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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Justifying Big Money

$500 worth of swag?

Many times I straddle the fine line that separates the "haves" in college from the "have nots." On the one hand, I work with scholarship athletes who work diligently for their scholarship money, but on the other hand, I also deal with students who work at Applebee's for their tuition. I even got a lesson in economics from a person who worked in the computer lab and indicated that the price of fruit was just too much for her to afford. Now, I carry an apple in my backpack if I'm going to the lab just in case she's working. Without fail, though, students who are not scholarship athletes are more than a little angry/envious about what they perceive to be an inequitable distribution of funds...and we don't even have football at our school.
Since it's the bowl season for college football and holiday tournament season for basketball, athletes get extra benefits that "regular' students can only dream of.
Basketball teams get to spend a week in Hawaii or the Caribbean, getting gifts in addition. It might be a video camera and a backpack or a new pair of shoes and a watch for the hoopsters, but the real swag is handed out to college football players lucky enough to make it to a bowl game, even if it's a smaller game in terms of prestige like, say, the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Football players walk away with a veritable treasure trove of, well, treasure.
By NCAA regulation, players are not allowed to get "gifts" worth more than $500 for a bowl appearance...that's in addition to the $350 worth of stuff their universities can provide each player. X-boxes were common the last few years, but so many players already had one, the bowl organizers had to get creative. Some, like the Chick-fil-A Bowl send out questionnaires and interview players as to what exactly they would like to get. Gift cards have become popular, and Best Buy seems to be the one most treasured by athletes (since they can't get "real" cash as amateurs). IPods and Fossil watches are also popular gifts as are the video cameras that attach via USB to a computer, better to post those videos for friends who aren't so lucky. And, of course, the bigger the bowl game, the more ostentatious the swag--within legal limits, of course. And remember, athletes are not allowed to sell any of the stuff they get (see Ohio State football for clarification)
So, if you were in uniform for this year's Chick-fil-A Bowl, you would receive (in addition to getting to spend a week or so practicing in warm weather and eating at fancy hotels or restaurants every meal), a travel bag, a souvenir football, a $250 gift card from Best Buy, a Fossil watch, and a Chick-fil-A calendar. A calendar? Organizers must have come up a few bucks short.
Anyway, it's hard for me to defend such exorbitant expenditures in an economy teetering perilously on the brink of disaster; however, when one considers that Ohio State University spends upwards of $70 million dollars on a football budget, maybe the expenses really are not all that exorbitant at all.
Game on!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Now you ARE curious!

In spite of Father Eric's best teaching methods, I never really got the hang of physics while I was in high school. I was actually eyeing the cute blonde in the front row: obviously smarter than I was because she was in the front while I languished in the back, hoping to avoid direct questions. I eventually got better at physics and applied many of the principles when I taught bowling, but there are still some things that dumbfound me. Fortunately, there are physicists like Dr. Mark Miodownik to explain those mysteries to me.
Miodownik, a physicist at King's College, London, presented this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lecture (held yearly since 1825), and finally cleared up several questions, including why elephants cannot dance.
On that score, it seems that elephants' legs are so heavy that, despite being able to run at almost 25 m.p.h., they are incapable of graceful movements and sudden turns, both dance movements. In addition, this fact makes it impossible for elephants to jump which completely eliminates them from DWTS. The weight issue also comes up in a couple of more issues. To wit:
Can a hamster survive a fall from an airplane? I know you are as curious as I am about this one. It would seem that anything falling out of an airplane would splat so hard that a spatula would be necessary to remove the carcass from the asphalt. Not so, it seems. Lighter, smaller objects fall with less force than heavier, bigger things. Thus, while falling from an airplane aloft would most certainly be fatal for a human (or an elephant), a hamster would not even feel it when it hit the ground! I still want to try this one out to make sure.
Is an ant stronger than a weightlifter? We all know that, pound for pound, ants are really among the strongest, but how strong are they, really? Apparently, an ant can lift something 100 times its own weight. Olympic weightlifters, on the other hand, can lift weight totaling about twice their own weight. It seems that the ant uses so little strength to support its body that it has a greater reserve to lift other things...something about being heavier equates to being proportionately weaker. As a matter of fact, I've never seen an elephant do a bench press, either.
There is much more to be discovered at this year's lecture, including something called "gecko tape" which might allow us to climb walls and a new carbon fiber that would allow man to put an elevator into outer space!?
Interested in the details? here's the URL:
We can never know enough physics, it would appear.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cheese, Please...It's For My Grandchildren

"Uh, what are you doing with that scalpel?"

Some things about this post will not be surprising to most of you. Like the fact that scientists regularly use mice in experiments in order to hypothesize things about humans. We all knew that. The fact that genetics is hereditary is also a no-brainer; however, the idea that grandfathers may have a significant effect on grandchildren is a bit of a reach (given the opportunity for the intervening generation to change things up a bit). That this potential for hand-me-downs influences such a thing as a metabolic rate was an eyebrow-archer for me (though I'm not the most up-to-date-on-genetics person out there.
So, the researchers at the UMass Medical School and the university of Texas have concluded through experiments with willing mice that such things are true. This is how the researchers conducted their experiments:
a group of male mice was fed a regular, healthy diet and were allowed to mate (zowie!) with normal, healthy female mice. A control group of males was fed a low protein diet and were also allowed to mate with normal, healthy females (seriously, where does one sign up?) In the offspring of the mice fed with the poor diet, there were hundreds of significant changes in the genetic makeup of the offspring, especially in the genes responsible for fat and cholesterol formation.
While this wasn't all that surprising to me since I'd read that malnourished children tend to become obese adults, the fact that genetics played a vital role was interesting.
The impetus for this study was apparently the famous (who knew?) Overkalix Cohort Study of some years back that found that men who had poor diets as teenagers had grandchildren with a greater potential for diabetes, heart disease and weight problems.
Wow! That's something to think about.
Thanks for the three squares a day, Mom!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Generativity Is Alive and, uh, Well...


One of the greatest fears, according to all the psychology, sociology and human development texts I've been reading this year, is that each of us will leave this rock having left nothing behind...of having lived an entire life and be remembered faintly, if at all. Of course, few of us can split an atom, find a cure for anything important or make a computer and revolutionize life as we know it. So it is that we have to savor small triumphs. I love the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertes,a day on which everyone gathers in the cemetery to tell stories of the that way, keeping them alive forever.
Some professions can leave lasting impressions, I suppose: lifesavers of any kind, teachers of all kinds...well, you know. But the greatest gift to the next generation would have to be the passing along of skills and knowledge gained through trial and error in hopes of making life just a little bit better (thanks to Herman's Hermits for that phrase). Normally, our own children choose to avoid listening to much of what we have to say, preferring to make their own mistakes; occasionally, however, a glimmer shines through the mist, and an inspiration takes hold. For me, I'm leaving behind a tradition of snow sculpture.
When our kids were little, we did something every year: the space shuttle, a fishing boat, a school bus, the 'bots from MST3K, and Indy car...on and on. Since they've grown, I mostly fool around by getting the snow off my driveway then taking the semester break to craft something for the neighbors. Last year, it was the Olympic bobsled event, and it was quite a hit. This year has already exceeded expectations, and I'm proud to say that I have left a bit of me behind.
Our new son-in-law had never even thought of building a snow sculpture before, but he is something of a Legos fanatic. The timing was perfect. My sweetie proposed a Lego theme since the four-foot drifts in our driveway could be carved out in blocks. Using the word "Legos," I convinced Robert to come over to help, and he was hooked. He spent four hours on his only day off work cutting and assembling solid blocks of snow. He was a young man possessed, and he will, no doubt, continue the least as long as there's snow in Green Bay.
"Generativity" has meaning for me this year.
Now, if I only had something USEFUL to leave behind!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You're O.K., I'm Not

The holiday season is a time for joy and happiness...and depression. It's not just the holiday season, seems that many people see themselves in a negative light based on their perceptions of their peers' lives. Noted sometimes as the "Facebook Effect," this feeling of worthlessness is based on totally erroneous thought, according to Alexander H. Jordan, and he should know.
Jordan's doctoral dissertation on the matter at Stanford University was recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and offers some insight into why we generally think others' lives are great while ours sucks.
Face it...we often judge how our lives are going by what the lives of our peers tend to be like. That, according to Jordan, is a major mistake, for two reasons:
Generally, we see other people in social situations, and folks generally keep negative vibes repressed in these encounters (holiday office parties, for example). It just makes sense that people are happier in company.
However, we never see those same peers we envy in those solitary moments when people are more likely to be "sad, irritable, bored and lonely." Thus, we see only one side of people and merely assume the worst about ourselves.
Interestingly, Jordan got interested in his research after friends reported being depressed after viewing the status of friends on Facebook. The others seemed to be living a wonderful life in contrast to Jordan's friends who began to feel like something the cat dragged in: not successful, lonely, etc.
That's one reason I rarely go to my Facebook page.
Farmville requests are another.
So, "Perk up you Jackwagon...get back from Namby Pamby Land and get some self confidence...crybaby!" (Sarge)
Happy holidays; in spite of how miserable you think you are, your friends are no better off. In fact, they envy YOU!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Count Backwards From 100

Many people approach anesthesia with trepidation. Maybe it's the fear of the unknown; maybe they fear not waking up...hey, it's happened! Me? I think it's OK. But, for every transcendental minute spent in LaLa Land, there's a price to pay.
After having undergone the procedure almost a dozen times (most recently today), I have to say it's mostly fun...until one awakes and moves whatever body part has been newly-incised. Then comes the painful reminder that there will be pain as the price of the joyous unconscious feeling.
There is a way around this painful realization, though: it's called a colonoscopy. There is absolutely no pain upon awakening, and there is no memory of four feet of tube with a camera attached snaking its way up my colon...and that's probably a good thing. That's not to say, however, that the procedure feared by many in their mid-50's is without anxious moments. Drinking a gallon of salty water (even flavored with Crystal Light) ranks right up there with cod liver oil as an experience we'd all rather avoid. But at doesn't hurt, at least.
Then, there is the incessant bowel movements for the next three hours as the colon gets prepped for the "Invasion of the Polyp Snatchers." That doesn't hurt, either, but certainly parts of my anatomy got a little chapped in the process. (need a reminder? Think of a sore nose when you've blown it a hundred times with tissue NOT made with lotion...then apply it to the nether regions). Not a pleasant process.
But the procedure itself? A piece of cake. Totally without pain, and after the first time, free of anxiety as well. In fact, my nurse had to ask me if it was normal for my pulse to be less than 50 in the morning. Total relaxation...and my blood pressure was great as well. No Worries.
I'm due back in five years...not that I look forward to it. I've still got to get past the dentist on Wednesday.
Now THERE'S some anxiety, high blood pressure, and pain.
And they don't even use gas anymore.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Whatever", Like, Totally Annoys Me, Dude!

At one point, I thought about trying to count how many times the word "like" came up in a conversation; this before I realized the total impossibility of such a task without a high-speed calculator. Somehow, that word has become so ingrained in our speech that we might have to call the Vocab Orkin folks to eradicate it. Seriously. sometimes, it irritates me, and other times (like when I'm using it), the word seems like a natural fit. But at least, it's not "whatever."
A Marist Poll recently released its list of the most annoying words in America based on a sample of responses from 1,020 Americans. Sadly, that;'s the extent of the data on these people: no age category, no gender one would have to consider this something less than a random sample. Anyway...
The most reviled word according to the poll, for the second straight year, was the aforementioned "whatever" which garnered 39% of the votes. "Like" was a somewhat distant second, accounting for a 28% slice of the annoyance pie.
In a surprise, "You know what I mean" actually got third place when 15% of the respondents thought it to be the most repulsive thing they hear continually (though, there is some doubt as to whether the question asked for a "word" or a "phrase" or exactly WHAT was asked.
As I get deeper into the shrouded secrets of this group "Marist," I'm beginning to wonder exactly what its agenda is. Seriously, does anyone care deeply about how we speak? I mean, after all, next year will bring new buzz words and phrases, so why obsess about these? I could go on and on since I have a conspiracy theory that is rather involved, but I hear you saying,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Golly, Beave, The Lure of Teen Pregnancy

The news surfaced today, and I can hardly believe it: MTV has selected 16 MORE pregnant teenage girls to feature on its hit (I suppose) show Teen Mom. Really?
Call me old-fashioned or a curmudgeon or any other of a handful of pejorative names, but I fail to see the value of installing TV cameras in the middle of what has to be one of the most traumatic experiences a teenage girl (and boy, lest we forget) can experience.
Call it the "Bristol" effect...and we know how well THAT turned out.
Seriously, what's the message here? "Get pregnant so you can be famous on TV and have all your friends be jealous"? I just don't get it, but I can imagine the conversations going on in every middle school (yes, I wrote "middle school") hallway:
"Did you see Teen Mom last night? That baby is just sooo cute. I'll be her mom gets a lot of free stuff from stores and the network. Plus...she'll probably be on Dancing With the Stars in a couple of years! I'm so jealous!"
"Me, too. I think I'll have that cute guy in my biology class come over tonight while my parents are gone. He's hot!"
On the other hand, the producers probably feel they are calling attention to a very real social ill here by showing how difficult life can be when a child has a child. Studies have shown, however, that children don't always get the right message from things they see on television.
So, there you have it: another example of exploitation of the willingly exploited. MTV, which stopped actually showing music videos ages ago, makes money; girls continue to get pregnant, and we all watch like voyeurs and hope our children are "scared straight." (so to speak)
I'll go to Hulu and watch reruns of Leave it to Beaver: equally unrealistic, perhaps, but not exploitative in any way.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Just Wouldn't Be Christmas Without...

You have your holiday traditions, I have mine (somewhat), and the Estonians have theirs.

Christmas Eve church service might have been my favorite one of the year. Of course, it was midnight (real midnight, not the 10 p.m. faux midnight we have now), it was very cold, and the wool suit Mom made me wear didn't itch like it did the rest of the year. My grandmother allowed us to eat candy and cookies and play with our toys even though our parents wanted us to sit down, use our manners and not fall asleep. Then, of course, the short ride home asleep in the car (save when my brother would hit me), and waking up on Christmas morning to the things that Santaparents brought us.
Dinner at Grandma's, toys from the aunts and uncles, late, late church with Christmas music still fresh in our ears...unlike now when we start hearing it at Hallowe'en. That was it...nothing really special, but a special feeling of being together and opening the huge containers of cookies my Mom and the elves made every year: three kinds...soft, sugar cookies in holiday shapes with frosting, ginger snaps and a kind of coconut/oatmeal cookie she called Ranger cookies. They were always worth waiting for, and she must have spent weeks making them.
Now that I have you thinking about your traditions, let me ask you they include blood sausage? Apparently, for the Estonians they do.
I've never gotten used to eating hamburger raw as they do here in Wisconsin, and I've never gotten used to eating fish raw or pickled (herring, for example) as they do here; but sausage in which the primary ingredient is, um, cow's blood? That noise you just heard was my stomach lurching.
Anyway, there was an article in the New York Times today lamenting the loss of the tradition of blood sausage at Christmas for Estonians. This delicacy, made from cooked barley, onions, marjoram and blood has been traditional since forever. One has to go to a restaurant to find it, apparently, but it was a vital part of Christmas tradition which went like this:
1. Group sauna
2. Church
3. Food: sauerkraut with fresh pork, roasted potatoes, blood sausage, and a compote of either cranberries or lingonberries. For dessert, the traditional fare was very thin gingersnap cookies and roosamanna (a soft, pink fluff made from whipped cranberry juice, farina and sugar).
Then, presumably a nap...or reindeer games.
Still a firm believer in traditions, I'll take in a movie on Christmas day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Being a MAMIL Doesn't Have to be Expensive

Carbon fiber or steel?

Somewhat sadly, I did not quite make my goal of riding my bike to work every day this semester...I made it all the way until today, but there's something about 12 inches of snow and unplowed (for the most part) streets that just didn't seem to match my plan of riding every day this semester...and this, the last day of classes before finals! But then, I'm not a total gonzo like Dr. Jeremy Groves, an anesthetist in England at Chesterfield Royal Hospital who rides 27 miles to work daily. I have to admit, though, that he had an interesting bit of research.
Groves makes the commute in 1 hour and 47 minutes each way, by his calculations, riding an older steel-framed bike that cost him roughly 50 British pounds...not expensive by any means. He wondered if a more expensive and thus lighter bicycle would shave precious time off his he bought a carbon-fiber job costing 200 times what his old bike set him back, and began a six-month experiment. The government was offering a tax break to those who cycled to work, and bike shops would discount them accordingly, so it seemed like a good time to try the experiment.
Every workday for six months, Groves would flip a coin to see which bike he took to work. After six months, he was surprised to find that his average time on the expensive bike was a full minute SLOWER than his time on the old, cheap bike! He described the results of his experiment in the British Medical Journal and came to the conclusion that the"...reduction in the weight of the cyclist may deliver greater benefit at a reduced cost."
Thus, here's the groundbreaking news part, a cyclist would get where he or she is going more quickly by losing weight rather than buying a lightweight, very expensive bike.
This would hold true especially, one would imagine for all of the Middle Aged Men In Lycra out there. Me? I never wear lycra to work...I have to ride across a campus full of students walking to class.
It's hard to look good riding on a bike with fenders trying to suck in a flabby gut...while wearing a helmet.
I prefer to be somewhat incognito.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finally...Something Interesting About 2010

This time of year, every year, is filled with reflection as we look ahead to the upcoming year. Believe me, Snooki dropping inside the Times Square ball on New Year's Eve will not be a highlight. In fact, if it's any indication of how the year is going to go, I might just check out of this Hotel California. However, just in time to pique my interest comes this iReport survey from The editors would like anyone interested to make a video about this past year and submit it for the entertainment of the audience. There are ten questions that require a response...well, nine actually, since one involves making a face. Here's the list:
1. Pronounce "2010." (Remember, this is a video so they WILL hear you.

2. Make a face for the camera that depicts how you feel about the past year.

3. The best thing I bought this year was ________________.

4. For me, the year 2010 was ____________, ___________, __________.

5. I totally cringed this year when _______________________________.

6. The best thing on the Internet by far was _____________________.

7. I'm pretty sure I overshared on Facebook this year when I ____________________.

8. The best day of the year was ______________________.

9. The best place I visited was ___________________ which is ______________ miles/km from where I live.

10. Next year, I'm planning to ___________________________.

There you have it. If you are not the kind of person who's shy about making a video for total strangers detailing your personal thoughts, go to, and you will find directions on making the video. Me? I'm the shy while I intend to answer all of those questions, I doubt I will make a video.
Here's my face for #2:


Friday, December 10, 2010

Revelation Day

Tonight's "date night" movie was Tenure, and I think we got it mostly because Luke Wilson was in it...I love the Wilson brothers in movies. It also promised to be somewhat of a comedy even though Owen always plays something of an angst-ridden misfit who always seems on the cusp of disaster. This was no different.
The movie was not exactly fast-paced, but there were a couple of redeeming qualities: the "wingman" character was played by an actor whose name I didn't catch, but he reminded me so much of Karl Walters...a deceased friend who made my days in Algoma a joy. Plus, the story had to do with a professor at a tiny college who is up for tenure but seems destined to be overwhelmed by a newly-hired tenure-track Yalie.
Interestingly, seeing this movie coincided with my last teaching day for the semester. While we have a final essay (timed) on Monday, this was really my last opportunity to interact with my students in the more informal setting of the classroom...and I realized something, just as Wilson's character did: we are teachers because it's what we're good at. Whether that sentiment will be in evidence in my teacher evaluations that decide whether or not I get to teach college kids again remains to be seen.
But, in my heart, I know...
I was born to teach.
Though there's little actual entertainment value in grading essays, when I walking to the room today, I felt joy.
And I smiled.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I Want That 36 Days Back!

It seems that good news never comes around during the holidays...oh, sappy, imaginary stories like It's A Wonderful Life make their annual return, and we all feel content for a few moments, knowing that if we don't have any money, at least we have friends. That lasts about ten minutes until we realize that while money can't "buy" happiness, it CAN buy food, and pay the mortgage and keep the house warm enough so the mice don't freeze. And the not-so-good news continues. Politics? no...that's NEVER been good news to start with. I just found out that I've lost 36.5 days of my life!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this week that indicated that the average life span has fallen in this country! I was stunned. I used to be able to count on living an average of 77.9 years, but now, according to the CDCP, I can only realistically expect to live 77.8 years. What a disaster!
If there was ANY good news out of the report, it is that stroke is no longer the third-leading cause of death in this country. After a fifty year run in the three hole, stroke has slipped to fourth behind perennial numbers one and two (heart attack and cancer) and the up-and-coming chronic lower respiratory disease! What a relief. I almost had a stroke when I saw that someone had taken more than a month of my life, so I am somewhat relieved to note that a stroke is lee likely to kill me.
Of course, being the stats geeks that most of us are, I wondered about the rest of the top ten and discovered the following conditions at five through ten:
5. accidents ( Mom said I was one, but I don't think that killed her)
6. Alzheimer's Disease.
7. Diabetes.
8. influenza/pneumonia
9. Kidney disease
10. Septicemia

Well, there you have it: the first of the bad news for the holiday season. The next think you know, the snow will be falling, and I'll finish the driveway just before the plow comes through again...and the wind picks up and fills the driveway again.
Oh wait, that happened already tonight.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Seemingly Unaware as the World Goes By

Every now and then, events transpire that leave me so totally perplexed that I feel like I've been under house arrest in Myanmar (not great, but FAR better than being in prison there, I hear) for the past few years and have emerged, Rip van Winkle-like to a world that I do not recognize...and the reason results from the things I hear from the students with whom I work every day.
College students are expected to be somewhat cognizant of the world around them, and relatively aware of the things that make up our existence, but lately, I've been more than a little surprised by the following:

1. Three of my students have been asked as a class assignment to write a series of letters explaining either how they are young people working in the German Resistance during WWII helping Jews or a recently-returned veteran of the Viet Nam War writing Congress in hopes of getting that governing body to end the war. It was not so surprising that none of the three really knew much about either historical period, but NONE OF THEM had ever written a letter before and did not know how to go about it! Are you kidding me? (and a week later, they are still puzzled by the format)

2. Three times today I asked relatively bright students (not my usual clientele) if they knew what the historical significance of December 7th was, and none of them knew...and they really had little idea who were the "bad guys" during WW II, either, though one successfully posited "The Japanese?" after a brief discussion on the attack at Pearl Harbor.

3. As part of an assignment concerning basic ethnographic research for a writing course, one student formulated a thesis and a survey dealing with the amount of students who spent some, most, or all of their time during lecture classes sending text messages to friends. One of the more bizarre comments from a person was that she didn't really care if the professor knew since it was only a general education class which would not impact her major anyway. But that was not the most disturbing fact to emerge from the student's research was this:

one person responded to a question that asked the purpose of the text messages being sent during class with a response that stupefied me:
In class.
In a lecture hall.
With others sitting right next to her.
What's more...I don't even want to know.

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Tis, After All, the Season

I usually don't wait until the last minute to do any sort of gift-buying for the upcoming holiday season. By this time, Neiman-Marcus is usually out of all the good stuff I want to get those oh-so-special people in my life to let them know just how much they mean to me in dollars and cents (and how much has just been deducted from their share of any swag that I do not take with me when I go...and I intend to (take it with me, not least in the near future).
But this year, I thought it might be time for something a bit out of my ordinary jewel-encrusted elephants with matching bearers waving ostrich plumes over the riders. As it happens, featured in today's Los Angeles Times was a host of extravagant gifts being passed off as trinkets anyone could have...if there was still room on the plastic. I loved that each of the gifts was named for the type of person who would receive it. There was "The Surrealist," a Christmas ornament made to look like an avian creature: yours at for $150.00
For "The Sensationalist" on my list, a Swarovski crystal necklace is on the block from for $605. (an extra five bucks? What's that about?)
If you are seeking something for "The Individualist" in your life, the 24ct gold aviator sunglasses by Franz are individually numbered in Germany and can be ordered from an H. Lorenzo at 310-659-0058 if you've got the $749.00 that it will take to pry them out of Lorenzo's sweaty palms.
However, I consider myself something of a Hellenist, so, for me, there's the same ring Beyonce gave Jay-Z. It's a black sapphire and rhodium (is that a flower?) Spartan ring that looks like a Spartan helmet for $680. However, if Jay-Z has one, then I'm sure they're all over the place.
Anyway, there are a large number of other great gifts that I am certain you'll want to check out, so here's the URL:

Happy Last-Minute Shopping! (The elephants are already gone)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Exercise Freak or Just Cheap?

If I can make it for the next two weeks, I will have succeeded in my goal of biking to work every day for the first semester. Neither rain, nor snow, nor mail people...etc. Of course, it's not the Herculean feat one might imagine: the distance is less than two miles each way though I make the round trip twice a day three days a week...the last ride occurring in the dark through a scary woods. I have almost hit a deer several times, a goose, and a couple of people dumb enough to be skulking around in dark clothing on the trail next to the golf course that I use as a way of avoiding car traffic.
I have survived crashes caused by mud and sharp corners ( a death-defying combination!), and it's been cold enough to stop mere mortals on a few occasions. How cold was it, you ask? It was so cold one day that I saw a dog frozen to a fire hydrant! It's actually a bit sad that I have to feed myself straight lines.
Thus it was that I was somewhat taken aback the other day to find an entire article devoted to how to bike to work. Really? How hard could it be? I suppose most people live too far away and would not consider the idea anyway, but still...The third Friday in May will be here soon: it's National Bike To Work Day. so, there is plenty of time for you to get ready. Here's what you need, according to some journalist somewhere:
1. Plan the route. Believe it or not, there are some dangerous people out there texting and driving.
2. Make sure you are physically capable. This is a no-brainer and a major reason why many of you have just stopped reading.
3. Be sure your bike can do it. Here's a clue: if there's rust all over it and the tires are flat and cracked...get something a cab.
4. Pack the necessities. I would suppose this means lunch...or extra clothes or a rain jacket. Unless you're ten miles from work, this doesn't seem like a big deal...though I find a backpack is easier than a messenger bag when riding.
5. Know what happens when you get to work. Need a shower or a change of clothes? Be sure that's available. Also be sure that there's a cardiologist's office nearby.

When all is said and done, think of all the money you've just saved on gasoline and auto repair as well as the money you will not have to spend at that fancy schmancy gym! Win, win!

See you on the roads!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gosh Almighty Good Fun Here!

The MUST-HAVE Action Figure of the Year

If you missed all the toy bargains at Toys-B-Me on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Spend the Last Dime Sunday, there's least if you live near Chicago. (Sadly, no high-speed rail to get you there, either). Anyway, there is a toy and hobby store that features the most, uh, eclectic collection of action figures, and if you don't stop to pick one up for that last-second stocking stuffer, get one as a collectible, saving it to sell for big money in a few years along with your Beanie Babies.
There is, of course, a collection of figures you might expect to find: Barack and Michelle Obama, She Whose Name Must Not Be Mentioned, Shakespeare, Einstein and Van Gogh. However, it's the ones that are a bit left of center that got my attention.
How can you NOT purchase a Mary Kate Gallagher (complete with white underwear), the Crazy Cat Lady, or The Barista (comes with two heads: one when she's in a good mood, and one when she is not...really)? Seriously. Imagine these sitting on your desk at work...sure winners.
Of course, if you want to go all out, you might purchase the Librarian action figure, complete with "shushing action" as pictured above, or the Jesus action figure.
I'm going all of them one better and laying my money down on the God Almighty action figure that comes complete with a Kalishnikov AK 47, designed for some serious street sweeping at the end of the world. Now that's what I'm talking about!
Shushing sound not included in that one.