Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seriously, Can It Get ANY Worse?

MY TURN TO VENT. To say that the last six weeks have been among the worst of my life might be overstating it a bit. It's not been like the time a few years ago when my parents died within four days of each other, or the time when one of our kids was denied a chance to play college basketball due to an aneurysm, or...well, you get the picture. If there has been a major disruption to the calm we'd hoped would be life, we've had it over the years. Lately, though, it just seems to continue to pile up. Maintaining a positive outlook is getting nigh on impossible, especially when my blood pressure was 140/90 recently, and it's never been above 110/65 or so. Oh, and I've lost 10 pounds in the last six weeks...hard to eat when my stomach hurts all the time. Sleep is fitful at best, and someone told me just yesterday that I look like hell. Go figure.
And other people are just too damn optimistic and cheerful. I hate that.
This week? a routine dentist visit brought the following: "Wow! That tooth is fractured in a few places. I think the best thing would be just to take it out because you'll end up losing it anyway." Maybe not so bad for most people, but I fear dentistry like some people fear snakes, or vampires, or elevators, or...
Today? I went to the funeral of one of "my" students' father. That was a gut-wrencher, to be sure.
"Look on the bright side," you say.
I've got my health for a little while longer anyway.
I do have a great family even when we struggle.
My sweetie is very supportive even though she is struggling, too.
All of that is true, and I believe that things will improve.
Who knew it could be so hard to smile?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Burahara Over Blood

You've Got the Bloody Right to Say...

Glancing over the garish headlines ion all the grocery store magazines the other day, I was amazed to find out that (apparently) there are a lot of people out there who care about how much cellulite "X" has on her thighs, or who's affair just became public, or which Hollywood star just adopted a baby while throwing her husband out...yada, yada, yada. I know this is popular stuff because almost every one of the periodicals featured at least one stroy in EACH of those categories, and the publishers wouldn't do that if rubber-neckers wouldn't buy such tripe. Nowhere, though, was there an article that featured a discussion about which blood type would make a good match for each of us. Go to Japan, though...
Apparently, this is one of the hot topics in Japan: making a love match based on blood type. It has reached such a fever pitch that self-help books and women's magazines give extended coverage to helping singles negotiate the maze of singlehood by clearly identifying suitable partners based on blood type. In fact, the question of bool type is often asked in job interviews (companies like work groups of similar type), and it it a given in the world of speed dating. A former Prime Minister even listed his blood type in his personal bio online! Imagine that. So, what does each blood type the Japanese, at least?

Type A: dependable, self-sacrificing but reserved and prone to worry.

Type AB: well-balanced, clear-sighted and logical BUT high maintenance and distant.

Type O: decisive and confident.

Type B (for bad boys, I guess): Flamboyant, free-thinkers BUT very selfish.

This kind of discrimination has even got a name: "Burahara," which translates to "blood group harassment." I thought, initially, that it might be the name given to arguments during a Japanese sporting event.
A final word of caution: if you ARE a Type B, don't let it get you down since the Red cross will ALWAYS be your friend. Just don't go to Japan and let on.
No word whether the RH factor is a factor. Maybe somebody else will do that research.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

See the U.S.A. by Car...Free Bathroom Stops...Cheap Eats

The airline industry has been beset by high costs of fuel and materials over the past few years so they have, naturally, passed those increases on to us, the flying public. It's not enough that the TSA has invaded our privacy even to the point of see-through technology at screening sites, and the airlines stopped providing in-flight snacks, now there are a whole new bevy of ways to squeeze the already-exasperated flyer, frequent or otherwise.
The latest proposal seems to revolve around the weight of passengers. It seems that someone, somewhere has the idea that airlines could charge passengers by their weight (and I'm sure that "someone" wasn't Kevin Smith!). While that idea has yet to get off the ground in reality, it IS being considered. In fact, 'way back in 1985, Lufthansa asked its passengers to get weighed before boarding, though it did so only to survey the average weight of its passengers and did not charge extra for the obese. But now? anything is possible. Consider these facts:
The seat in coach is 17 inches wide.
The average American has gained 13 pounds in the last 15 years.
Southwest Airlines already charges obese passengers the price of two seats (see Kevin Smith).
Spirit Air will begin charging passengers a fee to carry on luggage this summer!
Ryanair has begun charging fliers to use the bathroom in-flight...though, this applies only to fights of less than an hour.
However, have they ever heard of an enlarged prostate? I have, and an hour can be about 40 minutes too long in some cases. Believe me, they would definitely have a lawyer calling them in that case.
All Nippon Airways began asking customers last year to go to the bathroom before boarding flights in an attempt to lighten the "load" and save fuel. What the heck do they eat that's so heavy? All that sushi can't weight much!
So, you can see that charging people per pound is not such an outrageous idea, even on Southwest where my checked bags fly free.
Let's recap: long security lines which invade privacy to an embarrassing degree; extra pay for bags and bounds; $5 sandwich as in-flight food; some incredibly obese person STILL taking up more than the allotted space; and my bags go off on a vacation without me.
Sounds like a deal. This time around, I'm taking the car for any trip. Of course, that limits me to only 48 states since I can't drive to Hawaii and With my summer tan, I would get stopped every 20 miles if I went to Arizona.
But at least the bathroom would be free every 20 minutes or so.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The 14% Solution for Good Health...or Not

I remain unmotivated and listless...perhaps today it' the fault of Meatless Monday, perhaps not. My total intake of protein today came from some Kashii cereal...even the carbs I had for dinner failed to generate much enthusiasm. I'm seriously worried about myself. Luckily, Taco Tuesday is just around the corner. That's a 14% solution I can look forward to.
I'm not actually rambling, even though it seems like it.
Fourteen percent of our lives is spent on Mondays, and it's that day more than any that sends folks into paroxysms of depression. Maybe it's the back-to-work thing; maybe it's that we've upset our internal clock by adjusting our sleep schedule over the weekend to encompass all the fun stuff we did that we couldn't do during the week; maybe we've just come to expect Mondays to bite. At any rate, there can be a positive twist on it for those of you of a less carnivorous nature, and it's called Meatless Mondays, a program (if you can call it that) begun in 2003 by the non-profit group The Monday Campaigns in conjunction with Johns Hopkins medical folks in an effort to lower our intake of saturated fats, reduce our carbon footprint and conserve the water resources which are dwindling. The idea is simple: eat no meat on Monday, and not just for the alliterative benefit: supposedly, behaviors undertaken on Monday are more likely to be repeated throughout the week; and it's no secret that we all eat too much red meat. The city of San Francisco (go figure) was the first total city to adopt the Meatless Monday idea, opting to begin a few weeks ago on April 7th.
Critics? Oh yeah. Talking heads the likes of Glenn Beck indicate that such a plan is a design by the government to "indoctrinate our children into the ways of vegetarians" as if that were a terrorist plot. Beck goes on to say that we Americans love all forms of meat and that, should he be incarcerated and given a last meal, it would be the biggest steak he could get. OK, fine, but he speaks as if all of this is something new when it's not, really.
World War I gave us not only Meatless Mondays but Wheatless Wednesdays in an attempt to get better food for the boys "over there." Interesting...but being physically healthy has never sparked the "fun" for most people.
Maybe I need another Double Down from KFC.
Or maybe I'll just stay in bed tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Happened to Up?

That would be me in the front car...still going down and about to be underwater. There is no up that I can discern...very disconcerting.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Assault With An "Other"

Really, it's not slimy at all!

There are phobias that seem to affect us all: some minor such as not allowing food to touch other food on a plate as well as some so obscure that they define pronunciation as well as description. "Google" the list yourself, if you don't believe me. One thing is for sure: Jeffrey Culp has a "thing" about snakes. In fact, he is quoted as saying, "I don't do snakes." To be honest, I don't really "do" snakes, either, and I'm not crazy about huge spiders or things I cannot see underwater, either. But then, nobody is actively shoving them in my face, either...unlike Culp.
It seems that Mr. Culp was residing in a motel in South Carolina where one Tony Smith also happened to be staying. On successive nights, Culp was kept awake by loud music that prevented him from resting comfortably prior to getting up early for work. Upon confronting Smith and asking politely, I presume, at first that the decibel level be lowered, he was rebuffed, and the request became a demand. At any rate, some time later, Culp was strolling outside with his wife and a friend when he was tapped on the shoulder. When he turned around, he was face to, uh, face with a wide-open mouth of a 4-foot python which proceeded to grap his lip and do other snakelike things, even to the point, according to Culp of "trying to get inside my mouth." (that's why you should never scream if a python attacks)
The event left Culp so shaken that he showered for several hours though he never really explained why...after all, cleaning oneself after soiling underwear really doesn't take all that long. Maybe wrinkly people are less apt to be attacked.
Smith was escorted to the crowbar hotel by officers who charged him with assault and battery. According to the police report, the weapon of choice was listed as "other."
Pleasant dreams!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Would the John Montagu Say?


Back in 1762, the Earl of Sandwich was having a go at gambling. Either he was on a hot streak or losing his behind, but either way, he was too busy to stop so he ordered a waiter to bring him some roast beef between two slices of bread. The rest, they say, is history, brought on by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (literally, "a sandy place") in Olde Englishe. This gastronomical delight has evolved markedly over the past 250 years though peanut butter and jelly remain my favorite application to bread. Nevertheless, grilled buns, doughnuts for buns and buns 'way bigger than your head have all been tried as we sought to embellish this tasty morsel into something undeniably good. Making a great thing phenomenal remains the quest of anybody on the Food Network or the Travel Channel, it seems.
Oh sure, awhile back, nutritionists got all up in our grills (so to speak) about the huge portions, and various efforts were made to curb the calories. Remember when Hardee's was pushing a huge burger that used lettuce in lieu of bread, saving all sorts of calories? Right...well, that's been replaced by the huge Thickburger, bun and all...apparently that idea never caught on. Adding bacon (mmmmm, bacon!), sauces of various kinds, multiple cheeses and even wrapping a burger in a tortilla have all been tried, but I think the Colonel may have finally taken the sandwich to its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view).
I give you The Double Down which went on sale for the first time today at KFC. The picture says it all: a bacon-cheese sandwich smothered in the "colonel's sauce" ensconced in between two pieces of...chicken! Available in both grilled and original recipe, the chicken serves as a pseudo "bun" for the gooey insides comprised of pepper jack and Monterrey Jack cheese, bacon and mayo...all for $4.99. Honestly, if I had that much cash right now, I would be on my way. be warned, however, the insides might tend to slide around a bit like those Big Macs seem to do.
OK, so now you're hooked on the idea but cautious about your waistline? GOOD NEWS! This delectable delight weighs in with 540 calories per sandwich while a Big Mac contains 580 calories, and the Whopper weighs in at a hefty 670 calories! Heck, even a large order of fries is infiltrated with 570 calories. That means you're free to eat, secure in the knowledge that you're probably doing something (marginally) healthy in terms of fast food, and you will be getting only 32 grams of fat.
Is there a catch? Yes: salt. The original contains 1380mg of salt while the grilled version has 1430mg of salt.
But, hey, you can't have everything.
Did I mention there was bacon in this?
Bon apetit as John Montagu might be saying while getting the grease off his cards.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Finnish Students Finish First

As both a product and a producer of the American education system, I feel more than competent to hold forth on what I consider to be major stumbling blocks in our efforts to not be embarrassed by the rest of the world's educational systems. You've heard all the theories so I will not venture in that direction, but the facts are inescapable: we are totally unlike any other system in the world, and we are falling further and further behind. Perhaps it is our goal to create equality for all or perhaps we're simply mired in the politics of power...who knows? What we do know is that Finland, more than any other country, is kicking out collective butts. Let's see if there is any answer to be found in the following information, gleaned from the BBC:
As recently as 2006, Finland students ranked first in the world on standardized math and science scores. More recently, they have fallen to second in math behind the South Korean students. This despite the fact that Finish students spend LESS time in the classroom than any other country's students in the industrial world! Huh?
Students in Finland begin organized school at age 7. By that time, our students have been through baby Einstein courses, art courses and four years of pre-pre and pre-school. Finns believe a child learns best by playing, and that by age 7, the student really wants to go to school!
In Finland, all students share the same classroom, even those who have difficulty learning. Those students are provided with an extra teacher in the classroom to help them, but they do not go to "special" classrooms: they stay with their classmates.
Students in Finland often stay with the same teacher for as many as 5 years, and there is no break for middle school, junior high, or secondary school: all students share the same building so there is no sense of being uprooted at 13.
Finland encourages a culture of reading at home with parents and children. Parents and teachers meet frequently, and reading is of paramount importance.
Teaching in Finland is seen as a prestigious career, and teachers are highly-respected.
An interesting facet that I had not considered is that Finland has a very low rate of immigration, meaning that almost all students speak the same language which facilitates learning at an even pace.
Well, there you have it: Finland's education system in a nutshell. If you want to believe in test scores, that's the place to move.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

It's All Fun and Games Until You Have To Make It

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." How often have you heard that? For me, every time I hear it is too often. Lemons are bitter, and it hurts to get the juice in a cut or on a sore inside my mouth. They are symbols of a crappy product, in this case, life itself.
Some turn to prayer. Some turn to mind-altering substances of all sorts. Some even hide under the covers in the face of a lemon onslaught, but lemons are inescapable. I hate lemons. My method for making lemonade might well be hurling the despised fruit as hard as I can against a solid object...or person, perhaps.
Lemons suck.
And there's no sugar handy.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Eating Healthy...or Not

At some point in our lives, if we live that long, we are destined to begin to worry more and more about what foods we put inside our bodies. We seem to get this "eat healthy" urge at some point, and we dump out all the Little Debbies, the ice cream and the chips and make a firm decision to clean up our gustatory tastes. We vow that no matter HOW boring it gets, we're going to eat healthy, organic, whole grains: the works...and in reasonable quantities. Uh, right. So what do we do, and more importantly, should we do it? There are some surprisingly unhealthy choices that we often make when, in fact, we think we're doing just the opposite. Here are some examples:
OK, sow e're going organic. Let's pick up some granola since it's all natural and has little fruits in it to keep it from being too boring. Check the label: oftentimes, a major ingredient in granola is sugar, something we're trying to duck.
Since granola is out, what might I choose next that might be equally bland but more healthy? How about some nice peach yogurt? Not too bland but not outrageously bad for me, either. While fruited yogurt IS high in calcium and vitamin D and low in fat, the fruit kind can also be packed with as much as 27 grams of sugar in a 6-oz container. Plain yogurt is far better...but right at the top of the Bland-O-Meter.
How about chunky applesauce? It's made from apples so it's GOT to be good, what with all the keeping away of the doctor talk. WEll, applesauce is made from peeled, cooked-to-death apples and contains virtually NO nutrients and generally contains some of the that evil high fructose corn syrup (evil unless you're a farmer in Iowa).
Let's get a "full serving of vegetables" in an 8 oz. drink. That's the ticket, and if we can infuse some of that miracle acai berry, so much the better. Not so fast. The Acai Mixed Berry Juice contains more calories than a serving of Oreos and twice as much sugar!And I'm a bit suspicious of this miracle berry, anyway.
Most of the processed food, from Honey Roasted turkey to baby brussels sprouts in butter sauce contain so much sodium that we're sped unerringly toward our graves.
So, what's the solution?
Eat more bacon.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I Knew It All Along!

Mice Will Show Us the Way!

Every time I discover something in the way of food, especially food containing bacon, readers get all excited and remind me that I'm advocating a diet that will only make more trouble for my pallbearers (what with all the fat, you know). While I blithely dismiss their claims as unimportant since I have to die of something, I have felt a tinge of guilt when extolling the virtues of, say, the bacon explosion. No more. The lab mice have shown us that such stuff is actually (gulp) healthy!
In studies conducted at both the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the Baylor University School of Medicine, a high-in-fat meal was shown to be a good long as it was breakfast: long noted for eggs, BACON and fried potatoes (with a ladle of gravy to boot!). Again, this is breakfast we're talking about. Here's how it went down, so to speak.
Identical groups of mice were fed either a high-fat breakfast and a low fat evening meal or a low-fat breakfast which was followed by a high-fat evening meal. (no, there was no thought of low-fat, low-fat. That's for runway models and masochists).
The diets of both groups were equal in both total calories and in calories from fat, just in case you're looking for that loophole.
The result? The mice that were fed a low-fat breakfast (think pancakes or waffles) followed by a high-fat dinner (think, well, bacon) had SIGNIFICANTLY higher body weight and higher body fat composition! In addition, they tended to develop insulin resistance which could lead to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These poor mice also showed higher levels of liptin and triglycerides: in short, dead mice walking!
So, what does that mean for us? Bacon every morning and pancakes at night! I can just see the headlines in The Enquirer now:

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Off To Toledo For Me

Mud Hen Heaven

Here's hoping you didn't jump to conclusions (or maybe that you did) upon reading the title of this post. Just to clear things up, I am not moving to Toledo to handle the academic struggles of athletes there. Just because OUR head coach and staff just left for there at double their current salary doesn't mean I get to go. Besides, doubling my current salary for toiling in academia would put me barely above the minimum for poverty income! But that doesn't mean I don't want to go to Toledo...I do; and here's why: baseball season.
If you're old enough to remember M*A*S*H, you'll remember Corporal Klinger was from Toledo and a huge Mud Hens (the minor league baseball franchise there) fan. The Mud hens are to that part of the country as the St. Paul Saints or the DePere Legion teams are to this area. However, typical of the minors, there's always a new gimmick, and lately it's been food. No doubt beginning in the low minors was the all-you-can-et-before-the-7th-inning seat gastrointestinal deluge, but that's moved uptown to the majors, necessitating new and different food promotions. Remember the deep fried burger made from a Krispy Kreme doughnut of a couple of years ago? If not, spend this weekend searching past's there, just about this time a couple of years ago. Anyway, this year, the MUd Hens even had a "new food" press conference to introduce delectable items on this summer's fare for ballpark food lovers; and many of them include a full-sized batting helmet--not as a souvenir, but as the DISH for the item! Popcorn or nachos in a helmet are all very fine, but line me up for the Fifth Third Fanatic Freeze: fifteen scoops of ice cream sundae nestled inside the batting helmet big enough to fit your head!
Supposedly feeding from one to eight people (in my case: one), the dairy delight sounds just too good to be true. While the $25 price tag might be a bit steep for some, let me remind you that game tickets are not pricey like in the majors.
I'm scanning the schedule as I write this to find out how I can get to Toledo this summer. My buddy Jeff used to make a summer occupation of touring minor league parks. I'll check with him.
I wonder if the helmet has holes in it for ventilation?