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, August 30, 2013

More Than A Grain of Truth?

I love The Onion...the mix of real news combined with just enough fantasy to take the sting out of what really happens is a refreshing look at the maddening circus that is life. Recently, the newspaper published an article that professed to elucidate on the 10 ways one could tell for certain that he or she was an introvert. Of course, all of them revolved around an entertainment personality whose name I did not recognize and whose movies I had never seen; thus, I knew that the article would not have any resemblance to my life as an introvert. wait a minute...
The number 1 way to tell if one is an introvert is that he or she doesn't need to go out to have fun. Well, shoot, that's me all over: books, music and worldwide news on the internet keep me entertained.
Then, the article noted that introverts were interested in photography (though to be fair, it involved only pictures of said actor). But, hey, I take a LOT of pictures.
Enjoy writing? you, too, could be an introvert. I mean, seriously, how many people do you know who've written 1300 times on a blog that few people read? This is time spent without other people so it must be at least partly accurate.
One of the most accurate depictions of me as a true introvert was that such people rarely have hundreds of close friends. Bingo! I would be embarrassed to indicate how many close friends I feel I have: suffice it to say at least one of my hands would still be warm in the winter!
So, while the article was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, sometimes the truth is closer to the surface than one imagines.
Now I have to go watch all those movies that film guy has starred in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Skewed Perspectives

Three major, major events occurred this week, and the blogosphere, cable news, and pundits are rushing to cover one of them with the fervor of born-again Christians during an election cycle.
The Syrian government launched chemical weapons against those attempting to overthrow the government. Mind you, more than 100,000 people have been killed in this internal strife since it began, and now the forces in power have begun killing ordinary citizens in a most out of the ordinary way...some might say a cruel and indefensible way. The red line drawn by our government was the use of chemical weapons: that final straw would force our hand into military action...proving yet agin that we learn lessons very slowly and at great cost. This is a major news story.
Fifty years ago on Wednesday, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial to a vast crowd, stirring the hopes of every African-American that some sort of equality could be had following all the racial violence in Birmingham and dozen of other Southern cities large and small. A proponent of peaceful resistance as a student of Mahatma Ghandi, King persevered through threats and actual violence but did not live to see the equality he hoped and prayed for. Even if he were alive today, I doubt that he would consider the situation a dream fulfilled. Make no mistake: bigotry exists in strong, however, it's not just the former slaves that have to endure the indignation of being second-class. This is a huge story.
Miley Cyrus performed at the Video Music Awards on Sunday night, and her twerking performance set the internet ablaze! How DARE Hannah Montana cavort like that on television? How could she do that to all the young girls who idolized her back in the early days? Commentators from serious news sources reported on this story like it was an assassination; well, maybe in a way, it was. However, giving this non-story the same kind of 24-7 coverage usually reserved for political sex scandals seems overdone.
Conme on, people, let's remember what's important here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Just Have To Be Faster Than You

There is that joke about two people being chased by a bear; as one stops to tie his shoe, his buddy asks him why he's taking precious time from his escape. The answer? "I don't have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you."
Chuckles abound, but such was not the case somewhere along the Mary River in Australia's Northern Territory recently. The Mary River is noted to have the larges concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world. These behemoths can grow to be 23 feet long and weight over a ton. Needless to say, one should take any admonition about NOT swimming in this river seriously.
However, two men did not, and only one is around to tell the tale. Celebrating someone's birthday occasioned these two not-very-bright blokes to enter the water to swim across the river and back...this despite urgent pleas not to do so.
The swim over went without a hitch, but the swim back...not so much. The last anyone saw of the unfortunate swimmer, he was being cradled in the jaws of a humongous crocodile. His erstwhile partner was, apparently, a faster swimmer.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Hardest Job There Is

For some reason, there has been a significant number of seriously violent acts committed by young people lately. There have been an equal number of commentators weighing in on just how and why such horrendous things could happen: a 5-year-old taking a gun to kindergarten in his backpack (where it fired!); a young boy shooting small animals with a bow and arrow for fun; three teens deciding to kill someone with a gun because they were "bored;" and all of this just recently.
While the blame can be spread around to who a child hangs out with, a young person failing to take prescribed medication or global warming (?) one thing that most commentators seem to agree on is the role of parents in these cases. "Where ARE the parents of these kids?" seems to be the rallying cry of pundits...and I suppose they have a point. When interviewed, every one of the parents says something along the lines of, "He's a good's just..." and the rationale follows as to how a good kid can go wrong.
I know how hard it is for parents to
a) watch their children every minute (especially if both parents work)
b) control how their child is treated at school or in society (for a variety of reasons)
c) control who their children hang out with when not under direct supervision.
Believe me, I've discussed such issues with parents over a long teaching career, and it's had to fault parents sometimes.
My dad had guns at home; however, if I ever thought of taking one without his permission, the punishment would be severe.
If we got in trouble of any kind out in public, and my parents found out about it...I would not have been allowed in public...and they would thank anyone who reported my misbehavior, not threaten a lawsuit for harassment.
Bored? If I had ever said I was bored, my mother promised me that SHE would find something to occupy my time.
I guess the facts that my parents were two in number, my mother worked only after we were in high school (and then on a shift opposite my dad), and we absolutely KNEW that we would not like the consequences for any bad behavior were important in keeping us mostly on the straight and narrow.
Of course, there was no cable TV, no internet, music lyrics were closely monitored and even television married people slept in separate beds all kept us a bit least in our house.
Maybe not so bad...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Most Unusual Promotion Ever?

Minor league baseball teams are famous (or notorious) for self-promotions, whether it be nuns giving massages for the St. Paul Saints (owned by Bill Veeck's son) or free haircuts, or thousand-calories food items in the all-you-can-eat-and-drink sections of the stadium. Any great promotion probably began in the low minors somewhere, the brainchild of an entrepreneurial owner in an attempt to attract fans. The latest effort by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs might just set the bar to a level unreachable by anyone else. in history.
The Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies recently awarded one fan a free funeral. yes. free. The winner received , in addition to the casket, embalming (or cremation), the use of a hearse, a headstone, flowers, and a memorial service: all valued at $10,000. It seems that one of the team's sponsors is a local mortuary, so that part isn't so far-fetched.
Prospective winners were required to write a 200-word essay explaining why they felt deserving of such a prize...and the winning entry's author left no eye dry as he was introduced at a recent game.
Steve Paul, 64, was recently diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and understood immediately that he was given a death sentence. In his essay, he explained how his family needed less to worry about, noting the expense of the funeral was prohibitive; in addition, he wanted them to focus on celebrating his life, not pondering his final days above ground. All in all, not what one might expect from such a zany promotion. As Paul was wheeled on the field to accept the prize, he got a standing ovation from the entire crowd: a memorable moment.
Unlike Lou Gehrig, Steve Paul may not consider himself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth, but he can rest easy on this account.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Right Stuf?

Making education interactive has long been seen as a way to engage students...many of whom are "hands-on" learners for whom mathematics holds few thrills. Unknowns such as "x" befuddle many, and it's up to teachers to get the students inquisitive juices flowing.
so we come to the math teacher in New York who wanted to teach his students a little bit about weights and measurements as well as a bit about the logical process that math utilizes. Thus, he posed the question of whether or not Oreo cookies actually contained double the "stuf" or "mega" the stuf claimed by the company when compared with the regular cookie.
We've all twisted the cooking to get half with no creme filling while the second half has all of it. But have you ever questioned the amount of creme filling, or if it is cost-effective to buy the Double Stuf or Mega Stuf versions? Get ready for some facts.
Students weighed ten of each variety of Oreo cookie. Then, they separated the cookie parts and scraped away all of the creme filling and weighed all ten samples for the math part:
When subtracting the weight of each cookie type without filling from the original weight (with filling), students discovered something startling.
When compared to an Original Oreo cookie, the Double Stuf version contained only 1.86 times as much creme filling! The Mega Stuf version contained only 2.68 times as much creme filling as the original cookie. "Eureka!" Archimedes would have shouted...the Nabisco company? not so much.
Company spokesman continued to claim that there was exactly twice as much creme filling when the cookies were manufactured...contrary to scientific study.
First, it was Subway's footlong sandwiches being only 11 inches, and now we're getting gypped out of promised "stuf."
What is the world coming to?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dog Days...Those Hazy, Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer

You've seen/read this before: each year, a professor and a professor emeritus from Beloit College in Wisconsin publish this list of mostly pop culture items dealing with the incoming freshman class. They do so to enable professors to avoid making assumptions about what each student knows or has experienced. The list has come under attack recently as being trite, lacking any academic value and/or boring since the format is generally the same. Whatever...the annual list generates millions of hits on the college website, and the two professors claim that detractors are few. Me? I'm too lazy to think of something myself, so here's the list from 2013.

The Beloit College Mindset List of 2017
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1995, Dean Martin, Mickey Mantle and Jerry Garcia have always been dead.
1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents' weekend.
2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
3. GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
4. As they started to crawl, so did the news across the bottom of the television screen.
5. "Dude" has never had a negative tone.
6. As their parents held them as infants, they may have wondered whether it was the baby or Windows 95 that had them more excited.
7. As kids they may well have seen Chicken Run but probably never got chicken pox.
8. Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
9. Gaga has never been baby talk.
10. They could always get rid of their outdated toys on eBay.

Friday, August 16, 2013


While it's not exactly a revelation to me, it occurred to me yesterday that I would rather spend my time in solitary contemplation riding my bike out in the country than I would playing organized games with people who seemingly have only one interest...No music motor people shouting...just me and the spinning wheels, the wind in my face, and the feeling of muscles working.
It does not bother me that lots of group things might be fun and going on without me. I have no Fear Of Missing Out. I don't dislike the idea of's just that I can take them or leave them in most cases. It could be generational; this in light of a new study that proposes young people who depend on social media like Facebook for social interaction actually feel a reduction in their feelings of self-worth and a decrease in life satisfaction as a result of spending interactive time online.
According to reports, a billion people have Facebook accounts, and more than half log in each day. I admit that I do...mostly when I'm bored and have 10 minutes to kill.
This study mirrors previous ones that found, basically, the same thing...though they were contradicted by other research. That's the deal with can prove or disprove anything, I guess. However, the one interesting point I got out of the latest research is that while interacting on Facebook regularly resulted in respondents feeling worse than they did before the session, real, live, personal interaction HAD NO EFFECT on how satisfied they were with life in general! That's amazing to me since personal interaction has always been touted as the way we gain self-worth and self-satisfaction. Maybe not.
Maybe being alone on a bike is enough.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Natural and Unnatural Partners

Some things, particularly foods, just seem perfectly paired. Ice cream and cake...or pie; burgers and fries; cheese and wine (or crackers); bacon and eggs...heck, bacon and anything. You get the idea. We often pair foods based on opposite tastes like sweet and salty or bubbly and salty in the case of beer and pretzels. Of course, we all have our own foibles when it comes to mixing foods, and the market has gotten wind of it. I mean, cronuts, for goodness sakes? Ramen burgers? sheesh! (although Dunkin' donuts' idea of a bacon/donut sandwich has merit).
Thus, it should come as no surprise that PepsiCo who has its hand in just about every facet of processed food (fast and otherwise) has decided to combine Pepsi and Cheetos. Mind you, the company isn't the first to have this idea; there's even a Facebook group called "I Love Cheetos and Pepsi." I guess one simply pops the Cheeto in, takes a swig of Pepsi and savors the flavor. That's acceptable, as far as it goes, but PepsiCo has taken the cheesy flavor of Cheetos and replaced it with a fizzy, lemony flavor not unlike Pepsi...really. Fortunately, in my opinion, while the product has hit the shelves in Japan, Jeff Dahncke, spokesman for PepsiCo, has indicated that there are no plans to bring it to this country.
I think it's a mistake: people will buy food products that actually fizz in their mouths (and this product does just that).
Remember Pop Rocks?
This could be next!
Who's up for a road trip to Tokyo?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fruit and Nuts, Huh?

"Keeps your suits on." This was the advice from Swedish scientists following the discovery that a south American pacu was caught in the waters between Denmark and Sweden. Swedes are particularly open about nudity and often take to the water sans suits...hence, the warning.
The pacu, looking all too similar to the piranha with which it shares Amazon river basin territory, is basically a vegetarian, preferring fruit and nuts to small fish and small invertebrates. Its human-like teeth are strong enough to chomp through fishing line and, well, fingers as well.  Unverified rumors have the fish also attacking the, um, genitalia of fishermen in New Guinea...unverified, of course, since no man wants to publicly discuss an episode of a get the idea.
This is only the second time this variety of fish has been caught in Europe, but researchers are warning would-be skinny dippers that until they are sure this is just an isolated incident, it's better to be safe than...having to explain such an embarrassing incident to CNN.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Something's Rotten, and It's NOT in Denmark

I commented a while back that we were fortunate in this country not to have the immigration issues to the violent degree that Italy seems to have. I might have been wrong. Adam Jone, an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles was playing in San Francisco over the weekend, and a fan tossed a banana out of the stands in his direction. This was not an "I hope you slip on the peel" prank; it was a "Hey, monkey, here's some food" racist taunt. I was aghast to hear about it, and, while the tosser (use it in the British sense if you wish) apologized on Monday, I'm not buying it. I'll bet he and his friends all thought it was funny, and I would suspect many people chortled at the news. Isolated incident of outlandish bigotry? Not hardly.
The Jackie Robinson/Peewee Reese statue was defamed with swastikas and the "N" word over the weekend. This after more than half a century of integration into professional sports.
At the Missouri State Fair Rodeo recently, a rodeo clown donned a mask of the President of the United States, and the announcer ( a local school superintendent, by the way), incited the crowd with comments such as, " We're gonna stomp Obama now!"...and the crowd LOVED it...went WILD...and he continued to urge the clown to stand still as the bull charged so the "president" would get mangled.
Maybe it's just rodeo folks...last year at a rodeo in California, the announcer told a joke that went something like this:
"Playboy offered Ann Romney $250,000 to pose for the magazine, and the President was upset because National Geographic only offered Michelle $50."
I simply find this all too hard to believe.
Read the following excerpt that describes the Missouri affair. incredible.,0,813913.story

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Where People Wave With Just One Finger

Conde Nast has long been equivalent with Fodor's in terms of giving expert travel advice; the where to go, what to do, and what to see there service is invaluable to travelers venturing off into uncharted civilizations or semblances thereof. So, when Conde Nast's readers speak about their travel adventures and misadventures, it behooves the rest of us to pay attention lest we be trapped in some god-forsaken hellhole with no internet and no acceptable currency.
As a public service, 46,000 readers of Conde Nast's Traveler magazine responded to a survey conducted by that organization to determine the most and least friendly cities in the world...necessary information for any would-be adventurer. Sadly, cities in the United States appeared far more often (twice as much, in fact) on the least friendly cities than they did on the friendliest cities list. Perhaps equally surprising, New York City wasn't on either list's top 20 though more than a couple of nearby burgs made the least friendly list.
Criteria for creating a friendly or unfriendly environment included location, political perception, size, and language barriers. On the our winners and not-so-winners:
Newark, New Jersey, but a train ride from The City That Never Sleeps was judged to be the UNfriendliest city on the world...not just in the U.S.; in the whole widely-traveled world! American cities garnered five places in the top ten and eight in the top 20 least friendly cities. Our entrants were
#3: Oakland
#7: New Haven, Connecticut (home to Yale University)
#8: Detroit (described by one reader as "the armpit of the world").
#9: Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Also in the top 10 were some foreign cities like Islamabad, Pakistan at #2, Kuwait City at #5, and Tangier at #10.

On the other hand, we fared poorly in the "Friendliest" category, garnering only one spot in the top ten and four in the top twenty.
Our highest-ranking city was Charleston, South Carolina, a city that was ranked the fifth-friendliest city on earth. Galena, Illinois, Savannah, Georgia, and Asheville, North Carolina ranked 14th, 16th, and 20th on the positive side.
Want great friendliness? Top spot went to Florianopolis, an island city in Brazil, followed in order by Hobart in Tasmania, and Thimpu in Bhutan.

But Newark is worse than Islamabad? Wow! That's saying something.
There's no place like home...clicking my heels together three times...

Monday, August 05, 2013

I'm always amazed to find out that other countries have far worse issues and attitudes about some things than we do in this country. Immigration is an explosive situation in every country, and while we have zealots here, a do-noting Congress keeps the issue simmering just below the conflagration stage as the members worry about getting re-elected and pleasing their PACs before anything else. Even gay rights is an issue that has almost become an acceptable mainstream topic in most states, and civil unions, marriages and adoptions are almost routing. Not so in places like Uganda and Russia.
Today's issue is Russia and the political attitude towards homosexuality. Recent laws have been passed eliminating any kind of educational instruction about homosexuality (so kids can learn it on the streets like their parents did!). Marriage is out, and adoption by same-sex couples is a distinct impossibility. The city of Solchi, site of next winter's Olympic Games has declared that gay athletes and spectators will be subject to arrest! So what is an outraged group of gay people and the supporters of individual rights to do? Boycott the Olympics? No, boycott Russian vodka, that's what!
Stolichnaya vodka, a brand so famous that even I recognize it, is disappearing from the shelves at bars around the world and in this country as well. The shelves are emptying quickly as word of the legal outrages spread, and that potent combination of wheat, rye and raw alcohol might be very hard to find.
Like every situation, though, this one has a small glitch: Stoli isn't distilled in Russia. It is made in Latvia...admittedly part of the old Soviet Union, but no longer under the Red Thumb, though the Russian government has been trying to renationalize the brand for years to no avail.
So...the Russian government isn't being hurt by a boycott though its public image has taken a real beating, and it will be interesting to see what unfolds in February as athletes from around the world gather and drink...what? Coke?

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

I am far from a paragon of sanity; I will be the first to admit that I have a craziness gene floating around somewhere, but as I stand back and assess the state of things today, I am fully convinced that I look more normal every day. The fact is that there are enough crazies out there masquerading as "normals" that it's scary. some examples:
Our neighborhood has a Facebook page, and one would swear that only crazy people inhabit it: there is name-calling, "don't-you-write-about-my-wife-that-way" posts, a veritable week's worth of retorts advertising the theft of a valued lawn ornament to which some replied with sarcasm; in addition, this neighborhood has preppers as well as believers in Wisconsin's "castle" law that allows homeowners to shoot to kill if they feel threatened. The teenage girl that was ringing doorbells late tat night his week and got flattened by a homeowner is lucky to be alive. Of course, should anyone dare to shoot off fireworks on a day NOT the 4th of July, another round of "call the police...we're under siege" posts. Last night about 10 p.m. the sky erupted for almost 20 minutes...oh, but it was Packers' Family Night so nobody was offended (or dogs frightened or kids awakened). People DO have issues, but when everyone else piles on, it makes them all look a bit nuts.
The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill eliminating the Affordable Health Care Act...for the 40th time! It has no chance of getting through Congress, but they keep on wasting valuable time to convince their constituents that they are on the job. Really? We have no other issues?
McDonald's recently published a guide to surviving for a month on the wages of the typical fast-food worker...provided that worker is working two jobs and has no medical bills, car payment of more than $150 (really? Imagine the mechanic's bills on a car worth $150/month!) and the gas it takes to get to and from work. One report I read indicated that doubling the average McDonald's worker's salary would increase the cost of a Big Mac by $.50. Amazing
Major League Baseball is suspending players for PED use. Good; a team and a player fighting over some 60 million dollars? sad...since
The missionary who spoke in our church this weekend noted that $30 would feed, clothe, house, and educate a person in the Philipines for a month. That's crazy.
Meanwhile...around the world, the U.S. is closing embassies left and right to avoid hostile action from those avowing hate of this country. Of course, the idea of keeping our people safe is not crazy...nor is the idea of people fighting for their own country, but when non-combatants get killed in the name of "freedom" or "religion," I think that's crazy.
I have to go lie down now with a cold compress. The craziness is getting to me.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Going To (or after) The Dogs

Rather than inadvertantly putting myself on the wrong side of a fatwa by offering an unknown-to-me insult to the specifics of Islam, I offer this video with a brief explanation:

In Malaysia, the religious right is just that: right; and no one is above scrutiny for anything that might be considered to besmirch the name or image of Islam. I get that. There are purists in every religion, political party and family, and not all of them are afflicted with OCD.
However, the woman in question faces two to five years in prison for the act of washing her dogs' legs as a sort of purification rite during some holy season of Islam. Fundamentalists claim that such an act is a "grievous insult toward all Muslims in Malaysia" and demand punishment for a woman who is, apparently, known to be an otherwise faithful follower.
Lest you think that dogs are somehow unclean for Muslims (much like cloven-hoofed animals are to Hebrews), there is no injunction against dogs in the Koran at all...according to the cited report.
My only question relates to Muslim populations NOT found in Malaysia: should they be insulted or not?
Maybe it's a regional interpretation.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Fortunately For Syrians, There's the Cronut

Colonialism has taken on an ugly connotation in the last hundred-fifty years or so. Previously, wealthy Western countries felt obliged to move into less-civilized parts of the world and share the sweet taste of freedom and the sweet smell of indoor plumbing. Of course, the cost involved taking all the natural (and highly profitable) natural resources, but, really, what else did these countries have to trade in exchange for modernization?
These days, of course, one needs to tread lightly in this area since people who live in these places often take umbrage at intrusion by foreign "colonial" powers. One-time colonies feel the urge for the sweet smell of freedom and look askance at methods used to maintain the hold of the "invaders." So it is among certain fundamentalists in Syria.
There's one common enemy all Syrians can point to while they systematically destroy each other in the name of politics or religion, it's the damnable Western ways introduced by the French...and in Aleppo, those in power (i.e. with the most weaponry) have done something radical in an attempt to stamp out that foreign taste in their mouths.
Held at least for now by Islamic rebels, Aleppo has come under the rule of Sharia law: the strictest interpretation of Islamic law. You know what happens when fundamentalists take over: ironically, all hell breaks loose. In this case, leaders have decided that a strict interpretation is the only one allowed; as such, one 14-year-old boy was beheaded this year after someone felt he had uttered a defamation of the prophet Muhammad. Injunctions also exist against tight clothes and make-up for women, and one can be sentenced to a year in the crowbar hotel for failing to fast during Ramadan. So you can see, living there is no piece of cake, especially now that pastry has been banned.
It's true. The world-renowned croissant has been banned in Aleppo  as a symbol of colonial oppression since the "crescent shape celebrates European victory over Muslims." This according to al-Arabiya, a news source. This attempt to thumb their collective noses at the French is, however, a bit misguided. The pastry was not invented in France. Truth be told, the croissant was first noted in Austria in the early 1800s and imported to France: a fact completely escaping the sniffers of the rebels.
But then, they probably have more pressing matters at this point. Cronut, anyone?