Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wait...I Have Extraordinary Ability, Too!

Immigration has been an issue since the first illegal immigrant, one Christopher Columbus, landed somewhere in Central America and claimed to have "discovered" a new land; since the people living there at the time did not speak Spanish, they just shrugged and walked least until he started enslaving them and forcing them to find gold for Isabella, et al. Then, of course, there were the African "immigrants" who definitely did NOT land at Ellis Island or New Orleans (as my German relatives are said to have done). As the population expands here in the land of the free, it is becoming harder and harder to enter legally. However, if you have enough money and know someone like Chris Wright, it's not as hard as one might think.
There are loopholes for everything, and immigration is no exception; immigration lawyers like Los Angeles' Wright know them inside and out (of the country, I presume), and manipulate the system for those able to pay as if it was welfare fraud! Two forms in particular have become fashionable: 0-1s and EB-1s. The former, a so-called "genius visa" allows for someone of "extraordinary ability" to enter this country and stay for three years...and extensions are possible. This is the route taken by many tech entrepreneurs and Piers Morgan, for example. On the other hand is the latter designation which can lead to a green card and permanent residency and is usually reserved for the aforementioned extraordinary ability as well as having an outstanding record as a researcher, professor or multi-national executive.
What constitutes "extraordinary" ability? How many Europeans are playing professional sports these days? Oh yeah, those people. I would also suspect fabulous musicians would also fall into that category or someone like the Chinese Dissident who just got moved here with part of his family.
Then there's Shera Bechard. She has two extraordinary talents that allowed Wright to get her into this country. First of all, she was Miss November of 2010 in Playboy magazine, and she started a photo-sharing site called "Frisky Friday" on which  scantily-clad women post pictures of themselves in hopes of being selected as the "winner" for that particular day. In the name of research, I had to check it out and was dismayed that Apple isn't paying to see its iPhone featured in so many pictures!
Anyway, if THOSE TWO items don't qualify as "genius" or "extraordinary ability," we need to redefine the terms.
Plus, Bechard is Canadian, for goodness sakes. She could have just driven across the border!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

...and You Thought Facebook Was Intrusive?

I really hate those dreams in which I'm running around in public with no clothes on and no way to hide. It's always a relief to wake from those nightmares, damp from sweat: the result of using my "jimmy legs" to run into some dark alley in hopes of finding clothes like the Incredible Hulk always seemed to do. Fortunately, my imaginary (I hope) dreamworld has other features as well, some of them quite pleasant though mostly, I forget them prior to waking up to a phone call in my dream that sounds suspiciously like my alarm clock. I'm just a bit uncertain that I was happy to find out that "there's an app for that." really.
Back in April, Apple released an app for the iPhone called "Dream:On" designed by Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in Britain. Believe it or not, this app was designed to give people a pre-programmed dream! really.
The technology is based on the fact that we tend to move around while we sleep. The iPhone has a motion detector of sorts that also comes into play. Here's how the thing works.
Just before heading off to the Land of Nod, a user sets the alarm function on the iPhone and selects the type of dream he or she would like to have. Twenty minutes before the alarm is set to sound, the motion detector supposedly detects REM eye movement and begins to play sounds that will provide the exact type of dream desired. The part about sounds triggering dreams makes sense...happens all the time that outside sounds are incorporated into our dreams...but this?
Users are a'plenty: in the first week after introduction, more than 300,000 people downloaded the app. Wiseman is now trying to get all the users to report their experiences in order to further refine the app.
Of course, not everyone is convinced, especially in the scientific community. Dr. Douglas Prisco, director of sleep medicine at USC calls the science "iffy" while others have opined that such an app might, in fact, deprive people of sleep instead of inducing a deeper sleep.
I would love to try it, but I have only a dumb phone" so I'll simply have to dream vicariously with "Dream:On."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Still #1!

Every four years when the Olympics or the World Cup in soccer come around, the foam finger industry gets a huge boost. Of course, the vuvuzela industry also got a bit boost during the last World Cup; the quest for worldwide dominance is probably older than the Caesars, the Mongols and Alexander the Great.  Sometimes, though, world domination isn't the greatest thing to display. Take obesity, for example (really. take it. I don't want it). A report from the BBC today claims that women in the UK are the most obese among the 19 European countries studied recently, with 23.9 percent of all British women suffering from a state of obesity. The men aren't too far out of it, either, coming in second to their male counterparts in Malta. Malta? Who knew? The men are a robust 22 percent when it comes to obesity percentages.
On the distaff side, British women are followed by Maltese women at 21.1% and Latvian ladies with an obesity percentage of 20.9%.  British men are followed in third place by Hungarians at 21.4% and those from the Czech Republic, weighing in at a hefty 18.4%.
"Who's on the lower end of this study?" I hear you ask. For the women, the last (or first, if you prefer) four places go to French women at 12.7%, Bulgarian women at 11.3%, Italian women at 9.3% and Romanian women who had an obesity rate of a mere 8%.
On the men's side, France tipped the scales at 11.7%, followed by the Bulgarians at 11.6%, the Italians at 11.3% and topping the list were the Romanian men who registered a mere 7.6% obesity rate.
Of course, the United States' citizens were not counted in this study because researchers knew we'd chew up the other countries like they were so many Big Macs; and it's true, we are the fattest country in the world.
Estimates from the Center for Disease Control figure that more than 35% of Americans are obese...and more than two-thirds of American women are at least overweight! Other somewhat uncertain figures place American women at a 25.2% number while American men head the list with 27.8%. How that figures to be 35% total is beyond my statistical ability to calculate. However, if you want to be thin, move to Colorado where the obesity rate is 21%, the lowest in the country...but do not go to Mississippi which has the highest rate of any state at 34%.
All of this adds up to serious health issues, of course, but if France and Italy are both on the lower end, I say, drink more wine!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Legislating the Ostrich Position!

All I want is to live another 90 years...really. Is that too much to ask? It's not that life is so wonderful or that I want to see what happens to Facebook; it's just that I want to see what happens to the North Carolina coastline. Sadly, I will not be allowed to see it, but then, neither will the legislators of North Carolina who have chosen not only to ignore scientific projections but actually to legislate AGAINST them!
Here's the deal:
A study was conducted by the Science Panel on Coastal Hazards in North Carolina. The panel was comprised of marine scientists, geologists and engineers who used tide gauges, satellite altimetry, storm records and geologic data to determine that the effects of global warming and melting ice shelves will increase the height of the ocean on the North Carolina coastline between 15 and 55 inches by the year 2100. Obviously, that's a wide range, and as a result, the scientists decided to use the mean height of 39 inches for their projection.
Needless to say, the developers in North Carolina, led by Tom Thompson who represents the Coastal Business Group, had a hissy and whined to the legislators...not because of the somewhat impending doom, but because such projections would kill economic development along the coastline and drop property values! (Apparently, they don't care about the possibility of those businesses and housing developments dropping into the ocean...oh, that's right...THEY will be dead, too, by then.) Fortunately for them, the state legislature is made up of individuals who are easily swayed...the result was House Bill 819.
Instead of preparing for a rise in the ocean, the House of Representatives proposed a bill that would "outlaw scenarios of accelerated rates of sea level rise unless it is consistent with historic trends." This means that any scientific projections must be based on past events...not project into the future. Thompson  indicated that any belief in the current projections would be "dishonest statistically" based on "phobia of the environmentalists."
The ensuing brouhaha (mostly ha ha) has made North Carolina the "laughing stock of the country," according to a scientist from Duke University. Steven Colbert pilloried the result, and the blogosphere has erupted in one, continuous guffaw, one pundit noting that "North Carolina considers making sea rise illegal."
If only I could be there in 2100.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Oh No, You Diunt!"

The hardest thing about this was how to write the word "didn't" to match the inflection of the famous phrase. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn't, but the point is that I have succumbed to the societal pressure of copycatting clever things other people think up.Fast food restaurants, and foodies in general, are not immune to this kind of one-upmanship, either, as the new bacon sundae at Burger King testifies.
Not too long ago, Taco Bell debuted a taco with Doritos as a shell, and the cheap food world went for it in a big way. I have tried this concoction, and it's not bad. I'm more of a burrito guy, but the marketing was just too tempting. I was not disappointed (though I'm still a burrito guy...the one with Fritos in it!)
Now, of course, BK is capitalizing on what seems to be an explosion of bacon-themed foods by offering a sundae that features ice cream, chocolate and carmel sauce, bacon bits and a whole slice of bacon. Look good? It is. There is one small point of reservation, however.
I tried this sundae today because it promised to have both sweet and salty at one time; throw in some chocolate, and it had all the possibilities of a great treat. The first few spoonfuls were scrumptious, and I intended to save the big ol' slice of hog for later...then I got to the buried bacon bits. They were hard. not crunchy.frozen hard.painfully hard.
Of course, it was my fault for eating the sundae last; had I started my meal with it, the bits might have merely been crunchy. As it was, they were rock hard.
On the positive side, there was plenty of sauce (usually skimped on), and the slice o' pig was soft and made a great "spoon" of sorts for all the gooey stuff at the bottom.
All in all, it was good...probably better than a Dorito taco.
But eat it before anything else.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don't Use the "V" Word in Michigan!

I rarely venture into the world of politics as a topic simply because it is an area like religion that offers ONLY divisive viewpoints. If you agree with me, I'm "intelligent." If you don't, I'm an "idiot." It's simply all too depressing to me. Today, however, I cannot sit idly by and let Rep. Mike Callton of Michigan off the hook: in many ways, I feel that he is emblematic of exactly how far off course our country has gotten.
Forget for a moment any political ideals that you hold. Forget the labels we have so blithely affixed to the "other side" to show our disdain. Without mention of party affiliation, I offer this tidbit.
Rep. Lisa Brown, a second-term legislator from the state of Michigan was involved with Rep. Callton in what can only be described as an unbelievable tiff the other day.
As the legislators were debating over what regulations and stipulations, if any were to be attached to legislation dealing with pro-life/pro-choice requirements, Ms. Brown said, "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"
There was little affect on the part of her fellow representatives, but the next day, Brown and fellow female representative Barb Byrun were banned from speaking on the House floor!
Rep. Callton said that the language Brown had used previously was so vile and disgusting that he could never bear to mention it in front of women or in "mixed" company! This from a man who has a degree in biology and was a practicing chiropractor.
Seriously. What did he expect? Eric Cartman's mother's term "cha cha"? (as in season 2 when Eric is trying to find the identity of his father and his mom noted that sometimes, a man put his "hoohoo dilly in a woman's cha cha.")
I am not taking a pro-ilfe or pro-choice stance at all. That's my business; but when a supposedly educated person evinces punishment on another adult for using the word "vagina," we're in deep doo doo.
If you are moved to do so, you can watch the presentation of Ms. Brown for yourself and see the total lack of response as she uses the well as read the "rest of the story."

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's In A Name?

While to Romeo, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," this age of political correctness and long memories is certain to hold corporations, politicians and "regular" people accountable for the references they use. What to some might be benign is to others a slap in the face or a boot to the Adidas found out recently when it offered a new shoe designed by Jeremy Scott (the guy who gave us sneakers with wings extending from the sides a la Mercury See above). The shoe, which featured an ornamental chain and shackle was an immediate sensation, and NOT in a good way.
Scott noted that his inspiration was a 1990's cartoon and toy named My Pet Monster which makes sense: monsters simply cannot run around loose. While critics and bloggers alike lambasted the shoe as a herald to the slave past of many Americans or "rappers glamorizing criminal behavior and prison for years," Adidas initially defended the choice as Jeremy Scott's "outrageous and unique take on fashion." anyone who has seen his previous designs might agree, but ultimately, the tsunami tide of public opinion washed away the Shackle.
But it's not like Adidas is the only shoe company this year with a foot in its mouth (so to speak). Previous to a St. Patrick's Day release of it's shoe named the Black and Tan (pictured above), Nike was hardly prepared for the backlash. While most of us think of the color combination with regard to the Irish beer Guinness, folks in Ireland have longer memories. It would seem that in the 1920's a British regiment was particularly brutal in suppressing the Irish. This group was known by the color of its uniforms which were, of course, black and tan. Naturally, Nike backed off on the name and, instead, named the shoe the Guinness...a name by which one can probably fins the shoe on EBay.
Not so the Shackle. That will never be produced.
For my money, I think it's probably like those mittens my mom used to make me wear with the string through my jacket sleeves so I wouldn't lose them.
But then, Idiot Shoes would probably not be a popular name, either.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

It wasn't that long ago that the changes in music listening formats began to change faster than the sobering effect of being pulled over by a policeman at 2 a.m. Of course, the reel-to-reel couldn't fit in a car, so when the 8-track tape came along, Nirvana seemed ever so close. In short order, that incredible discovery was followed by the cassette, then the CD, then the MP3. It's all been so sudden that "new" technology stays around as "new" about as long as the bare-midriff look or paisley bell bottoms. And now, even having something solid that contains music seems to be on the way out.
My daughter gave me an iTunes gift card today for Father's Day: a thoughtful gift...something she knows I will use. However, I may be the last of a breed: one of those people who like to carry a format that I can stick into the dash of my car to play music. Streaming services are pushing buy-it-as-an-MP3-online into the Smithsonian. Seriously...when I can pull up virtually ANY song I want on Spotify and can get other streaming services like Pandora and 8Tracks for free, why would I bother buying music? This might well be the harbinger of the end of recorded music as we know it. Remember those irritating skips on the early portable CD players? Streamed music has none of that. Of course, there ARE the commercial messages if one chooses not to buy the pay service, but if there is an aux input in the car, all one needs to do is hook up the iPhone or other such device, and sing along. There are still cars out there without the capability of attaching such a device, but you can be sure there's an adapter out there that will solve the problem.
At least it's something to stick into the dash.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm NOT Reading That!

OK. I admit freely that I attended a Barry Manilow concert yesterday. Of course, the tickets were free, and a cheap date is, perhaps, the best kind; so, despite the fact that my date didn't really know who Barry was or what he'd done (not being a music listener throughout the 70s), she agreed to go knowing that a cheap date was better than no date. Frankly, though, it was a bit embarrassing. Women in attendance outnumbered the men 10-1, and all the guys looked like they were attending in hopes of getting a really great gift for Father's Day. At least half of the attendees had serious difficulty negotiating the steps in the auditorium, and I expected the EMTs at any moment. On the bright side, I felt both much younger and much thinner. The concert itself was actually entertaining; I mean, this guy had 10 top ten hits during the 70s and a LOT of other recognizable pop tunes (in addition to many commercials one would recognize), but it made me think about why people are drawn to certain things: in this case, most of the women screaming and putting the free glow sticks inside their shirts in conspicuous places probably were recalling the days of being love-smitten and/or rejected. I mean, seriously, LISTEN to the lyrics! This event made me think yet again, of the line I've drawn: the line between what guys can acceptably do and should NOT do.
Imagine my horror to find on the sofa yesterday (courtesy of the neighborhood garage sale) the three-book series of The Hunger Games. I will never read any of them for the simple reason that I don't feel that this kind of dystopian literature is aimed at the middle-aged man but at teenage girls. It's the same reason I refused to read anything in the Twilight saga hysteria. Any book that convinces an audience to read is a good thing, but I simply will not succumb to the mass hysteria simply because everyone else has. That means I will ALSO not be reading Fifty Shades of Gray, described by some as "Twilight with sex." That book is designed for women with an active fantasy life but not necessarily and active sex life...something like all the fiction with Fabio on the cover, his shirt ripped open. I understand the idea of a "best seller," but that does not imply the book is good...just popular. (I guess the same could be said for popular music).
Anyway, I have Christopher Moore's latest book Sacre Bleu  to read.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Stake, Medium Rare

It's no wonder that vampires have become all the rage lately, what with the media of books, television and movies glorifying the existence of the undead, but I think people would have a different viewpoint if they awoke to discover something munching on their brain tissue! Zombies have been added to classical literature in an attempt to get readers to attempt to, uh, read something. A movie is coming out containing the undead during the Civil War in the United States, and folks have even gotten so nutty about the subject that they have been scheduling "vampire vacations," according to the web site eTN.
All of this, naturally, started with Bram Stoker's depiction of Dracula, based on (supposedly) the real-live king in Transylvania Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Vlad "The Impaler" (NOT a professional wrestler but a good name for one) noted for impaling his enemies on sharpened stakes while still kicking, so to well as screaming, one might suspect.
Adding to the folk curiosity, if only for the tourist euros, comes a story from modern-day Bulgaria where three remains were recently unearthed near the town of Sozopol, located on the Black Sea while an archeological dig was taking place. The three remains shared certain characterisitics: each was judged to be at least 700 years old, and each had a metal or wooden stake implanted just about where one's heart would be located! Bozhider Dimitrov, a Bulgarian archeologist explained that this was a common practice "back in the day" when villagers feared an evil person might be resurrected to continue being less-than-neighborly. Richer villains were staked with metal stakes while the more ordinary cadavers got wooden ones. The calculations concerning dating the remains is important because, at 700 years old, these people would have lived BEFORE Vlad began his messy work.
While there are, no doubt, conspiracy theorists to opine any number of different theories concerning the placement of the stakes, I'm not going to Bulgaria or its neighbor Transylvania any time soon. I prefer to check out the undead via celluloid.
In that way, I can pretend they do not exist.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dads Don't Do Doo-Doo?

It used to be that dads were seen as kindly, sentient beings like Ward Cleaver who provided economic power while serving as the eminent authority on just about anything...including discipline. While the Beav's dad comes to mind, but there were countless media examples of this type of father. Somehow, though, we got to the Al Bundy/Homer Simpson/Peter Griffin role model, and dads became widely stereotyped as what blogger David Holland calls "Doofus Dads." We became the punchline for everything from ineptitude handling diapers to feeding infants to understanding teens (well, OK, I'll give you that one) to that hopelessly dim dad featured in the AT&T ads who cannot quite get the concept of wireless internet (where's my cable?")...and it's not just me who thinks so. Kevin Metzger, author of a blog named "Dadvocate" (what? you thought only "mommies" had interest in things like Pinterest and blogging?), began to rail on about depictions in the media of dads as "clueless dolts."
Chris Routley, another affronted member of the male parenting society posted a petition at specifically to encourage advertisers to knock off the limiting stereotypical depictions. The now infamous Huggies commercial (see the news story below) that boasted its diapers had handled the "toughest test imaginable" (bumbling fathers) got immediate and sometimes vitriolic comments and was forced to withdraw the ad after the onslaught of complaints about the illustration of dads as incompetents. The aforementioned AT&T ads got similar complaints concerning its portrayal of fathers as technologically impaired...hopelessly so, in fact.
This brings me to the reaction of some of the mothers who have responded to the ads: many think the ads are merely funny and feel that men should lighten up a bit. I cannot think at the moment of a single commercial that endorses a product by implying women are less intelligent than, say, a load of laundry, so maybe the guys have a point. Sure, there are plenty of incompetents out there, but such an overgeneralization seems a bit unfair.
But then again, every promotional announcement for clothing, makeup, hair products, etc. aimed directly at women seldom use "ordinary" models; rather, it is generally someone who could squeeze into that size 00 or someone who already has perfect skin or has hot guys breathing heavily the moment she walks in the room.
That's unfair, too.
For the record, I changed diapers when they were CLOTH, and we had to rinse them out in the toilet before putting them in a container containing enough ammonia to melt eyeglasses. So, don't tell ME I'm, a doofus (though in a fashion sense, I am hopelessly outdated).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 the Summer?

Summer is supposed to be that relaxing part of the year in which the biggest worry will be whether or not the hammock needs to be brought in so it doesn't get wet or what to do about the newly-born bunnies that are voracious in their attacks on the flowers.
Perhaps for most school kids, it's supposed to be that way, but theses days there's music camp, Scout camp, basketball and soccer camps along with cheer camp and summer leagues of every kind. As they get older, summer jobs become more and more necessary since parents become reluctant to purchase every monthly release that Nike puts out. And, of course, Mom and Dad (but mostly Mom) must endure the pressure of constant traffic in and out of the refrigerator, the house and the garage. It's no wonder that the first day of the fall semester is a relief for almost everybody!
Normally, I relish this time of year as a time to actually get bored, watch pointless television programs and take continuous deep breaths as I revitalize after the intense stress of school with little to anticipate but a relaxing agenda of lawn mowing, book reading (for fun, not for educational purposes) and getting in touch with those people who are more distant in terms of distance.
This summer, though, the pressure squeeze is looming like a Burmese python around an Everglades raccoon. Not only do I have an upcoming major knee surgery, but I have to HOST a dinner/book review for members of the composition department from the university (which means scrubbing every inch of every bathroom, the kitchen floor and making certain the bookcase has thought-provoking titles with little dust on them), and the chairman cannot attend: eek! if that means I have to lead the discussion on a book we've all supposedly read concerning college teaching practices, I will have to make sure there's a LOT of wine beforehand! In addition to those two events, each staff member is supposed to write something for the August staff meeting that will be critiqued by the other staff members. Yowza! Having professionals read something I've written is daunting, to say the least. I could care less what they think of me personally, but I care very much that my professional writing capabilities be found acceptable.
I've begun a list of possible topics on which to write, focusing mainly on personal experiences for a narrative of sorts. I thought briefly of poetry, but that format is too easy to hate, as I see it. I might have to try out some ideas in this space to gauge how much I like them; after all, it's not like my largely invisible audience is likely to complain.
It's just the pressure.
I'm going to go lie down and try not to think about it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

All the Great Ones

Tiger Woods, Mariano Rivera, Ricky Rubio, and many, many more, probably the least of whom is guessed it: I am the latest to succumb to the debilitation known as a anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. I would love to say that I was conquering Everest or running 30 marathons in 30 days or lifting a bus off of a stricken victim, but such is not the case. In fact, I would be hard pressed to pinpoint exactly WHEN the injury occurred. On New Year's Day while exiting Lambeau, I felt a pop in my knee and figured it was much the same as I'd experienced before...put a restrictive sleeve on it for a couple of days, and it would go away. That couldn't be the cause...Three months later, there was still some residual soreness, but I'd resumed exercising every day with no real effects other than soreness after sitting for a while...something that I would consider "normal" since recovery is getting slower all the time. Considering that I had previously visited an orthopedist who had worked with noted Dr. James Andrews, I figured he could help. An X-ray showed several large calcium deposits filling the area behind my knee: the largest such deposit the ortho had ever seen! (I always work to be the best!) While there was no immediate reason to remove them, it was a matter of quality of life as I moved forward, and Dr. Obma left it up to me but suggested I get an MRI done just to make certain there would be no complicating issues once he sliced my leg open. Shortening the story somewhat, when the nurse called with the results, her first comment was, "Aren't you having knee pain?" followed by the news that the ACL was completely torn. How about that? Now, I know I can go through the rest of my life with chunks of calcium floating around that will cause occasional pain, and I know I can survive the rest of my life with a torn ACL, but do I want to? What if the unknown injury has been the cause of my inability to run pain free? If that were true, and I could race life would start over. However, that's probably too much to hope for...I'll just have to wait until my appointment this week to get the expert opinion. Falling apart is not pleasant.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Is "Good" Good Enough?

Chris Hayes, a political commentator created a firestorm of sorts last week when he opined something to the effect that the word "hero" is being somewhat loosely applied these days. Perhaps as a conversation starter or merely as a hypothetical statement, Hayes implied that merely signing up for the military did not make one a hero. The opprobrium came fast and furious, and Hayes was forced to backtrack on the statement. I'm not taking a position here on the issue or what he said, but it seems to me that just about everything we say these days is incendiary. Back in the day, the "Greatest" meant something, but now we apply superlatives to just about anything. If a person, an item or a feat is one of the "all-time greatest," there is little room for maneuvering. Any Top Ten list is only as good as the time frame in which it occurs, and with the state of telecommunications, these days, it's a nanosecond or so usually! That means any example that's better-than-average gets short shrift: dropping into the "good but not great" category. Thus, this would mean that 1. While the Bible is the Good Book, it's not a GREAT book, and the Good Samaritan is just doing his job, worthy of no special plaudits. 2. Pearl Buck wrote a book about the "good" earth, but never wrote anything about the "great" earth. How come? 3. That ice cream I get from the jingling truck is merely designed to put me in a "good" humor, but not a state of rapture. 4. When I donate my clothes to others who are somewhat needy, they go to the Goodwill store, but is it as satisfying as a Greatwill store? 5. The Beach Boys (touring again, it seems) could only drum up some "good" vibrations but nothing too exciting. Why not? So, you see, we have become a people who bestows superlatives on what could best be described as "better-than-average." Let me repeat: this is NOT about Hayes' statement concerning the military. It is merely an observation concerning our tendency to choose our words less carefully than Webster might have wanted us to. As such, I'm good to go...but not necessarily great to go.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

100,000 People Can't Be Wrong, Can They?

Before I start, let me say that I have no real opinion on the matter except one that regards myself. I don't want Ted Nugent shooting holes in my house or stalking me like I was a bear in Alaska. There, I've cleared that up. I just want to make a that is most likely an "apples to oranges" one, but one I find interesting nonetheless. To date, Wisconsin has issued more than 100,000 concealed carry gun permits in the last year or so. Trainings are a booming (so to speak) business, and I applaud the care with which the issue is being addressed. This means that Illinois (we'll come to them later) is the lone remaining state in which a person is not allowed to carry a concealed weapon on his or her person. Despite the publicity generated by dozens if not hundreds of news stories revealing ghastly shooting rampages (weapons for three of which came from a shop right here in Titletown!) it would seem that most Americans have some common sense when it comes to weapons. Not so Venezuela, it would seem. There is a new law in Venezuela making it illegal for private citizens to buy either weapons or ammunition.period. That right is available only to the police, the army and security companies. I can see gun rights activists getting a bit uncomfortable about now, but remember, OUR constitution gives us the right to have and bear arms (mostly for protection against the Redcoats and unfriendly natives). Venezuela has two things we don't have: a ruler named Chavez and an ever-increasing murder'd think it was Mexico, for goodness sake. For example, in the capital Caracas last year, there were 18,000 murders; that's almost 50 per day, which makes it one of the deadliest cities in Latin America. And, face it, Latin America, and in particular the southern part of it, often leads the Americas in murders per capita, and most, if not all, feature the use of guns. So, I can somewhat see where the government is coming from. Hey, it tried an amnesty program that allowed folks to turn in their weapons, but it was not successful, so desperate times apparently call for desperate measures, especially when the numbers are elevated to where the international rate of 6.9 per 1,000 people would make it seem like a church camp by comparison. According to Sarah Grainger of the BBC, 70% of all homicides in South America have guns featured prominently. The percentage in Western Europe is about 25 %, and though there was no figure mentioned for North America or the U.S. in particular, let's go back to Illinois--Chicago, specifically. Over the Memorial Day weekend, 10 people were killed by gunfire, and 42 were wounded. that would mean an average of about 1200 in a year (just for "average" sake). Remember Caracas? 18,000 was the number there. Thus, for those of you who feel squeamish about 100,000 of your "neighbors" packing secret heat AND for those who would feel "nekkid" without their sidearm, hunting rifle, AK 47 or other assault weapon favored by hunters when pursuing the vicious deer, it could be worse: you could live in Venezuela. And the mayor of New York just wants to ban sugary drinks over 16 ounces.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The "Food Nanny"

Yes, it's THAT funny: my sweetie is staying up extra late just to watch David Letterman roast New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Letterman regales us with mayoral humor frequently, but I suspect this time, it will go on and on and on. After all, both Steven Colbert and John Stewart waxed almost apoplectic, and it was funny as heck. True, this was yesterday's reruns, but I suspect Letterman will not let the mayor off so easily as to pillory him only on one night. The reason? Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a ban in the city of New York on sugary sweet beverages in excess of 16 ounces. The ban would extend to restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, and the blogosphere as television pundits are, well, apoplectic about it. It seems the mayor has decided that the city should shed its obesity image, and sugar drinks are the perfect place to continue the health "hysteria" as one critic called it. This after the mayor had ordinances passed prohibiting smoking both inside and outside of public buildings, restaurants, and even public parks. Also prohibited was the use of artificial trans fat by restaurants as a cooking ingredient (like REAL trans fat is better?). As a result, this latest salvo should come as no surprise to folks living in the Big Apple, but the outrage is heavy (as are the outraged, I suspect) all over town. So, a patron goes to the ballpark or a movie: the plan always involves copious amounts of food washed down with, well, most anything. In this case, alcohol is a great choice since there is no limit to the amount of THAT a person can have in the container. Hmmm...sound choice? The critics have pointed out some very obvious facts. To wit: 1. A patron can STILL walk into a famous coffee establishment in the city (or just about any other city, for that matter) and order a 24-ounce, 520-calorie double chocolate frappaccino without a look askance. 2. Anyone can simply order two 16-ounce drinks without risking approbation from Big Brother...and the resulting waste (cups, bottles, etc.) will double the amount of trash that blows around. And NYC has had THOSE troubles before! 3. New York City's finest probably have more pressing matters than keeping an eagle eye out for soda perps. 4. Convenience stores don't seem to be included at this point. The last anyone checked, those plastic bottles of sugary drinks are 16.9 ounces...definitely outside the law. 5. What about Slurpees? Are they drinks? Frozen flavor? Brain-freeze in a cup? 6. Most fast food places have a refill-your-own policy, and nobody but an idiot would order anything but a regular size unless the larger size came in a Spiderman cup. Mind you, I'm not really taking a side on the issue because I don't live there. The idea of reducing obesity is a worthy one, but many feel that they should be in charge of their OWN decisions on health matters. If not, where would the line be drawn between those considered safe enough to make their own decisions and those who needed "guidance"? Age of reason? Age of majority? Gender? I do, however, applaud the idea much as I protested the idea when our school sold itself to the Coca Cola company some years ago (I was right but it took the district powers ten years to figure it out...still waiting for my apology). But, I DO have my own suggestion: Anyone who wants to consume more than 16 ounces of ANY sugar-laden drink must do 20 pushups, 20 jumping jacks, and 20 4-count burpees OR skip rope for three minutes before they can be served. It's the perfect solution. We get less obese either way, and we can go back to being outraged at our politicians.