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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

There's Probably an App For This

I have an analogy that I use when people assk me what it's like to be retired: it's like building a three-car first, there's more room than you know what to do with, but soon, there isn't room for the car! At least, that's been my experience: no matter how much or how little there is to do, something always comes up to fill the time. Of course, I had a plan for my "post-career" life, and maybe others do not. Hence, the explosion in the number of "retirement coaches." well as online sites and a bevy of other aids to help newly-retired folks.
Just for fun, google "retirement coach," and be ready to be amazed at the number of hits that occur. Some are basically free advice sites while others charge big bucks to provide searchers with "meaningful personal insights" which will guide them therough the last 30 years of their lives. Sites like and cater to those are befreft of a meaningful existence...and most of them avoid using the "r-word," opting for terms such as "re-fire your life" and "renopause" (my favorite) to describe what they term as a "mid-career transition." I swear, Baby Boomers are nuts.
Having run on the hamster wheel for more years than they cared to, hating some if not all of it, they get to the point in life where they can choose the how, the where, the when, and the how often, and they get paralyzed with indecision. Money is often not an issue, but the feeling that they are no longer significant eats away at many of the recently, uh, retired (there, I wrote the word!).
While lying in a hammock in the tropics is certainly not the best option for the next 25 years or so, I would suggest that we all get a clue and do what we LIKE to do with the people we LIKE to be with. It's not hard.
As I said, I had a plan: working with athletes in a university setting and/or radio DJ. The radio part didn't work as well as I planned, so I substituted giving tours at a sports facility, but the other part has worked well...well enough that I now get to teach an occasional college course. Go figure!
And, if I can figure all of this out withoput a "coach," the rest of you can as well.

Monday, May 30, 2011

E Harmony It Isn't

I'm something of a math phobe. Atypical of the male species, I gravitate toward the literate side instead of the analytical side of my brain (presuming my brain actually DOES have sides). I can figure free throw percentages and batting averages in my head, but any serious statistical analysis is best left for someone else. I mean, there are buttons on my calculator that I don't understand, dooming myself to a dependency on math people for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I won't be needing the math gurus at
Begun by Harvard-educated math majors, this free online dating site and accompanying blogs, offers insight into the dating ritual as it relates to statistical probabilities of success. Don't laugh too loudly: the site gets 7 million visitors per month, according to the LA Times. Exactly WHY that many people feel the need of the advice contained therein is a completely different issue. However, there are some interesting bits and pieces that have emerged from the endless stream of data compiled by these folks:
People who meet online and eventually form a relationship offline are most intrigued by the following three questions:
1. Do you like horror movies?
2. Have you ever traveled in a foreign country alone?
3. Wouldn't it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

Apparently, these questions indicate the degree to which a person is "open to experience;" of course, that might also mean the person is open to infidelity, too, but that's just my take.
Now, for some advice for those of you trolling such websites looking for the perfect match...or hookup:
1. Subtract 2 inches from the listed height for prospective matches.
2. Subtract 20% from the salary listed.
3. For women: flirt with the camera a bit in the profile photo, and don't be afraid to show a little skin...18-yr-old respondents who added a bit of cleavage got 24% more responses than did those who opted for a more chaste photo. At age 32, that figure rose to an astounding 79% more responses. Of course it's sexist, but we're talking about online dating here!
4. For men, it's important not to smile in the photo since a smile shows either submissiveness or a leering sexuality that's not all that flattering. Young men who have that six-pack are obliged to show it...but older men are not since the number of responses drops rapidly among older men who insist on being shirtless.

all in all, I think this really only shows how little we have to do with our time here in America. Other countries are trying to feed, hose and keep healthy their populations, and we're concerned about finding the right prospective mate through online research...God forbid we actually have to talk with someone or get off the couch to meet other interesting people.
It's a puzzler to me...but then I'm already a generation behind.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chopped Down

I guess it was as unavoidable as it is sad...the chances for success were slim and none, and slim had just left town. Still, I guess I am surprised that the end might be written in prison...most likely, that is.
He had escaped from the Sudan with his mother and siblings in the face of violence and death. Like so many who came to America, there was an abundance of hope for all of them; moving from state to state through the early years meant that schooling was often an afterthought: staying alive and connected with other Sudanese was critical. Four or five moves and a variety of schooling situations left the young man woefully ignorant and bereft of most of the "school" skills his peers had long since learned. By the time he'd reached high school in Mankato, Minnesota, he was a hulking youngster with incredible physical skills, especially with a basketball, but he graduated with a third-grade reading ability and a pile of special education documentation that would follow him as he grasped at the golden apple of college basketball.
Sadly, his entrance scores would not qualify him to attend the many universities panting after him with dreams of their own based on his skills alone. Two junior colleges followed in successive years, until he finally landed, almost literally, on my doorstep. As his personal tutor/mentor, it was my job to see that Chop Tang graduated in three years...his somehow having attained an associate degree prior to attending the university where I work.
Knowing the challenge, I attended a summer course on teaching reading, made friends with the professors, and marshaled every teaching skill I knew in order to prepare for what would be s seemingly-impossible task. Chop was none too eager for the rigor that awaited him, but he had no choice, and I was determined to at least teach him how to read.
I spent 25 hours a week with him: going to class, reviewing notes, defining strange vocabulary words and generally propping him up when it all became too frustrating. I'll admit it: we cried together a couple of times because we were so spent, angry and frustrated with an apparent lack of progress. He had the skill of memorizing down rather no doubt helped him get as far as he had gotten. Two students from the education program were contacted to work specifically on reading skills, and we dug up interesting, grade-level books for him. Another assistant coach spent at least 10 hours a week working with academics as well so Chop had no time for anything but learning and hoops.
Our reward? At the end of the semester, Chop had earned (and I mean earned!) a 3.12 grade point average. While I was congratulating him with a sneaky tear in my eye, he announced to me that he was leaving school because the academic struggle was simply too difficult for him. He walked out the door, transferred to New Mexico Highlands University, and I never heard from him again...though I kept up with his career for a while. After using his eligibility at NMHU, he dropped off the radar until last December.
Walking into a Savings & Loan in a Minnesota city, he brandished a gun and walked out with $17,000, only to be apprehended in Iowa a couple of days later (with family in both states, how hard could it have been to find him?) He pleaded guilty in court recently and awaits sentencing...and it won't be extended probation.
He never had a chance.
The educational system missed him, then the athletics system used him until he had no value.
Now, the citizens of Minnesota will support him.
Maybe now he has time to learn to read.
I wish he'd stayed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Turning 20 Minutes Into 30 Minutes

Not in India, You Don't!

The average situation comedy in this country, scheduled in the TV listings for 30 minutes, actually runs about 20 most of the time. The rest, of course, is taken up with advertisements that, supposedly, pay the freight so we can watch programming for free. When Charlie Sheen gets millions for one episode, you can imagine how many commercials an advertiser has to run (and pay for). Oh, did you think your cable bill paid for that? Think again. And unless you watch programming on the internet where commercials are usually minimal or easily skipped, a person can get carpal tunnel manipulating the remote to avoid being bombarded by advertisements. I have found that, generally, stations tend to offer commercial messages at about the same time (just to frustrate ME, no doubt). It's time for me to move to India, if for no other reason than to watch television.
Recently, the Indian government has issued a decree that deodorant commercials that are deemed objectionable should be removed. Deodorant commercials? Really? It seems so. Claimed to be "overtly sexual," some commercials' sponsors have five days to redo or remove said commercials on the premise that they subtly send a message that "arouse women's sexuality." What? Really? Supposedly, one commercial features a woman who begins to undress as the scent of the deodorant a man is applying wafts her way. Really.
As any man can tell you, there is NO scent in the world that will get this response. I'd have heard about it by this time. It would be all over the internet. There would be a mad rush at Wal-Mart to get our hands on such a product. Surely, Indian males are at least as savvy as I am and would never be fooled by such a ploy.
But then, I got to thinking: what if American television were to limit commercials to those that did NOT try to elicit sexual arousal? What would we have?
Not one car commercial featuring an alluring woman on the hood.
Not one jeans commercial featuring a butt shot or a woman giving that "come hither" look.
Not one Cialis/Viagra commercial.
Definitely no Victoria's Secret commercials.
Come to think of it, ll of these commercials are supposed to tantalize MEN into buying a product.
If advertisers wanted to get women to get all tingly, they'd feature freshly-shaven-and-showered guys wearing argyle sweaters and loafers...ironing clothes.
At least, that's what works for me.
And in case you are curious, the deodorants that are supposed to melt women? Wild Stone, Addiction Deo, and AXE.
In India, anyway.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Problem With Predictions and Predictors

I do somewhat feel bad for Harold Camping. He was so certain that the world would end...again, that he convinced many people to give up everything in order to be ready for the rapture. They, of course, ended up broke and disappointed, especially when Camping backpedalled to say that he really knew all along that the "real" end would be coming in October and that he didn't give ANY financial advice to people: implying that they were foolish to sell or give away everything. But that's not my point.
My point, simply, is this: why can't anyone predict anything important with any kind of accuracy?

For example, the Mayans could supposedly predict with confidence the end of the world (shortly after Camping's date, as I understand it), but they couldn't predict the Spanish hordes that would trample them out of existence with steel and infectious diseases? THAT kind of prediction could have been useful.

The Farmer's Almanac can predict (more or less accurately) when the best time to plant crops is, so why can't prognosticators there predict the dire effects of using all that corn for sweetener instead of for food? Millions of people worldwide probably want to know the answer to that one.

Various polls can predict who will be of major importance in a political season, but nobody can predict when there will be a politician we can honestly trust to say and do the right things out of respect for the people instead of the PACs.

In short, I hold predictors in a cynical light. Nostradamus? His greatest virtue as a seer was that he was general enough so that things could be arranged ex post facto to seem as if he had called them correctly. Thus, those that wish to influence me had better refrain from making blanket statements that attempt to assure/inspire/frighten me into believing something should realize that their exhortations will be falling on deaf ears.
I predict I will ignore them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

If I'd Only Known Then What I Know Now...

Doesn't this always happen? We look back at some of our decisions, slap ourselves on the forehead and say, "What was I thinking?" Let's say you just sold your house, car and furniture and spent a year of your life trying to counsel people that the world was going to end on a certain day...and it didn't. After the initial shock wears off, you would HAVE to wonder what made you act that way (right before trying to figure out how to get your house and car back). I believe faith is important, but there are times when it would be better to know about something ahead of time: and it's not always just about major things like planetary destruction. sometimes little bits of prior knowledge can be life-changing as knowing about nasal spray for airplane travel, for example.
I recently deplaned after twelve or thirteen hours on a plane, had a nice rest...and woke up with a cold. Damnably bad luck, you might think. I thought to myself, "Well, at least I didn't get sick on the trip," and I felt fortunate having put a positive spin on a miserable couple of days. At this point, my globe-trotting son noted that there was a special nose spray made of lavender or something like that which would alleviate the post-flight sickness by keeping the nasal passages moistened on the long plane rides. "I use it all the time," he noted. However, it seems that he "forgot" to give it to me even though I saw him the night before I left on the trip. In his defense, I think he feels that if hHE knows something, it's common knowledge. I know Of course, the chances on my taking another extended flight are somewhat remote, but at least I have that knowledge in the memory bank.
And now that we've dodged one end-of-the-world scenario, we can all look forward to the Mayan prediction of destruction in 2012, and we cannot afford to become complacent. Otherwise, as the world implodes, we'll all be saying, "Boy! If I'd only known this was coming!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Exfoliated Expat

The one piece of advice that I got from everyone I knew who knew anything about Turkey was that I had to visit a Turkish if the shower in my hotel wasn't good enough. Oh, I knew what I was in for...I mean, the Internet can supply all sorts of information, not just baseball scores. I'd been to spas while vacationing (paid for by someone else), and I had experienced massage from a trained masseuse ( related to me),so all the exuberance of others as to how wonderful I'd feel following the incredible experience that awaited me was tempered by the knowledge that there was a certain amount of, let's say, pain involved.
Undaunted and goaded by my sweetie, I set off for one of the oldest Turkish baths in Istanbul. The oppressive humidity inside was my first clue: I was about to lose a few pounds.
I was given a small private room and a little sarong-like thing. For my feet, the host provided some wooden sandals...I felt like one of Cinderella's stepsisters with them on, but I'm no quitter, so I wrapped the sarong around myself, opened the door, and was led to what I suspect was the fourth level of he'll.
In actuality, it was a huge room resembling a basilica containing a large marble slab and surrounded by ten or twelve wash basins. My guide through this ordeal spoke two words of English:"yes" and "sit." He placed a cloth and a pillow on the marble in the cent of the room and pointed me to lie down. The room's humidity had to be close to 100%,and the marble was heated to something like "sear." At that point, I premed I was simply to lie quietly and relax though the slight odor of sizzling flesh and the sound of dripping water made that a bit difficult.
Aft 20 minutes of this, my masseur came back and proceeded to massage my body with soap...which I thought was relaxing. The massage part started, and that wasn't bad, either until he had me flip onto my stomach. The noises from bones popping in my back made it sound like All-You-Can-Eat night at Red Lobster, but then, he discovered a little kink in my right shoulder blade and began to rip my arm from it's socket...and kept returning to that spot despite my whimpering every time he touched it. That part finished, he motioned me over to one of the sinks and said, "sit." I figured it was time to wash off the soap, but it was actually time to take 60-grit sandpaper and flay me alive. To say it felt good would be, uh, a hurt like hell. Oh, did I mention my sunburn? You get the idea.
Thoroughly skinned more or less alive, he took on of those things mystics use to self-flagellate, soaped it heavily, and began the most complete washup since those whales hit the beach last week. Interspersed we a couple of bouts of shampoo (I guess...I had my eyes closed, a lady having lost a contact on this trip), then multiple dousings of frigid water.
My totally soaked sarong was taken from me...replaced by a warm one, a towel wrapped around me, and a towel on my head that made me resemble the album art from a Go Go's album. Led out of captivity, i was given a seat in the lobby...radiating more heat than Chernobyl. The next 20 minutes were spent cooling off and drinking water, and when my body cooled down to normal, I was released...only to hear from my sweetie what a wonderful experience she'd had with her little old lady masseuse.
Several hours later, I feel fine, refreshed from an exhilarating Turkish bath which I would endorse to anyone...
anyone without a sunburn, at least.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mystery Solved or Security Baffled Again

Both times I've gone through security either going to oncoming from Greece, I've been asked to open my backpack. Since there has been no charge for bags (and pseudo-Little Debbies on Olympic Airlines)' I put everything of a liquid nature in a bag with all the souvenirs (alcohol scented T- shirt anyone?) in a normal carryon bag and checked it. As a result, I've been puzzled at why my bag needed to be disassembled and reassembled. Today, however, the light bulb went on, and I finally figured it out Security again asked me to open my bag, sifted through my clean underwear and toiletries stolen from various hotels...and stopped dead.
Urgent hand-waving called two or three other security folks, and they all took turns handling the strange object and offering guesses (I suppose) as to what exactly they were seeing. Since I could not explain in English, I had to show them: hitting the switch, my electric razor began to buzz alarmingly, and all of them looked quizzically at me while backing away slightly. "Shaver!" I said several time as they continued to evaluate the terrorist threat. I put it up to my face and simulated shaving, and they all said something that might have been " Crazy foreigner," and let me go on my way, much to the relief of the queue that had formed behind me.
Next time I come to Greece, I am not bringing a shaver. Not only will I fit in with 95%of the male population, It will save undo hassles with the foreign security folks.
Who knows what awaits me in Turkey?
And I got sunburned today...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Language Nuance

It began with a simple misunderstanding of the word "walk." I should have known that it meant something more strenuous than a simple hike o'er rolling hills. It was, in fact, a rather rugged adventure covering several hundred feet in altitude from a jungle-like floor to an isolated mountain top...and back down...and back up...and, well, you get the picture. I had been working out on a stair climbing machine since January so it was not arduous. It all worked out...but then, I couldn't find " the fountain."
The streets on Crete, like in so many other "Old World" places are very narrow...I mean ten feet wide at best. As a result, the buildings are very close, and a landmarks are difficult to see. Couple that with the fact that streets are laid out almost haphazardly. Instead of in square blocks, and getting around can be a challenge. Locals will refer to landmarks like churches and fountains. Fine for them,but when there are five churches every six blocks, I get easily confused. Then, there's the fountain.
We we looking for a specific restaurant: hidden away behind the locally famous fountain. We asked five or six people, all of whom gave explicit directions involving this local landmark, but we spent a long time wandering the twisting "streets" without any luck. Passing the same ice cream spot for the fifth time, I happened to look to my right,and there was a seven-foot tall, eight-foot wide block of concrete...out of which ran three streams of water into the gutter from a height of two feet or so. This is a fountain? Where was the jet of water shooting majestically ten feet into the air and falling back into a reflecting pool?
This reminds me of my first experiences as a high school student in Wisconsin when I easier for a "water fountain" only to be directed eventually to something called a "bubbler" or asking for a coke and being told that only "soda" was available.
But at least in those situations, I could find landmarks!
Travel is a broadening experience, the say the least...I've begun not understand why worry beads are so popular here!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Model U.N. On Crete

It started with the tour guid who looked, shall we say, askance at my choice of footwear. The tour was advertised as a "walking"tour so I figured my running shoes would be fine. Turns out, they were expecting us to show up with serious hiking boots, walking poles, and a backpack carrying enough equipment to outfit a Sherpa. "Well, I GUESS it will be OK," she sniffed. The Ugly American stayed hidden, but the Type A person in me raged to the fore. Half an hour later, we met up with the rest of the "hikers," all of whom were more or less suitably attired. A young man from Belgium had on athletic shoes as well so I wasn't the only suspect person there.
The hike was serious business, as it turned out: mountain goat trails through humid gorges, past deserted villages, and up steep hillsides that I would refer to as mountainous if I weren't always accused of hyperbole. DidI mention that this tour started at 8:30 and was scheduled to finish by 3:30? At NO time was I going to cry "uncle." The rest of our group consisted of Germans, Dutch, Danish and Belgian folks, and I decidedly felt a bit awkward since they all understood each other but I could not follow their words at all. The guide would look around for "the Americans" when she explained something, but at certain points, I caught the word American, followed by stifled laughter...occasionally translated for me by a nice Danish guy.
After several hours of serious climbs and descents, we stopped for a snack/break in a little village where the Germans introduced me to Raki, a very strong liquor one either sips or gulps. By this time, I had proven myself not to be a total doofus, I guess, because they all began to readily translate the "American" jokes...funny people, those Germans. The last one was something like, "Americans can't stand on one leg...they need two!" which meant that another shot of Raki was called for. No sissy I, it went down in a hurry after shouting "Ramas!" which must be Greek for, "Let's all get drunk!" Caution had long gone with the sweat pouring off my face. We started the second half of the trip which included more incredible climbs, steep, rock-strewn descents and several disquieting moments when our guide admitted that she had not been that way before and asked our help looking for the red yarn which marked the path...mind you, there was no ACTUAL path much of the time. One of our company, not me at this time, took a header forward and came up bloody from hundreds of thorns imbedded in her legs and hands. Ever the pseudo Boy Scout, I produced some antibacterial ointment to stave off any infection to be found in the wilds of Crete. There are far more interesting parts, including my hilarious fall down a particularly steep point and the many bottles of wine drunk at the post-hike dinner. By this time, we were all fast friends, and I took the opportunity to show off what I knew of Greek folk dancing (I studied a video). The "American" comments were now very funny, and my mock anger was seems as a good gesture...then came the "Nike man" comments, referring to my lack of proper footwear...wonder how long he'd been saving that one?
Anyway, you'll be happy to know that nine Europeans now have a positive view of Americans...Maybe because my wife was so nice and engaged them in conversation...maybe because I'm funny falling down (a story for another time) and pretending to dance.

As several of us drove away, the German who taunted me the most (in a humorous way, I decided), stood by the side of the road and saluted us.
I high-fiver him, and I hope he understood the gesture!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's a Grecian Urn?

The answer is: about fifty dollars a day (as the old joke goes). That's when nobody is on strike...people were yesterday, and the tour bus drivers are on strike tomorrow. Interestingly, the strikes occur between noon and four. Odd, to say the least. Our walking tour of Athens today showed us many sights we would not have seen otherwise. The are more dogs lying asleep in this city than there are cars, I think. Nobody seems to own them, and one shopkeeper told me that dogs lying around was a good sign because it means that we're. Not. eating them in restaurants...good news, I suppose. Greek salads are incredibly tasty because everything is fresh the day one eats it. The Parthenon at night is awe-inspiring as it has been for a couple of thousand years. If this honeymoon gets any better, we'll have to get married again!

Grecian Formula

Greece has been civilized for thousands of took me a couple of says to acclimate...just in time to leave. Some thoughts on Athens before I go:
Not every Greek person smokes...I did not see one person under the age of ten smoking.
Leave the razor at home! Greek men, especially younger ones, favor the 5 o'clock shadow look.
Style? Don't ask me about it...All I noticed was that Nike shoes are rare.
There is more history here than almost any place in the world...but we liked Angkor Wat better.
Everything happens late in Greece...almost nothing gets going before 10 in the morning, but almost everything is open until 9 at night in Athens.
The Greeks' idea of "cold" is decidedly not mine!
All the street signs are in Greek which can be confusing to me...but I'm easily confused.
The subway cars in Athens are more crowded than a stampede at a Who concert. There were so many people jammed in the car in which I was riding that a pickpocket could not have stolen anything from me.
Off to a. More idyllic setting in Crete tomorrow.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Anticipation is Greater Than Participation

Momentous occasions seem to take forever to arrive: special birthdays, Christmas, weddings, retirements and the first day every year that tells us that winter is finally over seem to remain tantalizingly in the distance as we anticipate them. All too often, though, that special day arrives, and it's over before we know it, leaving us a bit disappointed; in some cases, we're a LOT disappointed, but that just seems to be the way it goes. The actual happening isn't nearly what we've set it up to be.
Think about how many people get upset before, during, and after weddings: something always goes wrong, and the awkwardness spreads like low-lying fog in springtime. Other major life events seem to have similar results... major excursions such as we are about to undertake are no different.
I read somewhere that a much-anticipated trip is worth up to eight weeks' excitement: before, during, and potentially, after (as the memories are relived). We'll see. We leave for our oft-delayed honeymoon today, and thus far, I have had about two days' worth of anticipation because leaving coincides with the last week of school: a week in which students suddenly decided that the project or essay they had put off is of critical importance NOW. We also spent weeks trying to get the tourist agency straight on what we wanted and when we wanted fact, the actual documents didn't arrive until three days ago.
Of course, there were many last-second details, some as small as making sure the lawn got cut, newspaper stopped and cables for charging the iPod and iPad were packed (while suddenly realizing that foreign countries will require a special adapter for out 120v stuff). Of major concern were things like being certain that we didn't overpack (as one of us ALWAYS does), deciding how best to secure our valuables in a foreign country, and making sure the kids can get access to important documents in case...well, never mind that part. That's why I'm up at 4 a.m. I just cannot get it out of my head that I've forgotten something.
I'll go to school this morning to check student essays/projects one more time and clear my desk from the semester's work, then repack one more time and recheck all the documents, making sure I have the NEW passport and not the old one (which had a better photo of me, BTW).
In nine days, we'll be back, and I figure it will take me at least a week to sort through all the photos and get them posted just to make sure we can remember where we were and what we did...add another three or four day total to discuss the highlights with friends and neighbors...
And I'm still several weeks short of the eight I'm supposed to get for major events, but a honeymoon after 40 years at least does not have the awkward pressure that kind post-wedding generally have. There will be no great expectations (sorry, Charles) for this least on the, uh, intimate front.
I'd better get started anticipating...participating is coming up within hours.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Now, Blow Out the Candles!

Just how much cake will we need?

As far as I know, I never had a birthday party as a youngster...I didn't get a gift until I was in college, and that was from someone not related to me. Birthdays were just not a big deal though I never understood why. Of course, once I figured out that gifts and cake were involved (especially cake), I made sure that every one was celebrated. Not that hundreds of people came with flowers and dumped tea on me...but then, I'm not a reincarnation of Buddha. His is an interesting story.
I bring this up because we've either JUST celebrated Buddha's birthday, or it's coming up this month...or, maybe, next month. It depends. At any rate, the celebration can go on for days or weeks, and people celebrate with food and presentation of flowers to the temple in commemoration of Buddha's birth in a grove of blossoming trees. There is also the tradition of pouring water or tea over the standing statue of the baby Buddha (right hand extended upward/left hand extended downward to indicate a joining of heaven and earth). That's the easy part, Deciding when to do it gets complicated.
The short form: Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 1st full moon day of the 6th month of the Buddhist lunar new year (the 4th month in the Chinese calendar) except in years in which there is an extra full moon, then it's celebrated in the 7th month. Generally, that date occurs on April 8...though there are exceptions...full moons notwithstanding. In Tibet, the date is usually one month later, and there are other complications.
Some Buddhist sects, like the Theravada and the Tibetans, combine the three major events of Buddha's life (birth, enlightenment and death) into one holiday (like those who have a birthday the week of Christmas around here). Others, like the Mahayana, celebrate those events separately...meaning even more celebrations, more food, more flowers, and more fun.
Who knew something as simple as a birthday could be so complicated?
Anyway, Happy Birthday, big guy, in case I missed it or will miss it later.
It never hurts to hedge one's bets!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Being Angry Can Be A Good Thing

I never really cared that much about Elvis Presley...maybe he was just a bit before my time so all I remember is the Vegas version. It never piqued my curiosity when news of his death surfaced ('way before the internet age) and hinted that he might have died from a variety of causes, including a stroke suffered while attempting to, uh, "drop friends off at the pool," as it were. Thus, it does not sadden me especially to find out that the name "Elvis" has dropped out of the top ten lists of names for newborns. However, the news out of the Netherlands recently about triggers for burst aneurysms definitely caught my eye...and reminded me of Elvis (just so you know there's a connection coming!)
Dr. Monique Vlak, a neurologist in the Netherlands, has studied brain aneurysms to find out what can trigger the blood vessel to burst. Keep in mind that the blood vessel needs to be weak initially, and that keeps folks prone to high blood pressure (for a variety of reasons) on the hook here. Her research dealt only with aneurysms in the brain which disappointed me since mine was in the abdomen some years back.
As you might imagine, any sudden spike in blood pressure could trigger an already-weakened vessel to blow and create the very real possibility of death or significant disability. So, it is the spirit of public service that I report to you the eight most significant triggers of bursting blood vessels in one's head as discovered by Vlak's research. I will list them in reverse order, from least likely to most likely so there's no sudden spike in your blood pressure as you begin reading...we'll ease into it.

#8 Being angry was found to trigger brain aneurysms 1.3% of the time aneurysms were noted.
#7 Being startled was listed as the cause 2.7% of the time (so stop sneaking up on people!)
#6. Drinking cola beverages had a 3.5% chance of causing a blood vessel to rupture. (Getting nervous? It gets more frightening)
#5 The aforementioned straining to defecate was responsible in 3.6% of the test cases...bringing some credibility to the Elvis rumor (see? I told you there was a connection)
#4 Having sex triggered an aneurysm to blow 4.3% of the time...just one more reason, I guess.
#3 Nose blowing triggered aneurysms in the brain 5.4% of the time. EEK!
#2 Vigorous exercise accounted for problems 7.9% of the time (I will never even break a sweat again...but also a convenient alibi for failing to exercise)
AND. the trigger found most often (10.6% of the me, you really don't want to know...

drinking coffee.

Poor Juan Valdez.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Mmmm, Do-Hey! What the Heck?

I am not, strictly speaking, a purist. Oh, there are some things that I think should resist change. I don't think the New York Yankees should give in to the trend and have three or four different uniforms and hats like so many other teams just to boost their marketing. Navy blue hats and pinstripes are perfect. I'm content with the singing of the national anthem before major events, and I think it's everyone's right to blow off a finger doing stupid things on the 4th of July. I still believe marriage is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I will always respect the voting public even if I think it's composed of idiots who don't agree with me.
However, there are some things that should NEVER,EVER be tampered with. Under NO circumstance should I be forced to give up my right to free speech, protest or worship as I please (also giving those rights to everyone else)...and doughnuts should not be healthy or good for me except as comfort food: EVER.
As such, I decry the move by Nancy Truman of Los Angeles who is about to open a doughnut shop in which the featured food is NOT fried but rather steamed or baked at high temperature...and there's more bad news from Truman who lists her occupation as "voice actor" (shouldn't that AT LEAST be "voice actress"?)
Anyway, to celebrate NAtional Doughnut Day on June 3rd, Truman is opening (fonuts) {the parentheses are hers as well as a line over the O which I cannot recreate here} in Los Angeles. The original "mistake" occurred when wheat-free banana bread dough accidentally fell into a doughnut pan, and, like most freak accidents, actually (according to Truman) provided an "aha" moment. Now, she's just weeks away from foisting this food on Los Angelinos...topping some with an olive oil powder instead of icing or sugar.
Really? Is nothing sacred?
Can wheat grass bon bons be far behind?
Maybe I can get a sound bite from Charlton Heston on this...something about prying my Krispy Kreme out of my cold, frosting-coated hand.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

It Wasn't THAT Big of a Deal

Isn't Chelsea Lately On?

I would have thought that now that the hoopla is over in Jolly Old England, the analysts can now begin discussing and/or taking odds on how long the marriage will last as well as discussing all the drunken parties that seemed to fill the streets. However, just so you know, this event was not even in the top five most-watched internet events in history. Surprised? Don't be. While the wedding set an all-time record with more than 300,000 live streams, it did not do as well on the internet as some other events. While it WAS the 6th biggest thing to be featured on the internet, making the top 5 would have seemed to be a cinch as we led up to the big event. So, what were the top 5?
In June of 2010, there were two events (going on at the same time, no less) that garnered 10.4 page views per minute: World Cup soccer and the longest tennis match ever at Wimbledon (remember that one? It took 2 days to finish one match!)
In second place with 6.4 million page views per minute was the Euro Cup soccer matches, also in 2010.
The third-biiggest internet event was the opening day of World Cup 2010 (sense a theme here?).
The U.S. midterm elections garnered 5.7 million notices, followed by the U.S/Algeria World Cup match.
Will and Kate followed all of that action with 5.4 million page views per minute.
all of this information was compiled by Akamai Net Usage Index which tracks such things...just for something to do, I suspect. Of course, one must remember that this is still rather new technology in terms of information gathering.
Look for an episode of Family Guy coming soon to the top ten!