Argentina...or a bathroom in Minneapolis...or have my own intern...or get a hot tub...
You're right...too icky to even think about!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


As if I didn't have enough to worry about with a crown coming loose in my morning bagel! (I got it before I swallowed it and jammed it back on, thanks for asking...the dentist takes a crack at it tomorrow); now I have to worry about ED because of something I can't see!
The first study done on humans instead of mice has found that being exposed to BPA means a great risk of developing erectile dysfunction and "other" sexual problems in men. First of all, "OTHER" problems? I mean, what other problems could there be that have any consequence on my libidinous life? And at my age, should I even be considering the question? Here's the skinny on the study.
634 male factory workers in China were exposed to moderate levels of BPA on the job, and, compared with men who were not exposed to the chemical that is found in things from can liners to baby bottles, experienced sexual problems like those described as high as four times as often. Additionally, the problems began in months, not after years of exposure. The men were studied over a five-year period so it wasn't exactly a longitudinal study, but it wasn't mice, either!
The same article in today's Washington Post estimated that up to 93% of all Americans have levels of BPA in their bodies. So how did this nefarious thing get into society?
BPA was introduced in the 30s as a synthetic version of estrogen. How it got from there to the inside of plastic, I'm not sure. I know Eddie Bauer and outdoor outfitters of that ilk have been promoting "BPA-free" water bottles for some time, but I had no idea that it could be linked to my, uh, Johnson. (sorry if that seems indelicate)
Anyway, the Food and Drug Administration continues to maintain that BPA is safe, claiming that we get only trace amounts of it. Still, when something is linked to infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, cancer and diabetes, even if the link is weak, I think I can do without it.
Unfortunately, now I feel like Joe McCarthy must have: instead of a Commie behind every bush, there's BPA in just about everything I use. My options might include a lengthy fast, but that would probably be bad for me,too. I know it would cause behavior changes!
Then again, maybe I'm one of the 3% who has no trace of it. Then again, maybe 60 IS the new 40!

Monday, November 09, 2009

"The Problem With A Kitten Is That..."

"...eventually, it becomes a cat." That is one of my favorite poems of all time. Back in grade school, we were forced to memorize poetry in order to make us more sophisticated...or something. Alas! (poetic!) The trouble with me was that I really wanted no part of such shenanigans; thus, I always dragged the Ogden Nash collection off the shelf and searched for poetic wisdom like the one quoted earlier in addition to pithy things like "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" which was another favorite treatise on how to endear oneself to a female companion. Anyway, so here we are amid the felines of the world, and it's time to redefine some terminology. Forewarned is forearmed, I think.
Beverly Hills recently hosted a "Cougar Convention." I immediately thought of my friend Patty who claims to have seen a mountain lion/cougar/panther/chupacabra/yeti type creature in Door County. Imagine my dismay to found that a "cougar" really wasn't a man-eating prey-stalking, loner that hunted for easy pickings...wait...maybe it IS!
Turns out that such a name applies to women over 40 years of age who "date" younger men in their 20s, a la Demi Moore or Susan Sarandon. and it appears that there is a hierarchy as well: a "kitten" is a woman in her 20's who stands no chance against the more mature "puma" in her 30's or the aforementioned "cougar" in her 40's when it comes to tracking down the solitary "cub" who is easy pickings, either because the woman has money, is incredibly, uh, hot, or both. Don't ask me, I am totally out of the loop here.
Of course, older men have been dating much younger women longer than Hugh Hefner has been alive, but this added twist adds a new chapter in the liberated life of women. What the girls want, the girls get, it would appear. I mean, there's even a television show about it, named "Cougar Town" starring Courtney Cox...wouldn't you know? It was only a matter of time before Levi Johnston shows up he even 18 yet?
So, let's see, if the woman has to be twice the guy's age, that means I'd be easy prey for some 120-year old, uh, "snow leopard." I think I'm safe, although I DID just see something about a snow leopard when I turned on my computer tonight.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Postpartum Blues

I never really got to know my paternal grandmother: she lived in Texas with all my dad's family, and we lived in Kansas. Perhaps this was not so far as the world is concerned, but this was a time when interstate travel was a major undertaking. As a result, I would see her once a year...and I was always a little uncomfortable around her. My only clear memory involves a bizarre (at least I thought so at the time) incident when she visited us once. Somehow, I had developed a huge blister on the palm of my right the middle of the night, I'm startled awake by my grandmother holding my hand and praying over it. As if that wasn't enough, the next day as she left on the bus, she shook my hand vigorously...and popped the blister. The pain was all I remember. It's sad, really, to have that as the only clear memory of a person who was probably a nice lady and loved her grandchildren.
We saw my maternal grandmother every weekend. After church, we would pack up, head out to the farm, and spend the days in exploration, eating fried chicken, and playing baseball with my uncles. My memories are all totally positive, and I mourned every time one of my mother's family members died. The contrast in my current life struck me today.
We took a day trip to Chicago to hang out with the new granddaughter (who, BTW, is the cutest EVER!) and our oldest son's wife and mother-in-law. Since the maternal grandmother lives with the new parents, she is the main baby care person (Mom had a C-section and is a bit incapacitated except for feeding and cuddling) . Grandma Thom speaks no English but is obviously very caring and loves the baby. Great for the baby...not so great for me. While we can travel to Chicago more frequently than I was able to get to Texas, the distance is still a is winter weather, job commitments, etc.
I know little Sotheary will have great love and care, but I would like for my sweetie and me to be able to provide a bit more of that. We got to take her for her first walk in the stroller today, we got to feed and change her...but mostly, we got to watch her sleep. Still, the moments are treasures to us.
I only hope she'll remember something other than a painful experience when I'm no longer around.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fundamentally, Include Me Out.

I must admit that I've been a bit troubled lately by all the political hoopla over health care reform. Not that I don't think each side has a valid point or two or that healthy discussion should be outlawed, but I'm more than a little concerned about the righteous tone many are taking.
When an elected representative sees nothing offensive in a large sign depicting victims at Dachau's concentration camp in World War II and links that to what might be a certain fate if one or the other version of this bill is passed, I get a little nervous.
When a person interviewed on NPR claims that she knows a certain politician will "burn in hell" for not standing behind an outright ban on all abortions, I start to squirm.
Then, I read about the foreign fundamentalists in somalia who chop off hands for being suspected of happened recently to Mohamed Omar Ismail recently. He, of course, claimed to be innocent of stealing "10 pairs of pants, 10 shirts and 8 other items with a total value of $90."
Even more haunting was the stoning to death of a 134-year-old mentally disabled girl charged with adultery: according to Amnesty International, she had been raped.
Along the same lines, it took 7 minutes to stone Abas Hussein Abdirahman to death recently for admitting to the crime of adultery. His pregnant girlfriend will get the same punishment as soon as she delivers the baby. She will be the fifth person to suffer that fate this year.
Somalia IS, after all, a long way from "civilized." I mean, that country hasn't even had a government for 18 years, for crying out loud. But, I think I'm beginning to see some parallels.
Demonizing others who do not think or feel or act like we do is only human. That's how we get folks geared up to fight: every Muslim is a terrorist or "sand jockey" or "rag head." In the past, we've had" Japs" and "krauts" and, well, you get the picture.
I've met people from all over the world, and I've not met anybody yet that I could work up a dislike for, let alone call names and hate. Yet, that's what's happening in our political system.
And I'm afraid it's not about helping our people and our country grow stronger.
I'm afraid it's about ratings and getting elected or re-elected.
It's about having power and denying others the same right, in my opinion.
If the fundamentalists on either end win out, we all lose.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Making A Case for Stoners

If you don't remember Lucy Stone...neither do I; apparently, though, her influence continues, at least for the folks at (don't ask why I was reading that column today!)
Columnist FAith Salle bemoans the fact that approximately 80% of all women who marry in the United States today take on an assumed identity: that of their husband's family. They do this, of course, by changing their last name upon being wed. Salle is so obsessed by this that she scans the New York Times' wedding announcements every Sunday simply to be "gobsmacked" at the number of women who change their names at this time. Of course, if you watched "27 Dresses," (again, don't ask why I did) the wedding section of the Times takes on a greater significance (called by some "the sports page for women"). Anyhow...
Salle suggests that we are one of a handful of countries which hang on to some patrilineal tradition; she even bemoans the fact that even in Iran, women get to keep their own names. I suspect she's never been to Iran, or she would realize that the name thing is small potatoes to the freedoms she has as a woman in this misogynistic society.
Of course, the ideal occurs in Spain where a woman has two surnames, one from her father and one from her mother. We, on the other hand, have a whole list of hyphenated names because people try to accommodate everyone. Personally, I like the Smerlinder's idea. Don and Julienne began life as a Schollander and a Smerlinski; following the joining of hands in matrimony, they became the Smerlinders. Now THAT'S an idea to get the Stoners rolling.
Oh yeah...Lucy Stone. she was the first woman in this country reputed to have retained her maiden name following marriage to a (supposedly) enlightened man. That being the 19th century or so, it must have caused quite a stir among the gentry.
Me? Being male, I guess it never really occurred to me. Capulet or Montague? "A rose by any other name..."
I've got bigger things to worry about, though there are fewer now that the World Series is over.
But, like I said, I'm guy.
I've always had it all.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You're All Getting Calendars

As I continue my jump to light speed (or the 20th century as Ryun says), I remain simply awed by what technology has provided. Working through the tutorials in my new computer, I find that iPhoto can organize a group of photos by recognizing faces! Simply title one picture, and the program automatically selects every other photo that features the same face and put them in a folder. Really! I was stupefied when I discovered that feature. Another "gee whiz" feature is that each photo can have a map showing where the photo was taken! Huh? Whatever happened to just putting snapshots in a scrapbook with scotch tape or those little sticky corners that fell off after a year or so?
Of course, after all that amazing stuff, it's not surprising that I can create books, both hard and soft covered, calendars and greeting cards with pictures from my iPhoto album. No more taking the CD with photos to Wal-Mart in order to create such things: my computer will do it for me.
In addition, I can make comic book editions of any picture, and I can do the same to my face when I'm chatting live with someone on iLive. Crazy. This feature may be the best of all: now I can read to my grandchildren every night...though someone else will be holding them on a lap. Still, how far removed is this from a rotary dial phone connected to the wall with a live operator placing my call? It is truly the dawning of a new day for me. Too bad I actually have to go to work every day!
Look for those calendars in the mail!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Old Dogs Are Slow

Contrary to current thought, I'm not an idiot even though I occasionally do a rather good impression of one. It's just that I like order and consistency in my life; anything that upsets that barrel of fish...or apple cart...whatever... frustrates me. I know I have to change and grow and all of that stuff, but as I near 60, I think I should have to do less and less of that while everyone else waits on me more and more. That's why the last few days have been frustrating.
In spite of my desire for less change, I absolutely love new technology, and after saving for two years (with the exception of my shoe thing), I broke down and out and bought a new computer. OK, OK, not such a big deal normally, but I made the leap from a PC to a Mac. After all, that PC guy in the commercials was too much like me (dorky), and I knew an image change was required. Oh yeah, the 27" screen was an added bonus that made this new iMac just too good to pass up. Add my educator's discount,and I was hooked. Then came the frustrating part.
"Easy to hook up and get running. You won't believe it!" That from my Mac-savvy son. Not being willing to tackle the whole changeover thing by myself, I figured I'd move the old C into another room so I could keep checking email and the 'net in case I couldn't figure it out...yes, I know, that's called a self-fulfilling prophecy: as soon as I doubted myself, things went kerflooey.
After moving internet connection. Five calls to tech support merely raised my blood pressure a lot and led to the decision that, perhaps, my modem (being 7 years old) was probably shot: service available in two days. You can see the steam rising from my head even now.
"At least, I can get the feel of the wireless keyboard and mouse while moving my iTunes and address book, etc. from an external drive to the computer," I thought foolishly to myself. I couldn't even find the damn cursor on the screen, despite moving the mouse around more than a baton twirler in the Rose Parade. After swallowing my pride, I called the Mac"daddy," and he solved the simple problem for me: the screen was so big I didn't see the cursor in the corner...AND wireless mice don't work on glass. D'oh! placing the controlling device on the appropriate mouse pad worked wonders!
When the tech guy came today and installed the new modem, everything worked fine. Now I'm basically off and running, composing pictures artistically, cranking the absolutely GREAT sound system and trying to figure out how to import my address book. Of course, there was another lengthy period of time spent with tech support trying to get the email program transferred to the new mac program. I am proud to say that I offered a couple of helpful suggestions when we hit some unfathomable snags...though I could not have done it by myself.
At least I managed to avoid another embarrassing phone call...the guy in India has no idea that I', a rapidly slowing dog
This will keep me off the streets and out of trouble for a few weeks working on the nuances (see? I still know words...just not tech stuff)
All in all, it's been instructive, but making phone calls that prove my inadequacies and rapidly declining "trick-learning " skills have been humbling. (still working on transferring pictures to the blog, though)