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.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Keys to Potential Happiness

Danish people have been rated as the happiest folks on the planet. With regard to Europe, they have been ranked as the happiest for something like 40 years. Danes attribute this feel-good state to something they call "hygge." Interestingly enough, it fails to translate into contains a mental component as well as a social one and generally figures to be important to one's well-being as well as in his or her behavior towards others. It can be a simple as the feeling one can get curling up with a good book, but it also has ramifications for group activities. Suffice it to say, it's hard to explain, and we Americans certainly don't get it since it's not as simple as stopping to smell the roses...though there is a flower component to happiness, according to those who would instruct us in that art. According to the "experts," there are eight things all happy people do.
1, Happy people go to parks to see nature at its finest.
2. Happy people live in Scandinavia or a northern climate.
3. happy people engage in hygge.
4. Happy people have satisfying jobs...or they quit unsatisfying ones.
5. Happy people DO smell the flowers...the floral scent is supposed to lead to happy thoughts.
6. Happy people get dirty...apparently, there's a component in dirt that is good.
7. Happy people exercise.
8. Happy people don't "try" to be happy.

There you have it. If I ever learn that hygge thing, I could be on my way! The rest are within my grasp.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"I Dare You Stupit"

Perhaps encouraged by the Marilyn Monroe movie about people liking things hot, I don't think this latest discovery will come as a pleasant surprise to more than a few people. We're talking hot peppers here. The folks at Wing Zone routinely try to convince me that they have a secret stash of ghost peppers, purportedly the hottest pepper on earth...and they will allow me to have it on my wings if I'm man enough.
Well, I have news for them: the ghost pepper days are over. There's a new sheriff of hot in town, and the ghost pepper had better get ready to dance.
So, let's talk hot here. Heat in food is measured in something called Scoville units. The typical jalapeno pepper is rated at about 8,000 units while the ghost pepper is somewhere around 1,400,000. Pepper spray has a rating of just about 2 million units. In 2012, the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute rated the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper at 1.2 million Scoville units and claimed it to be the hottest. Now comes the real hottie: the Carolina Reaper.
This fiery pepper heats up to 2.2 million Scoville units, making it easily the hottest pepper around...but don't take my word for it. This product is commercially available from the Pucker Butt Pepper Company in South Carolina in sauces and other products such as I Dare You Stupit. there is a web site.
Go on...I dare you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Whatever" Wins Again!

Yes, it IS difficult to believe that researchers spend time, energy, and money to discover such inanities, but they do, and the folks at Marist College are at it again.
It seems that pollsters there ask folks to name the most annoying word/phrase they hear regularly, and for the fifth year in a row (who knew?), the word "whatever" has topped their annual "Most Annoying" list. Seriously, these researchers phoned 1,173 random people (NOT on the "do not call" list probably) in the continental United States between December 3 and December 5 to get their opinion. That's an average of 400 or so calls a day when students should have probably been preparing for finals...but I digress.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents chose the aforementioned "whatever" as the most annoying, while "like" (my favorite) finished a distant second with 22% of the negative ballots cast; "you know" finished a relatively distant third with a mere 18%, and it was followed by insignificant totals for "just sayin'" and "obviously."
Really? I am sort of, like, you know, disappointed in the results.
I would have thought "Miley Cyrus" was the most annoying phrase of the year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Only Have Eyes For You

Generally, I'm the last to find out about interesting things: Tebowing, planking, and Dufnering were internet hits long before I noticed them. This time, though, I think I may be on the cutting edge. A report from theBBC yesterday detailed an interesting "art" project by a couple of guys in's called "eyebombing." Simply put, one merely walks around in public spaces attaching googly eyes to objects that might resemble a human face. The creators touted it as an eco-friendly way to brighten people's day since the eyes can only be placed in public spaces where there is a lot of traffic. Objects that already ARE human or animals with eyes are not suitable.
Since the stick-on eyes are easily removable, there is no graffiti-like aspect to this fun activity. The eyes cause no permanent damage so the practice is not destructive at all.
It becomes increasingly interesting since I've begun to notice my surroundings a lot more than I ever did before as I look for places to place the eyes.
One caution: if you want to do this, be sure to get the self-stick version of the eyes. Most craft and hobby stores have ones that require glue...this would not be a good idea since a) it would be too permanent, and b) one could hardly affix the eyes surreptitiously.
Have some fun!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Perspective Is Eveything

It is the end of the semester; finals are finished, books are forgotten (and the knowledge "gained"), and it's time for the real assessment to begin. The real questions surround how students arrived at the final marks, and who is responsible.
In my job as an academic tutor/mentor to some sketchy academic minds, successful outcomes are measured beginning with "didn't fail," and move upward through various steps to "graduated from DPU" meaning a student-athlete no longer has required meetings several times weekly with me to review academic progress. It is a major goal of all of these students, and one that I push them relentlessly toward. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and they would have to stand on their least until a suitable replacement could be it's important that they learn quickly how to navigate the educational life.
At any rate, many of the grades came out today, and the boss of my boss sent me a congratulatory email indicating that the extent of my genius seemed to be limitless. My response was that successful students get the credit for having done the work, but unsuccessful students can blame the tutor for poor preparation. This scenario is not unlike the coaching profession: when things go well, you will never hear a coach say that he or she was responsible for the win (even Nick Saban); however, when failure occurs, the coach almost always takes the blame.
So it is in my profession.
Now...if the administration wanted to reward me with, say, cash, I'd be willing to take the credit.
But we know that's not going to happen.
Congratulations, graduates!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


If "humbleness" isn't a real word, I'm calling it one anyway. Tonight, I spent my first evening with a roomful of homeless men and women at a shelter.I wasn't sure what to expect...I thought it might be awkward since part of our shift involved actually sitting down and eating a meal together. Not wanting to appear judgmental or ignorant of their plight, I was hesitant at first. Having fulfilled the first part of my mission by handing out 18-gallon totes to people (containing ALL of the worldly possessions!), I had half an hour to engage. Idle chatting eased the way, and it was actually a lot of entertainment. We conjectured about Chewbacca's wife's name (he actually had one, according to the internet), learned a bit about playing cribbage, and managed to be able to call three people by name by the end of the evening. All well and good...but the thankfulness they showed me for the simple act of handing them their tote, and the way they were willing to share their stories were almost too much. I left with a sense of gratitude that I don't think I ever really considered. Oh, I know I've had a relatively positive experience here on earth, but I have a new appreciation for the human spirit and a more accepting attitude toward everyone.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jolly St. Nick or Jerky St. Nick?

It doesn't take much for groups of people to get together and do something outrageous anymore...whether it be the naked bike rides that have taken over cities to flopping through mud and slime as a sort of "race," dressing up like one's favorite comic book character or superhero, or flash mobs of any kind doing the "Thriller" dance. This seems to be the latest fad. I think the popularity involves the idea of anonymity, as in "nobody I know will see me there" to "the group is so huge that the police can't possibly stop it." Santacon, though, is something that really needs to be somewhat curtailed. Thousands of people dressed as Santa or one of his elves, descended on Manhattan and London (and who knows where else) this past weekend and proceeded to visit every bar available in advance of dancing, drinking and fighting in the streets. (Sounds like a Mick Jagger lyric, doesn't it?).
Historically, this is not a new phenomenon. It began as a flash mob in San Francisco in 1994 and simply continued to grow. Columnists have alternately dubbed it "a parasite" or an event that "contributes absolutely zero value " to the neighborhoods whose traffic patterns and daily life are disrupted. Plus, think what the tiny tots must think when they see would-be Santas carousing!
At least Burning Man Festival has the decency to exist far out of the public eye!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Stressing Out Over Stress

A recent poll done by National Public Radio found that 40% of the parents polled felt that their teenagers were stressed; in fact, most parents think their kids are far more stressed than their parents were at that age. Parents cite the stress of school work: that demand to get great grades to get into great colleges and/or the stress involved in affording those name brands that "everyone" has, and even the stress of keeping up with their peers AFTER school through social media.
I will admit that most of that is probably true...but I propose that the parents are behind a lot of it. Who rewards students for good grades and talks about the importance of making money and living a better life? Who encouraged that kid to take violin lessons, play soccer on the elite area team, and volunteer at the church on weekends? Who decided that a middle school student needed his or her own phone with internet access?
It's no wonder these kids are stressed...they are too afraid of giving the impression that they are not the all-around wunderkid that their parents have encouraged them to be. Oh sure, media and peers play a role as well, but parents would seem to be the ones allowing the insanity to get to the levels where a kid needs a therapist to cope with the stress of living the teen years.
Yes, it was simpler "back in the day" when video games, the internet and Air Jordans were not available, but we had stresses as well: specifically with regard to education and a better future. Somehow, we survived it without our parents holding our hands the entire way and whap-whap-whapping overhead as parents do today.
Blame society all you want, but there is plenty of blame to go around, and it's closer than we think.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Baton Has Been Handed Off

Worldwide luminaries only come along every so often. Those people who actually effect change in the world that is visible and lasting are definitely few and far between. some of them are monstrous: Hitler, for example, and many others on the long list of infamy. But even serial killers don't always have the long-lasting proven by our continued lack of any sort of reasonable gun control in this country. India has made only small steps to curb the country's look-the-other-way policy concerning rape so there's much room for improvement.
The new pope, Francis has radically changed the way Catholics worldwide see their mission; he has done some serious housecleaning of the Vatican power structure and shamed many into taking a more tolerant look at those living alternate lifestyles...just as Jesus probably would have.
However, Nelson Mandela, who died today at 95, probably effected the most significant worldwide change in my lifetime even though he spent more than 20 years in prison to do it. Of course, Ghandi paved the way for the peaceful protests of America's Civil Rights movement, so props have to go to him as well. It's just that I don't remember much about his life, whereas it seems that Mandela's life has been bigger than life.
Looking around at world leaders, I can take every politician off the list of potential world-changers, and now that Mandela has gone, Pope Francis, it's up to you.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Neiman-Marcus is SO Last Year

Normally, when I'm looking for just the right Christmas gift for the person who has everything, I turn to the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog for everything from clothing to things like the "Lean Machine" exercise bike (at $15,000.) that resembles nothing more than a Cheerio and which looks dangerous. This year, there are other less strenuous options, like the stable of "Indian Larry's" motorcycles: the "Question Everything" model for about $80,000 or the "Wild Child" model that will set me back about $750,000.00. Sadly, though, those are just too tame for me. That's where Ripley's Museum in times Square has my back. Through Christmas Eve, it has some really unique, definitely one-of-a-kind items> To wit:
An authentic Tibetan skin drum for $4, 499.99;
An Egyptian Ibis mummy for $19, 999.99, OR
a 6-legged calf skeleton for a mere $24,999.99.
Of course, there are less obscure options like the elephant armor...the WHOLE set.
I've got to say, the ordinary just isn't anymore.