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, July 29, 2010

Izzit Art?

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about art. My grade school/high school/college education did not prepare me to adequately judge the merits of someone else's creativity. However, if I see a famous artist's name on something, I can nod my head knowingly and say things like "fascinating" to cover my end of the critique. I know one thing about art: I cannot create it. I can build furniture and paint stuff, but, really, that's it. So, as you might imagine, when I am confronted with what to other people is art, I am limited to saying two things: "Wow! That's expensive." and "I couldn't do that."
I understand the creative process as far as original ways of looking at and creating objects...I just cannot do it.
I would not, for example, see a breaker box and think, "Hey! I could make a cute figure out of that if I added some chair legs and sticks for arms and got a doll's head from somewhere."
Whimsey, to me, is something someone else can infuse. And I'm happy that others can. Their ability gives me something to photograph and to appreciate...if only because I cannot recreate it.
Thus, when we were walking through a sculpture garden today, having left the gallery containing pieces priced at significantly more than a year's salary for me, I was moved to take some pictures of "art." I just don't have the ability to critically appreciate it. That someone else has the kind of eye to see these things as a finished work is incredible.
It's a good thing I don't have that kind of money...I'd probably make serious mistakes selecting my decor!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There's Plenty of Summer Left

Summertime, lemonade, and vacations...these are all part of what we've come to expect from those delicious three months before fall drops its temps and winter lurks around the corner. The most important of the three has always been that annual vacation: off to grandma's or traipsing through National Parks or the country's major cities have always been favorites. For those of us living in and around Wisconsin, there's one fun-filled city and celebration you might have missed. But, don't fear since you have a couple of weeks to plan your latest sortie into Middleton, Wisconsin.
Yes, that burg somewhat removed from Madison (the "fun" capital of Wisconsin) will host a major summer event on August 7th, and you need to be there. of course, I'm referring to National Mustard Day, celebrated every year by the National Mustard Museum, located in Middleton since 1991. The festivities are many:
hot dogs are free all day ($1 donations to charity are requested), live music performed by the Red Hot Horn Dogs, mustard games (?), and, of course, mustard tastings. Should you raise an eyebrow at that, consider that there are more than 5200 kinds of mustard from 65 countries on display at the museum so this is no fly-by-night operation.
If THAT is not enough to draw you to central Wisconsin in August, there will be featured appearances by the French's Mustard Man AND Oscar Mayer's famous Wienermobile.
This promises to be one event about which you will tell your friends for months so don't miss it.
And be sure to get that photo in front of the Wienermobile for your Christmas card.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

College Days...The Best Years?

As we approach the fall semester when the leaves turn to gold and the crisp air fills our lungs, working folks like us hearken back to the halcyon days when we were students of the ivy. Most of our memories are not of cramming for tests instead of actually studying during the semester or our roomies throwing up on our blankets at 3 a.m. after the first frat/sorority rush experience. No, our fondest memories involve things that occur on campus that have nothing to do with school, per se.
I remember hitting rocks with a discarded baseball bat in an attempt to get across a pond to the girls' dorms (yes, they had segregated dorms at that time). We did this every day after dinner, hiding the bat in some bushes so only we would find it. Older folks might remember "panty raids" on the girls' dorms...though all of those shenanigans happened before my time. Now, it's Guitar Hero and Getting entire campuses to do the "Thriller" dance (very cool, for my money)...and water balloons.
This came to my attention the other day when it was noted that students at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, had just set the record for the largest water balloon fight in terms of participant numbers and the number of balloons tossed. For the record (as it were), organizers spent two whole days filling up 120,000 balloons for the maximum effort while others were recruiting folks to participate. Now, I've never been to Provo, but I can guarantee that there are NOT that many students (or people, for that matter). However, a record 3927 people showed up and tossed a record 119,211 balloons in order to gain recognition. Thus, they ousted the University of Kentucky from the record a mere 25 people. I'd ask for a recount!
So what, you say. We in Wisconsin can heave snowballs with the best of them. True, but we're not record-holders, in spite of the big snowball toss held last year on the Madison campus. That distinction goes to Michigan Tech. In fact, the Techies hold THREE records with regard to all activities snow:
1. Largest snowball fight which featured 3745 participants.
2. Largest number of people making snow angels at one time: 3784.
3. Largest snowball ever made: 21'3" in circumference.
Of course, they get a LOT more snow in Upper Michigan that anyone besides the folks in Buffalo.

Now, you are certainly wondering: "Who keeps track of obscurities like this? Who cares? Who would take the time to write an entire blog about such stuff?"
Well, you know the answer to at least one of those questions. Research the others!
Let's see...where was that essay I was supposed to write for tomorrow...?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Risky Proposition At Best

A Complex Dating Scene To Be Sure

Lucky for me, I am not particularly concerned with the nature of the dating scene these days. Happily married for many years, I'm not even sure I would know HOW to get back into that scene. I'm sure lines like, "Is it hot in here, or is it just you?" or "I've lost my phone number. Can I have yours?" would not work anymore (if they ever did).Regaling a prospective date with "Glory Years" stories won't get it, either. In this age of disconnects and virtual friends, maybe online dating is the way to start. However, there are I'm told. fortunately for the terminally dateless, there's VDA.
Founded by Scott Valdez, a former marketing director, Virtual Dating Assistants is a business in the business of getting single folks busy...and it's not as easy as one might think.

VDA has several techniques it has found effective in affecting love:
1. It creates appealing (but "accurate") profiles for its clients.
2. It retouches photos to eliminate unsightly features. (Can it get rid of my nose?)
3. It scouts potential dates for characteristics such as "attractiveness."
4. It sends out witty opening emails to grab the attention of a would-be date.
5. Finally, it helps the dater "close the deal," though details are sketchy as to just how the deal gets done.

In a statement eerily reminiscent of the recent LeBron episode, Valdez claims that creating a profile is all about "creating a brand," and will even recommend which dating sites offer the greatest chance of success depending on ones profile. Wow!
It is possible to download "Maximizing Your Success With Phone Numbers" as well for those who manage to get a number but then lose all sense of what to do next or when to do it.
Why is all of this important? For those who regularly visit/join online dating sites, more than 90% of them rarely even get an answer to their opening email...not even a simple "hello." Weak. This says something about either the sender or the recipient, but I'm not sure what.
Ready to jump into the dating pool with a little help? It'll cost you $200 to join and $600 for monthly "profile management."
If I wanted to spend THAT kind of money, I'd just attract dates by walking around with fifty-doollar bills hanging out of my pocket...saving money every month.
Or attracting muggers.
Good thing I already have a weekly date.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Definitely A Grey Area

I do not consider myself a misogynist by any stretch of the imagination. While there are decided differences between the sexes, I consider those to be interesting, not a basis for competition. Women have been in charge of me most of my life even though my bosses "on the job" have all been this point. I recognize my inefficiency with numbers and encourage my sweetie to take charge of those affairs, and she does it very well. But since 1972 (legally, though probably not in reality), there has been an element about women in sports that just puzzles me to no end: cheerleading.
Prior to Title IX, women were forced to restrict their involvement in athletics to that of "support staff," if you will: pep clubs and cheerleading groups were the only points of entry into the athletic world. I think the prevailing thought was that sports were too physical for women: they would develop unsightly musculature, growing unwanted hair and start speaking in unfeminine voices. Or, more likely, men realized that the pot of money was just so big and that anything the women took out would affect the males' payday. So, we were left with "We've got spirit, yes we do..." an other inanities while women sneaked into the Boston marathon and began cultivating a world not dominated by the cute, white skirts at Wimbledon.
Gender equity was a great law...far too late for many women like my sweetie...but in time for our daughter to avoid being relegated to second-class athletic status as a cheerleader. She got to play.
Colleges weren't happy because, as feared, women began to demand not only the right to play, but also the right to equal funding, facilities and scholarship opportunities. This, of course, led universities to attempt to brand cheerleading as a "sport"in order to meet the rules for equal participation...and Quinnipiac University gas apparently been served notice by the courts that this tactic will not fly, and hopefully, the women will get a fair shake...and not just in the booty area.
With the number of athletic programs available, I cannot imagine why an athletic young woman would not head in that direction, eschewing the rampant sexism (as I see it) of cheerleading which serves, as best I can tell, as "eye candy" to male spectators as well as a minor distraction between the chicken toss and little kids wearing big shoes and clothes racing from one end of the gym to the other during basketball breaks. Football? Don't even tell me you can hear anything they say for as far away as spectators have to sit.
Athletic? maybe, but to what end (so to speak)?
Check out the URL below for someone else's take on the idea of cheerleading as a sport.
I'm just glad my daughter got to play...fully clothed and sweating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gastronomy Gone Astronomical

Who needs the cones?

The return of the Gilbert Burger?

I ate at a buffet restaurant today. That in itself is highly unusual since I've overcome my lifelong desire for "cubic" food rather than culinary delights. It used to be that food quality was not as important at food quantity, but I seem to have lost the urge to splurge, as it were. Today, I went because I lost a bet to my boss. I had bet him that there was no way I would get a teaching position for the fall, and he promised me that I could. He won...his choice of restaurant for the payoff was a Chinese buffet place. I'll admit that having sushi, hot dogs and apple pie in a place like that along with ice cream (NOT soft serve) as well as all the other foodstuffs one might expect caught me off-guard, but the appeal just wasn't there...except for the ice cream. Now, it has come to my attention that all the health-conscious eating we've been doing the last few years has gone by the wayside. I mean, one can positively gorge oneself royally at many places now. Hardee's and Carl Jr. fast food places seem to be leading the way, but there are gluttonous delights all around.
The Chicago Chop House features a 64 oz porterhouse steak (equivalent to 16 quarter-pounders!), and the 25-scoop sundae pictured above is a staple at Margie's Candies in Chicago as well. Just when I thought I'd found every great place to eat in Chicago...
Anyway, Sonic has introduced its footlong hot dog, and Subway plans to do the same with its subs in August. I wonder how Jared will take the news?
The footlong burger pictured above is being test-marketed around the country...though not yet in Green Bay...for $4. If a customer wants lettuce and tomatoes with the three burgers and three pieces of cheese product, it'll be an extra 50 cents.
I thought the KFC "Double Down" of a few months ago was a mouthful, but these new options are definitely gullet-fillers.
You can even vote for your favorite ham-fisted meal at the following website:

Go ahead, bust a gut!
I'm still full from lunch...and that slice of raspberry pie I made for my sweetie today.

BTW: This was apparently written in the style of Ian Fleming. I am amazing myself with this literary repertoire.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Me? A Literary Genius? Who Knew?

You are right now on the cutting edge of fame...really. You could be a famous writer and just not know it. I wouldn't have known it, either, except for Dimitry Chestnykh.
This 27-year old Russian software developer has come up with a program that analyzes a person's writing style then compares it with that of other more famous authors to decipher whose style most corresponds to the sample. This program has been available for only a few days, and already it has been accessed more than 1.5 million times as people attempt to see what famous writer they may be channelling.
For fun, someone at CNN decided to enter public documents of famous people to find out the correlation between their writing style and that of famous authors. Here's a sample of who the following famous people write like:

Barack Obama: Steven King (or at least his speechwriter does).
Kim Kardashian: James Joyce ( I never knew Kardashian could even write)
Edgar A. Poe's The Raven: H.G. Wells
Justin Bieber's lyrics sounded an awful lot like Steven King as well which makes me wonder just how many famous writers are in the database.
go ahead and try it. It's easy: simply submit a writing sample and hit the "analyze" button at the bottom. Within minutes, the analysis is complete, and you can find out whether or not to contemplate that writing career.

Here's the URL: http//

As for me, the blog of a couple of days ago was written in the style of...
Dan Brown.
I'm sure he'd be thrilled to know that!
Let me know how yours comes out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Positively Conservative

Neither of these gentlemen is me, but I like the look!.

In most species of the animal kingdom, the male is more colorful than the female in terms of markings, plumage, and all-around "Hey, baby, get a look at this" finery. As further evidence, I have to say that men notice women more for what they don't have on rather than what they do choose to wear...but that's another story. This one is about wardrobe choices and the evolution of my closet.
I love color, and I always liked using bright, cheery colors in my wardrobe. This despite the fact that red platform shoes and pastel plaid suits have both gone the way of...well, good fashion sense. I will admit that there was always a little bit of "Superfly" in my choices; at one point, a salesman indicated approval of a suit I was going to buy by saying he had the same suit, and he wore it every time he went to the pool hall! So, you get where my fashion senses lay. Now, though, I have to admit that my wardrobe runs to drab though I have yet to succumb completely to Eddie Bauer and his ilk.
Business casual is now the accepted choice since I've begun working at the university; actually, business dull is more like it. Polos (plain and not too bright) matched with any number of variations on khaki pants make my closet resemble an explosion of weekend geek...except for the shoe corner.
While I am not, as my friend Joseph claims, Imelda Marcos reincarnated, I still maintain a little rebelliousness when it comes to shoes, and I must admit that I do amass more of them than I can wear. I laughed when Joseph asserted that I had shoes that I'd never even worn...until, as I was clearing out some things for Goodwill, I found a box containing red Adidas Superstars covered in a pattern of large silver stars. It was like Christmas! I put away the gold, red and black Nikes with orange flames shooting off the toes and happily gave the top place on the shoe rack to the latest find. White, pink, gold and blue running shoes reside on the shelf next to some gray Lunar Trainers with neon green soles. Not that I'm OCD or anything!
The rules have changed a bit, though. Every time I get something new, I have to give something away. This keeps the inventory down, gives kids at my former high school some kicks they could not otherwise afford (probably), and forces me to rethink every purchase several times.
Now, the only tough decision is what to wear the first day of school with my corduroy blazer (elbow patches included) and polo/khaki ensemble.
It's a good thing I still have a month to decide.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Drop In "The Bucket"

As I close in on the end of the first half of my life, I consider myself quite fortunate. One by one, it seems that the things I want to accomplish are falling into place. Oh sure, I have yet to jump willingly out of an airplane, and I may never get to that, but I'm OK with the possibility of being thwarted in that area. I've seen a number of amazing sites around the world, managing to escape all the "Cabos" of the world and reveling in local culture in some unsuspected venues. I've met wonderful people who did not share a common language, and I've made enough money to keep me from forgetting what it's like to have very little. That's why these "bucket" lists seem a bit silly to me. Friends of ours are taking a National Geographic trip to the west coast of Africa and touring some islands I've never heard of...good for them. I don't have the 20 grand to do that, but I would not really be tempted, either. Visiting all five continents would be OK, but it would probably be more of the "let's cross the state line just to say we did" thing. I'm content to discover some things vicariously...and that makes Catherine Price my friend.
She, like me, doesn't feel the need to discover EVERYTHING on the world, though she is something of a world traveller. She has compiled something of the "anti-bucket" list in a book entitled 101 Places Not To See Before You Die. She provides a rationale for all of them, but I don't want to steal her thunder so I will skip her rationale and just give you five places she'd rather not visit...then you can go the the website and offer your own suggestions and/or read her book for the entire skinny.

Beijing Museum of tap Water.
Times Square on New Year's Eve.
An overnight stay in a Korean temple.
Rush hour on a Samoan bus.
Blarney Castle in Ireland.
The state of Nevada

I realize that this list actually poses more questions than it answers, but it's her idea, and I'm leaving it to her to explain it to you.
BTW, if you want to add to the list, go to Seriously...go is hilarious.
Get your list-making utensils ready.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You Scream, I Scream

One of the Major Food Groups

One of my earliest memories of my dad was him eating ice the gallon. His rationale was simple: "Ice cream slips down the cracks so there's always room." I, of courser, was all about ice cream as one of the major food groups so I was with him on this one. His shining moment came when I entered Little League and furnished him with ice cream...seems as if a local grocer decided a half-gallon was a great reward for home runs: Dad was delighted, and I was more than happy to do my part. He and I bonded, somewhat, with ice cream. At one point, we even settled the "who can eat more and more quickly" father/son bet with an eat-off. This was 'way before Nathan's or the professional eating leagues.
The rules were simple: we each had a spoon and a half-gallon of ice cream. Whoever finished first was the winner and retained bragging rights forever. I lost, but I never lost my taste for that creamy delicacy. Usually, I go for quantity over quality so Haagen-Daz and Ben and Jerry's get a pass in favor of the generic vanilla, but I've become more sophisticated, especially since I no longer have four kids around who need something to "slide between the cracks." Of course, as a result, I am now upset with Baskin-Robbins.
It seems that the company has retired to the "deep freeze" five flavors, joining the list of already-retired flavors. Gone from the menu are Carmel Praline Cheesecake, Campfire S'Mores, Apple Pie A La Mode (seems redundant somehow), Superfudge Truffle and French Vanilla. OK, I'll give you French Vanilla...we prefer the white vanilla, not the yellow-tinted one, so I can live without French Vanilla. Superfudge Truffle though? hardly.
But what of others, I hear you ask? There are many, but among the most prominent are these:

1. Candi-date. This 1960 release coincided with JFK's run to the White house and featured vanilla ice cream with diced dates and butter brickle candy.

2. Beatle Nut. Obviously feting the Fab Four in '64, this treat combined pistachio ice cream with chocolate ribbons and walnuts.

3. Lunar Cheesecake. Honoring the first men on the moon, this ice cream melded lunar green cheesecake ice cream with Apollo 11 marshmallow ribbons.

4. Miami Ice. Crockett and Tubbs went tropical with lime and grapefruit puree and juice.

5. Saxy Candidate. Introduced for Bill clinton's run for the White House, we feasted on vanilla ice cream with chunks of Baby Ruth candy bar.

Somehow, ALL of these sound better to me than Cherry Garcia, but, alas, they are all lost to us now.
Back to the five quarts of vanilla for $5.00 topped with whatever is lying around.
It still slides down the cracks, though.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pressure? You Want Pressure?

Take a lump of coal and place it between your hands. Squeeze as hard as you can for several million years, and you'll get a diamond...or the approximation of one will be pried from your cold, dead, skeletal remains. Life is something like that as well: it takes pressure to bring out the best in most of us. It's my believe that we ALL think this way, or else we wouldn't procrastinate so often on so many projects. Most of us imply that we've left that urge to do tomorrow what we should be doing today behind us as we've matured. Sadly, most of us are merely fooling ourselves. But this is not about castigating ourselves for our foibles; it's about showing up under pressure.
I realized today that I have roughly six weeks to prepare myself to teach a college class: something I've always wanted to do (as well as give a sermon) but figured the chances were slim. Now, the reality is upon me. I've pored over ten different syllabi in an attempt to come up with a semblance of an organized plan, and I have a rough idea of the direction I'd like to take with my unsuspecting students. of course, there's a deadline for submission to the department chairperson...and pressure. I can handle that. I'm confident...but writing for other professionals? EEK!
As part of a summer departmental program, the writing staff gets together monthly to read and discuss pertinent ideas with regard to teaching writing to college students. I have missed two of them due to my recent hiring, but the third is approaching, and the "program" will be a bit different. Each of us is supposed to submit for discussion a piece of writing that we have recently completed. The thought almost paralyzes me: actual professional writing teachers casting a critical eye on something I've written? Horrors! It's one thing to pore over student essays with no chance of being held up for scrutiny, but this!
I must admit that since I read about the "assignment" today, I can think of nothing else. I've turned over ideas in my head in a dozen different categories. I've accepted and rejected so many possibilities that I'm afraid it will come down to the old college days: burning the 4 a.m. oil, pounding out a first draft with no time for revision, and sweating through the result.
Or, I could be "sick."
I feel like Tweek from South Park all of a sudden.
Coffee, maybe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chili Is Saved!

Seed vault for the future

Various types of chili pepper seeds have just been saved from potential extinction! Said seeds were just delivered to the "doomsday Vault" in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard recently...and it took congressmen to do it!
In case you didn't know, the government is trying to make sure that a food source survives a major apocalyptic event so survivors will not starve. This is being done by storing seeds of most of the plants we use in a secure facility deep inside a mountain.
Opened in 2008, the seed-saving vault has accumulated more than 500,000 varieties of seeds...stored at 18 degrees celsius more than 420 feet inside, there is a guarantee that we'll never run out of food matter what happens.
The facility took a year and $7 million dollars to complete, and now that we have the seeds from the native American farmers, we can rest easy.
I just hope we don't need these seeds.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Keeping Abreast of Language Issues

The use of language is really not all that important to a lot of people. This is evident by abominations that are foisted upon us by the advertising community (Luvs, Chex, etc.) as well as the person who invented all the acronyms for texting use. I'd love to say that normally I let such bastardization of the language go without comment or ire, but, sadly, that's not the case. I get upset every time I see something that just isn't right. Last weekend, it involved Queen Latifah, who happens to be one of my favorite actresses. In truth, it wasn't she (not her) who made the error but the ad folks themselves.
Actually, i don't even know what the product du jour was, but there was the Queen's photo with the caption "None of us are perfect." While it may be acceptable usage, it most certainly is not correct in any grammar sense with regard to the agreement of subject and verb. Is it a big deal? It depends, I suppose, on the context and the judge. I would say "yes" while most folks would probably disagree. Advertising, of course, has its own rules...mostly none at all. Still, I wonder who writes things like the copy for cosmetic surgery that I noticed in the paper this weekend:
"Buy one get one FREE breast implant."
Really? I could be wrong, but if a patient needs only one due to surgical issues, does this mean that he or she would get it done at half price? Of course, an ad featuring "half off two" would convey a different message entirely. Honestly, the whole"buy one, get one" sounds more like a deal at an A&W Root Beer drive-in than it does for implants. Perhaps this is meant for folks who go through multiple procedures...well, I really have no idea, but it struck me as odd, anyway.
I would be more in favor of the free Micoderm/Chemical Peel deal offered by the same cosmetic practitioner as a bonus for the Botox filler combo purchase.
Joan Rivers is rushing there as we speak, I'll bet.
I'll just have to learn to be more patient with misusers of the language.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Beignets, Churros and Krispy Kreme

Mom always told me that a good breakfast was important. That meant she would load me up on oatmeal (which I still cannot eat), Cheerios or Wheaties, depending on her mood and the weather. Bacon and eggs with pancakes was a Sunday thing that may or may not have featured cornbread as a substitute for the flapjacks. As a result, I still eat breakfast most days though I try to vary what I ingest. Whole grain cereals have replaced much of it though I do still eat Coco-Wheats when it's cold out, and I need that steaming bowl to follow me throughout the day. Generally, I try to eat a bit more protein than carbohydrates for breakfast though that isn't easy. There are times, however, that all of that "little engines need good fuel" stuff just goes out the window, and I give my health-conscious conscience a little vacay. Saturday was one such day.
It wasn't Paris; it was the west side of Green Bay, and it wasn't a sidewalk cafe on the banks of a flowing river teeming with traffic. It WAS on the sidewalk, and there WAS traffic (including a woman in a big ol' Lincoln backing into another car in an attempt to make a parking space where there wasn't one). Breakfast, though, was special.
I doubt I'd ever eaten a beignet, and I probably wouldn't have been able to spell it if the word had not been written on a sign. My sweetie knew about them and suggested a casual latte/beignet sojourn as a change. Up for anything involving most food, I was delighted to find six somewhat doughy, sugar-encrusted balls on a plate...and they were warm. Add to that my cafe au lait, and I felt quite continental as we sat alone at a sidewalk table (after the waitress removed the chain keeping the tables and chairs in place). It was delightful, but it wasn't churros in Mexico.
On a trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I discovered the leisurely pursuit of churros and hot chocolate in the morning. Basically a long, stick-like pastry, churros are rolled in cinnamon and sugar and presented warm with a hot chocolate that Nestle would kill to patent. Casual foot traffic made it interesting, and knowing that breakfast was not to be rushed made it an immensely pleasurable way to begin most of our days in Mexico.
For the brakfast glutton in me, there is Krispy Kreme. We no longer have a store in Green Bay, and it's probably a good thing. At several hundred calories apiece, a dozen would make me balloon up like the Stay-Puft guy...and I could (and have) take down a dozen in one sitting. One of the highlights of visiting relatives in Colorado, though, is the proximity to Krispy Kreme...walking distance means I can rationalize my engorgement on dough.
Until then, though, it's back to whole grain Cheerios and memories of tastier times.

Friday, July 09, 2010

One Less Thing to do

Nothing to Sneeze or Wheeze At

My friend Mark decided at one point to simplify his life. His mantra was "one thing, one day," and it sounded great, but after getting up, getting dressed was out of the question so I suspect he modified it somewhat. still, the idea is a good one, and any way we can devise to simplify our lives is well worth examining. I know, I know, the old "stop and smell the roses" shtick sounds great, but with kids to deal with, significant others begging for "personal" time, meetings to attend and, oh yes, jobs to go to, it sounds hollow every time anyone says it. It's something like that "money isn't everything" phrase that folks throw around so glibly. You will notice, however, that the only people who say that are people who already HAVE money and can, therefore, be cavalier (no LeBron mention intended) about it.
And so it is that, in my ever-expanding search to find ways to simplify my life and squeeze every second into something positive I have a guaranteed way to save between five and fifteen minutes every day for all of us: don't make the bed...any of them...and don't force your children to do so, either. Mom, bless her heart, always insisted that a well-made bed built character even though I knew no visitor would look in my room and "tsk" because I'd done so sloppily. But this was all before science took a look at the issue.
As noted on the BBC (most trusted name in news) web site, making the bed may actually be harmful to one's health! It appears that by arranging the bedclothes as we normally do, we are actually creating a breeding ground for dust mites!. A study done by Kensington University notes that dust mites cannot survive in warm, dry places such as an unmade bed, while a more moist surface like a made bed actually helps them proliferate! this is important since the estimate is that more than 1.5 million dust mites can be found in the average household bed. They survive by eating scales of human skin and, as a result, produce allergens which we inhale during sleep. Asthma sufferers know all about the evils of dust mites as triggers for the condition, but now we can all benefit from this knowledge.
I did not make my bed today. It saved me at least five minutes.
I will not make it tomorrow, either.
What to do with all this dust mite-free time?
Get the Pledge out for the rest of the house.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Help For theFashion Consciousless

Nobody will ever confuse me for a fashionista or anything resembling Beau Brummel. I will not be featured in GQ or even Soles. It's not that I don't have a sense of matching things: after all, don't all the animals match up? Giraffes go with giraffes, etc. Heck, even I know that. Nor is my problem connected to what new trend in fashion to follow. It's simply that I have a style of my own: retro. By retro, I mean things that I've had for ten years or more that have yet to wear out or get too small from shrinking in the wash or expanding the certain waistline areas.
As a result, it always startles me when someone makes a comment about my sartorial choices...usually, such comments regard what I have on my feet since I admit to an affinity for shoes. Otherwise, it's basic colors for me (eschewing earth tones if I can).
For the rest of you, however, who are desperately anxious about the appropriate (or not) nature of what you wear each and every day, there is hope from the most likely of sources: strangers on the internet.
There exist at least two sites which will provide user critiques of the outfit you have chosen for the day: Fashim and Go Try It On. Each of these sites allow a user to download a photo of the preferred outfit, ask a few questions or provide specific details, and let those online respond with an opinion. I can hear you gasping now, but these two are not like other on-line critical places like Hot or Not which are often filled with snarky comments. These two are actually in the business of helping you decide whether or not you've made appropriate choices based on others' sense of fashion.
Users of Fashism can select either "Like It" or "Hate It" in response to published photos, while those on Go Try It On can click on either "Wear It" or "Change It."
It is said that the comments take about five minutes to appear after posting a photo so you might want to log on a few minutes early before making that fashion faux pas for real.
As I said, I'm not a critic, but then, I don't really care anyway. The man makes the man, not the clothes. For the rest of you, you can breathe easier now that fashion choices no longer depend on the critical eye of your significant other or cat.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Leaping Lanny Returns

Lanny Poffo: The Genius!

I was never a wrestling fan of note, but the characters entered my life at various times. I know my dad used to watch wrestling on TV when Gorgeous George was in his heyday...though I suspect Dad really watched it when the bouts between the "little people" were featured. There was just something about the smoke-filled auditorium in black and white on the TV. I gave it halfhearted attention but was glad for the opportunity to hang with my father for the FRiday night fights.
Many years later, my friend Karl brought wrestling back into my conscious awareness when he began naming the teachers in our school after famous wrestlers: names like Tugboat, Earthquake, The Model: all were ascribed to various faculty members. I felt a bit left out because I didn't get least one that I knew about. My favorite, though, was the moniker that Karl gave our physics teacher: Amiel Hepp. Since Mr. Hepp knew something about just about any subject anyone could bring up, Karl began calling him "The Genius" after the stage name taken by one Lanny Poffo.
Poffo was originally named "Leaping Lanny" for the way he came off the top ropes, but then he changed his image and strode to the ring spouting poetry before every contest...poetry he had written for the occasion. He always wore a cap and gown to the ring and evinced hoots from the not-so-genius crowds gathered ringside. Still, it was an interesting facet to the world of wrestling. Poffo, by the way, had written a book at that time entitled Leaping Lanny: Wrestling and Rhyme, and Karl had an autographed copy of the book. Typical Karl stuff.
Anyway, "The Genius" came into my head today when I received word that I had been appointed as an ad hoc (Latin for "'way overworked and paid slave wages") instructor of composition at the university where I currently toil as a mentor/tutor to individual students. Very part time and potentially short-lived, the position gives me a bit of cachet and allows me to drag out that jacket with elbow patches on the sleeves and encourage students call me "Professor" (not to be confused with Dean's wrestling name or the character from "Gilligan's Island").
But, I think "The Genius" will work just finel.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Liquid Piggies

We definitely live in a country that has too much of everything. Seriously, I was in a store today that featured nothing by little anime characters from some kids show or cartoon or graphic novel or something...oh, and "Hello Kitty" stuff. I stood in amazement that an entire store obviously intended for adults would feature such merchandise. It's as if "Toys 'R' Us" isn't enough! The list, of course, goes on and on of the things we have available to us while most of the rest of the world lives on less than $2 per day.
Just the other day, I heard an interview on Public Radio of a woman who was representing a distilling firm from Alaska that was introducing the first salmon-flavored vodka. The host even had a reference librarian and a foreign editor in the studio to taste-test the stuff...both proclaimed it "interesting." Really? We need (or want) such a concoction? Of course, vodka is not meant to be drunk is a mixer, as a rule (so they tell me). This excludes any actor from "Fiddler on the Roof" and anyone living in Siberia: they are allowed to slug it down in its natural state. But I don't think any of them would want the taste of smoked fish coming out of a bottle.
Fortunately for most epicureans, there is another new taste in the vodka world: Bakon. Yep, you've got it...someone has finally captured the flavor of bacon and put it in a vodka bottle. Now, as if by miracle, recipes are all over the internet for "meatinis" and "Bakon Mary's," again proving that this liquor is merely a mixer.
This liquid must-have is produced by Black Rock Spirits of Seattle who touts it as not only bacon-flavored, but as vegan and fat-free as well! What's not to like? This sensation has become a staple at The Piggery in chicago where it is mixed with chocolate (look for it at the state fair near you!).
To save you the trouble of searching for a recipe (you know you want to), here's a simple one called "Sunday Breakfast:"
1.5 oz Bakon vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. whipping cream
1.5 tsp. pure maple syrup
1 strip crisp bacon
1 egg white (optional)
Now, shake all but the bacon in a shaker and serve in a chilled glass with the bacon strip as garnish.
Now THAT'S breakfast!

Monday, July 05, 2010


Fans NOT named Sue

I'va always considered myself somewhat of a clever fellow with witty repartee my source of defense against any opponent. As such, I managed to survive somewhat intact through 35 years of teaching sometimes recalcitrant students. This facet of my repertoire (lots of French today) has also stood me in good stead while interacting with folks on tour at Lambeau Field ("...home of your Green Bay Packers"). But, I must admit that Sue got the best of me today.
As part of the clever patter I use when introducing the "no drinking, no smoking, etc" rules prior to beginning any tour, I always indicate that fans are allowed to take up to 5,000 photos while on the 55-minute tour...with one exception. They are not allowed to take photos of me since I am part of the FBI witness protection program and publishing an image of me would require my returning to Billings, Montana, a place less desirable than the Frozen Tundra.
Having disparaged Billings, I resumed to the script to discover if there were fans from any other teams visiting as well as taking note of where people are from...Green Bay having been visited by fans from 110 countries and all 49 recognized states as well as Minnesota.
About halfway through the group, this woman looks at me with a look of challenge and said, "I'm from Billings, Montana." To say I was embarrassed is an understatement. The silence was total for at least five seconds; as I began to apologize, Sue said, "No, I'm really from California." Triple the embarrassment as 35 people had a great laugh at my expense. People were holding their sides and wiping away tears as I tried to regain the upper hand to no avail.
As it turns out, Sue is a teacher in California and, apparently, relies on her quick wits as well.
She's just quicker than I am.
But she did give me a tip.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is the Economy Making Us Leaner?

One would think that the economic downturn might have a positive effect on out belt lines above the wallet, but it appears that such is not the case. In a report compiled by Trust forAmerica's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the determination was made that waistlines are still growing in 28 states of this country! My supposition is that it's all due to comfort food eating by people depressed at the economic woes of the country...or the immigration policies...or the environmental disasters...or the government budget...or, well, you get the picture. That's a LOT of comfort food going down the hatch and out at the waistline.
If you are so motivated, you can check out "" for a list of the 50 Fattiest Foods Across America." This is a handy guide for those of you traveling across the country who are tired of eating variations on bacon!. I have garnered just a few of the highlights as well as one of the most incredibly amazing websites for an eating establishment: noted below.
Meandering through Colorado? Search out the five-pound breakfast burrito!
Thinking about catching the fall colors in Vermont? Stop for a Ben & Jerry's "Vermonter: 20 scoops of ice cream with hot fudge, bananas, cookies, brownies and other assorted toppings.
Taking in the sights of the southeast, be sure to stop for some Mississippi Mud Pie composed almost exclusively of chocolate, cream, butter and sugar while weighing in at a mere 35 grams of fat per serving.
My favorite, however, and the place whose online ad you MUST look at, is the Heart Attack Grill somewhere in Arizona. Be sure to check out the "Quadruple Bypass Burger" that features a whopping 8,000 calories and a stupefying 60 grams of fat. I can hear those arteries closing like an open door in a wind storm.
This is the kind of juicy information found on the "" website. Check it out...if you dare. But, by all means, take a gander at the web site listed below.