Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leapin' Lizards!

Not In Greece!

If you beat the odds of 1/1461, today is your birthday. congratulations...go buy a lottery ticket, sit back, and wait for the wealth to roll in. Being born on Feb. 29th happens very seldom, as one might expect. Certainly, it wasn't in Caesar Augustus's plan when he revised the calendar in order to salve his wounded ego, but this day and leap year in general have become special for a lot of reasons.
First: the origin of the odd number of days. Well-known to all is the fact that Julius Caesar recalculated the 355-day calendar that included an extra 22-day month every two years in order to keep things more organized in a city that was the terminus to all roads...and he accomplished it by the not-so-simple plan of, well, just saying so. Years later, Augustus Caesar grew upset that his month (August) contained only 29 days while Julius's month (July) had more. As a result, he filched a couple of days from February (originally outfitted with 30 days) to insure his month was greater in the number of days.
The tradition that most people recognize involves the fact that in a leap year, and especially on February 29th, a woman may ask a man to marry without being castigated as a societal misfit. Supposedly, in the 5th century, St. Bridget begged St. Patrick (were they both saints while alive? hmmm) to permit such an arrangement during the shortest month every four years since women were being forced to wait TOO long for young men to gain the courage to ask THEM. If this is true, that's got to rank right up there with driving the snakes out of Ireland and the creation of green beer for St.Paddy.
While this marriage proposal tradition seems to be something of a worldwide phenomenon, there are some quirky rules in various places. In Denmark, for example, if a man refuses, he is required to provide 12 pairs of gloves to the lady in question. In Finland, the refusal is met with enough fabric to make a skirt (?).
The Greeks, on the other hand, refuse to marry in a leap year, considering it unlucky.
I'd say it's unlucky...many leap years coincide with the election cycle.
I'd rather have snakes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Need More Panera People

We Should All Be A Little Embarrassed

As hard as it is to accept, it has become somewhat obvious to me that the age of anything even close to civility has passed. Don't bother to decry that as untrue: it IS, and you know it. One has only to listen to the incessant vitriol being spewed by politicians every day, even against members of their own parties. Another school shooting in Ohio today, and dead bodies turning up everywhere. We blame everyone else for the misfortunes in hopes of gaining an advantage for ourselves. It goes on and on. In Kansas, for example, the politicians are set to enact a law that will force ONLY the people making LESS than $25,000 to pay extra in taxes...EVERYBODY else gets a tax break! WTF? And while it is hard to praise legislators in the Sunflower state, the final tax figure is THOUSANDS PER YEAR less than the governor wanted!!! Anyway, into this morass of utter insensitivity to the plight of others steps Panera Bread: a soup,sandwich and bakery-type concern that has something of a national presence. In a nation (the richest, perhaps, in the world) where one household in seven suffers from food insecurity, The folks in charge of Panera Bread said "Enough is enough."
Beginning as far back as 2010, Panera opened "Pay What You Can" outlets which featured "suggested" prices for the food but accepted whatever anyone had, even if it was zero. Kate Antonacci, a spokesperson for the company opined, "There's not much dignity in going to a soup kitchen, and we want people to have dignity." Three outlets opened initially: Clayton, Missouri, Portland, Oregon, and Dearborn, Michigan. There are plans for two more such franchises by the end of 2012. At this point, the franchise notes that the sales have been what they expected: 20% pay less than the suggested cost, but 20% also pay MORE than the suggested price, thus ensuring a break-even proposition. This renewal in human faith and kindness means that Panera will continue to open these outlets gradually.
Truth be told, Panera is not the only source of this kind of kindness. Joh Bon Jovi has opened a similar restaurant in New York, and there are several others, but all of them are individual concerns, not national "chains."
I'm eating at Panera this weekend...and maybe every weekend.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Price (or Benefit) of Fame

Lychee honey included without spending a fortune

It was only a matter of time: Jeremy Lin is now pleading for "respect of privacy" for his family in Taiwan as the paparazzi have decided to hound them mercilessly for that next big disclosure that could net them big bucks in the tabloid world. It's only natural that such a media frenzy would take place when a person becomes the next "it" celebrity...and I knew Ben and Jerry's couldn't be far behind.
It's true: the iconic ice cream maker now has on the market in Boston a tantalizlin' "Taste the Lin-sanity" flavor of ice cream. Introduction of the new flavor follows Jimmy Kimmel's private brand in an attempt to lure customers who don't mind spending an exorbitant amount of money for a dairy treat (I figure the kids at Harvard all all trust fund beneficiaries who can afford it).
However, all is not perfect in Ben and Jerry's world (not to be confused with JerryWorld in Dallas). It seems the ingredients have created another one of those PC-fuelled campaigns meant to impugn the motives of even the most innocuous.
The vanilla treat is buoyed by swirls of lychee honey and bits of (gasp) fortune cookie! How dare they? This is offensive to Asians everywhere, according to the pundits, and BnJ contritely issued the standard apology to anyone who may have been offended by the pseudo-racist ingredient.
While I've never been part of any minority (being male, white, tall and mostly literate), it remains difficult for me to see this as intentionally racist...not like the "chink in the armor" headline of last week.
Perhaps it IS racist to link fortune cookies with Chinese people (or food), and I feel bad if people are offended. I will, in protest, not go to Harbard University to buy some.
Is "Moose Tracks" ice cream offensive to Canadians?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Putting the "Sin" in Cincinnati?

Needs NO Explanation, Just Directions to Cincinnati

For 21 years, Flamingo Air in Cincinnati has been offering this discrete service to couples who want to experience the "ultimate high." I think I'd be a little more than nervous, despite the fact that the pilot wears headphones and the area is curtained off though, of course, after champagne, the inhibitions loosen a bit as well. It's got to be more comfortable than the bathroom of a commercial plan (sorry if that's too graphic).
Despite some initial reservations, can it be much different than the back of Dad's Buick at the drive-in movie? (for those of you who remember a drive-in movie!)
Oh, and Flamingo Air will also dispose of human remains as well.
Interesting combination.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All I Got Was A Sweater

" any other name..."

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but the stories of romance continue to flood the internet like another form of "Linsanity." Certainly, it is a holiday inspired by (and perhaps created by) the floral industry...or the candy industry...but it gives us a good chance to demonstrate our true feelings of warmth and/or love to those we care about (but make sure everyone in the class gets one!).
I have probably given flowers in the past, but now the gift is more practical. "Practical" does not, however, seem to reside in Portland, Oregon, a city known for its, well, eccentric population. I suppose when one lives in a place that has so much dreary, rainy weather, eccentricity is a natural quality. However, take eccentric and mix it with Valentine's Day, and you will find the police less than entertained.
Local law enforcement was notified via a 911 call that a man was driving aways with a bound, naked woman in the back of his Subaru on Valentine's Day in Portland. An alert bystander noticed the license plate and referred that information to the police who set up a dragnet, of sorts involving nine patrol cars and a host of officers. Having the home address of the lawbreaking automobile driver, the police finally cornered the would-be assailant at his home, of all places; and, indeed, there was a naked woman in the back with her mouth duct-taped shut.
Responding to various armed threats, the 31-year-old man explained to the gendarmes, "We were doing some Valentine's Day role playing," a fact that was reinforced by the 26-year-old woman, having been released from the tape and covered (I hope).
Not impressed, the couple was arrested and charged with 2nd degree disorderly conduct.
As the internet responses overwhelmingly began chiding law enforcement for disturbing a couple in the privacy of their own car, police responded by saying, "Why would officers think it was a Valentine's Day thing?" Why, indeed.
No word on whether the woman was also cited for failure to wear a seat belt.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Every year the Oxford dictionary people add a number of new, culture-driven words to the official dictionary. I've always suspected it was a ploy to sell more hardcover books since the internet sites like have become a staple of folks everywhere. There are even pop culture dictionaries online to keep people up to date with the latest in pop culture jargon, texting acronyms and assorted whatnots of the ever-evolving language.
Making up words that catch on is easy. Jeremy Lin has spawned a number of new adjectives to describe himself and the phenomenon that is himself. But, seriously, a word that means "the fear of being without a cell phone"? Yes, there is such a thing, and that fear is so real that, in addition to having a "condition" name, it also has researchers and pollsters studying it! (meanwhile, the common cold runs amok unabated).
"Nomophobia" is NOT the hysteria surrounding the ex-Dodgers pitcher from Japan. It is, however, the fear of not having access to one's cell phone (no mobile phobia). And it has been least by pollsters in Great Britain. Of course, like All in the Family and a host of other American television programs copycatted from the British, it won't be long before the Pew Research Center in the U.S. has done its own study concerning the contagion that we've just discovered is among us.
According to OnePoll, and online polling service in the U.K, 66% of people fear losing or being without their phones, up from a paltry 53% just four years ago. Granted, the survey size was small: 1,000 people, but that might encompass any number of small burgs in this country. Of the folks surveyed, 70% of the women admitted to being anxious about being disconnected while 61% of the men felt the same way. However, men were more likely to report having two phones (in case they lose or forget one) than were the women respondents. Really? Two phones? I hate having one.
As a side note, it was discovered that the age demographic MOST imbued with this nightmare vision were people between the ages of 18-24!!! Really? I love it when researchers go to great lengths to tell me something I could have hypothesized correctly in my sleep. Another shocking statistic was that people over 55 were one of the least anxious groups!
So, if you feel anxious when your phone is not within your immediate grasp, you fear losing the phone and have this thought often, you own two phones, or you take your phone to bed with you "just in case," you are the victim of nomophobia, and you should seek immediate, not from the cell company! Go to (really? you can get anything and the nice folks there can help. On first glance, the treatment involves radical approach: begin by imagining yourself without the phone until you can do so without being anxious. could have thought of that on your own if you hadn't been too busy obsessing about your phone.
Well, at least the survey calls and tabulation maintained a certain employment level in Great Britain.
Oh, and it gave us a new word. Look for its inclusion next year in the Oxford dictionary.
Personally, I like "cellulossis" better.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Both Feet Firmly on the Bandwagon

I Will NOT Mention Tim Tebow

I love the way the media and news/sports/fashion junkies latch on to the latest fabulous, out-of-nowhere story and ride it like it's the last bull at the rodeo. Non-stop, breathless coverage of minutiae concerning the latest BIG story gets old for me after, say, the third time. Brett Favre retiring? His sexting scandal? Lindsay Lohan's latest escapade? ( shades of almost every other star who graced the red carpet...remember Britney?) Kate Upton being too fat, too blonde, too surgically-enhanced, too skanky to grace the cover of a magazine? Newt Gingrich's revolving jewelry account (not to mention revolving wives)? get the picture.
So now, it's Jeremy Lin: a kid who has obviously been at the right place at the right time with the right skill set to captivate the entire sport world from here to Taiwan. It's almost as if bob Cousy, Bill Russell and Wilt have all been reincarnated in Lin. Detractors? Oh sure, like Floyd Mayweather, boxer and self-styled basketball know-it-all claiming the only reason Lin gets any pub is his ethnic heritage.
Well, other than the daily dose of puns using Lin's name, I'm all for the guy. The folks at Lists That Matter seem to be in his corner too (sorry for the boxing reference Mayweather). These pundits have noted that Lin's meteoric rise MUST be heralded by a new drinking game to replace the one they devised during Tebowmania.
I will post the URL so you can see the whole list, but here's a basic rundown: sitting in front of the game with a beer in hand (red Solo cup optional unless you are a country music fan), one must take a drink every time something notable dealing with Jeremy Lin happens. Here are but a few of the examples from the extensive list:
1. Take a drink every time Lin commits a turnover (39 in 5 seven games so far).
2. Take a drink every time his Asian descent or his massive Asian following is mentioned.
3. Take a drink every time a reference is made to Harvard.
4. Take a drink every time Lin's Christian beliefs are mentioned.
5. Take a drink every time Lin points heavenward in praise for having such glorious gifts.

All in all, there are a dozen or so of these "take-a-drink" instances.
Just be sure to watch the game in the living room rather than at a bar; it's a shorter distance to the floor from your couch than it is from a bar stool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Even Socrates Was Convicted of Corrupting the Youth

As a moderate politically, I get assailed all the time from both sides, each lumping me inexorably with the other position on the spectrum. "My liberal friend" is a common moniker from my nearest neighbor who I would label beyond a doubt as a radical conservative. I mean, anyone who makes his five and ten-year-old children listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio cannot be considered anything less. If I was uncertain of that fact, his younger son left no doubt.
We normally take the boys to A&W to get a float just before school starts since they don't really have grandparents close by...this treat is followed by a hike in the woods around campus usually. This year, we wandered onto a trail recently completed buy the city along a little creek. The most convenient parking lot for the trail was in the parking lot of an elementary school whose sign of events was listed both in English and in Spanish. As we drove by, the younger one said, "We're at the Hispanic ghetto now." No need to ask where he got that information.
Anyway, we never rise to the bait tossed out by the parents, and we remain friendly though hardly friends. That's why the play date struck me as humorous.
I got a phone call from the dad the other day asking if I had time for a play date with the now 5-year old. He sees me in the yard throwing snow around for my yearly snow creation. Last week, he actually came over with a shovel and wanted to help. We also built him a little cave-like thing and generally had fun. As a result, he must think I'm just the most fun person to hang with because I got the call for a play date. Really. I almost burst out laughing at the dad when he actually used the phrase, "We would like to arrange a play date with you for Joe." (mind you, this little guy feels free to walk over to our house, walk inside and grab some candy since he knows where it is.) He IS a character, but a play date?
I would love to hear the instructions he's going to get from his parents when they send him over.
I'll have to think of something liberal to say like, "It looks like the snow is melting faster than Mitt Romney's chances of getting elected," or "Want a soda? We're all out of tea for the party."
But a moderate wouldn't do something like that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Needed: Mosquito Repellant If You're Under 60 or So.

Once again, I am probably the last to know about this stuff, but I find this particular bit of "stuff" fascinating. At issue here is a repellant, called the Mosquito that actually drives young people, particularly teenagers, away. Really. If you've already heard about this, why didn't you tell me?
Invented by a man in Britain whose name escapes me now (due to the ringing in my ears) as a way to stop teens from congregating in places like shopping malls where they are not wanted, this "device" emits a high-pitched frequency that is as annoying as a mosquito buzzing about one's ear. The beauty of it (an potentially the liability of it) is that adults past, say, 35, can't hear the sound at most frequencies! Thus, teens get scattered from a mall as if tear gas were emptied in front of them. Wow!
There are various frequencies with this device, and as people age, their ability to hear the higher tones diminishes. It's true...I tried it, and I'm proud to say that my hearing rivals that of a 49-year-old!
Of course, it didn't take some clever teen long to figure out that such sounds could be used to torment other students in, say, a classroom situation,and the teacher would be none the wiser. Seriously; two students of mine recounted stories today of their high school days when this used to be a popular prank. They even demonstrated to me the fact that there is an application (or "app" if you're into technical jargon) for the Mosquito on phones!
Technological advances continue to leapfrog my ability to understand them (or, in this case, hear them), and this device is merely more proof that the average child understands more about how things work than I do.
So it's their job to take care of all the howling dogs!
Try YOUR hearing at the following URL:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maybe Willie Is Right...but Then...

Don't go to Chalco, Mexico, with bad things on your mind. Chalco, a small town near Mexico City will mess you up if you're not on the up and up. I know the State Department has recently issued travel warnings for US citizens bound for Mexico, but I'm not sure this is the kind of people we were being warned against.
OK, here's the story. If you know anything about crime in Mexico, you know that kidnapping is one of the most frequently-committed crimes: easy ransom money, and kids are the usual victims...but don't try it in Chalco.
It seems a group of three men were attempting to kidnap some school children, only to be outed by six women who began screaming, "Justice! Justice! They're kidnappers!" At this point, someone ran to the church and began ringing the bells in an attempt to alert the townspeople who, indeed, came running: 600 of them.
The crowd, brandishing clubs, bottles and assorted homemade weapons, seized the three, dragged them off to the town square and proceeded to douse them with petrol and light them afire! Holy 4th of July! By the time the police got there, only one was still alive, and he died a short time later. What a way to go!
I must to admit to being somewhat ambivalent about the whole affair as a right/wrong moral issue. In a country where lawlessness and political corruption seem to have become the new order, people need to be their own protection...but setting criminals on fire? Maybe it's quicker than making pinatas out of them, but still, it's hard to justify.
Twenty-three people have been detained. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
In the meantime, Toby Keith and Willie Nelson have a bit of musical advice:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Slow Times in the Business World

I have always been under the assumption that Forbes magazine was devoted to the business of business, e.g. making money while others attempted to do so without sound financial information. But then, I always thought Playboy had interesting articles and Rolling Stone was all about the music. I guess the reading public's idea of news has changed.
For example, this week, Forbes published a list of the top 10 most hated professional athletes in this country. Huh? How is this related to business? Of course, I could be wrong about the focal point of this magazine: I've never read it because I didn't have any money. But I digress.
It seems that this list is the followup to a list published by the same magazine just four months ago. What gives? Who do they survey for their information? I would suspect that their readership is not the same as, say, Maxim's, who would be more likely to know the names of ten professional athletes. The point of the list seemed to be how the mighty have fallen since the fourth most-hated professional athlete was number one in the MOST favorite athlete category four months ago.
As I looked at the current list, I guess I could understand why voters would feel antagonistic towards the names on it, but HATE? Really? I would save that for someone I actually KNOW who has done a terrible injustice to me or someone/something close to me.
I HATE cold sores and having a cold.
I HATE getting up early in the morning when the bathroom floor is cold.
I HATE being late...though I don't HATE others who are...I am merely annoyed.
How could I HATE Michael Vick (#1 on the current most-hated list)? I think what he DID was awful, but he WAS punished and seems somewhat contrite now.
Kris Humphries? (#5) Nah, he got what he deserved for being a part of that whole reality wedding thing...more humorous than hateful, I'd say.
Ndomukong Suh? (falling from most popular to #4 on the hated list). Hey, if the guy he stomped on was willing to forgive, why should I hold a grudge?
Kurt Busch (#10). Seriously, a NASCAR driver?
LeBron James comes the closest to someone I could vilify on a regular basis...but only because he destroyed my grandson's love of Cleveland and the Cavs. But hate him? nope.
As the Dow creeps toward (gasp) 13,000, business must be booming so Forbes has to resort to snarky public opinion polls like the ones featured on every sports program these days.
I'll go back to reading Rolling Stone.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Classless, The Graceless, The Proud

Destroying Social Grace

Losing bites. There is no other way to say it; we've all felt the pain of losing...and sports is hardly the only venue in which losses occur. It's just that sports losses seem all that more important (thought they aren't). These losses are particularly painful when the winner stands over us, jeering our misery. You know you've been there.
Fortunately, most of this kind of activity centers on sporting events. I can hardly imagine a situation in which the person who got the award/job/significant other that I (my children or someone else special to me) wanted would stand there and scream, "In your face, loser!" but this is what happens at almost every sporting event I have attended.
This past weekend I happened to experience this first-hand at a college basketball game when two "fans" of the other team loudly proclaimed the idiocy of the referees, the lameness of the home crowd, the paucity of the student section numbers, the lack of physical beauty and grace of the dance team and the lack of knowledge on the part of the local fans. It was all I could do to refrain from committing some regrettable act (in the form of witty repartee, of course) since that would only exacerbate the situation.
Then the Super Bowl arrives amid must fanfare (are the Patriots REALLY pro football's version of Duke?). Following the game, "fans" again took great pleasure in harassing Gisele Bundchen concerning her husband's loss and the vast superiority of the Giants' quarterback. Really? Winning wasn't enough? You had to attempt to humiliate the wife of a player? This is totally lacking in class, but then, people tend to think that a) paying to get in allows ANY kind of aberrant behavior and b) they actually profit somehow from "their" team's win.
All in all, it is undeniable that we have become an uncivil society (and that's not even getting into the political cesspool). It would serve us right if late December was the end of the line.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Done In By the 'Net

I guess it continues to amaze me that individuals feel they have the power (and the right) to dictate morality to the rest of us, some of whom are actually capable of making our own decisions! Such folks use a "mandate" from a human agency to indicate to the rest of us what God wants us to if (S)He speaks directly to them and not to the rest of us misguided souls. Yes, I get that there are fringes out there, and I don't even want to give them credit for their myopic views of things, but my ire this week concerns two mainstream individuals, half a world apart, who have decided that they need to change the morality of the world based on what they want instead of taking into consideration what people need...some of us rational folks.
Maya Khan was a television personality in Pakistan until last week. She took it upon herself to accost two women walking through a park with questions like, "Why are you out here without male relatives?" and "Do your parents know what you're doing?" Now, Pakistan is a fairly conservative, mostly-Muslim country, and I get their religious beliefs, but for a newsperson to accost people on the street, in broad daylight, on camera questioning their morals simply made no sense to me. Her employers agreed, and today she is unemployed. I suggest that maybe there's a place for her as Karen Handel's assistant.
Handel, of course, is the vice president of Something-or-Other with the Susan G. Komen organization, and the driving force behind last week's embarrassment regarding funding for Planned Parenthood. Supposedly based on a Congressional investigation of abortion practices, Handel conveniently neglected to consider the more than 90% of PP's funds that go for health screenings and education of America's most needy population (but then she HAS great health insurance). this follows on the heels of the Congressman from Arizona who claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's funds went toward abortions...then, when faced with the actual facts, noted, "Well, it wasn't meant to be a factual statement."
Fortunately, the immediate hue and cry generated online foiled the dastardly plot before it got too far, but I suspect the organization is backpedalling faster than a point guard on a fast break...and will be for some time. Perhaps Ms. Handel could be of greater service in the mail room.
Yet these people can tell me and millions of others how we should live a moral life.
To heck (euphemism with them!