Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No, You're Not...Not By A Long Shot

If you are reading this, that means you have a computer, and the internet connection to sign on to the WWW. Maybe you're sitting at a Starbucks or Panera or any other social hangout that has free WiFi. Even if you're sitting at home in front of the terminal, it counts...or checking on your iPad, iPhone or Blackberry...well, you get the idea. You have access, and you probably can afford it. So don't tell me how tough you have it. Oh, we all have issues that we think could be solved with an influx of Benjamins, but you don't have it so bad, and neither do I because we don't live in Milwaukee or Detroit or Cleveland or St. Louis.
Why those five? They are the top five in a list just released detailing America's poorest cities among cities with a population of 250,000 or more: cities in which unemployment is far above the national average with the #5 position having the lowest poverty rate of the group at almost 27%. That's right: more than a quarter of the eligible work force in St. Louis lives in poverty...and the other cities are in worse shape.
Detroit, of course, has to lead the list due to the crash (so to speak) of the auto industry. Imagine a place in the percentage of people living in poverty was at 36.4%, and you've got Detroit. Yes, that's NIMB (not in my backyard), so let's talk Milwaukee which IS in my backyard.
In Milwaukee, the recession has hit the manufacturing industry hard, as well as a host of others. Companies are streaming out of Wisconsin and Milwaukee far too quickly. Last year, it is estimated that 158,245 people in Milwaukee lived in poverty which was defined as an income of $21,954.00 for a family of four. What's more, 40% of children in Milwaukee are estimated to live in poverty
which amounts to 62,432, a definite increase from the total in 2008 of 49,952.
So, don't whine about how tough your life is. While it may not be possible for you or me to alleviate the suffering of those in Milwaukee or any other city, American or foreign, the least we can do is to stop complaining about how the government is taking all of our money or taxing us to death or giving it to other less-deserving people than we are...the list goes on. If you feel that your economic situation is truly lamentable, fine. You still have the internet and a computer or 3G phone network. You may not have everything you thought was promised to you or that is "owed" you...none of us probably gets all that is desired.
Just don't complain to me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Go On...I Dare You...Read These Books

Chew On This Awhile!

Yes, it's that time of year again when I climb atop the high horse that sits idly by in my garage most of the time. I pontificate with real passion one time a year, and this is (lucky you) it. It is, after all, Banned Books Week: a time to reflect on the idiocy of people who claim they know what's best for every single one of us, and who couch all of their venom in phrases like, :this is for the children," or "this smut is anti-family." To quote Eric Cartman, "I hate you guys so very much."
Authors have long since hopped aboard the bandwagon to castigate those who would provide the moral compass for us all. Mark Twain noted that "Censorship is like telling a man he can't have a steak because a baby can't chew it." Heinrich Heine, a German author from the 1800s of whom I had never heard before tonight, said this: "Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people." He proved Nostradamus-like 112 years later when the Nazis publicly burned books, including some of Heine's.
The American Library Association notes that more than 460 challenges were issued to specific books over the last year. Obviously, I won't list them all, but I will list the top ten banned books (some of them part of a series) from this decade.
1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice (a series, too, I think) by Phyllis Reynolds Nayler
*3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.
*5. Of Mice and Men by JOhn Steinbeck
*6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
*7. Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman
9. ttyl series by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Steven Chbosky

Those marked with an asterisk were also challenged during the PREVIOUS decade as well!!

I have not read most of them so I suspect they are current tomes in school libraries, challenged by helicopter parents who demand Puritan-like atmosphere for their children but who don't realize that their children are already looking at porn on the home computer. (not like when I was a was National Geographic)

While I have no immediate plans to read one of these on the list that has thus far escaped my attention, I probably WILL ACTIVELY AVOID reading Arguing with Idiots and Pitchforks and Torches.
I'm just not "down" with writers who seek to divide us or who seek to set my moral compass.
Go read something other than this diatribe!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wish I'd Thought of That


I laughed out loud a couple of years ago when the Chicago Tribune published cut-out masks of political figures in time for Hallowe'en (BTW, my favorite holiday of the year!). I still have my Obama one, complete with rubber band to attach it to my head, as well as my Sarah Palin one, glued to a popsicle stick in an attempt to be a maverick. apparently, those two were also popular last year as costumes...but I missed them somehow. This year, the trendy costumes of Rogue Zombie Sarah Palin and Barackula have already been surpassed by the hottest adult costume: the BP Oil spill Guy.
The costume was the idea of folks at Morris Costumes who have been selling costumes for almost 50 years. It was a simple thing: take a Killer Mechanic's blue jumpsuit costume and color it green. Get a huge BP patch (which stands for "bad planning" according to the costume folks), and replace the blood stains with oil stains, and voila! This year's hottest costume.
Distributors figure it will be the big seller until the last minute when sales of Super Sperm (?) always erupt.
And it can be yours for $40. The best part'll be able to wear it over and over since these kinds of things have been happening with alarming regularity. Sad, but true.
You've still got the whole month of October to plan, but if you are planning to get one of these costumes, I would suggest you hurry before sales are capped.
The wrench and fish are not included. Get your own.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ammo for Those Who Don't Need It

Read this book.

Most people I know are on one of the sports continuum or the other. They either see it as a wholesome activity that strengthens minds and bodies while providing a more wholesome attitude than gang-banging, or they are fed up with the commercialization, the bad publicity generated by selfish behavior of people who are paid huge sums of money yet refuse to be responsible adults and even moderately wholesome role know who they are: the cheats, the abusers, the prima donnas that seem to proliferate in this country; our kids idolize them, and the parents hope their own kids will grow up to be like least as far as getting a new house out of the deal.
As one who works professionally (well, I DO get paid) with college athletes in a university setting, I see and hear it all: the "NBA or nothing dreams," the parents who expect their student/athlete to send home part or all of the monthly stipend (yes...this happens ALL the time), and the others outside the realm of sports who decry athletes as pampered, no-nothings who are depriving them of a seat in class and some financial aid. I've had professors who refuse to share information with me because they think I am part of the "machine" that simply churns out uneducated athletes into mainstream society...and I'm tired of it.
So, how does all of this get started? What convinces college coaches to cheat or athletes to cheat on an SAT just to get in for one year before making the big-dollar jump? In one word: greed.
George Dohrmann exposes the whole sordid affair in his soon-to-be-released book Play Their Hearts Out, which depicts his yearlong study into the forces behind making big money by coaching 9 and 10-year-old would-be Michael Jordans. Yes, you read that right: pre-teens being coached by greedy men who want the shoe contracts, the pro and college contacts, and the self-promotional opportunity to use youngsters and their parents to satisfy their own selfishness.
Parents don't get off the hook, either. FAr from it. They are depicted in many cases as seeing the gravy train arriving on the shoulders of this grade-school player (need I make a Reggie Bush reference here? I thought not).
THAT'S what's wrong: too many adults abusing (yes, abusing) young kids for their own jackpot dreams.
I will definitely read this book when it comes out on October 5, but I can guarantee you that I won't enjoy it.
I've seen the results of it all too often.
Here's the URL for the book review in the LA Times:,0,5255255.column

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Free Bird Has Flown

Where would they be today without...?
The receptionist at the Pearly Gates is checking out lockers, handing out towels and filling the soap dispensers: there will be fitness (and crew cuts) for all now that Leonard has arrived, and there's no doubt that the receptionist didn't have to ask, "What's Your Name?" Rock 'n' Roll Heaven has opened wide its gates for one Leonard Skinner who died this week at age 77, a man described by The New York Times as "the physical education teacher who had the greatest effect on rock and roll history." Sad, but of my inspirations has taken up residence in the Sweet Home Alabama Fitness Center in the Sky...but I guess I can carry on, my wayward sons. (something of a mixed musical metaphor). Yet, he will be forever lionized as the galvanizing spirit behind one of America's seminal rock bands. If you've ever (or never, for that matter) flicked your Bic at a concert and screamed "Free Bird!" you know exactly what I mean...and why I was so inspired by the man, the legend. Of course, all of that came later. The epic saga has its origins in a humid, sweaty gymnasium at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, florida, circa 1969. This was the eminent domain of one Leonard Skinner, physical education instructor and fashion policeman. this was back in the day when a young man would simply stick his head under the shower to convince the teacher that he had, indeed, taken a shower...back in the day when crew cuts were the norm and anything even resembling a Beatle cut was hooted at with scorn by most right-thinking adults like Skinner and school boards everywhere. So, the wheels were set in motion. Who knew?
Like most schools at the time, Lee High had a dress code that included a special section dealing with hair length...draconian, yes, but rules were made for the edification of our young, impressionable minds.
As it happened, the Van Zant brothers were not ones to accept such rules without question so off to the principal's office they went. Of course, they were not the only rapscallions convicted of this heinous offense, but they are the ones who made Skinner a household name...and gave me the reason to hold him up as an example (albeit of what I did NOT want to be, but, still...)
UYears after the scarring incident over hair that--gasp!--touched their collars, the van Zant boys formed a band, and in something of a sarcastic tribute, named the band...say it with me...Lynyrd Skynyrd, merely substituting the letter "y" for every vowel in their despised gym teacher's name.
I vowed there would NEVER be a Dyrryl Pyttyrsyn, and so far, I haven't heard of one.
Perhaps I succeed where Skinner failed in the classroom we called the gym.
But, I'm still a bit jealous.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We're Better Off Not Knowing

OK for Superman, but not for us!

Sometimes, we're better off just not knowing...I mean, there are a variety of circumstances in which we probably would be happier if we could just go merrily on our way, safe from imagining the horrible things that were going on inside our bodies. I remember when I found out that the human mouth had more germs than a dog's mouth...I wouldn't even let my mom kiss me goodnight for months! (that's not to say that I let the dog do so, either)...or the first time I looked at human tissue under a microscope...or blood...all that stuff moving around gave me the willies. I think it's the same situation with radiation: we're better off not knowing. And if you feel the same way, stop reading right now and get out your kindle and read the New York Times, because I have some disturbing news about radiation, its sources, and your body.
Discovered in Time magazine (so you KNOW it's totally accurate), there are six major causes of radiation in our lives, and the sad part is that we can't avoid most of them without trying really, really hard. Most of the really harmful radiation is called ionizing radiation, but the non-ionizing type just hasn't gotten the same you know it's only going to be a matter of time before we find out its skeleton-making properties.. Here's a list of the most frequently ingested sources of ionizing radiation for the average American.

1. M.R.I. Ever had one, designed to discover some deep, dark, medical malfunction? Bad news for this one...up to 10,000 millirem (mrem) of ionizing radiation. In this case, I think I'd rather not know what the problem was and simply have that body part fall off one day.

2. Smoking. up to 3,900 mrem of radiation. Smoke a lot? Write a will, and don't pretend to be surprised...there are enough carcinogens placed purposely in there to kill a, well, human being.

3. Air travel. 26 mrem for a round-trip, coast-to-coast flight...pretzels an added sodium bonus so uou can die happy.

4. Live in Denver, do you? Sad to be you because you get 50 mrem of radiation compared to only 24 for the lucky folks living at sea level in places like New York...but then, they have garbage strikes and the Mets, so maybe that's a wash.

5. TV. If you are an average American, you watch television 4.5 hours a day and pick up 1 mrem of radiation for your viewing pleasure. That doesn't sound like much, but just remember that's just for watching the Super Bowl commercials! There's just got to be more if you watch every episode of Jersey Shore.

Of course, we've all heard about the dangers of cell phones and radio antennae on the back of your Honda Aspencade, but how much does it all amount to, really?
Those in the know say it would take a 1,000,000 mrem burst of radiation to kill a person outright, and even nuclear plant meltdowns don't put out that kind of destructive power immediately...over time--well, that's a different story.
Just like MRI's, air travel, TV's and smoking.

So, I wonder about the destructive force of a nuclear family?
I'm better off not knowing some things, it appears.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Right...Right...You're Bloody Well Right

You won't get this pancake dish at Perkins or IHOP!

...and I thought my old, German grandmother was just, well, sick when she brought out the cooked chicken feet; no,not chicken legs as in drumsticks, but the skinny part with the toes still on! Turns out that was just the beginning of my gustatory dilemma that was to recur for two weeks every summer as my parents shipped me out to the farm as slave labor (it seemed) and to remind me how good cornbread was!
Grandma ate every part of every animal on the farm. When I found out what tripe was, I was mortified to see her eat with relish (no, not pickles...gusto). Then, she brought out the blood sausage, and I was ready to take the next bus home. I would have too, except for a couple of minor details:
1. The bus didn't run in Piqua, Kansas (pop.45) and
2. I didn't have any money for the fare. I mean, it's not like my cruel uncles ever paid me for picking cockleburs and hauling corn in by hand. As I recall, they mostly laughed at me while I slaved away.
Anyway, the blood sausage was just too much. I vowed that those words in tandem would never again cross my mind or my lips...and they have not... until now.
It seems back in April, I blogged about the Japanese fascination with blood types which supposedly could identify key personality traits and determine what kind of person one is. They are so obsessed with it there that politicians even declaim their blood types in order to win the voters' favor. Seriously. And baseball players list blood type on their trading cards as well.
I was willing to leave it at that: an interesting story about the importance of blood in societal norms. Then, along came Cate Newton and her website: (look for the link at the end).
Cate is seriously obsessed with this blood thing, and I have to admit that I found the site really interesting even though my stomach returned to its childhood roots when I began reading the recipes found worldwide that used blood as a major ingredient. Yes...blood...seriously.
The more educational parts of the blog deal with determining blood alcohol content (handy information after a Bloody Mary), additional information concerning the Japanese mania for blood typing, and fascinating stories about which famous people may or may not have been hemophiliacs. Sadly, nothing about vampires that I could find after a cursory look...not even a bit about the Blood Countess of Russia who reportedly bathed in the blood of virgins to stay young-looking.
But, it was the recipes that held my attention: recipes from around the world. Some of them I had known about, like the Masai tribe in Africa that mixes cow's blood with milk (not so strange; after all, the Mongols used to bleed their horses when they ran out of food)

Recipes provided include those for

blood sausage (also called blood pudding...can you see Bill Cosby promoting this in a "pudding pop"?

blood soup (also called black soup for the squeamish or gullible)

blood tofu and the traditional Finnish dish known as

blood pancakes (pictured above) which call for reindeer blood as an ingredient...go figure.

So, if you are fascinated by the subject, be you vampire or blood countess wannabe, check it all out at blood type is A+ and I grew to LOVE cornbread.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just Because You're A Girl Doesn't Mean You're A Wench.

ANNE BONNEY, famed woman pirate

Just when most of us have almost forgotten about it, International "Talk Like A Pirate" Day is coming around again this weekend. Celebrated mostly, I suspect in Decatur, Georgia, a city named after Commodore Steven Decatur who fought pirates in the 2nd Barbary War (I must have missed the first one), The celebration will again be hosted by Pirate Bob and Captain Drew. Join them in Decatur for the 6th annual Official PiratePalooza, Pub Crawl and Pubsing. And what could be more fun? It's like Hallowe'en for (sic) adults. It's costumes and rum and singing, and wenches. But remember, historically there were many women pirates, so ladies, don't let yourself be talked into being a mere serving lass for the guys.
It's called "pirate cosplay" for reasons somewhat unknown to me; however, it does involve dressing as one's favorite real or imagined pirate, quaffing ale, and speaking unintelligibly as you might imagine a pirate might. One thing, though, according to Pirate Bob, "AAARRRGGHHH!" was not really in the pirate vocabulary. I mean, even Jack Sparrow knows that.
Pirates, of course, were really terrible, violent, remorseless people who were spoiled by the ravages of war. Often conscripted into navies during times of war, they were left with no marketable skills once the conflicts ended. With no money, no degree (!) and no skills other than seamanship, what were their choices? Naturally, pirating came easy, and they were good at it!
Naturally, this upset some of the very governments who had hired them to disrupt the shipping of OTHER governments during said wars (somewhat like the Noriega/Hussein/US thing in later years), and various methods were undertaken to rid the seas of the very menace that governments created.
So, this Saturday, get yourself some dreadlocks, an eye patch, a wooden leg, and a tri-corner hat and go adventuring with all the other would-be pirates.
Wenches, beware.
You'll be "groggy" the next morning, for sure!
Just don't try that act in Somalia...they are serious about pirates there.

And, just so you won't sound like a total loser when you walk into the nearest pub this weekend, here's a little primer for you:

How to talk like a real pirate
Ordering a drink like a real pirate:
• Slavey! Fetch me a jar!
• Boy, bring us round a pot o' yer most affordable whisky!
• Alesman, me cup be dry as an old woman's slipper!
• Lass, there be two bits in it for you if me jar always be foamy.
• Please to put a splash of the old Jack rum in this old salt dog's gill cup?

And this instructional video:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and Research

I felt particularly free to "revise" that quote for a couple of reasons. First of all, the" original" version of that famous quote was popularized by Mark Twain, a man who didn't even use his real name! Even he attributed it to a source that nobody could ever corroborate (Benjamin Disraeli). Furthermore, the most reputable researchers can only timorously avow that Charles Wentworth Dilke might have been the first to use the basic form of the quote, though I think he used the word "fib" (not knowing anyone from Illinois, I suspect) instead of "lie." Researchers maintain only that he used the phrase without benefit of attributing it to someone HE could have "borrowed" it as well, thinking nobody would ever call him on it, the internet not being invented then and all. This lengthy musing is intended to be a rather pointed, yet interesting, entry into the value of actual research which, it seems, can prove just about anything one might wish to promote...say, flossing one's teeth. Here's the deal:
Sunday morning at my house usually means a casual start to the day: lounging in bed until 8 a.m. or so followed by a cup of coffee and a nosh while poring over the Sunday paper. This means the paper gets separated into two sections: the news and sports for one of us and the ads for the other, intent on clipping coupons from the grocery ads or any other merchant who happens to be promoting a certain product that we use, say Starbucks Frappacino (I'm not addicted. Who says I'm addicted?) Today, I was reading the supplement to the paper and was immediately intrigued by an article entitled "Stay Sharp," a hopefully useful article on "ten surprisingly easy tactics that might save our brains." Since I use mine almost every day, I am, indeed, interested in preserving it ( and I'm NOT talking about the "Ted Williams" method of preserving my brain). The introductory picture shows a middle-aged man standing on the beach with an arm around an obviously addled parent thinking,
"Damn, I wish Mom had read that article on how to stay sharp a few years ago. What the hell am I going to do now?"
I hurried to read on, and that's when I found out that the "research" might hold less for me than I'd hoped. Here are some of the suggestions for keeping that ol' noodle going:

1. Have coffee. Oh great...3-5 cups during the middle of the day is supposed to cut Alzheimer's risk by 65%. Whether it's the caffeine or the antioxidants, what this means for me is that I'll likely spend a greater portion of my afternoon and evening in the bathroom. Isn't that where Elvis met his untimely doom? Not be, pal. They're not wheeling me out on a gurney with my pants around my ankles (sorry for the image, there)

2. Floss SoCal researchers found that having periodontal disease by 35 quadrupled one's risk of Alzheimer's later. "Experts" think that mouth inflammation travels to the brain...I know some people whose brain inflammations have traveled out through their mouths, but the other way around?

3. Google Seriously...doing online research is supposed to be more effective than reading a book, for God's sake. People between 55-78 activated huge reserves of brain cells after only a week of surfing the internet for an hour a day. No word on what they were searching for...probably the cheapest scooter prices or the best age-restricted communities. Me? I search for Mazda Miatas.

4.Avoid infection Really? Some research points to a connection between infections like cold sores, lyme disease, gastric ulcers, pneumonia and the flu...uh oh! I've had all of those. My chances are zero with all that beta amyloid running through my system. I should probably give up on the Miata: I won't be able to find it in the parking lot or shift gears if I could find it! Damn!

5. Drink apple juice Apparently, the acetylcholine found in apples and their juice is necessary for memory...two to three apples a day or 16 oz of juice. That's doable...and I will keep at least two doctors away while doing so: win-win!

6. Protect your head Well, no kidding! Something that makes more sense than just growing new brain cells doing crossword puzzles that feature "sea eagles" as a clue.

Sheesh!...there are four more that I don't have time for right now. With all of that herpes simplex coursing through my system, I've got to go eat some apples.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I May Be the Last to Know...But I Sense It

Upwardly, Outwardly Mobile?
How many times have you said to yourself that you'd like a more satisfying lifestyle? I'll bet plenty of times. How many of you feel like you don't get around like you used to? Me, neither. But these two questions had nothing to do with the turn I've experienced lately. It seems somebody out there thinks I'm losing more than a step or two and thinks I need an aid from The Scooter Store.
If you're thinking I'm merely delusional, I might be, but I'm not incapacitated. That's why the mail bothered me the other day. Included in the packet was a mobility questionnaire with some seriously disturbing questions:
1. "Do you sometimes feel left out by not being able to get together with family and friends?" Hell, yes, I do. All this time I thought people were merely ignoring me...maybe all those excuses should have told me something. Here's another one.
2. "Is it difficult to get to the bathroom on your own?" Getting there ON TIME might be a bit of an issue, especially when the god Prostatus Glandiolas awakens and needs to go NOW! But the one that creeped me out the most?
3. "Have you fallen in the past twelve months?" I've fallen down a flight of stairs in the LAST TWO WEEKS! Then, there was that bike crash during the summer and the time I got a leg stuck in a pant leg while trying to get dressed standing up. So, in short, I fall all the time!
I know, I know, you're thinking that this is an overreaction to a piece of junk mail randomly sent to "Occupant," and that I need to get a grip...and I might even agree with you in my more lucid moments; but, if this is a mere random occurrence...
Either this is serious Twilight Zone stuff, or somebody is trying to get inside my head.
come to think of it, I think I felt a nudge just before I fell down the stairs...and that bike crash? Concidences?
I think not.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mulvane, Kansas, Here I Come...Right Back Where I Started From...

If you've ever been associated with California in any way...say one of your former students was a porn star (true, in my case), or you've ever been shipped out of San Francisco to war (true of my dad and Larry Richardson), or you've had the curiosity to go see the stage production of Beach Blanket Babylon ( a can't miss!), you are familiar with one of the most famous landmarks in the United States: the Golden Gate Bridge. This 1.7 mile long structure is truly a compliment to the ingenuity of mankind. Anyone who's ever been near just HAS to go across it, whether in a car, on a bike or on foot, most of whom actually make it all the way across. I travelled across on foot/bike, and it was truly amazing. To see huge ships passing below that looked like HO scale models, or watch helicopters fly underneath the bridge were spectacles not to be believed. An oddity, though, were the number of emergency hotline phones, placed there just in case someone wanted to make a desperate last plea for help before plunging to a certain death...really...the are EVERYWHERE along the span...mostly because there is nothing to stop someone who is even moderately agile from stepping over the rail and into space. Seriously, you would think there would be high bars, fences or rails to discourage folks like there are on the Empire State Building (you'd have to be a monkey to get over those things to fall 105 stories or so...but then, I guess a pancake-like body would be more disruptive on the sidewalk than it would in San Francisco Bay. But, that's not the point of my story. Larry Richardson is the point of my story...his bridge and the one degree of separation between it and me.
Richardson, of Mulvane, Kansas, had a dream about the Golden Gate Bridge. He wanted to see it and wanted to have it. His only exposure came as he was bused across it on his way to a deployment in Viet Nam. There was something about the magnificence of the structure that enthralled him. Not having the wherewithal ( I guess) to go there again, Larry built his own version.
He began 21 years ago on the 150-foot span over Cowskin Creek on his property just outside of Mulvane, a bug about 20 miles from Wichita. Over 11 years, he salvaged usable material, enlisted family help and spent $5,000 before finishing 10 years ago. Not an engineer by trade, Richardson noted that he "...had no blueprints. I just worked off the picture on a postcard."
Now THAT'S the kind of Yankee know-how that won us our place as leaders in this world!
As the original celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, Larry's will be 10 years old, and like the more famous of the two, his version still attracts visitors...having been visited once by The Today Show and still popular enough to get folks visiting from out of town as well as visitors who've made multiple trips from the Mulvane Senior Center.
I just gotta go back. Why back?
I began my teaching career in Mulvane in 1972: an eager 20-year-old, recently-married and only slightly-older-than-my-students teacher. My career there was somewhat short-lived (seriously, how many hyphenated words can I out in one blog?), but I will always remember it as the place where my dreams were as big as Larry Richardson's.
Go, Wildcats, and you go, Larry!_

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BP's Got Nothing On Me!

Let's hope Door County FEMA doesn't find out!

Ok, so it wasn't the fabled "three-hour tour" of Gilligan's Island fame, but it was darned close to it...with results almost as disastrous. This adventure is one of those things that was a pleasant Sunday cruise for some of us, and the"afternoon-I'd-rather-forget" for me. Still, looking back, it was in keeping with our spirit of adventure.
We've shared great adventures with our friends: we've ridden elephants through a trackless jungle in Thailand; we've kayaked down some unknown river with guides who knew only one English exclamation: "Jesus Christ!" (uttered by one of us when we "parked" under a tree along the river so the guide could poke an oar at a snake lying on a branch overhead); we've dared to ride the motos in Cambodia and gone searching for cashews in tuk-tuks in which no one spoke English (unescorted by husbands); and we've dared to try to walk UP Lombard Street in San Francisco, a place where even Steve McQueen in Bullitt feared to tread. So, we are a hardy group, and I would like to think that I am among the hardiest...but now, my secret is out. I'm prone to motion sickness as evidenced by our latest adventure.
On a beautiful Sunday morning/afternoon, the plan involved embarking on a scenic Kayak trip along the coastline of Door County to take in the famed Cana Island lighthouse. We'd driven there years ago but wanted a new perspective.
The water at the boat landing was a little choppy: what marine forecasters like to call "1-3 foot waves." Assured that having a skirt and fortitude this would be a pleasant paddle, we slipped into Lake Michigan and worked out into deeper water. It was picturesque, to say the least, and in roughly (so to speak) half an hour, we were bobbing serenely up and down just offshore of the lighthouse. While the others had skirted the shallow-water breakers, I relished the adventure and paddled through some white water waves...and loved it, proud of my explorer-like derring-do. The return trip, however, left much to be desired, both physical, mental and cherry crisp morsels.
I noticed several things immediately:
1. someone had moved our starting spot about five miles away.
2. the wind had become far more brisk...and it was in our faces.
3. waves were breaking over the bow of my kayak which meant I was going to be both wet AND cold, despite the skirt designed to keep out water.
4. The interior ligaments in both elbows were suffering mightily under the strain.
5. The others in the group were taking the longer but less wavy way back.
Undaunted, I managed a fairly structured stroke rhythm, counting each side to keep it steady; however, going was mighty slow. It seemed as if the objects on shore were moving away from me so that I was actually going backwards.
Glancing over my shoulder at my paddling partners, I would occasionally see a flash of oar though the bodies and the kayaks were disappearing in the swells...definitely not a good sign. Doggedly, I paddled onward, ligaments screaming, crotch shivering. and hamstrings coming unstrung while my lower legs had simply begun to tingle as the circulation slowed to a stop.
At last I reached the point at which I could get into the inlet from where we had begun...just in time to feel that first rumble of cherry crisp coming up. I fought it for as long as I could, but you know that feeling that says, "it's going to happen...might as well get it over with"? Yup. Not once, not twice, but four times the pristine waters of Lake Michigan (poetic license) became the repository for some of the best cherry crisp at the Jacksonport bakery. Of course, I couldn't lean over without capsizing the kayak, so...well, I'll spare you those gory details. Needless to say, it was not only I who got the shower when we got back.
Eventually, everyone returned, eager to go have lunch and discuss the great adventure. Me? not so much. I even fell into the water while disembarking from the kayak since there was no feeling in my lower body. Fortunately, nobody was around to see me floundering like, well, a flounder.
The aura of toughness gone, the shame is almost too much to bear, but it's all good because it only adds to the legacy of our adventure travels.
More fun to come!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'll Have What She's Having

Snackin' With the Chef!

I know it seems like food dominates this blog at times...and if there's something new with bacon, I feel it's justified. Fact is, without food, we'd be...well, least until that point where we became comatose without glucose...and bacon.
So, when I ran across an interesting site today entitled "5@5," I just had to investigate.
It seems this is a daily food-related list site on which people of all professions and tastes compile a food-related list. It's that simple. Take today's list, for example, compiled by Chef Amanda Freitag, celebrity chef appearing on "Chopped" for The Food Network (which, surprisingly, I almost never watch). Her list today involves the five foods she likes to eat when she gets home from work.
You do the same, don't you: get home from your daily grind and reach for some snackin' food: "just a little to tide you over" as my friend John says. And while I usually get home from work just in time to start dinner, I'll admit to some preliminary lip-smackers...but I digress. here's the professional's point of view in no particular order.
1. Guacamole, chips and hummus.
2. Pasta with olive oil, chili flakes and parmesan cheese. (heck, this would be dinner!)
3. Fried calamari...uh, no.
4. A "Dagwood" sandwich. You'd have to be somewhat older to get the reference to the character in the comic strip Blondie, but he regularly makes huge sandwiches with meats, cheeses, condiments and anything left in the fridge.
5. Pizza. That would mean it would leftover.Not at our house.
There you have today's favorite after-work food list.
I'm going to make myself a sandwich. Want one!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Joey Chestnut Throws Up (His Hands in Defeat)

What Do These Two Have in Common?

There's a new sheriff in town as far as professional eating is concerned...and her name is Sonya Thomas. I must admit with chagrin (who hadn't heard about her either) that I was ignorant of this woman's presence on the planet until today. Tipping the scales at a hefty 98 pounds, Ms. Thomas has erupted onto the professional eating scene like projectile vomit (sorry about that), leaving chicken bones and oyster shells in her wake. In only five years on the professional eating circuit (known as "the buffet line" to you and me), Ms. Thomas has eaten many of the best under the picnic table, both male and female. Her conquests include Kobyashi, the hot dog king before Chestnut, and now Chestnut himself!
Thomas wolfed down 181 chicken wings in 12 minutes on Friday to claim the world record, beating Chestnut by 12 to claim the new world record at the National Buffalo Wing Fest in, of course, Buffalo, New York. Currently ranked the #5 on the pro eating circuit in this country and #6 worldwide, it's no wonder she is nicknamed "The Black Widow" (and I don't think her husband is dead...but who's seen him lately?)
The Black Widow holds 38 world eating records in 35 different food categories, once downing 7 Hardee's Thickburgers with all the trimmings in 10 minutes.
Of course, she has her own web site that lists all her accomplishments and even features a visit to Seymour, Wisconsin, for a burger-eating demonstration. How can I get a job like that?
That just goes to prove that
a) skinny people can really eat, and
b) records are made to be broken.
You go, girl!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thunda on the Tundra

In honor of the latest sports craze to hit Titletown:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

All Things Considered, I'd Rather Be In...

The quote from the tombstone of W.C. Fields struck me as appropriate today. It was a crappy day, the air was cooler than I'd have liked for my bike ride home from school at 7 p.m. when it was also twilight (watch out for vampires!). It was just one of those days that I wanted to get back in bed by 8 a.m. and stay there all day...but the, the cheery little fellow dressed in white on my right shoulder kept chirping in my ear, "Man up, you wuss. It could be a lot worse."
It only took a cursory look around to see that this was true. I would not want to be a woman in the Congo these days or a young girl trying to get an education in Afghanistan these days...I wouldn't want to be without health care these days...I would not want to be a Muslim in the U.S. these days (sad to say)...I wouldn't want to be looking for a job these days...and I wouldn't want to be looking for a way to get to work in San Salvador these days.
In case you missed it, gangs in the capital city of El Salvador have virtually shut down public transportation for the last three days by threatening the bus companies to stop running or "suffer the consequences" people have no public transportatioon now that the colorful buses sit motionless. Of course, there are the pickups that crowd 20 people in the bed and travel 20 miles to get to the city at exorbitant prices, but mostly...nada.
This latest gang-related incident follows one in July on which gang members set a bus on fire and killed 17 passengers. As a result, the government passed a law (about to be signed by the president) making gang affiliation a crime.
If you know nothing about Salvadoran gangs, they are reputed to be among the most violently ruthless in existence, and they make life cheap in this country, especially in L.A. and Washington, D.C. as well as in El Salvador.
After being declared "social extermination groups," Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha decided to paralyze the government by halting 80% of all public transportation in the country.
"The government excluded us from participating in the national debate on how to reduce violent crime," noted on gang member whose face was covered to hide his identity.
Really? You have something to say about reducing violent crime in a country of 7 million people that suffers 10 murders a day as a result of things like drug trafficking and extortion...not to mention bus immolations?
I will be sure to put on a smile and a jacket tomorrow for my bike ride to school.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Meteorological Throwdown

Who knew there was competition in the weather forecasting business? Oh, I knew the networks, including the cable ones, we involved, but they always seemed to share the same computer models...which made all of them right maybe half the time. With complicated computer models and things like VIPIR storm tracking systems, you'd think it would be foolproof. but it's not. That is unless you happen to be reading The Almanac.
Notice I didn't write The Farmer's Almanac, and there's a very good reason for that. There are TWO publications claiming that name...and have been doing so for almost 200 years! Who knew?
Just like when I found out that Dear Abby and Ann Landers were actually sisters, this revelation about there being a pair of almanacs has left me stunned. But, it's true.
The Old Farmer's Almanac is 219 years old and lays claim to the fact that it is the longest continually-published periodical in America and is published in New Hampshire. "We're the one Abe Lincoln used in a murder trial. We're the one George Washington read," publishers crow. (Now, I have to find out about the murder trial).
The Farmer's Almanac, published in Maine, is a mere 200 years old. Both feature the same content: weather, gardening tips, helpful hints, jokes, recipes and aphorisms. But, this year, they differ in the forecasting business (which is a complicated secret for both of them).
TOFA claims this will be a colder than usual winter while TFA claims that the winter will be a "kinder, gentler" version of last year.
Both claim to have a circulation of roughly 3.2 million readers, and both claim to be right between 780 and 85 percent of the time. Take THAT weather Channel!
The National Weather Service (NOAA) disagrees with both of them, claiming that it will be warmer than normal in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states but colder than usual in the Northwest. It seems NOAA has conveniently forgotten me here in Green Bay, but then, I don't need a fancy schmancy weather prognosticator to tell me that I'll be shoveling a large part of the winter.
Check back in June to see which was correct.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Zombie Jamboree (YouTube credit to The Kingston Trio)

Lord Invader and the 12 Penetrators would be so proud!

I'm not generally one to trumpet things like "old-fashioned values-based education" or anything else that begins with, "Back in MY day..." for one simple reason: usually things that occurred far earlier are no longer relevant to the society we've become. That's not to say that I fully agree with the society we've become...I mean when a pastor in Florida decides that he hand his congregation will burn copies of the Koran on September 11th to "stand up and show the world that we're not bowing down to anyone," things are pretty whacked already. So, modern society isn't perfect. When almost every "civilized" country in the world can find a way for its population to get health care but us, it's another sign that maybe the good old days were better...oh yeah, people only lived to be 50 in those days. Anyway, that's not what this is about. It's about education and what passes for it these days in some corners.
Giving in to requests for "interesting, off the wall courses" for a minor in pop culture, Baltimore University has created a class designed to "get you ready for a zombie apocalypse." English 333 (or Zombie 101, according to the Baltimore Sun) is honestly being offered at that university.
Jonathan Shorr, head of the School of Communications Design notes that in this course, students learn "how literature and mass media work, and how they come to reflect our times." Hmmmm.
It's a good thing the course is about zombies and not vampires: then it would not be able to "reflect our times."

Monday, September 06, 2010

Cashing In on Happiness

"Money can't buy happiness...or love." these oft-quoted phrases (or clauses, actually) are supposed proof that having or not having money has no effect on one's life. People who say, "Money isn't everything" are people with money who are convinced that Reaganomics is the path to true happiness, and it is...for them. for the rest of us? Maybe not so much since so very little seems to actually trickle down. Anyway, until now, nobody has been able to put a price on happiness as it equates to money. Leave it up to researchers at Stanford to put the two together and come up with the ultimate answer: $75,000.
That's what these folks have decided and shared with us in their report to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was released recently.
The researchers studied two factors: people think about the life they're living, and 2.the feelings people have as they experience life itself. In a nutshell, here is what they discovered:
1. Having a yearly income of $75,000.00 allows people to feel happy and satisfied; however,
2. People are NO HAPPIER if they have more money! It seems that $75k is both the alpha and the omega here.
3. People's evaluation of their lives rises as their incomes rise, but the quality of experiences DID NOT increase with more money. This seems to be because above a certain level, the individuals' well-being is determined by factors other than money.
4. However, being sick or divorced or facing other tragedies is harder for poor people than it is for those who have money. (ya think?)
All in all, the one question that remains unanswered by this study is this: is it more important to feel good or to feel that one's life is going well?
Researchers did not address this issue.
I don't feel especially good about THAT!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Derriere Dilemma...Again

Fashion trends come and go with regularity. It's easy to understand why, too: if fashion never changed, people would not have to buy new stuff, rendering everyone's closet to look like mine. I have many items that I've had for years, seeing no real reason to donate them to Goodwill simply because fashion is not that important to me. But for the industry, change is necessary. Remember the midriff tops that parents and schools were decrying just a couple of years ago? Gone. Low-rise jeans? not so much. Daisy Dukes? Well, they're still around until winter sets in. Fact is, trends of today will be trends for "old people"in a couple of years, so I don't get too worried about it, even though "back in the day," if I had worn what a lot of others are currently wearing, it would have been a sign of desperate poverty not fashion, even without the $75 jeans that are ripped in five or six places.
Larry Platter ("General" to his fans) called the nation's attention to the fad of guys wearing jeans more than a few sizes too big and allowing them to fall well below the hips...remember "Pants on the Ground?" The fact that this style was born of necessity in the prison system where inmates get loose-fitting uniforms with no belts (for obvious reasons). This fashion statement caught on in the urban centers and spread like, well, like cheeks hanging out of the top of pants (not to be confused with the "muffin top" feature in women's clothing!). Personally, I thought that having the crotch that far down would cause a rash on the inner thighs, and reaching for a wallet or a weapon would be made that much more difficult when one's pants were lower...but then, I've never been to prison except to visit.
Schools, churches and small towns marshalled their forces to rid the world of such scandalous attire, making clothing banning more popular that removing The Catcher in the Rye or the Harry Potter series from school libraries. and, lest you forget, the furor has yet to die down in places like Dublin, Georgia, where the mayor intends to sign into law an ordinance that would establish fines of up to $200 for lawbreakers apprehended wearing items of clothing " ...more than 3 inches below the top of the hips, exposing bare skin or undergarments." To make certain that this ordinance is enforceable, the "crime" was placed in the public indecency category and equated with masturbation, fornication and urination in public.
May Phil Best said that he acted as the result of people who complained to him and thought he should "do something." I hope Mayor Best is aware that the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, recently lost its case in court when it tried to defend the enactment of a similar statute.
Don't misunderstand me: I'm not enamored at seeing all the laxity in clothing styles and "respect" (as many people term this occurrence). Heck, I'm not a big fan of young people wearing baseball hats four times too big for their melons with their ears stuck under the cap, either...and I'm certainly not a big proponent of all the folks who have tattoos in the small of their backs where their pants should be or several piercings in places where it looks like it would be painful...but it's all about personal expression as I see it. If people want to feel uncomfortable ( I mean, who wears long, very baggy pants when it's 100 degrees outside for comfort?) or present the image of having recently emigrated from Borneo, great. It's not me; I wouldn't do it, but they are welcome to. Image is important to all of us.
I'd like to project the image of someone who is employed or employable.
At least I would look like I belonged in Dublin, Georgia. Now, whether or not that's a GOOD thing is up for debate.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sajeonogi (This is Korean)

Korea is unlike the United surprise there. We pride ourselves on our resiliency, our stick-to-it-iveness and our ability to rise to any challenge. We proved it through several world wars, putting a man on the moon and surviving, among other things, the Great Depression. However, I'm not sure we could best Cha Sa-Soon of Sinchon village in South Korea. He willingness to keep trying despite incredibly insurmountable odds puts most of us to shame, and when I first read about her story, I thought she would never come to such a positive end. In an era when a .300 batting average is a lock for the baseball Hall of Fame, this woman actually failed at something 959 times (at $5 per attempt) and kept coming back each time. What was so important for this 69-year-old woman in a remote South Korean village?
A driver's license.
Barely able to read, having entered elementary school as a teenager but unable to finish, Sa-soon worked all her life raising children and vegetables, the latter of which she sold at a public market. She loved school but could not attend enough to learn to read effectively, making the written portion of the driving test an obstacle worthy of Hercules but more likely one for Sisyphus. once she decided that this was a goal, beginning in April of 2005, Sa-soon took a bus to the testing place once a day, five days a week, failing the written portion each time. Paying five dollars per attempt added up over time, but she would not quit. Finally, the instructors volunteered to tutor her so she could read and understand all the questions instead of just memorizing the questions and answers (an oft-employed strategy for ALL students who read poorly). Eventually, she slowed don to the point of taking the written test only twice a week, finally passing it with a score of 60% on her 960th try. She passed the driving portion on her fourth try and was rewarded with a great deal of fame throughout all of South Korea, a place that values dogged determination above all. She became synonymous with the Korean expression "Sajeonogi" which translates to "get knocked down four times, rising five."(though somehow, it seems as if one would really only have to get up four times...maybe it's the translation)
The Hyundai corporation sprung for a new $16,800 vehicle, and all's well that ends well.
Such determination would be almost unheard of in this country, but what else would one expect from a woman who's name in Korean means "vehicle"?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Eating Your Way Into the Record Books

Could YOU eat 6 pounds of this?

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I am mildly obsessed (if an obsession can be mild) with food, particularly anything that uses bacon as an ingredient...remember those bacon brownies and chocolate-covered bacon? All yummy, to be sure, but we're not Joey Chestnut (fortunately). I don't think he ever enjoys food the way you and I do. But then, we don't eat for a living...he does.
You might know his name: he gorged himself past that Japanese guy to win the hot dog eating contest a few years ago and has since become the world's number 1 professional eater. (I hear you asking yourself, "How can I get a gig like that?") It turns out that the list of Chestnut's gastronomical conquests is, well, astronomical!
His gullet-gobbling feats of legendary proportion were brought to my attention recently when I noted that he had won the Best in the /West Nugget Rib Cook-off in sparks, Nevada by downing 8 pounds of ribs in an astonishing 12 minutes. Eight POUNDS! Think of it...truly an American icon. His secret was to slide the meat off the bone, roll it into a ball, and slide it down. perhaps not the most appetizing, but...whatever it takes.
While I thought this was amazing, it stood to reason that he held other records as well...and he does. Just because inquiring minds want to know, grab some Alka-Seltzer and read on.
Chestnut holds the world record for ingesting the most of all of the following in the least amount of time:

1. Steak--72 ounces accompanied by a salad, potato and 3 shrimp in a mere 8 minutes and 52 seconds.

2. Hot dogs--the record at Nathan's Famous contest on (where else?) Coney Island stands at 68 dogs though I'm not sure about the time limit.

3. Hamburgers--103 Krystal burgers in 2 minutes and 41 seconds. No WAY that can be done!

4. Chicken Wings--241 in 30 minutes...that's 8 every minute or one every 7+ seconds for a half hour!

5. Burrito--Chestnut downed a 5-pound, 17-inch burrito in 3 minutes, 10 seconds.

6. Asparagus--He also consumer 6.3 pounds of asparagus in 11.5 minutes. Seriously...asparagus.

And it took five of us several hours to get rid of the bacon explosion.

Pepto on the way!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sweating to the Chinese Oldies

Try THIS in heels!

There are many things about China that bother me. The total control of information into and out of the country is something we could not abide here. The pollution evident even at the Beijing Olympics is blowing eastward across this country even now, and I resent that...a LOT! That whole thing about having one child and the devaluation of female children will eventually create problems the government can't handle, and if the country continues to export lead paint on our Hasbro toys, our kids will be declining as well. But then, there's Dance Routine #8.
Hearkening back to the early 1950's when the government began demanding fitness exercises for all workers and continuing through the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, "radio calisthenics" is a program of twice-daily exercises performed by all Chinese workers who toil under the government's auspices...which include the workers pictured above who work in a department store!
At 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. workers are required to gather and perform Dance Routine #8, the latest in a line of dance routines taught every five years by physical exercise teachers who spread throughout the country to teach the new routine. You've seen all the groups doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance on YouTube(or if you have not, you should)..this is something like that. The exercises are a mixture of martial arts movements, peppy music and oral instructions given over the government radio station. And, it has a purpose which I can admire:
"Collective exercise makes people feel more relaxed and have greater efficiency at work," according to Yu Junsheng, the Vice President of the Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. The Chinese government has seen too many lazy, obese people who have taken on Western eating and exercising habits, and the politicos want that rend reduced...thus, compulsory exercise.
Good for them.
We should follow suit.
But they can keep the policy of limiting information, Google, and incredible pollution.
It will be only a matter of time before Jack LaLane is advertising his juicer in China.