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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It IS Hallowe'en, After All

10-ft. Lego Man: Costume or Hucksterism?

What seemed to befuddle those on the scene seems elementary to me: weeks after the opening of LEGOLAND in Florida, a huge lego guy washes up on the beach in...Florida! If there's a mystery here, it's one that involves the investigative powers of local television stations.
But, then, it IS Hallowe'en. I love this holiday though I might be the only one in my family who does. It's just the memories of bags of candy, apples and popcorn balls (for some unknown reason) that make me break out in a sugar rush. My job usually amounts to handing out the candy and being sufficiently scared by the really scary ones. Face it, though, a junior high kid wearing no costume, holding out a pillow case defiantly and refusing to even say the "magic" words CAN get a bit annoying. I love to see the really little kids come to the door while Mom or Dad waits on the sidewalk, saying, "Remember to say'Thank you'" every time. It just kills me.
This year, as always, we were besieged by hordes of kids dropped off from minivans, obviously NOT from our neighborhood. While the Facebook page of the neighborhood association was filled with grousings about it, I don't mind. Hey, I walked all over town for hours when I was a youngster...though maybe driving them around in a minivan might not be the least make them walk for a bit of exercise.
But my favorites this year were a group of six adults: they all had their really small children in wagons and were letting them get out to beg for candy; while I knew some of them, some were strangers...though THEY all knew each other. Each of the adults was walking down the street carrying either a bag of candy or pulling the wagon...and drinking beer. I laughed at first when I realized what it was...then, I thought about giving them a lecture about good example to youngsters...then I just laughed and enjoyed the evening filled with locust-like masses of kids having fun, adults having "fun" with their kids, and all around good times in the neighborhood.
And not one junior high kid planted toilet paper in my trees...though one brandished a roll at me as he left.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

You've got Two Months to Get Ready

Maybe Not E.T., but...

On one of those occasions in which I emerged from my lost-in-the-60's moments, I was made aware that Superman wasn't the first comic ever produced. Oh, it might have been the first Marvel comic produced, or even the first published in the United States in the 1050's, but it would have to go a LONG way to be the first ever produced. Even though I am uncertain as the the origin of the "species" so to speak, I know that more than 80 years ago, there was a comic book being produced as a series in Belgium...and now it's come to light as a movie.
Tin Tin (boy reporter) and his dog Snowy are adventurers who solve mysteries around the world, and they have been doing so for 82 years. Popular around the world, it never really seemed to catch on here, or at least I had never heard of it until a few years ago. Steven Spielberg is out to change that for all of us. The first movie adaptation in memory opened this weekend in 19 foreign markets and did very well...maybe not Puss and Boots well, but respectable, to be sure. The comic book series that has entertained European children for 82 years is headed our two months.
Whether or not The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn makes it on these shores remains to be seen, but it needs to recoup almost 300 million dollars in production and promotional costs to be considered successful. Spielberg's name will help. Recent reprints featured at Barnes & Noble will help, too. I know my grandsons will want to see it because they have all the books.
And I know I will see it...though maybe on Netflix.
Look for it around the Christmas holidays when everyone has played with all the toys for the requisite seven minutes and is getting bored.
At least there will be popcorn!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Who's Afraid of Ghosts?

A Seemingly Benign Ghost

Afraid of Ghosts? Sissy!

Superhuman and other-worldly entities are not exactly rare; in fact, they are the stuff of legend. From the Bogey Monster under the bed to Casper the Friendly Ghost, parents use not-so-human phantasms to keep children in line. Of course, there IS the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and such, but the stories that I cannot erase from my too-fertile imagination are usually ghostly apparitions, and they did a fine job of either scaring or entertaining (if the lights were on) me for years. But then...there was supposedly the ultimate real-life-not-fiction ghost: one that could, in reality, send a person to the hospital, consume him or her with fire and lead to (probably) an untimely death if one was not careful enough. Such is the Bhut Jolokia chili pepper, a.k.a. the "ghost pepper," purportedly the hottest thing this side of Dante's imagination. But until today, it was merely the stuff of monsters-under-the-bed late night stories.
Peppers are rated by something called the Scoville Heat Unit, and there is definitely a low end and a high end to the scale. Included, of course, are some familiar names: jalapeno and habanero. These are more than thermal-like for most people, but for the truly hardy or foolish, there is the ghost pepper. At 400 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper and four times hotter than a habanero, this is the "seven-layers-of-hell-rolled-into-one" granddaddy of all hot peppers. On a Scoville scale in which most peppers reach 500 or so, this baby is rated at over 1 MILLION units of heat...and I have one.
Somebody at the local farmer's market was selling peppers today; I like spicy food but watched in amazement as an individual bought a 5-gallon bucket full of habanero peppers and a few of the ghost peppers as well. His reasoning for the purchase (though not the volume, I suspect)? Some guys in his Sunday School class thought they were tough enough to eat them. Well, there's a lesson coming up about hellfire and brimstone, I can imagine.
As much as I wanted to walk away a wiser person, I could not help buying one of the hottest peppers known to man. Whether or not I will eat it remains to be seen. Perhaps I can invite the neighbors over for dinner; they just sold their house and are moving anyway.
How much can it hurt?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fill 'Er Up...I Won't Touch It!

Not With A 10-Foot Pole

Just as I sent my haz-mat suit out to the cleaners comes word that Dr. Germ has another case on his OUR hands.
Dr. Germ, a.k.a microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona has decided that it's time to reaffirm what he's said all along: illness-causing germs are everywhere, and we're picking them up in the places we might least expect. Now, the doctor has provided the results of research done jointly with Kimberly-Clark's Professional's Healthy Work Place Project, and it's not good for us.
Get gas? Use the ATM? Feed the parking meter? Hoo boy, are YOU in for some hand-wringing! Here are the figures concerning vile germs in those places:
71% of all gas pump handles are literally crawling (like your skin is now) with infectious germs.

68% of corner mailboxes are likely to be bacterial playgrounds as well. Gerba describes these as "highly contaminated." Places on my body and inside my body are already itching...

43% of all escalator rails are potential disease traps, according to Gerba.

41% of all those ATM's we touch are touching us back, it seems.

Parking meters? 40% of them are covered with creepy-crawlie germs, too.

Crosswalk buttons and vending machines are almost safe in comparison, since only 35% of them hold the possibility that you will come down with something after an exchange.

The impetus for the study, say officials at K-C is that sick employees cost an average of $1320 per employee per year. Of course, that comes from a company that manufacturers things like sanitary wipes, so...
Cynical though I might be, I'm still wiping the keyboard off in five seconds.
With a sanitary wipe, of course.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Next? Baskin Robbins?


"Back in MY day..." I want to say, but I don't want to risk the "old fogey" tag. Fact is that back in more recent history, chocolate milk was about the only diverse form of moo juice that was available. Mom would not, of course, entertain the idea of actually getting it for us: we always went to a local farmer and got milk "au natural" as it were...right from the cow. The cream would always rise to the top, and I doubt seriously if it was even pasteurized (of course, that might have been before Louis patented the process!)
Anyway, as I was shopping in the store today, I came across a half-gallon container of root beer-flavored milk. I had never heard of such a thing and was not tempted in any way to try it. Come to find out, this has been a staple at state fairs in the upper Midwest for the last few years. The Kemp's company is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota and sold it as a promotional item at the state fair. Typical of things, the Wisconsin State Fair copycatted the idea (much like it did with chocolate-covered bacon on a stick) and this year sold small cups of the concoction for 25 cents, ostensibly as the perfect warm weather drink mixing calcium with,,,um...soda pop. What was once a summer-only promotion has, apparently, caught on to the point that it is featured at our local grocer's.
The hook? I guess it might get kids to drink more "milk," but I cannot imagine what kind of health benefits might derive from mixing a healthy drink with an unhealthy one...but then, I would not drink strawberry or banana milk, either, and Kemp's has already found a market for those flavors. Word out on the 'net is that even some schools are offering it as an alternative to actual milk. No wonder school nutrition gets such a terrible rap.
No word on what the cows of Kemp's have to say about the deal.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Get Off My GPS, Please!

How May I help You?

I Can't Do That, Dave

I have to admit a certain dissatisfaction with the GPS in the car. Oh, it gets me where I want to go, even though it sometimes takes me in a roundabout way if I have an inkling of a shortcut (not unlike the passenger that sits alongside me in the front seats). The "recalculating" voice and the "turn left in 500 feet" when I HAVE IT! FOR GOD'S SAKE! definitely push me over the edge at times, and I find myself screaming at the infernal thing. The fact that it's saved me from Mapquest and a thousand other questions is besides the point. I hate the voice and the smug way it (she) seems to know everything. I'm a guy! I don't need no stinkin' directions...even when I do.
Thus, it's no wonder that questions have arisen about Siri, the voice in Apple's new iPhone that is used for voice-activated commands. The voice is female...not that such a thing in itself is bad, but taking directions from...a female? Wow! That takes a LOT for most guys. However, there are numerous reasons why the voice is as it is...much like I suspect it is reasonable in my GPS.
Even in the automotive industry, the automated voice prompts have long been in female voices based on extensive consumer research, according to Tim Bajarin, a Silicon Valley analyst. (The only exception is in Germany where men in BMW's refused to take directions from a woman so the company changed the voice to a male one.
Researchers have long proven that a female's voice is much more pleasant than the average male voice. According to Stanford University professor Clifford Noss, the human brain is developed to find the female voice more pleasing, and this preference begins in the womb! Researchers have found that fetuses respond to the sound of their mother's voice, but they do not have any reaction to the father's voice. Hmmmm.
Face it, long before cell phones, the telephone operators (remember them?) were female. Most of our early education came in the tonal quality of a female, and we certainly spent more time with Mom than with Dad.
Still, even though Siri's voice is not so utterly human that we forget that it is not a real woman, some folks are bound to notice that this is yet another male bastion (if there ever WAS one) being dominated by the fairer sex.
Call that fair?
While I understand the reasons behind the voice on my GPS, I will continue to scream at both it and the other passenger: "I'VE GOT IT!"
Even when I don't.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cruel and Inhuman? (Just the Chipped Beef on Texas Toast)

Don't do crime in Texas (or Ohio, Arizona, or Georgia)

Every state in this country with the possible exception of Wyoming, is in a state a fiscal crisis. Budgets have been cut from just about every service and social program possible while trying to keep the Postal System afloat. Soon, Saturday deliveries may be out...yet another reason to decry the way this country is taking away the best 14% of our lives: eliminating good things on Saturday. Now the state of Texas has leaped into the budgetary reduction fray with both hands...hands that used to hold trays of food.
Texas recently joined Ohio, Arizona and Georgia in deciding to pare the state budget by eliminating one meal on weekends for those people in prison. That means on Saturday, prisoners get fed about 6 a.m. and then have to wait almost 12 hours before the next meal, only to follow the same routine on Sundays. Georgia goes one step further in eliminating one meal on Friday as well!
Texas hopes to slice 2.8 million dollars from its food budget by serving "no-cal" non-lunches on the weekend, but they have extended the punishment even further: no more milk in cartons...only powdered milk will be served. AND THERE'S MORE (OR LESS)! hot dogs and burgers will now be served on sliced bread instead of on buns! Imagine that! Just feel the bread get soggy from the condiments, rip slowly apart, and force the inmates to use more napkins to clean up (in effect, wasting money!).
Bold cost-cutting moves, indeed, and organizations that lobby for prisoners' rights have raised a hue and cry about such outlandish treatment. I suppose in a way, the prisoners have a beef: I mean, what else is there to look forward to? After all, carving minute pieces of materials into shivs or spending years tunneling a way out behind a Farrah Fawcett poster is hard work, and a guy gets powerful hungry! Chewing fingernails will take on a whole new meaning soon!
But, as State Senator John Whitmore, Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee opines, " If they don't like the menu, don't come here in the first place."
Exactly. Do time in Wyoming. That state has lots of dough.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Enough, Already!

Simple? Yes! Tasteful? NO!!!

Let's just say that my mother was not inclined to spend hours making Hallowe'en costumes for me. While something of an understatement, it is, in fact, true that dressing up for Trick-or-Treating was something of a "Grab something from the closet and leave me alone" kind of deal. My dad got into the spirit a bit more, but HIS idea of fun was hiding outside and scaring all the kids who came to the door. Sometimes, I think that was the ONLY fun he had. So, while other kids had great cowboy outfits or spaceman suits sewn and decorated by their Moms (buy a costume? Not back in the day!), I usually grabbed a sheet or some old clothes that didn't fit my dad anymore and became either a ghost or a hobo.
The goal, of course, was to fill up the pillow case with what mostly turned out to be apples and popcorn balls (pre-razor blades and other bad stuff), and costumes were not really necessary. A hearty "Trick of Treat!" would usually suffice. I mean, nobody wanted five teenagers hanging about on the porch, anyway, and we were easily swayed by anything that felt heavy.
Now, however, the costume business has gone full tilt, and I'm certain there is a great deal of thought put into every costume...especially for adults who now seem to have taken over the holiday in order to have yet another reason to dress and act like someone else whether or not alcohol is a factor! The Chicago Tribune today offers a columnist's view of what NOT to wear this year. So, in order to help out the decision-challenged, here's the take from today's Trib:
1. Vampires are out (overdone a long time ago)
2. Jersey Shore characters are out (overdone the minute the show began)
3. Playboy bunnies (really? is cleavage the only thing people pretend to have?)
4. Michele Bachman ( Palin's run was enough...let it rest)
5. Lady GaGa (one is more than enough from a fashion standpoint. Musically? another story)
6. Katy Perry (see comment #5)
7. Charlie Sheen (Even without dressing the part, I'll bet lots of guys will be trying this one, especially with those dressed as #'s2,3,5,6)

Me? I'll probably just drag out a sheet and hang out along the front porch bushes trying to scare little kids again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Real World Research

Mo' Money? Mo' Problems

The real-life saga of Frank and Jamie McCourts has come to some kind of conclusion after two years of bitter wrangling over millions of dollars and the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the pair didn't make millions while owning the Dodgers, they were able to afford a major league franchised based on the millions they had already made in business and real estate. Now, all of that is somewhat least the divorce part is. Whether Frank gets to keep the Dodgers will be decided in, where else (given their divorce struggles) in court.Jason Carroll, researcher at BYU would say to this, "See? I told you so!"
Carroll, the lead researcher in a recent study published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy (who knew?), discovered that couples who have a great deal of money and who value money are more likely to have unstable marriages. Really? To most of us, that would seem to be opposite...but then, most of us don't have a lot of cash.
Carroll and his cohorts studied 1734 couples to determine the effect on a relationship when both partners valued money highly, and while those couples tended to have more money than most other couples, the problems magnified with the size of the bank account. Carroll attributes this to the fact that money equals power, and those who have power are loathe to share it and expect all others to yield to their will. Hence, the conflict between two power- and money-hungry people can get ugly as it most certainly did over the last two years of haggling over the McCourts' millions. Carroll also opines that such couples face eroding communications, have poor conflict resolution skills and display a low responsiveness to each other (perhaps that's why they use lawyers so much!)
If, however, money is NOT of great importance to a couple, or even if only one person doesn't really care, the odds are 10-15% better for a more stable relationship. Carroll also noted that instability can be found in all extremes, including poverty. You think? Somehow, I think I could have predicted that.
As for those who say that money isn't important? They can say that because they HAVE it already. If I'm not eating regularly, mo' money means mo' food, and I'm all about eating.
So, while money isn't everything, I wouldn't mind seeing if I could have a stable relationship AND money at the same time...but it's not that important. (easy for me to say since I will never have THAT kind of money, anyway).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

State Fair: Meet NASCAR Fare

Can I get this on a stick?

There have been two major contributors to epicurean creation over the past few years: minor league baseball parks and state fairs. I have covered all the ones I think fitting and even tried a few. I admit that chocolate-covered bacon on a stick might be my favorite...only because the Krispy Kreme closed down here before I could try the KKdeep-fried burger. Cream puffs? C'Mon! everybody does stuff like that. Now, however, it seems as if NASCAR has taken up the chase (so to speak) for the hearts of gluttons everywhere. I give you...the Funnelbaconater!
Much as it sounds, this heart-stopping food item begins with a large funnel cake, topped with both chocolate and strawberry drizzles. Pile on the bacon chunks, and, voila! there you have it. This taste-tester's delight will be featured this weekend at the Sprint Cup race in Charlotte, North Carolina; ironically, North Carolina is noted for barbecue so this comes as a bit of a surprise.
In keeping with the pig theme, one can also purchase an Angus mac and cheeseburger that also is what it sounds like: a third-pound Angus beef burger topped with a scoop of pimento mac and cheese and finished off with a healthy [sic] portion of pork rinds. My only question would be, "Are the pork rinds fried already or just slimy, uncooked slabs?" But, I guess when you come right down to it, mixing fried pork rinds with mac and cheese would create a slimy mess anyway.
Sadly, I will not be in Charlotte this weekend for the grand revelation of the latest heart-attack stack, but maybe it will come to the state fair next year...though it may never reach the stature of a cream puff.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cat Got Your Wallet?

Cute, but not worth $

I will admit it: I am not a cat person. Perhaps it's because I never had one as a kid: we always had dogs. I don't think I even knew anyone who had a cat at the time. Maybe it's the way their claws are so sharp as they rip into anything upholstered or in any way resembling fabric...say, my pants or arm, for instance. It's possible that the snooty air that cats always seem to possess bothers me, or that "I'll-play-with-you-when-I'm-darn-good-and-ready" attitude.
Whatever, it is, I'm not about to spend money on a cat for any purpose...certainly not to play with it over the internet! "Really?" I hear you ask. Really.
There is a company in New York named Bideawee that offers the opportunity to play, yes, actually PLAY with a cat online. After downloading the software, users can actually manipulate a toy in hopes of attracting some interaction from a real, live cat (often at an animal shelter). There is a camera and a variety of playthings that the users can move around and use to tease the animal...which, as you know, cats just LOVE!
While it beats watching endless YouTube videos of cats doing cute things, at least watching cats is free. Actually interacting with them via the Bideawee app will set you back $850. Yes, the decimal IS in the right place. In this economy? If I had that kind of money, I certainly wouldn't spend it toying with an animal of ANY kind, especially a cat, over the internet. I'd probably start up my own professional basketball league since nobody in the current owner/player/commissioner fracas seems to care about having one. However, I'll bet the animal shelter here would even let me play with any of its cats for free...any time I wanted to! (not that I would, mind's STILL a cat!)
I guess the division between the worlds of the the "haves" and that of the "have-nots" just got a lot bigger. Here's the video, just in case you think I'm telling what Mark Twain used to call a "stretcher.",0,7470538.htmlstory

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Manly, Yes, But I Like It, Too

I think it's about time that guys get something of our very own! It used to be football was OUR domain, but now, even Green Bay has a team in the "Lingerie League," a quasi-professional women's football league in which women are dressed scantily but are accorded helmets and shoulder pads (and VERY little else!). Of course, maybe that makes the whole deal a "man's" activity since I doubt the stands are occupied by young girls who want to grow up to play football in their underwear.
Now, however, the "metro" guy has taken on a serious look at his feminine side; mind you, this is not a bad's long overdue, but we've lost that one "thing" that we could say was just for men (other than beard and mustache coloring agents).
I know the "man cave" idea has caught on, and beer commercials are aimed specifically AT men ("That was the second unmanly thing you've done today.") so it seems as if I'm not the only one who's noticed a deterioration of what it means to be (or at least act like) a man. fortunately, perhaps, the folks at Dr. Pepper have noticed, and the company has introduced Dr. Pepper 10, and the marketing is aimed at men...only women allowed.
Since men feel that diet sodas are unmanly, Coke Zero and Pepsi Max really never made it. "Me worried about my waistline?" seemed to be the men refused to drink it Dr. Pepper 10 has actual sugar in it, not that namby pamby artificial diet crap, and this is designed to draw men to it like flies to a, well, sugared drink container. At 3 grams of sugar and 15 calories per 12-ounce can, this Dr. Pepper is far less weighty than the original that featured 40.5 grams of sugar and 150 calories,
The gunmetal gray container has a manly look to it, and the Facebook page for the drink is not accessible to women as it features "manly" shooting galleries in which the shooter aims at targets like high heels and lipstick containers! really.
The whole point, I guess, in addition to being manly is to get men to consume less sugary drinks, since, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, males between the ages of 12 and 19 drink the most of this type of sugary beverage every day, averaging 273 calories per day...what health experts call "wasted" calories.

My two cents' worth:

$.01: Any number of studies indicate that even consuming diet soda results in weight gain...mostly since people drink more of it thinking that it's not bad for their weight.

$.02: I doubt a teenager will be duped by the "manly" aspect. A shooting gallery on Facebook? Yes (but is a shooting gallery actually a good idea for impressionable minds?); however, a teen's idea of manly is alcohol, not a quasi-diet soft drink.

Now, if someone could prove how Dr. Pepper 10 would help young men become irresistible to the opposite sex on a par with, say, having a fake I.D. ...BINGO!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fun? I Don't Call THAT Fun

FUN (for some)


"It's what they do for FUN," notes Professor Abronsius to his young and not-so-able assistant Alfred in one of my all-time favorite movies: Fearless Vampire Killers as he explains the tradition of keeping living victims alive by taking only small drinks of blood thereby prolonging the "fun" and ensuring the continuation of a vampire colony. (For the uninitiated, this dark comedy was Sharon Tate's last film before the Charlie Manson thing and co-starred a much younger Roman Polanski as Alfred). Anyway, my point is that the idea of "fun" is entirely subjective, and I have a gripe to take to Mr. T about what "fun size" means.
As I sat at my desk the other day, I felt that a pick-me-up was in order. Not having a 25-hour energy drink or any of the others whose claims I find dubious, I thought, "Hmmm...a Snickers would be good about now, especially since I am not going anywhere for a while. Though I do not generally keep such snacks handy, I had recently rewarded outstanding performance in one of my classes by issuing candy bars. Sadly, though, these could hardly be called "bars."
In less than two manly bites, I had finished but was unsatisfied...then, I saw the wrapper that advertised that what I had just consumed had come in a "fun size." I ripped open two more equally fun "bars," ate them and realized that such small things are definitely NOT FUN even when three are eaten consecutively. None of them stayed in my hand long enough to melt, and there was very little enjoyment to be had besides the possibility of eating 10 more just to see if it was, indeed, fun.
"False advertising," I cried, but there was no one to hear except the Godzilla figure that stands atop my filing cabinet and roars when the lights go out.
No fun.
If it weren't for fear of Mr. T, I might actually raise a fuss about this.
Maybe the Three Musketeers would be more fun...even in that diminutive size.
Trick-or-treaters must hate the candy companies.
I'll get apples this year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

...And Just Around the Corner...

I think there are certain traditions that need to be followed; I don't mean the obvious holiday and family-time traditions. I mean the traditions that come with being carefree and spontaneous. That's why I always get a kick out of preschool kids. When one is with them, anything is "cute," though if an adult were to do the same things, folks would look askance and call for the jacket with really long sleeves.
So it is with leaves. The time-honored tradition for centuries, one would imagine, involves piling up leaves and running, jumping and falling into them or throwing them overhead just to see them cascade down and get inside a shirt collar. Adults walking by smiled broadly at the fun this little girl was having though they would not stop and join her: maybe because I was too threatening, or maybe because this occurred in Chicago and people are naturally a bit hesitant to involve themselves in the lives of others. Whatever the reason, the hours (literally) spent gathering leaves and throwing them skyward now ranks up there with spending all day at the park on the swings.
Sadly, though, there was not a rake to be found so we were left to scraping them together with our feet and cleaning them off the windshields of the parked cars...eventually ranging halfway down the block to get "new" leaves, the "old" ones being apparently used up after several hoists heavenward.
Since the trampoline we gave her was such an enormous hit, perhaps it's time to get her a leaf rake so she can have hours of fun working for the street department in Chicago raking leaves. I'm sure her parents would be excited to play in the leaves for hours; at least they wouldn't have to take the long walk to the park so often.
And she would be ready for the shovel by the time winter came.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I'm too Busy At the Moment

As High As You Can Legally Get!

My dream as a child was to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. There were many impediments to my reaching the dream, not the least of them was a decided lack of ability to hit a curve ball and an arm that could have been made by a pasta maker. But, one has to remember that this type of dream was about the most glamorous one could find "back in the day." Nobody was close to having actual "men in space" unless it was the Hollywood moguls. Certainly, I was past the dreaming stage (except about getting an actual date) by the time John Glenn circled the earth a few times.
However, when the Teacher in Space program was launched twenty years ago or so, I was right there, filling out a 40-page application, complete with essays, psychological profiles and a picture of me sitting atop an almost-life-sized space shuttle made from snow: adorned with a motorcycle helmet and holding a sign that read, "My turn to fly." While I, no doubt, got some style points, that was about it. But now, my chance has come again: NASA is recruiting astronauts for its class of 2013.
How about you? do you have the "right stuff"? The following is a suggested list of such "stuff," and I have also included the URL to the brochure advertising NASA's need for YOU (imagine a giant finger pointing in your direction as you read that last bit).

The ideal candidate for this position will
1. Have a bachelor's degree in science, engineering or math.
2. Have 3 years' worth of relevant post-graduate work experience (a master's degree may serve as a substitute)
3. Have experience flying high-performance jets
4. Be between the ages of 24-47; though NASA accepts apps from other ages as well, these represent the youngest and oldest selected in the past.
5. Have a blood pressure not exceeding 140/90
6. Be between 5'2" and 6'3"
Have vision that can be correctable to 20/20 (maybe they're looking for Coke sponsorship!)
7. Experience as a civilian or in the military since NASA will select people from both fields.
8. Time for the next two years to spend training in Houston (where it gets really hot).

There you have it: that's all one needs, though I suspect NASA would be willing to waive a few of the requirements for just the right candidate.
No time to waste; check out the brochure and get high legally!

Sunday, October 02, 2011


The one thing I forgot about teaching a composition class: don't schedule completed essays from two classes of college writers at the same time. Brutal...
It would have been more palatable had the weather been bad, but it was generally nice outside...though going to school and coming home in the dark three days left me to guess by the condition of my bike seat what the weather had been like!
Also on the not-so-hot side was the fact that the moment that changed their lives for the better (subject for a personal narrative assignment) mostly dealt with someone's cancer, or death or divorce. Really...of 50 essays, I think there were fewer than a handful of students whose significant moment in life to this point was a positive one: I thought for a while I had fallen into a country song, and Taylor Swift or George Jones was doing the background vocals.
This, of course, led me to think seriously about the "aha" moments in my life, and, for the most part, they were all inspirational people or last-minute reprieves, or just the realization that Someone was looking out for me when I wasn't (doing backflips into a quarry 20 feet below in the dark, for example...what the hell were we thinking?)
No personal or parental divorces, no beatings (that I didn't deserve!), and only one rather serious medical issue.
Maybe it's generational because young people who are in the millennial generation seem to have a well-noted background of misery. I'm glad reading those essays is almost finished. It depressed me to no end, and I wondered if I had experienced times like that as a young person.
Maybe I've just forgotten...since I have those lapses now.
Good thing!