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, June 30, 2013

You Need Your Sleep...To Be Thin!

Sleep necessity studies have been widely done and reported. Most folks, according to research, need between seven and nine hours of sleep with teens needing the most and older people needing less. The research done had a primary focus on being able to attend to important details throughout the day: a sharp focus was the acknowledged result of adequate sleep. Now, however, there is an important study that links sleep to weight.
Of course, it makes sense if I look at my eating habits: if I stay up late watching a movie, I'm tempted to grab high-calorie, tasty foods like chips or ice cream. No vegetable slices there! I suspect it would be the same for most people. Not surprisingly, given that information, the study done at the Perelman School of Medicine at Pennsylvania University and published in the journal Sleep (who knew?) noted the effects of sleep deprivation and associated weight gains.
The study is significant in two ways: first, it was a large one, following 225 people, and second, it was performed in a lab where every detail could be controlled. The results showed a significant increase in weight gain for some people and less for others...based on race and gender.
Researchers allowed participants to eat generally everything they wanted whenever they wanted and studied the results differences between those who went to bed at a normal time and those who were sleep-deprived "night owls" getting only 4 hours of sleep over a five-day period. It was discovered that the sleep-deprived subjects added 550 calories per day after 11 p.m. and most of those calories were from fat. As a result, weight gain was significant.
African-American men put on the most weight: an average of 3.7 pounds in five days. African-American women and white men gained an average of 2.2 pounds during that period while white women upped their total by .7 pounds.
The obvious point is to go to bed, but what about shift workers? Our brains are wired to consume calories when we are awake to stave off the challenges of the day. When we disrupt the circadian clock, the results can be devastating...and for shift workers, their internal clocks are always in disarray, placing them at greater risk for many health issues.
Sleep is vital...but that bowl of ice cream looks good (though the viewer needs to back away from the television a bit...hard on his eyes!).

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jimmy Soul Was Wrong

Back in 1963, an artist named Jimmy Soul captured the top slot on the Billboard chart with a recording that stated that the key to lifelong happiness was for a man to marry an ugly woman. Of course, this was pre-women's liberation and pre-Civil Rights Act so one must take that historical perspective into account (and blame HIM, not me). Anyway, the concept of achieving happiness has long eluded researchers and teenagers alike. Experts come and go from Dr. Phil to Dr. Suess, and nobody really seems to know. The latest opinion comes from researcher Ruut Veenhoven, the director of the World Happiness Databas in Rotterdam.
Contrary to po;pular belief, Veenhoven found very little correlation between goals and happiness. In fact, he found that unhappy people were far more often concerned with goals...because they hadn't reached them and felt that happiness could be achieved if only...
He also found little correlation between seeing meaning in life and happiness! Grim stuff based on popular perceptions of what causes happiness.
So...what DID he find? Veenhoven discovered that involvement was far more important to achieving happiness than finding out the "why" concerning our existence. In addition, he feels that we CAN make ourselves happier because happiness changes over time. He used the elderly as an example: they are found to be wiser as well as happier (due to the wisdom, I suspect).
The following list is comprised of what Veenhoven found to be behaviors consistent with happiness:
1. Being in a long-term relationship.

2. Being politically active

3. Being active both at work and in free time.

4. going out for dinner.

5. Having close friendships (though more close friendships did not equal more happiness...number was irrelevant).

Veenhoven found that people who had to commute an hour to get to work were much less happy than those who did not ( I could have postulated that).
he also noted that sadness is not a bad thing; in fact, he feels that 10% of our time should be spent in sadness in order to help us focus on changing negative habits.
Like other lists, he also has one that lists the top ten countries for happiness. Guess what? The United States is not on that list...something I could also have guessed. Want to live in your "happy place"? Move to Costa Rica!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Hogarth Shakespeare Travesty

Frankly, I don't even know how to react. I'm not a literary snob by any means: pulp fiction is as relevant to me as comic books or shakespeare himself. However, like certain musical icons (e.g. The Beatles), I believe there are writers whose work should never be "adapted." For that reason, I lionize J.D. Salinger: the seminal book of my teen years has never been made into a movie or revised or even spoken much about by the author. As much as I like Salinger, though, shakespeare ranks higher in my order of authors whose work should remain unsullied (even if Bacon DID write some of it as has been claimed).
so it is that when adaptations like West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate, O, and Forbidden Planet are set forth for public consumption, I shudder. of course, there have been serious attempts to recreate Shakespeare's work: Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet comes to mind, but I don't mind those since they at least attempt to stay as true to the original as possible. Now, however, we are embarking upon a new age of reinvention.
Two authors, Jeanette Winterson and Pultizer Prize-winning Anne Tyler have been commissioned to write modern adaptations of The Winter's Tale and Taming of the Shrew for release in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of The Bard's death in a project entitled The Hogarth Shakespeare Project. The idea is to make these works appealing to a modern audience by staying "true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal" while adding modern-day touches.
I must protest.
Some works are sacrosanct, and I believe these are good examples.
Maybe in three years, everyone will forget about this idea.
But I doubt it.
I also will not read either of them.
Wherefore art thou, William (or Francis)?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Mainstream Than I Figured To Be

There is little doubt among my closest family members that I am old-school: a more pleasant moniker than "out-of-touch" I suppose. Fashion, food, technology, name it, I am certain to be perceived as behind the times (or "Welcome to the 70's" as one of my kids always says). Be that as it may, I've discovered that old school isn't necessarily out of date; this fact was brought home by a survey in Entertainment Weekly that asked readers to list their all-time favorite ("classic") movies and television programs. To my surprise, I knew all but one of them and had seen all but a couple of them. Here's the list:
Movies (in descending order)
5. Psycho
4. Casablanca
3. Bonnie and Clyde
2. The Godfather (tied with The Godfather, Pt. 2)
1. Citizen Kane
My absolute favorites did not make the top 5 (Harold and Maude, American Flyers, Dances With Wolves, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, andThe Outlaw Josie Wales), and I did not take the time to look at the top 100 as listed in EW, but I'll bet I'e seen most of them.
On the television front, the top five were
5. The Sopranos
4. Mary Tyler Moore
3. Seinfeld
2. The Simpsons
1. The Wire
I've never even heard of The must be on a pay-per-view cable channel. I'll admit that the Simpsons is in my top five, but I would be hard pressed to come up with only four more; The Bob Newhart Show, Hogan's Heroes, The Big Bang Theory, and Mary Hartman Mary Hartman would be good bets. I love Mash when it was on but don't watch the reruns. Leave It To Beaver and Gilligan's Island were good, too, but none of the newer sit-coms seem to grab me, other than TBBT. South Park was really funny for the first few, it's lame.
I have not perused the top 100 vote-getters in this category, either, but I'll wager I've seen most of them, at least in part.
Not such an old fogey after all.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Would Warren Buffett Say To This?

Economic times have been tough worldwide over the past few years. While Americans have suffered through a housing downturn, unemployment disaters, and outsourcing problems, the rest of the world has been having some of the same issues. While it seems that Asian countries are doing bettr than most, that's not completely true. Japan was having such a difficult time that its foreign minister Shinzo Abe made a concerted effort to utilize questionable (in the eyes of some) economic policies to avert the dropoff. He continues to trumpet private investment, and has allowed inflation to creep up to stabilize the economy. In some corners, his policies have taken on a pop culture tenor in an attempt to get the younger generation onboard.
A group of young women ages 16-23 are at the musical forefront of this pop "economic reform." Called Michikado Keiki Japan (Economic Conditions on the Streets of Japan), the girl band sings about the appreciation of the yen and qualitative easing. Their fans are known to shout out things like "public investment" at concerts. Their schtick? They promise tro raise the hemline of their skirts every time there is a significant rise in the Nikkei Index (Japan's Dow-Jones Industrial). Intially, the economy flourished, but lately the hemilines have fallen a bit. Still...
And the music biz is not the only concern tying into Abe's policies. The lingerie manufacturer Triumph is promoting the "Abenomics Bra," a garment that increases bust sizes by 2% (mirroring economic growth). All of this calls into mind the disproven theory of the "hemline index" that opines that women's skirts are shorter during economic booms since they are willing to take more risks when times are good.
Wow! This is what happens in the rest of the world while we get a chance to buy lunch with Warren Buffett and talk about the Federal Reserve.
Go figure.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Ray Kroc Treatmrent for Exercise

You know Ray Kroc: the person who short-circuited meals in every American household by instituting a chain of wildly popular hamburger restaurants that offered a lightning-fast preparation time for hungry Americans on the go. Billions and billions were sold and continue to be sold, and ever since that revolutionary day, we have become a nation addicted to getting everything faster and faster with as little actual effort on our part as possible. This, of course, came with a price: obesity and a sedentary lifestyle by more and more people.
Now it seems that even the folks concerned about our physically decaying bodies have jumped on the "less is more" bandwagon, as evidenced by the presentations at this year's annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. Many of the presentations dealt with exercise requirements, and a goodly portion of them involved how LITTLE we had to do instead of how MUCH.
Oh, I get that we're busy...everyone has far too many proverbial irons in the fire to think about devoting the recommended  150 minutes per week to keeping fit. This regimen might be accomplished by 5 30-minute walks at a moderate pace or by 75 minutes of active jogging per week. every week. Americans have not accepted the premise, despite the science that has proven the medical benefits. In fact, it is believed that 80% of all Americans do not meet this standard at all.
Typical of exercise scientists is Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. His most recent scientific effort gave credence to his theory that short, intense bursts of activity were equal to prolonged bouts of regular exercise. His data suggested that 6, 30-second high-output bursts on an exercise bike were equal to 90-120 minutes of prolonged riding with regard to cardiovascular fitness. While his study was a small one, the use of interval training for athletes needing endurance is not a new idea...and it has been proven, especially with runners.
As for outcomes like weight loss...not so fast. Caloric output needs to be greater than caloric input for weight loss to occur, and exercising for  18 minutes a day doesn't seem to be the right answer. Still, that 18 minutes on a bike is better than nothing, as long as it's not followed by a high-calorie snack or sports drink.
Water is easier and cheaper. It's surprising that our need for "fast and cheap" hasn't led us to regular water.
Ray would like you to take a medium drink and refill it on the way out.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Kid Makes A Comeback!

One doesn't simply close a gold mine and walk away when ore is still available and eagerly sought after. However, that's what it seemed like last year when the Hostess Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and caused a gold rush-like run on Twinkies, Hostess CupCakes and (to a lesser degree) Donettes. Despite the mythical shelf life of "forever," we all knew that Twinkies would NOT last that long, even as we began to hoard them in the prepper shelters we'd begun. Now, it seems that we were a bit premature: Twinkies are about to return.
Following a restructuring of the company after it was bought out by Metropolous & Co. as well as Apollo for $410 million last year, the company is about to rebound. "There's gold in them thar Twinkies," seems to be the rallying cry as the company recently noted a July 15 return date on the shelves for the cakes.
Metropolous & Co is well-known for buying bankrupt business, revamping them, and selling them for a profit. Holdings currently include Hardee's, Chef Boyardee, and Pabst Brewing Company, so restructuring Hostess (minus union labor, of course) is a natural fit.
While there is talk about some possible recipe changes (gluten-free, for example), one thing that is so far guaranteed NOT to change is the price: a box of 10 Twinkies will remain at $3.99.
And the shelf life will be 45 days...not infinity.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Is It In Need of Fixing?

The NCAA makes a ton of money when March Madness rolls around during basketball season. Advertisers fall all over themselves spending money just to get a nod during the anual college basketball long as it's the MEN'S tournament: the women's version doesn't get much play. Over the past few years, the women's game, according to pundits, has gotten less than exciting with only a few dominant teams, and now there's a movement afoot to change the women's game to make it more exciting...hmmm. Like Brittany Griner, UConn, Notre Dame, Tennessee or not, those teams and players added to a buzz around women's basketball; however, it doesn't seem to be enough.
Val Ackerman, former president of USA Basketball and the WNBA has gone on record as saying that the women's game needs to change in order to generate some excitement. I get part of her argument...basically, women's college basketball is NOT an exciting game to watch, and now that the physical pushing, shoving, hand-checking, and holding has taken over (as it has in the men's game!), the game has slowed to a crawl. Couple the increasingly physical play with woeful shooting (this year's DI women's teams averaged barely 40% from the field, and just over 30% from the three-point line), and we now have a game that's far less about skill and athleticism than it is about how to manhandle opponents while the referees are (apparently) not looking. Understand me, the men's game has become something that Dr. Naismith would cringe over as well, but the speed is elevated, and fast break dunks and alley opp dunks can bring the crowd to its feet.
Anyway, some changes proposed by Ackerman, in no particular order and in no way seconded by me:

1. Shorten the season to one semester, beginning after football and ending in March.

2. Have the Women's NCAA tournament at the same time, on the same dates, and in the same city as the men's tournament.

3. Reduce the number of teams in the field sine there are no more than five or ten teams capable of winning it anyway.

4. Lower the number of scholarships per team from 15 to 134, thus spreading the talent around more and making for more of a competitive balance nationwide.

5. Have officials call fouls and violations as the rules intended to reduce physicality.

Some coaches, such as Geno Auriemma of the University of Connecticut, have suggested lowering the hoop from 10 feet to 9 feet to improve shooting percentages. (I suspect the number of players playing above the rim would also increase)

For my money, I have watched college women's basketball for 10 years, and the game can be exciting as long as it does not evolve into a holding, shoving, physical test of strength. Close games are fun to watch, and it's nice to see players who can actually shoot a free throw successfully. It IS, however, a much slower still bothers me to see players throw a pass with one hand by pushing it instead of the two-hand pass, and when games get a bit out of hand, fouls occur every time down the floor because there aren't skilled players in the game (this is when I head to the parking lot).
There are a myriad of theories regarding why women's college basketball has lost a bit of lustre, but I imagine the players might feel somewhat differently than do the "experts."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Just One More Thing That's My Fault!

I do dumb stuff. I will admit it. Many times these mistakes come from being in a hurry or simply from failing to think things through before I open my mouth to say something that will haunt me for an extended period of time. It's hard to argue with a woman who can trace every errant judgement or idea on her part BACK to something I did that instigated the faulty process. Of course, I'm usually just too stubborn to apologize and cut my such cases, the evidence becomes too great to overlook: I am the cause of everything that has ever gone wrong (and if not me, personally, men in general!) But I swear, I had NOTHING to do with menopause!
There is a bit of theoretical research being bandied about that would seem to indicate that hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats occurring in women somewhere around their early 50s (or so) are a direct result of men and not some hereditary/genetic/biological events that were preordained since time immemorial.
Professor Rama Singh, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Canada poses the idea that menopause might be more related to male behavior than one might imagine. He notes, for example, that humans are the only species that cannot reproduce over the entire life cycle. I guess I'd never really known that, but Singh thinks it is due primarily to the fact that, as women age, they are not seen as reproductive partners by the males of the human species! This HAS to be a lot more complex than men's desire for younger wives in mid-life...sort of a "if you don't use it, you lose it" theory, and all sorts of theoretical statements have been made...such as "women cease the ability to have children as they get older because they fear they will not live long enough to raise the offspring." While in some odd way, that idea might make sense to some people, it might lead to the type of claims made about women, rape, and pregnancies that destroyed so many political candidates' lives for the time being.
To this point, there is no statistical data to back up Singh's claim, and I'm not sure how he might even go about collecting corroborating data, but if the triple threat items that come with menopause ARE men's fault, we're really in for it when women find out!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Consumers' Rights and Liabilities.

Every now and then when I check a sales receipt, I find that something is amiss. Generally, it takes a few minutes to straighten things out. Usually, businesses want to keep customers satisfied, and I really can't remember saying, "Wow! I really got deceived by the fine print," even when buying things online. Of course, there IS the Better Business Bureau and the customer service at EBay, but I've seldom even thought about resorting to their services.
While I don't know for sure, I presume there's a law to protect my interests similar to the Sale of Goods law that was passed in England in 1979. While it  clearly states that "goods must be of satisfactory quality, be fit for purpose, and must match the seller's description," at least one man recently thought reach of the law was a much broader one.
Fortunately not named (to prevent the heaping of scorn from the blogosphere, one might imagine), a man in the U.K. called police to report that he'd been deceived: the prostitute he arranged to meet had misrepresented how beautiful she was. really.
In his indignant call to the police, the man stated that he had previously indicated that if said hooker did not meet the beauty standard she had set for herself, he would drive off after refusing her services. When he threatened to do so, she got angry, took his car keys, ran out, and threw them back at him...whereupon he called the local police station to report a violation of the Sale of Goods Act. It took mere seconds for the local constable to remind the man that solicitation of prostitution WAS a crime, but misrepresenting personal beauty was not. So, instead of being merely the latest in a somewhat growing line of whistleblowers, this poor fellow was subjected to a stern talking to (undoubtedly with accompanied muffled background laughter).
Adding insult to, well, insult, the police, using the record of the phone call, then sent the man a not-so-delicately-worded mailing letting him know that he had wasted valuable police resources, and that he should not do so again.
I'll be he's really glad his name was not mentioned.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Time Changes Everything, Even Cracker Jacks

Just when you get used to having things a certain way, some genius thinks change is needed. My friend Mark recently faced such a dilemma when he discovered that his 32oz. bottle of Hawaiian Punch was also bottled in two or three OTHER proportions! In the name of science, he managed to try the liquid from each container but confessed that only the beverage in the original container tasted as it should. While it doesn't seem possible that the same drink would taste different in a larger or smaller container, I trust his taste buds. Some things, though, have defied change, seemingly forever; Cracker Jack is one of those items...then the genius arrived.
Celebrated snack food at baseball games (and immortalized in song at EVERY game), this popcorn and peanut treat recently celebrated its 120th introducing new flavors and a new prize promotion. (By the way, why would someone buy both peanuts AND CrackerJacks since CrackerJacks has BOTH?) My thought on the matter is that if baseball fans have been singing its praises since 1908, there is no need for change, but then, nobody asked me.
The new flavors are Butter Toffee and Kettlecorn, ecah promising more peanuts and a niftier prize pack that includes a code to access either a baseball game or pinball machine on one's mobile phone. This will increase the liklihood of getting bonked with a foul ball at a game since one will be staring at the small video screen of his or her phone.
Thus, not only are the new flavors unnecessary, they are dangerous!
Although probably not as dangerous as the 62-oz. bottles Hawaiian Punch comes in.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

...and You Think You Have It Tough?

The news seems to be, invariably, bad these days: government "spying" on us...political parties refusing to discuss any ideas to end partisanship...immigration laws being pooh-poohed...shootings nearly every day claiming multiple all seems like our country has lost its rudder, and we are merely going downward in a spiral that will end badly: and not at all funny like the latest movie concerning the end of the world.
And yet, despite all the horror we feel is being inflicted upon us, I'd like to point out that we're not in Taksim Square in Istanbul, mired in the Arab/Israeli conflict, or worse yet, in Syria. Thousands die every week there, but none more terrible, I think, than the way Mohammad Qataa had his short life cut even shorter.
His father was sick, the family needed a wage earner (women being mostly excluded from anything like free enterprise), so Qataa fashioned work out of selling coffee on the streets in Aleppo, a town in Syria where many factions (most of them extremist) seem to roam at will. On Sunday, three men approached him, and one man asked if he could have a cup of coffee on credit. Mohammed replied "Even if the prophet Muhammed were to come down from heaven, I would not give you credit for coffee." At that point, the three men grabbed him, shouted aloud that he had blasphemed against the prophet, and dragged him off in a car. When they returned him, he was beaten so badly that he could not stand...he was thrown to the ground and shot dead in front of his mother and other bystanders who were too afraid to age 14.
We should all stop whining about how tough it is to live in this country.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I Missed It This Year

Saturday marked World Naked Bike Ride Day, and I missed it. Truth be told, I was visiting Chicago to see a grandchild so participating would hardly have been acceptable. According to a website for the event (isn't there a website for everything these days?), this event is held on June 8 in 70 cities and in more than 20 countries around the world. There is, thankfully, a purpose behind (so to speak) the event. Cyclists want to remind the world that cycling is great exercise but also remind them that cyclists are fragile when compared to, say, a two-ton vehicle. U.S. streets are relatively safe in comparison with places like Mexico City...but then, Mexico City itself isn't very healthy for most people.
According to the website, the event began nine years ago in Canada where June 9 is probably warmer than one might expect. The term "naked" is also something of a misnomer since riders can move about in any kind of outfit (or not) that they desire. Hence, lining the route for photographs might be somewhat disappointing.
An event DID take place in Chicago yesterday though I was unaware of it, and such random places as Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Portsmouth, England, all hosted events. I didn't do extensive research to discover what other cities of note were involved, but I'm sure if your city hosted a ride, you'd read about it in the paper. Ironically, though, while driving down the street today, Jackson Browne's The Naked Ride Home played on the CD player. Since I was driving, I was not tempted.
I did, however, give into the au natural temptation when I showered today.
All for biking safety!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

So Much For Everyone Else But So Little For Me

The first Friday in June is National Doughnut Day. Unlike so many of our other "National Whatever" days, this one appears to be the offshoot of a truly altruistic  event. It seems that in WW I, the Salvation Army sent volunteers to France to buoy the spirits of the men coming off the front lines by supplying them with freshly-baked doughnuts. Perhaps a little taste of home...perhaps a welcome relief from the French pastries available (though not, I suspect, to the average "doughboy") Anyway, to commemorate the generosity of volunteers, in 1917, a "National" day was awarded to the simple doughnut. Despite the fact that some companies have bastardized the spelling to "donut," the pastry has become a staple.
However, one CAN have too much of the same thing so varieties naturally abound. Beginning tomorrow, June 7, on National Doughnut Day, Dunkin' Donuts is rolling out (so to speak) its latest offering: a glazed doughnut, halved and filled with bacon and an egg. This, no doubt, is in keeping with DD's attempt to capture a significant share of the fast food breakfast market...though the company is far behind the offerings put out recently at minor league ballparks and chronicled in this blog. In New York, everyone is clamoring for a "cronut," a delicacy made of deep fried, glazed croissant pastry. Those wacky Easterners!
The expansion is not simply aimed at ways to offer the pastry, either; the international market seems to be booming as well. Currently, Dunkin' Donuts has a presence in 31 foreign countries and aims to add between 400 and 500 foreign outlets this year.
Seriously? In just about every foreign country I have visited, the breakfast "breads" are FAR more appealing and healthy than a doughnut. OK, maybe churros and hot chocolate might not be more healthy, but beignets? seriously? Even the buttery, flaky croissant has it all over a doughnut for taste and nutrition.
I'll show them. I won't get one of the free doughnuts that Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Time Horton's, and LaMars is giving away in honor of National Doughnut Day. That's one for the people!
Of course, none of them has a franchise where I live, but that's beside the point.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Fred Astaire, B.J. Thomas, and Me

Most philosophical questions don't necessarily concern the weather. While, I'm sure, there are folks who try to evaluate patterns in light of horrific weather events, it's always in somewhat of a scientific way. There are no really big unanswerable questions about what causes the weather. I think most of those parameters have been rather well defined. Drought, tsunamis, blizzards, tornadoes: all can be rationally explained through logical theory. There is one thing about rain that I would like to know however, and it occurred to me again today as I biked home from work in it.
While the skies were somewhat cloudy when I left for work, and the forecaster noted a chance for precipitation, I didn't bother dressing for it even though I did take the precaution of covering my bike seat when I got to work: no sense taking foolish chances, and a wet bike seat is among the most icky of feelings, especially an wet gel seat.
So, when I emerged later in the day to find a steady rainfall occurring, I thought briefly about waiting it out or calling for a ride and getting the bike later; however, I decided that a little water wouldn't hurt me so I hopped aboard and pedaled homeward. The only question involved how fast to go. Obviously, slick corners and potential mudholes were to be considered, but the larger question remained: would I get wetter if I rode fast (encountering drops I would otherwise have missed and getting splattered to a greater degree but spending less actual time outdoors) or at a more casual pace (missing the big splashes but being in actual rain longer) ?
The question plagued me all the way home; I constantly adjusted the speed and tried to ascertain if I FELT wetter at a certain cadence...but it really didn't help. I couldn't feel the difference, and the "plop, plop, plop" on my helmet gave no indication of differences, so I was really stymied.
I was still soaked when I got home.
Somebody knows the answer...just not me.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

No Sillier Than the Biebs Hoopin'

Justin Verlander, possibly the best pitcher in baseball right now, opined that he'd like to participate in the all Star Game Home Run Derby. Given the number of well-known players who fake an injury or otherwise try to avoid being a part of the festivities, this is refreshing...except that Verlander is a pitcher in the American League and can probably count his number of at-bats in a season without taking his socks off. Still...pitchers with power is not an automatic eyebrow-raiser. Babe Ruth, of course, started as a pitcher, but hit most of his home runs as an outfielder, so I'll leave him off the list.
wes Farrell, who played from 1929-1941 has the distinction of hitting the most home runs in a season by a pitcher (9) as well as the highest home run total for a career (38). Neither of these is likely to be challenged, but all in all, I think it would be a great attraction to see pitchers hit in a sort of "celebrity" event like a home run hitting contest.
Now that the Ferrell reference is out of the way, here's who I would like to see in such a man a mano contest in addition to Justin Verlander (who is hitless since 2006!):

Carlos Zambrano (24 career home runs)

Yovani Gallardo (12 career dingers)

Livan Hernandez (10 career homers)

Micah Owings (9 Big Flies, including 2 as a pinch hitter!)

Bronson Arroyo (6 career home runs)

I think this is a great list. With Zambrano participating, any number of explosive things could the water cooler, to the bat, to just about anything.
And with Livan Hernandez, it would definitely be a show worth seeing.
Much more, say, than watching Justin Bieber play in a celebrity basketball game during the NBA All-Star weekend gala.
just sayin'

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Sobering Reality

Unless one has traveled in third world countries, some of this is going to sound fantastic...and, possibly, unbelievable. However, I've witnessed it in Southeast Asia so I know it exists everywhere there are horribly poor people and tourists of some kind. This story happens to be about the "begging mafia" in Pakistan.
In every place where poverty is dire but welcoming to tourists, beggars are common. There is no social security, no welfare system, no AFDC, no government support of any kind. If one cannot find a way to get food, one will die. That's it. There is often very little access to birth control or education about birth control in these places so parents generally have more than a manageable number of children. Unemployment is a fact so begging is the result. However, it has taken on a very sinister front as organized crime has found a way to use children...often disabled turn a tidy profit. Sadly, though, they get these children by kidnapping them from their parents. For example, in 2010, in Karachi, Pakistan, alone 3,000 children were abducted for the purpose of forcing them into begging tourists for money: money which they do not get to keep.
This gambit is especially effective on Pakistani Muslims who worship at a variety of shrines throughout the country. It is considered good fortune to give money to a begging child, and the pilgrims do so without hesitation. The unfortunate children are often traded between gangs and moved throughout the country with shaven heads, tattoos, and sometimes, missing limbs or eyes: all of which is designed to make sure their parents cannot recognize them. especially the maiming part.
Disabled or deformed children get far more donations than the small, cute ones, and the gangs are not above making sure its charges are maimed somewhat.
While in Cambodia, we were approached by two young boys with outstretched hands, and, before actually thinking about it, we offered them some coins. We watched as they ran a short distance away and handed the money to an older boy who sent them on their way to get more money from tourists. The second time we were approached was at a restaurant, and the urchins looked half-starved; however, they would not take food from us and when they discovered they were getting no money, they simply walked away, looking for an easy mark somewhere else.
In Pakistan, the Roshni Helpline Charity is an entity trying to find these kids and return them to their parents.
It's mostly a lost cause.