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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why the Olympics Need to be Held in Chicago

Ordinarily, I would have begun touting Green Bay as a host for the Olympics, but that would hardly be realistic. We couldn't even get a chance to host the Big 10 Championship Game due to a lack of hotel space...something like the Olympics? Good one.  Chicago, of course, becomes the next logical choice. It has everything already: sports venues galore, good weather (as opposed to monsoon season in London for the cycling races), more ethnic food that one could eat in a fortnight (OK, so I borrowed that from London), and an airport or two that are relatively accessible to the world.
Those are all selling points, but not my major point. I have a couple of gripes with holding such extravaganzas in places other than the Midwest: time, the Twittersphere, and 24-hour coverage of sports in other time zones. I absolutely hate to open up a sports website and see photos emphasizing the latest success or abysmal failure of Michael Phelps, USA soccer or basketball, et al. Granted, these are all riveting stories, but they (in the case of this year's games) have already taken place, leaving me with ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to watch breathlessly as events unfold on television! This fact is quite aggravating. For example, I had already known that it wasn't REALLY the queen who skydived out of the helicopter in the opening ceremonies...I knew Lochte had beaten Phelps in the 400 IM and the French had beaten the US in the 4x100 relay long before I was able to see it on television; and that took some of the fun out of it.
Of course, I know the entire thing is streamed via the internet so I COULD ostensibly watch anything in live time, but 3 a.m. just doesn't work in my schedule. AND, I could refuse to look at sports web sites until the day's events have been televised, but then I cannot keep up with, say, the baseball scores as they happen.
This is the type of conundrum with which our online world has brought us. Before that, it was televised sports taking over for reading the box score the next day in the event which was preceded by all those naked guys in Athens who got no coverage whatsoever (so to speak) from the media.
One good thing about the coverage, though, is that I got to see some entertaining table tennis, fencing and badminton that is available nowhere else.
As long as it's not rhythmic dancing and the scores are not posted online, I can pretend it's happening in the moment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Now THIS is A Head Scratcher

There are a few things on which I am a black-and-white-it-is-or-it-isn't type of person: the reality of global warming, my job, family and husband responsibilities and, generally, matters of faith. Every now and then, though, a nagging question comes creeping into that hard and fast reality that I call my belief structure, and I begin to wonder. For example:
Today, for probably the millionth time (conservative estimate given my background), I heard the biblical story of the boy who brought loaves and fishes to a public appearance and allowed Jesus to feed 5,000 people with them. OK, did He literally feed that many people, or was it just another parable-type story to embellish the idea that God "feeds" His people? Don't know, don't need to think about it too much...however, there was one item in the story that made me sit up and ponder.
You probably know the story...everybody with any Christian background does, but I'll bet none of you asked yourself this question: where did the baskets come from? That's what piqued my curiosity today. Here's the deal:
The crowd had walked far out of town, following Jesus and waiting for him to speak.  He did so, either before or after distributing the loaves and fish. He instructed the disciples to gather up the remnants so there would be no waste (an environmentalist!), and the leftovers filled 12 baskets! TWELVE! Here's the series of questions that rambled through my mind upon hearing that for what seemed to be the first time:

1. Where did that many twelve baskets come from?

2. Who would be carrying empty baskets on a hike? It seemed nobody else had any food.

3. Did the apostles just carry them around "in case" they found something useful on the road during their travels afoot?

4. If not for carrying food, what was IN those baskets that had to be thrown out so the food could be put in there?

5. Did people bring their laundry along just so they wouldn't miss anything important?

6. Presuming the fish and bread were miraculously multiplied, was there ONE basket that was miraculously turned into twelve?

7. If so, and the boy brought a meager meal in his basket, it had to be rather small so "making" eleven more wouldn't hold much.

I know the fundamentalists among you will say things like, "The baskets aren't important to the story. Get over it." or "You have too little faith," or "Burn the heretic at the stake!"

I don't mean to imply that my faith is lacking, but these little questions sometimes refuse to leave my head (there being so much room for them to bounce around), and sooner or later, I'll become a basket case.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fooling Absolutely Nobody

This week, the NCAA came down on the Penn State football program like a piano falling from the top of the Empire State building.This penalty was not the result of academic dishonesty or recruiting violations or ANYTHING even remotely involved with a player. The  well-known case against coaches and administrators as a result of looking the other way while a coach molested young boys was horrendous and the school and program were punished under the vague "lack of institutional control" heading. The real perp gets prison, as he should, and several administrators may follow in due course; the team, however, gets slammed in an attempt to restore some semblance of propriety in the collegiate athletics system. The message, it seems, is that athletics programs are only a part of a larger institutional machine and should not be allowed to dictate to the university or its employees what course to take or avoid. Establishing this moral high ground is all well and a show. Nobody really believes that college football or basketball are going to be reined in...not as long as hoops players can pretend to go to school for one semester before declaring themselves good enough to play in the NBA.
As for football, the Penn State news was followed this week by two important major college football verbal young men entering 8th grade next year! Yep, both LSU and the U of Washington reached out with scholarship offers to  boys who were still in junior high...boys who cannot even sign a letter of intent until February 1st of 2017! Seriously! And you think that procedure will end the recruiting process of these two? Hardly. It's going to get crazy, especially when one considers the latest NCAA data that shows 40% of verbal commitments are rescinded by players before actually enrolling in their "dream" university. It's all about the Benjamins; don't think it will change.
This seems particularly ironic in the face of the circling pool of college coaches around Happy Valley these days who are hoping to lure disenfranchised ("no bowl appearances for four years") players to their campuses as soon as next week when fall practices will begin. While legal under NCAA guidelines, this practice merely allows us to see the seamy underbelly of the coaching profession: win or get fired.
That's why the tail wags the dog at universities.
That and the Benjamins sports rakes in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Probably Just Me

Spending a great deal of time in airports lately gave me an opportunity to do some serious people watching. I don't know what you look at when doing so, but I usually look at feet, and what I noticed recently is probably something of which OSHA or perhaps the TSA needs to be made aware. I'm talking about safety of air travelers...serious stuff. This week, the TSA was all over an 80-year-old woman who followed me through the screening process and had Kleenex in her shirt breast pockets, and harangued me about the dangers of carrying Old Wisconsin hot dogs in a carry-on, but they ignored the most obvious danger to those about to enter the various concourses and step onto and off of those dangerous moving walkways.
I'm talking about people wearing flip flops and other pseudo-shoe items instead of real shoes. Not only does this kind of footwear lend itself to getting caught in cracks and crevices of escalators, moving walkways and doorways boarding trams and trains, they make it impossible for a late-arriving passenger to sprint to the appropriate gate. Sure, they're easy to get on and off going through security, but after that...nightmare. And the "slap, slap, slap" of hundreds of people walking through the terminal left my ears ringing for hours. Of course, this warning applies mostly to young people between,s ay 10 and 25 and a great number of females as well. If my observations can be related to a wider population, anyone over the age of 50 wears New Balance sneakers. Asics seems to be the brand favored by serious-looking athlete types. Women past 25 usually wear Toms, though a percentage still cling to the stubbed-toe possibilities by wearing open-toed sandals or flip flops. Young children invariably wear action figure shoes with sparkles or LED lights attached. Me? I always wear running shoes, double-knotted--ready to break into an emergency gait at a moment's notice.
But then, maybe I'm the only one who's ever had to sprint through a concourse to an alternate gate lugging two wheeled carry-on bags and a backpack. Maybe I'm the only one who's ever stumbled and almost fallen trying to exit a moving walkway. Maybe I'm the only one who values personal preference over safety from terrorists.
Even though the TSA person said to me, "Those hot dogs can kill you."

Monday, July 16, 2012


My doctor doesn't really pay attention, I don't think. of course, I see him one time a year to get a physical, and that's generally all. If he had to depend on income from my maladies, he'd take up another profession. However, the other day as he was going through the motions ("turn your head and cough"), he said, "I see you've been putting on weight." I fixed him with as much of a perplexed stare as I could and said, "huh? I've weighed this much for years."  Then he noticed that the number was at least three years old but covered his oversight by initiating a ramble about healthy choices. Well, I have news for him: I'm as healthy as the average Chinese guy in my age group! I am also on a par, basically, with all the males in Burma who are my age, and I don't have to eat yak butter or whatever it is that is consumed as a staple there and live in an inhospitable climate (though they DO get to wear cool hats!).
Based on a somewhat (though not really) scientific examination of a Body Mass Index (BMI), scientists in London have determined that I am a bit better than average worldwide and much better than average in the United States. In fact, in this country, my projected BMI is lower than 88% of all the males in my cohort; worldwide, that number drops, but I am still in better "fat" shape than 58% of the men in my age group.
In determining the averages, the United Nations gathered data from 177 countries as well as utilized information gleaned from the World Health Organization. This information is necessary since researchers seem to feel that global weight gain is a greater threat to mankind than population growth! Perhaps, the earth will move off its axis as obesity reigns.
And I though rap music would be the death of me!

Want to see where you rank? Here's the URL:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Better Than A Body Pillow?

Jackie Samuels has gotten a great deal of media attention lately as she promotes her business:The Snuggery (the She's appeared on late-night television and The Playboy Channel as well, and many an eyebrow has been raised over he willingness to charge $60 per hour to snuggle with anybody who feels tempted to do so. Non-sexual human contact has long been associated with positive mental health, and Samuels, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, sees an opportunity to promote mental health while paying the rent. This is definitely a step up for her since she began her career by selling hugs to strangers on the streets of New York. Samuels asserts that there are at least 100 different snuggling "positions," but she usually begins with the "spoon."
It's not like this is her idea, though. Redi Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, self-styled "relationship coaches," began Cuddle Party in new York in February of 2004 and are currently training and certifying people to facilitate such gatherings around the country, calling them "workshop/social events."
Lest one thinks this is another one of those odd New York things, cuddle parties have been featured on mainstream television in episodes of CSI: New York and An Idiot Abroad which might explain why I didn't know about it! It is important to note that in all cases, there is no kissing and no sexual contact allowed...just the comforting, stress reliever of human contact.
Should you require more technical information such as "classic" cuddling positions such as the shoulder roll, the stargazer and the superman (NOT making this up!), should give you more than you want to know.
As for cuddling with cats...include me out. I'll stick with the big pillow...there's no charge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bipartisanship is Back!

Just when you thought American politics had finally hit the slimy-slick bottom of the system in which every vote on every issue was delivered along party lines, along come the Olympic Games to straighten out what's been dividing politicos. Our elected leadership has been unable to agree on fact, it's gotten to the point where representatives find out what the PACs think or their party leadership thinks before casting a vote on whether or not the sky is blue ( a natural phenomenon or an expression of global warming?).
Anyway, now that the U.S. Olympic team "parade" uniforms have been delivered, the politicians have something on which they can totally agree: the "elitist prep look" is a horrible fashion statement that does not reflect more than 1% of our population's background...(oops! That's what I think). The real issue here is that the uniforms were made in, guess where? China! People like Harry Reid and Barbara Pelosi were quick to jump on this fact with both feet, guns blazing: one suggesting that they unis be piled up, burned, and the process begun again while the other attributed the selection by the U.S. Olympic Committee as something akin to, well, communism. The fact that anyone wearing these outfits would look like a total dork was apparently not the issue. A beret, for God's sake? And the ridiculously large Ralph Lauren logo? How many Americans could even tell ONE THING about polo that they didn't see in Pretty Woman? I tried water polo once, but the horse kept sinking, and it was hard to hit the ball. Reid also posited that a singlet with "USA" hand-painted would be better. Apparently, it is important that people know who we are from a distance of say, 200 meters...or 200 yards if you are still clinging to the old English measurement system, which, by the way, the rest of the world has long since abandoned, even though it makes judging things like high jump a lot harder.
Anyway, Ralph Lauren is a major sponsor of the U.S. team, and since it is privately funded so as not to interfere with your paying taxes for other things, it seems somewhat logical that an American company get the bid...and if that company is a financial backer of our Olympic effort, so much the better. Hey, this is how business works! Turns out that like just about everything one can buy at Wal-Mart, the Chines have their hands, so to speak, in this venture as well; and while I hear all the rhetoric about Ralph Lauren outsourcing its stuff, I have yet to hear anyone complain about the other athletic apparel like shoes that will adorn the feet of our Olympians. I would be willing to bet that none of those manufacturers produce their high-end, high-cost items in this country, either.
But, bipartisanship is a good thing, and I suspect that since this is an election year, we'll hear more and more bombast along this line.
Now, if they could only agree on something important: jobs, the national debt, crime, a BCS playoff system, health care...ANYTHING! But then, studying the issues carefully isn't really needed when the vote will be anything BUT bipartisan.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Getting Out of the Kitchen

Yes, it's been hot everywhere this summer...except in England where it continues to rain. My pal Jerome indicated that it was so hot at his house that the robins were using potholders to grab worms out of the ground. That's hot! A veritable flock of feathered creatures was sitting on the edge of our birdbath today, taking numbers and jostling each other just to get two minutes of splashing (and all the mosquito larvae they could eat!) you know it's hot. In fact, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the United States just finished the hottest year on record...and records have been kept on such things since 1895! And while 170 heat-related records were tied or broken in the month of June, it was only the 14th hottest June on record, with the titleholder being that infamous June of 1933 when the Dust Bowl was in full force.
Of course, many people died in this country: some as a result of the heat itself, some from the power outages that resulted from the cool front that triggered violent storms and left thousands upon thousands without power. Naturally, we look to the experts for the reason for all of this nasty weather...and they opine that it has something to do with climate change: the earth is adjusting itself to compensate for all the crap we've put into the air, the water, and the ground. Various politicians will dispel that notion as pure sensationalism by environmentalists...smug in the knowledge that climate change is a possible cause, according to those who study such things; these folks also admit that other factors may be at play here.
Whatever the cause, one HAS to feel sorry for the poor robins

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Bullish on Speed

My racing days are long over, and even the impending 7th surgery will not bring them back. Too bad because somewhere on my list of things to do in search of adrenaline would be to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The run itself is short: 850 meters (928 yds), a little more than a half mile, but it's not exactly a walk in the park because some of the bulls, especially the Dolores Aguirre ones (seen below) have a tendency to poke people with those pointy things on their heads as they rumble unknowingly to the bullring where they will meet their demise. Some of the runners meet a horrible fate much earlier, and since 1925, 15 foolhardy (or just slow) would-be bullrunners have perished (most recently in 2009).
Here are some interesting facts about the event:
1. The festival is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the first bishop of Pamplona who was eventually beheaded in Amiens, France (not dragged through the streets of Pamplona by bulls, as some would suggest).
2. It is the largest festival in Spain as more than 1,000,000 people arrive annually for the event which runs from July 6 through July 14.
3. Common knowledge indicates that the first Westerners heard about the festival was through its inclusion in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
4. Bulls run through the streets led or followed by derring-do types all eight days of the festival, not just the opening one.
5. Along with the fighting bulls run 8 non-fighting animals noted by their brown and white coloring instead of the more fierce black coloring of the dangerous ones.
6. A half mile is a LONG way when a bull is chasing!

If you decide to go, remember that you don't have to outrun the bulls: you have to outrun the slowest runners :)

Check out the video from this year: The guys in the green shirts that follow the bulls are there to keep them moving in the right if the prospect of spearing hundreds of guys stupid enough to get in their way isn't motivation enough!
The guys following the bulls NOT in the green shirts are just sissies. I could follow.
Even after the next operation.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Is This What's Important?

I work every day with college athletes and university professors who teach college athletes. I also teach students who are not associated with the athletics business at all; both professors and "normal" students often make the same comment: "Those athletes get everything." Debating whether or not that's true at our university is fodder for another discussion. The perception is based on all sorts of stories about major college athletes who are, indeed, the entitled few, and the stories are ones with which we are all familiar. Yet another one is playing out right now, and I can guarantee that the end result will be a head-scratcher for those outside the world of college athletics.
It would seem that an individual who was ranked as the top high school running back one year ago signed to play at a prominent SEC school, believing it to be a shortcut to the NFL. One year later, the stat sheet looks more like a rap sheet (and I'm not talking music here). Following a year in which he was twice suspended (one for an "unnamed" disciplinary mistake, and one for a failed drug test), this individual was stopped by police over the weekend for a minor infraction and found to be in possession of  a) an unregistered firearm; b) a firearm in a school zone; c) a firearm from which the serial number had been defaced. This individual now faces a fine of up to $10,000 and between one and five years in prison on one count and between two and ten years on another count. His story (and he's sticking to it) is that the 9mm Luger found under the seat in his car wasn't his gun, and other people had driven the car.
OK, fair enough...maybe...innocent until proven to be guilty, etc.
He's also hired a prominent Atlanta attorney to handle the case (where does he get the money? Not from his Pell grant, I'm sure).
This whole experience, of course, is a very sad turn for the young man to take, but here's the part that amazes me:
His main concern now, according to his mother and the talking heads on ESPN is whether or not he should go to a lesser-division school to play next year (so he does not have to sit out a year) OR whether he should go to a junior college to play as did former light-fingered Gator Cam Newton.
Really? This is a topic for discussion: where to play next year? It's a sad commentary on the justice system and a great example of why "normal" folks think of athletes as entitled to far more than the rest of us.
It's a hard point to argue, and in case you are wondering, the ESPN pundits feel that going to a JuCo is the better path back to the entitled world of college athletics.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

With Apologies to Homer

If P.T. Barnum was correct, and there IS a sucker born every minute, this would be an easy, er, "tale" to swallow. It seems we continue to be fascinated by mythical creatures such as mermaids: those lovely creatures of literature and movie fame that caused men to fall madly in love and then overboard with romance. The Odyssey  might have been the most recognizable literary reference, but stories of women (often barely clothed, if at all) with tails where their legs/feet should be have become stock footage in just about any beach movie that doesn't feature sharks. And it seems that people still need to be convinced that such creatures did not exist.
The top image is an artifact featured in a museum somewhere in England and was purported to be a mummified mermaid, displayed as a sideshow attraction until it found its way into a museum where the scientists found that, gasp! the hair was HUMAN! Of course, an X-ray showed that the body was wire and wood and the eyes were some sort of shell, but still...
Recently, The Discovery Channel program Mermaids: The Body Found provided something of a tongue-in-cheek look at the myth of womenfish, and more than a couple of people contacted the program in the belief that this was scientific proof of the existence of mermaid. In fact, so serious were the callers that Carol Kavanagh of the National Ocean Service had to publish a report stating that "no evidence of aquatic humanoids had EVER been discovered," and that the Discovery Channel program was mere fiction.
That news will probably come as disappointment to all the folks who go to underwater shows just to see some nekkid womenfish.
However, I hold the opinion that it was the Japanese whaling industry that killed all the mermaids.
Hey, someone will believe that!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Live Mas!

Quick: What contains 950 pounds of beef, 500 pounds of sour cream, 300 pounds of tomatoes and lettuce, and 150 pounds of cheddar cheese?  If you guessed a fourth meal at Shaq's place, you might be right, but the actual answer is a fully-loaded delivery truck airlifted to Bethel, Alaska! Odd, yes, but a money-maker for Taco Bell as it releases as new menu this week.
It seems the residents of Bethel were hoodwinked by flyers advertising the opening of a Taco Bell franchise in their remote town of 6,200. So delighted were they at the news that the letdown caused by the realization that they'd been punk'd threatened the sanity of the entire place...enter Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, California. People there decided to compensate the residents of Bethel by taking a delivery truck via helicopter to Alaska in order to deliver 10,000 Doritos Locos tacos, almost two tacos per person With the nearest Taco Bell 400 miles away in Anchorage, the story got big play, and Taco Bell got mucho ad spike. The cost was not such a big deal, either, when one considers that, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Taco Bell's income for the first quarter of this year was $458 increase of 73%!
Not coincidentally, one would think, is the fact that Operation Alaska was launched just ahead of the new Cantina Bell menu, set to roll out this Thursday nationwide: a menu that will feature all sorts of fresh, almost gourmet items. Prices are said to be less than $5 for anything on the new menu.
I just hope they don't replace the sporks with real silverware. I'd have to take my business to Taco John's.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Got a Rocket in My Pocket

Turned down as an applicant for the first "Teacher in Space" flight offered by NASA in hopes of reviving a somewhat flagging space program (fortunately, as it turned out!), I've always been interested in maximum g-force. Roller coasters are about all I can manage, despite the fact that space tourism has, well, taken off, so to speak. At a dollar per ride, the Zippin' Pippin is about as thrilling as it gets locally. Traveling to major amusement parks is a possible plan, but sticker shock concerning admission prices might be a determining factor...I DO love roller coasters, though.
Many people I know are convinced that death awaits them while engaging in such an activity, but the truth is that lightning-strike deaths occur more frequently. According to the BBC, the odds are 300 million to one that a person will die as the result of an amusement park ride. It is estimated that in this country between 1994 and 2004, riders climbed aboard amusement park thrill rides 1.7 billion times...and the industry average was four deaths per year. Compare that to the average of 39 deaths per year in this country as a result of lightning strikes, and one begins to have a clear picture of the overreaction of those namby-pambies..
For the rest of us, it's the thrill of sudden acceleration or the liver-lacerating shaking of wooden coasters or the sudden plunging drops that take the scream and shove it back down our throats that is the allure. But, if you think you've had the biggest and the best...think again.
Ferrari Land, an amusement park in Abu Dhabi modeled after an Italian racetrack, features the Formula Rossa: a ride that accelerates from 0-62 mph in a scant two seconds and reaches maximum speed at 149 mph over the course of the ride. OMG! But that pales in comparison to a ride at Fuji-Q Highland Park in Japan. This baby, using a jet-assisted compressed air launch will hurl passengers from 0-107 mph in an artery-busting 1.8 seconds. yes. seconds.
Like fabulous drops that have your colon slipping out of your mouth? Go to the Six Flags park in Jackson, New Jersey, and you can be treated to a ride on the Kingda Ka coaster and plummet 418 feet on one drop. The scream won't even leave your lips on this one.
However, the best may be yet to come. In production but not yet bought by any amusement park is something called the Vomit Comet, pictured above. This ride screams along a rail, shoots straight up, then falls backward. OK, this is not a new concept; however, the effect guaranteed by this ride is that the riders will experience weightlessness (just like the astronauts) for 8 seconds.
Try counting slowly to 8, and you'll realize that it is a seriously LONG time. Look for this ride somewhere soon!
But don't eat lunch before riding on it.