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, November 29, 2011

Parents Everywhere...Read This!

And this is why China is dominating the world economic market?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Quickly: Where is Santorini?

As a teacher, I think it's my responsibility to give A's as much as possible. That's why I try to get to the bloodmobile every time it comes to campus. As an A+ blood type, I think it's only right that I spread some of that around. Sometimes, though, there is a disquieting moment when I begin to wonder about the quality of things. Take last week:
In filling out the form after reading all the information (that nobody ever reads), I noticed that the list of places where one must not travel has become much more extensive. Added to the list this time were places like Turkey, which made me wonder about my eligibility since I'd been to Istanbul less than six months ago on my honeymoon.
Just to be safe, I asked the nurse-like person who was doing the preliminary checklist if Turkey was a problem; having assured me that the questionnaire meant had I LIVED anywhere like that for six months (even though there was no indication of that on the form I usually don't read). Suddenly curious, though, she then asked if I'd been anywhere else outside the good ol' U S of A. I said that I'd also been in Greece and Crete, whereupon she got a befuddled look on her face and began to furiously pound her laptop in an attempt to find Crete anywhere. Totally embarrassed, she finally asked me where it was and was it a separate country somewhere? She was definitely not a student of Greek myths...I mean, Zeus was supposedly BORN on Crete, and the Minotaur? Really?
Eventually, she discovered it, right where I noted it would be, and she admitted that she was somewhat geographically challenged. I had to admit that, in some cases, I am,too: all the "-stan" countries with more consonants than vowels always leave me scratching my head as do the African countries that have changed names from when I used to watch Wild Kingdom. But Crete?
While she did not know geography, she DID know how to extract blood from my arm in a more or less painless fashion, thereby spreading A+ throughout the Green Bay area, limiting the number of future cretins.
Or is it Cretans?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black-Ops: Grammar Caper

Face It: They HAD Their Chance

I'm not the type of person to go all "Navy Seal" on an issue: normally, I will have my little meltdowns publicly (see Coke-Ops of ten years ago), and I try to get folks to see the right way of things: my way. Sadly, at times, I'm just another kook who must be patted on the head until he goes away...tilting at some other windmill. But tonight was different.
I don't know if it was the fact that I had to work sunday night or that there were 35 essays awaiting my critical eye or that a student who was scheduled to meet with me decided she needed to unpack (even though she has a critical essay due tomorrow morning) or that I was just feeling ornery after a less-than-scintillating weekend. Whatever it was, my inner vigilante got out, and I made a move others were too afraid, ignorant or lazy to make. The Grammar Gods are smiling about now.
At the entrance to the fitness center in the athletics department where I work, there is a sign that informs visitors that they may not wear "outside" shoes while exercising in the facility but must, instead,have another pair just for getting their sweat on. The sign, which has caused me immense aggravation for 11 weeks, read "Second pair of shoes are required."
I've always felt that a university should promote literacy at every turn, so I noted the error to several people in the appropriate manner. I verbally pointed out the mistake and offered "student of the year" points to whoever fixed it; I discussed the matter with the head of the physical plant as well as the head of the intramural activities. None of them cared enough to change the plural verb into the correct singular form. In fact, I'm not completely certain any of them even understood the concept of subject-verb agreement. Once I pointed it out, however, I would have expected someone to fix the error: after all, it was only a Word document with a picture of a pair of shoes ( a PAIR, NOT two shoes). Nobody cared.
Tonight, however, I cared more deeply than ever. After the staff had left, and I was certain that my student appointment was not coming, I slipped surreptitiously through the darkened hallways, filched the offending sign, and duplicated it so that it now reads "Second pair of shoes is required." The stealth with which I completed this maneuver would have done an Edgar Alan Poe character justice, copying the message on pink...just as the original was, and in the original font. I apologized the the wood nymphs and tree gods for using six sheets of paper to get the size just right.
No doubt, the place will be agog tomorrow when the alteration is discovered.
I'll have to remember to wipe off the face black.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Scientists At Facebook? Who Knew?

Back in 1967, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram completed a study in which 296 volunteers were asked to send a postcard to a specific person in a Boston sending it to a friend of theirs who would, in turn, send it to a friend, etc. until someone finally knew the person and mailed it to the right address. The average number of mailings to get the postcard to the correct person? Six: thus we had the famous "six degrees of separation." Now, according to scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan, that number has dropped to 4.74 degrees of separation. Their diagnostic tool? What else? Facebook.
With 721 million subscribers worldwide (more than 1/10 of the world's population), the survey was completed in a month and yielded the dramatic decrease. Microsoft had attempted much the same experiment in 2008 and arrived at a number of 6.6 degrees of separation. However, Microsoft targeted 240 million people who regularly sent messages to each other instead of the "friends" utilized by Facebook. Face it, most of us never interact with our "friends," or at least the majority of those people we have friended on the social networking giant.
Still, it is amazing that we are so closely connected.
You'd think the latest "supercommittee" could have been more effective...after all, they were sitting right NEXT to each other and, apparently, didn't talk to one another...and certainly didn't LISTEN to one another.
My Facebook "friends" are more reliable.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trypping the Light Fantastic

It's That Time Again

There's just something about Thanksgiving that creates an excitement that is unparalleled. For some, it's a couple of days away from the grind of school or work (unless one is in retail!). for some, it's more football in a couple of days than one can possibly take...complete with snacks and beverages non-stop for the entire weekend. For some, it's just the food part that is so appealing. Christmas has its ham, but Thanksgiving is dedicated to the turkey...once favored by Ben Franklin as the symbol of America...only to lose out to that carrion-clawing eagle. Anyway, here are some interesting facts to throw out at the dinner table while everyone is still less-than-comatose:

1. Turkeys are not stupid, and they are definitely not slow: 15 m.p.h with a three-foot stride almost qualifies this fowl for the winner's circle at the annual Turkey Trot.

2. And speaking of the turkey was originally the name of a scandalous (and therefore popular) dance in the early 1900's. Bet you wish you knew how to do THAT! the in-laws would be dumbfounded (instead of just dumb!)

3. The turkey figured in the national pastime in days, well, past. In 1931, the colorful manager of the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league team once traded a player for a turkey...and the meat was dry, according to Joe Engel, the instigator of this scheme.

4. In the spring, a male turkey can change the color of his head from normal to blue, red or white, in a matter of seconds. Now THAT'S patriotic. I'll bet an eagle cannot do that.

5.That whole "Tryptophan in the turkey makes a person so sleepy as to fall completely unconscious on the couch in a matter of seconds" urban legend is just that: a myth. Fact is, turkeys contain no more of that chemical than any other's just that we tend to eat like there's to be no more food until the Christmas ham hits the table in a month. THAT'S why people fall asleep!

Feel free to bandy thse nuggets about on'll be jake with me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Two Guys Walk Into A Bar, and..."

Is it working yet?

I have had only a few teachers in my life who were female (many of them were nuns), only one wife, one daughter, and no sisters, so I'm not sure I can be the best judge of this, but it seems like an interesting proposition: men are funnier than women. Actually, it's not that we are's that we are perceived to be funnier. Maybe it's because men are more likely to tell jokes in mixed company or when trying to attract a female (not MY theory, but a theory, nonetheless) while women tend to be less likely to want the spotlight or don't enjoy humor...whatever; according to Laura Mickes, a postdoctoral psychology researcher at the university of California-SanDiego, men are definitely perceived by both sexes as being funnier. Here was her research:
32 undergraduate men and women were given the task of writing funny captions for 20 cartoons...and they were given 45 minutes to complete the task. At that point, 34 undergraduate men and 37 co-eds were asked to rate the comments, not knowing which caption was written by males and which were written by the distaff set.
Captions written by men were judged to be funnier, though the difference was only .11
Mickes found that, while men tended to use sexual humor and profanity more frequently, they only did so by the slightest margin!
Part two of the analysis dealt with memory bias and humor. While all of the respondents remembered the captions they thought were funny, most identified their favorites as being written by men...whether they had been or not! Finally, Mickes asked the respondents how funny they thought THEY were on a scale of one to five.
The men averaged 2.3 while the women ranked themselves on average at 1.5 on the five-point scale.
Thus, one might postulate from Mickes research that while men aren't necessarily funnier than women, they ARE cockier!
Hey, whatever, as long as women laugh and pretend to think we're funny or attempts at humor catch a young lady's ear and's all good.
Better than smashing beer cans on the forehead.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Well, I'll Be Tie-Dyed!

Cheech or Chong?

Around the corner from my office, about 10 feet away, are containers for recycling materials both oil-based and tree-based. I mention that because the students who visit my office are in the habit of tossing their Gatorade and chocolate milk containers in my trash can. I get righteously indignant and make them take it to the recycling. They are often bemused by my steadfast belief that I'm helping to save the planet. After all, I work at the university of Wisconsin-GREEN Bay. besides, what would the custodial staff think if I were to simply leave plastic containers in the trash? Many "tsks" would be uttered, no doubt. But these are kids several generations removed from the hippie movement in which many of us participated (YOU had bell bottoms, admit it, and paisley is bound to make a comeback soon!).
While it is PC (or Mac, I forget which) to be environmentally conscious, and many places have mandatory recycling laws, I feel bad that today's kids didn't get to experience the hippie culture from most respects. I mean when Jerry Garcia's memory is relegated to a line of neckwear or an ice cream flavor, things have definitely taken a sharp, downward trend. So, for the rest of us, the important question remains:
What kind of hippie are YOU? The Mother Nature Network has a list containing possible hippie-types, and it is certain that we can all find ourselves on the list somewhere...from the Anti-Hippie to the Fully Loaded Hippie, there's a category for all of us. Check it out former-and-now-closet hippies.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Vacay of Titanic Proportion

HOW Far Down?

People of a certain age decide that life is short and that hoarding money isn't a good option so they decide to see the world. A friend of mine claims to be one of the last tourists to visit Antarctica before the fragile ecology makes it off limits to tourists unless they want to kayak to get there! Seeing the wilds of Africa from a Land Rover or hang gliding over volcanoes are but two of the incredible adventures people tend to take as they see the end of the trail approaching. Of course, some people heliski when they're young as well, but, generally, incredible vacations come right after the sports car and the end of a mortgage. So, if you are in that frame of mind, here is what might be considered the ultimate experience: visiting the Titanic.
Horizon & Company will, for a fee, drop you 12,500 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic for a close up view of a legendary ship that's been underwater for a hundred years (no Kate Winslet, though). With the aid of the same submersible used in movies footage featuring the doomed behemoth, you can actually see the bow section, the grand staircase, the bridge, and the promenade area in person. It's all part of a 15-day excursion involving all things Titanic.
The adventure begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia and involves presentations by oceanographers, historians and the like though the big moment occurs when you and one guide drop into the ocean in a Mir submersible for two and a half hours JUST TO GET TO THE SITE then spend time exploring the remains of the fabled craft that went down on April 14-15 of 1912.
Tours depart next summer on June 30, July 12, July 27 and August 6. I would imagine space is limited (mostly to those who can afford it), and if diving that far underwater is just too creepy, you can still take the excursion, sans the dive.
The trip that includes the dive costs $66,257 but if you want to stay topside, the cost drops dramatically to $12,498.
Been there done that? This is the trip for you!
Call 800-387-2977 and Horizon & Company can definitely hook you up (and drop you down as well!)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

THAT'S A Load Off My Mind!

Seen at sporting events everywhere

All they can get is Wolfman Jack from somewhere in Mexico.

What with European money markets crashing, countries on the brink of REAL disaster, starvation and sex scandals everywhere, it's good to know that someone is out there looking out for us. Today, in response to two separate petitions on the "We the People" website, the government offered the definitive word on alien life, just as an asteroid was passing close enough to get the telescope geeks, well, geeked.
According to Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (who says government is too big?), "No evidence that any life exists outside our planet." In addition, "There is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public eye." That's a relief! All of that Area 51 crap can be laid to rest! However, if you have several close friends, you, too, can have your questions answered by those in power.Sadly, it will take MORE of your friends now than before. Prior to this latest outpouring of information, all it took to get a response on a petition to the White House was 5,000 signatories. I suppose after things like "We really want to know whether or not there has been alien contact," the people who were otherwise busy at keeping gate crashers out of official state dinners decided that there needed to be a more strict policy. Thus, now it will take 25,000 signatories to get your petition a response. I can propose a few questions I'D like to see answered:

1. Why can't the government get a playoff system in college football? Every other sport has one.

2. Why do Christmas and New Year's holidays have to happen so close together?

3. Why can't we "fall forward" and "spring back"?

4. Why can't MTV go back to playing music?

5. Why can't the food pyramid include chocolate?

I think these are all reasonable requests. Furthermore, I think the government knows something that it's not telling us about all of these issues.
Gotta find 25,000 other people who want to know.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stuff THAT!

Pilgrims are NOT Happy.

I'm not really a traditionalist in most things, and cooking is no exception. Should I be doddering around the stove with a recipe book in hand, Someone is usually never far behind: checking over my shoulder. It's not that I can't cook; it's merely that I generally treat recipes as "suggestions" much like drivers do the posted speed limit.
Some things, however, get the nod of tradition, and Thanksgiving has always been one of those occasions on which variation is seen as something akin to blasphemy...and it's not that I don't LIKE all the triptophan, salt and basic nod to fruit and vegetables, it's just that there has never really been a suitable alternative. Until now.
Looking oh-so-pork-like, this concoction has real possibilities. There's no apple in its mouth, but too much fruit would mess it up anyway. Ground sausage for a body, porkie links for legs, rind for a curly tail, and a big ol' sausage nose and wrapped in bacon: what's not to like?
Yes, I know, there's no way to stuff the thing with dressing, but surround it with gravy of spme sort and cobs of corn, and you'd have a veritable hogpen of good eatin.' Of course, beans would HAVE to be part of it...whoever heard of pork without beans?
leftovers, you say? Wouldn't matter: everyone would be passed out until Black Friday was long gone.
And, shaped like a football, it would be the perfect counterpoint to the six-drumstick turkey I see on TV every year.
Man vs Food would definitely be back for this one.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cosplay or LARPing?

Mulan and Snow White discuss costumes

There are always worlds of which I have no knowledge that are seemingly common knowledge to either a select group of people or the mainstream. Since I belong to neither group, it is easy to get past me with just about anything new and different or older and recognizable. That is to say, my universe, while not exactly tiny, is rather two-dimensional.
I love those geeky fads that are here for an hour and gone by next week...roughly two weeks before I find out about them. Planking was such a phenomenon: almost everyone had done it and grown tired of it before I discovered how much fun it was to get photographed lying board-like in some abnormal place.
Then came Tebowing...just as I found out about it and staged an elaborate photo of myself doing it, the Detroit Lions copycatted me in a game with the Broncos; now, everyone has realized that the emergence of Tim Tebow was merely a figment of the fans' imagination, so that fad is gone. But I have something new (to me): cosplaying.
To some, it's an art form; to others, it's flattery in the form of imitation. It is a fan-based activity that pays homage to Japanese entertainment and involves, developing, sewing, painting, sculpting, jewelry making, and wig styling skills as one attempts to create exactly a costume of his or her favorite anime or fictional character.
Yaya Han, seen above as Mulan, is a professional cosplayer who gets invited to fan shows like Comic-Con every year to display her talent at creating lifelike superheroes or bring to life movie characters. similar, I suspect to having curvy models open doors of cars at an auto show, this idea takes much more of an effort. But, it's unlike the auto show things in that cleavage is not necessarily the look cosplayers go for...and I presume there are male cosplayers as well. All, however, is not completely rosy, for many people confuse these artists as mere LARPers...something Yaya Han would find objectionable.
LARPers are folks that DO dress up as characters, but then they all agree to meet somewhere with foam swords and foam "magic" balls, etc. and proceed to play out in real time a fantasy game. Live Action Role Playing is definitely popular in some circles...think paintball fights with a fantasy theme (as if dressing up as a paramiltary force and shooting at each other ISN'T fantasy).
So, you have two choices.
With either of them, it fan be Hallowe'en every day of the year.
Having a rich fantasy llife is good for one's sanity, I'm told.
Tonight, I'm going to cosplay as.......Adam, pre-fig leaf.
The costume should be easy.
I know. TMI.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen

It's a Lot of Truffle To Go Through Just For a Gift

In case you haven't noticed, the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us which means: Christmas is all around. Every store in the world from Fleet Farm to Toys 'R' Us to Target has been clogging my mailbox and my television with the "must have" items for the wish list. is loaded with shopping cart wish lists as well for people I know. I just want it to go away...not that I don't like the basic idea of holidays when families gather around, sing songs, play games, watch movies and enjoy being together before the whining, crying, snide remarks about who got what, and fighting start. The KK divorce got me thinking, "I wonder what rich people fight about with regard to gifts?" Fortunately, the Chicago Tribune had a feature today that listed some of the more opulent possibilities for the season.
Here are the top five or so...just in case you were thinking of that "special" someone and still had no ideas.

For him:
A one-night stay in the famous Ty Warner penthouse suite at the Four Seasons in New York City: $34.000.00. Of course, you could stay the weekend...I mean, as long as you're there...

A snazzy GnG Golden Delicious carry case for his iPhone (in actual gold, of course): $100,000.00 iPhone not included.

An Allard West Roadster would be perfect for the road tripping man in your life at a mere $138,500.00. Buy two.

Is he always late? Get him a Patek Philippe Sky Moon Toubillion featuring not one but TWO watch faces: $1.5 million.

For her:

Chocolate always does the trick with the ladies, and the LaMadeline au Truffle is just the thing...a truffle covered with ganoche, covered with dark chocolate, covered with cocoa power. Irresistible (as you will be) at $250. However, it goes bad in a week so nibble now!

Manolo Blahnik Alligator skin boots: $14,000.00. But you get two boots! Think of the 'gator!

Does she still cling to Malibu Barbie and the like from her youth? Diamond Barbie is here! Literally encrusted with 165 diamonds and while gold jewelry, ken will come a'knockin' at $85,000.00

Need that perfect scent since last year's Eau de Buttercup is gone? Try some Clive Christian Imperial Majesty perfume, and your lady will look at you with "that" look. It's worth the $435,000.00 you will spend.

Finally, for that once-in-a-lifetime lady like, say, Kim K. only the best will do. Liz Taylor's jewelry will go on the auction block in a month, and you can get the famed Burton diamond for an estimated $2.5-$3.5 million. That'll keep things going for at least a few months.

Happy shopping. I'm headed to Ace Hardware. Everybody loves tools.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Dr. Drew Has A Point...Perhaps

The somewhat (i guess) Dr. Drew blames us for the Kim Kardshian breakup. I f I read it correctly, he says that our morbid obsession with anything Kardashian contributed to her lack of commitment to her marriage. After all, she is purported to have made 18 million dollars from the reality show of her life during the leadup to the famous event. Somebody MUST have been watching for her to rake in that kind of money...but it wasn't I who watched. I deal with enough self-absorbed egomaniacs in real life that I don't need to sit home at night and watch someone else's life get more and more fabulous (in terms of money and fame, not in terms of worth).
So, I'm absolving myself of complicity in the whole thing. I somewhat feel sorry for the poor dupe who didn't have enough sense to see this coming when he started appearing on television without getting any of the money for it (I presume), and obviously, the fact that she is denying him ANY of the cash brought in while they were married proves my point.
Really, please just go away...and "journalists," please find something worthy of your education...and people out there: get a life of your might not have money and fame, but you don't have to exploit other people, either.
I just hope the poor schlepp gets the 23-diamond will-you-marry-me back as well as some dignity.