Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Difference In Big Productions And Two Bit Stuff

I'm watching the Grammys tonight and writing this blog.

Each of these is a big production. Watching the Grammys, I'm impressed by the enormous musical productions they put on. Pink is flying through the air and there's no problem, no static with the microphone. She doesn't sound like she's out of breath or having any trouble maintaining perfect pitch while being twirled at 30 feet up. Could she possibly be lip syncing? Now she's dripping with water, somehow she got sopped.

A while ago Lady Gaga was thrown into a fiery pit, then she emerged at a piano with Elton John across from her. And Beyonce was out there with a dozen storm troopers and enough fans blowing her hair up to power the Balloon Boy.

I've done some sound work in my time. Like setting up a few microphones and some speakers. It's never been great stuff, but I've been able to work with what I had to make it work. You plug in the white plug into the white socket, etc., and it generally works. Or if there's no colors, you just feel your way. I had a speaker that was blown out. Maybe it just deteriorated because it was 30 years old and the speakers are made of some kind of paper. It was buzzing. It was up to me to get rid of the buzz. So I tried some hot glue on it, but it didn't do any good. It might've had a psychological effect.

I have a drawer of various cords from over the years. Some of them I've spliced together. So that if I really work at it, I can hook up any record player to any computer. I've never tried it, but I'm guessing it would even work with an old Edison record player, if I had enough cords and enough time to try every combination.

So there's the Grammys and their big productions. Then there's me, with my stash of cords, plugs, a few microphones, and hot glue.

Then there's all the two bit stuff out in the world, lesser shows and those with less abilities than me.

UPDATE: I'm hoping Lady Gaga wins everything. She didn't win the first thing, the Song of the Year. I hope she at least wins something. Besides my aging heart, although that's definitely worth winning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nothing Colder Than A Cemetery In January

I was at a funeral today, with the loss of the father of a friend.

And it, being a cold day, it was very cold at the cemetery, a country cemetery. Being a country cemetery, it's surrounded by fields of snow, flat fields, right where the breeze blows unobstructed.

I was looking out across the fields and saw how perfect the snow was, no tracks, no disturbance. We had the freezing rain over a week ago, so that is still a perfect crust on top of the snow, very shiny and slick. The fresh snow that came since then has either blown away, up against a fence, or has settled in the crevices.

The fields being vast, they definitely have room to expand the cemetery, if the landowner would sell them another couple acres. Whoever it is, they probably would.

They had a tent we were gathered in, but it was still very cold. I noticed my ears starting to get brittle, so about halfway through I pulled my hat up. It wasn't that long a time out there. The time was divided in two, the religious ceremony and the military's part.

Seven guys shot their guns three times on command. The flag, which they had mercifully already folded, was presented to the family, they dismissed and we headed to the cars.

In addition to my ears, my old fingers really felt the cold.

It made me think of the bodies under our feet, obviously frozen in place.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Textbook Blog

This is the one they'll be studying.

It's been pointed out to me by those who know blogs -- and after examining the evidence, I concur -- that this blog likely has a very rich future ahead of it. Not so much because of the impact that it's made in its own time, which has not been negligible by any means, but for what it represents (and will represent) as a great example of a blog in future media studies.

Like I said, I've examined the evidence as it was put before me, and, stifling a blush or two because I'm so very personally involved in the enterprise, I truly believe they're on to something.

What the evidence shows is that there's a real thinking person behind the blog. And that this thinking person has opened his mind to the world, reluctantly at times but still he has been very revealing. It's exactly these kinds of personal revelations -- thoughts, opinions, and descriptions of events -- that will be very useful, even valuable to the future researcher.

Just between you and me, my fellow folks of the present day, knowing this about the future might inhibit me as I continue to write. Because I hadn't really thought about the heritage aspect of it, and now I might be doubly watching my language, grammar, and opinions, to make sure I don't embarrass us when the future gets here, and let's say it's a distant future and we're all dead and gone.

Really, if you think of it, what makes western movies so violent? The people back in those far off days weren't giving a single thought to what their behavior would say about their generation. It's like they didn't consider we'd be sitting out here over 100 years later looking back. So they lived like a bunch of devils, shooting each other on Main Street, shooting up a bunch of saloons, and probably engaging in prostitution, those who provided the service and those who paid for it. They weren't concerned with what we would think.

When I think about the future, I think about people who are still to be born. It's going to happen, even though it seems bizarre from our point of view. What? We're going to turn the world over to a bunch of people who aren't even born yet? That sounds crazy! Because at this point, since they're not even here, it seems foolhardy to entrust them with anything. But if we look a little closer, and think it through, that's exactly what happened with us. In the past, we weren't here yet. So we were just as inexperienced. But then we were conceived and born, grew up, and bit by bit the future unfolded. Of course we didn't just take over one day, but it happened gradually.

Having said all that, it's still kind of wild to consider that there are very attractive women (or will be) who aren't even alive yet. And not to leave anyone out, there are very attractive men who also will be born. And of course there's folks like the rest of us, still to born, who will constitute the future generation(s) that we hear so much about. That's one of the reasons I personally conserve water, so it'll be there for them to use.

Now, let me just say a word to the researchers of tomorrow who are not yet born: I am happy (from my place in your past) to be the textbook blog that you all are studying. I hope that you see that I kept everything on the up and up. There are probably some very foulmouthed blogs from this present day that you've studied as well. One of the things you no doubt noticed about mine is that I don't allow anything "blue" to be posted. I'm interested in elevating the discourse, so that's something I insist on. If you are literally taking a class on early 21st century blogs, I hope my archives have survived intact. I have very little control over it, actually, because it's a thing that Google does. If they've gone out of business and changed hands between now and then, apparently they've transferred some or all of the files adequately for you to be reading this. Study hard, get a good job, and be a credit to your society. By then, I'm sure society will be very far advanced. So enjoy it as much as you can.

OK, back to the present day. What I said to the folks of the future, I would say to you as well. Be a credit to your society. Study hard, etc., and enjoy yourself as much as you can.

As to my blog, I'm going to try to put the whole "textbook blog" thing on the back burner and just be myself, as much as I can. Because when they start studying it in the future, I want them to have something to study that is genuine and not just something that's been written with a constant eye on the future.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Psychology Of Possibly Getting Someone To Pay You Back

I was writing about a hypothetical, extrapolated situation yesterday, about someone irresponsible enough that their need bailing out financially (and, no, I'm not talking about the high financial centers of our great nation, where the bankers and Wall Street types are bailed out in spite of their crooked ways; those guys are allowed; it's the two bit characters on the street who are liable for various offenses.)

Let's say this hypothetical situation could be given a very concrete description, so that you could almost imagine it being a real thing or event. Let's say you were sitting at Dairy Queen, minding your own business, savoring a hot fudge sundae while your companion works on a Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard. And just to make it more concrete, you have your cell phone in your pants pocket and somehow don't hear it when it rings and then it apparently goes straight to voice mail. Then you listen to it and it's the desperate plea from an acquaintance, that he's having some kind of dire problem and needs to "talk."

At this point you would know that whatever "talk" you're going to have is likely going to cost you money. Or some other unpleasantness. But you dutifully call him back and try to discern exactly what has happened and what the options are. Since you don't keep track of his affairs ordinarily, it's all news to you, including the fact that he's behind on his rent a couple months and about to be evicted unless someone helps. Someone! And if he gets evicted and it happens to be zero degrees, which coincidentally it is, what's going to become of him?

Then let's add another possible detail, that you turn out to be a softie and promise to loan him $400 the next day, what would that do to your night? How great does the savored hot fudge sundae taste now? Is there any point of savoring it now? Just gulp it down, because the arguments have already started about the guy surely not being responsible to ever pay you back. Everyone says they will pay it back, but few do.

It sounds very realistic, I know.

Then the next day comes, which would be today, and the money would have to be gotten. Attitudes are flaring, recriminations are being bandied about, the whole issue of money going down the drain is raised. It's a mess (in this scenario).

Then we'll advance to the point where you need to present him the envelope of cash. What will you say? What kind of psychology will it take to impress upon him the serious need of paying it back? You could mention that your companion is "very mad about it." And that you have stood up for him in the face of this anger, assuring her that he's a hard worker, very trustworthy, and someone with other great qualities. He's a friend.

Once you see him you commiserate left and right over every setback he's ever experienced. It's all so awful, but you've come this far. You're strong. You've grown.

The openness, the belief in him, the recognition of all his hard work, our mutual friendship, our confidence that he will get everything squared away very soon by making better decisions. Every word would be true ... and geared to making sure he did mend his ways. And making sure he didn't forget to pay you back the $400.

$400 isn't that much money. But it would seem like a good chunk of change indeed if anyone else needed it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Adversity Sucks -- Deal With It

Yesterday as part of the "Drive for Pride" I was teaching on the subject of getting your duties accomplished, of being a responsible person.

1) It's good for your own sense of things; 2) The rest of us will hate you that much less. Because we are sick and tired of the half-witted irresponsibility of the world, particularly of those who come into contact with us.

How hard is it to be responsible? How hard is it to think ahead, to rub two stinking thoughts together long enough to reach some kind of intelligent conclusions? How difficult is it to plan ahead and think about what you're going to need for a rainy day? It drives me crazy that there are these folks out there who get their back up against the wall because they haven't got the sense to foresee what their actions (or lack of actions) will yield.

Then when the rain starts to fall, then when the bills come due, that's when you hear from them. And you'd like to backtrack and say: What did you do at this point? What did you do at that point? Why weren't you taking certain precautions? Why weren't you putting something away for this? Why weren't you on top of the situation back then? Did you not notice that this problem was getting bigger all the time instead of smaller? Sheesh.

No, no, no. Just hope and pray. Maybe tomorrow won't come. Maybe I'll win the big lottery. Maybe God will provide. Actually God was trying to get your attention all along, that you need to be diligent all along the way and not let these tiny problems become gigantic. God was shouting at you the whole time, but you didn't seem to notice.

Now adversity is your lot in life ... and suddenly it's someone else's worry. Because you need bailed out. Your irresponsibility is suddenly my problem.

Of course I'm not thinking of any particular incident here. Just extrapolating the way it would be if a case like this were to arise.

Well, here's the bad news. I'll give you the bad news in a few sentences: 1) Hoping and praying doesn't get it done; 2) Tomorrow will come, every time; 3) You aren't going to win the big lottery; 4) God wants to provide but He's not going to provide it in one lump sum. God provides for you all along the way, but it's up to you to save, not squander. Remember the story of Joseph and the seven years of plenty and the seven years of want? God provided when the seven years of plenty were going on. Then it was Joseph's sense that meant they had food during the seven years of want. 5) You have the same mental abilities as responsible people, you just didn't use them. (In this hypothetical, extrapolated case.)

If you don't want your back up against the wall -- because tomorrow does come -- take care of your life today. That's a "Drive for Pride" teaching that will come in very very handy, if you follow it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Get Your Duties Accomplished

Here's an entry in the "Drive for Pride" file:

Get your duties accomplished. Live as a person who takes your responsibilities seriously. Do them, point by point, and do them well. Then lean back and feel proud, proud that what should be done is done.

I get up in the morning and think of what needs to be done. Sometimes I forget something but not very often. Then I step through it -- even sometimes doing the harder or less savory tasks first. As I get the things accomplished I feel pretty good about it and myself. Success seems to build on itself.

Who are some of the people who really stick out in your memory as sour apples? If you're like me, it's the ones you can't depend on to be on time, to be prepared, in general, to be responsible. I don't know how people live like that, I really don't. We're expecting you to be ready but you're not.

If you're an employer and that happens, you have some leverage. If you're just a friend or a coworker (at a certain level), you sometimes have to sugarcoat it. It'd be nice to really be able to speak your mind freely sometimes, like chewing them out and dressing them down like a drill sergeant. But no...mustn't let your true feelings slip out.

I'm not thinking of any particular incidences actually, I just know how it goes in the normal give and take of society. 'T would be a pity to dress someone down. You might bruise their poor ego. Stunt their mental growth (as though it's not already seriously stunted, by inactivity, lack of vigor, a poor self attitude, the constant sloughing off, and a look of ignorance that masquerades as dreamy indifference.) But hey ... I'm willing to pull back.

As for me, I was brought up to have some personal sense, some care for my presentation and accomplishments. So you'll see me bounding out of bed everyday at 5:30 a.m. I'll be making a list of things to do. I'll have my appointments in my phone with an hour's notice (the alarm) beforehand. Then I'll be constantly thinking of how I will do what must be done, and I will do it well.

Others apparently didn't have that upbringing. Must have been lost in the woods and raised by a family of sloths. Their whole attitude is so lackadaisical that you should check them for bedsores. A pile of driftwood has more spunk. You'd need a refinery to start a fire under them. Something's zapped their senses.

So, in conclusion, if you want to be a person that we'd like to have around, keep track of your life and responsibilities, and get your duties accomplished. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bind This Blog In Leather

I'm laughing already. Seriously. Just at the title. "Bind This Blog In Leather."

That's just the way I feel about it. That it's good.

I could write about the weather today -- I could do it easily because it's been terrible. A few little taps of my fingers, feeling very nimble today would be all it'd take. Some bouncing of my wrists as my fingers did their thing and it'd be accomplished. Cut and dried.

But I don't like filling up this blog -- a precious blog -- with news about the weather. Because the weather will have changed by tomorrow and my weather post would be old news. Instead of that, I like to put some serious thought and attention into something more conceptual, something that can stand the test of time.

That's what most of my posts are here. They're rock solid, good stuff. And people who like good writing will be reading them 20 years from now and really enjoying themselves. That's what I like when I see someone reading my blog. I might be walking through a hospital waiting room, just walking through like an average person. And I'll see someone sitting there reading my blog. They'll be laughing. It's good for their soul and it's good for mine.

One day this happened, not too long ago, and I was thinking, "Should I go up to the guy and reveal to him that I, apparently an average person passing by, am in fact the author of what he was reading?" I came that close to spilling the beans, but then I thought, "Nahh, it's kind of cool to be anonymous."

So you can tell I have a lot of pride in these posts. Especially when I think (at times) how effortless it is for me to do it. I might not even have a hint of an idea, like tonight, then I'll sit at the computer for a minute, open it up, and just start. Before you know it, I've come up with something truly inspired. I guess I'm thinking about that guy in the hospital and others. People at their job, people on breaks, maybe even at the White House, wanting a quick diversion, so they click on my blog and they go away satisfied.

I know there'll be times when I'm feeling a little blue myself. What I'll do is look at my archives -- I've written over 600 posts, close to 700 -- and I'll just click one at random. It lifts my spirits to know that I wrote that. That's one part of it. And it brightens my day because I might've forgotten it somewhat, and it'll even catch me by surprise and I'll have a quick laugh. It makes me doubly proud.

This blog is one of the most satisfying things in life that I do. So obviously I wouldn't want to fill it up with weather reports, grocery lists, or commentary on the news of the day. Those things have such a short shelf life. But funny stuff, insightful stuff, like I put out, that's something that you can look back on years later and appreciate.

If they ever bind this blog, I believe it should be bound in leather, then set on every bookshelf in America, the ones at least that want only the best books.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Downgrading Grandpa's Age

Grandpa and Grandma were six years apart in their age. Today would've been Grandpa's birthday, and had he lived, which he didn't, he would've been 113 today.

But on this blog, Grandma is perpetually 104. She doesn't age, much like what you see in the Peanuts comic strip or the Family Circus. The kids in the Family Circus have birthdays and Christmas every year but they stay the same year to year.

So since Grandma is always 104 and Grandpa was six years older, that means he has to be 110 (he would've been if he had lived. But he died in 1978, so obviously he's now deceased.)

I believe on his birthday last year I mentioned how old he was (or would've been), which was 112. So now that he's been downgraded to a permanent 110, he's younger this year than he was last! The ravages of time are very terrible.

But at least here, from now on, every time it's his birthday he will still be 110.

Happy 110th birthday again, Grandpa!

UPDATE: sells 100th birthday supplies but not for the 110th. So if there's any enterprising entrepreneurs out there, there's a niche market for you to exploit. I keep hearing that with modern medicine and the various modern procedures living to a ripe old age -- which I would define as anything over 109 -- is going to be more and more common. So maybe by this time a 100 years from now, Amazon will be selling 200th birthday supplies. Of course they'll have to update everything. The "over the hill" stuff will be moved from the 50th birthday to the 90th. And so forth. By then 50 will be the new 15. A guy like me, in my upper 50s, will no longer be a broken down wreck. It'll be a beautiful new age, living longer and spending your children's inheritance in more profligate ways.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grandma's Last Driver's License

I was checking my driver's license the other day. I started thinking maybe it'd been a while, since I couldn't remember when I got my last one. It's happened before that I've checked it and it was expired for a whole year, meaning I'd have to take the whole test. But fortunately, still being young enough, I didn't have to do the actual driving with the officer.

I lucked out when I got my original license. The really tough, legendary driving officer, that everyone hated for his toughness and strictness, just happened to be on vacation that week. Meaning I had the substitute, who didn't know what he was doing. He had me drive to the west two blocks, to the north one block, to the east two blocks and park in the original parking space. I was done in about five minutes.

But if you're old and frail, they make you go out with the guy. Like it or not.

Checking my license, it reminded me of Grandma's last driver's license test, which was probably 15 years or so, back when she was 89 or 90. The driving officer they had then was what you might call a "reluctant" driving officer. Must've been a bunch of bad experiences for him along the way, sudden starts and stops, not seeing the lights, and not noticing oncoming traffic especially on the passenger's side.

I was also nervous about it -- mostly because of all her random blackouts. But at that time she didn't want to give it up, and so to the courthouse we went.

She was walking with a cane, and had to pause and sit on one of their benches every few steps. I was lifting her by getting a good grip under her arms. But it was a struggle just to get down the hall and to the guy's office.

I saw the reluctance on his face right away. It looked like he was conferring with some other officials in there, with some discreet pointing our way. For one guy it was even funny, who was laughing and patting him on the back, like "Maybe someday you'll get a desk job!"

Anyway, the reluctant officer came over. Grandma was up against the wall, sitting on the bench, trying to catch her breath, a real struggle. And it was a day like today -- snowy, blowy, icy, ice falling from the trees, a real mess. The reluctant officer was working his hardest to get out of taking her out.

He launched in with a lot of probing questions. "Are you OK to drive? Do you feel like driving with me today? We just want to make sure that you're safe to drive. I want to make sure that you're safe and we're safe. Did you come with a car that you feel comfortable driving? Do you feel like driving with me with today?"

I was answering some of the questions for her, that she did feel comfortable enough. Since she'd dozed off, you can't get more comfortable than that. But that wasn't what he wanted to hear. He called me over and in whispers told me that perhaps it would be best if we considered her years of driving behind her. I told him she didn't actually drive anymore anyway, but she didn't want to give up her license.

He steered us in the direction of the window and said she could still get a state ID card that looked a lot like a driver's license. So with that, like the reluctant driving officer said, her driving years indeed were behind her.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My "Old Broken Down Jalopy" Comparisons

There's something about wasting away that gets to me. Like leaves -- such a big problem in the fall but once they're gone, they're wasting away in a pile somewhere else. I went to the recycling place and saw the heaps of smoldering leaves. They're down there about to erupt into flames if they don't keep turning them.

I'm going to compare it all to an old broken down jalopy.

I was talking with a guy who's been watching "The $25,000 Pyramid" on the Game Show Network. Not current shows, but shows from 1985. Their top prize in the last couple days was "A Brand New 1985 Chevy Chevette!" Which has to be a broken down, smashed together, chunk of metal somewhere by now. In fact it was probably compressed into a cube and turned into a couple newer cars since. Or it's rusting in a junkyard, watched over by a junkyard dog and even he knows it's not worth guarding.

Definitely an old broken down jalopy!

Everything's getting old, everything's falling apart. It's the way of all flesh. It's atrophy, entropy, or something like that. Like my dog. She's still spry, but dog years are brutal. They've got a week everyday! And seven years every year! Pretty soon she'll be an old broken down jalopy of a dog.

The cats are getting that way. But the biggest cat seems to have recovered quite a bit in the last year and a half. Back then I was helping him get on things because he couldn't do it. Now he's getting back on stuff, stuff I don't want him to get on, like the kitchen counter. So now I have to hide the potato chips in the cupboard. But both cats will be 15 this summer sometime. Meaning they're both virtually old broken down jalopies of cats.

And take Grandma. She's in bed about all the time. I might have to move her to the manor -- I don't know. Ever since the Republicans terminated Medicare, the bills have really gone up. I love her to death (please pardon the expression), but let's face it, she's an old broken down jalopy of a Grandma. 104 is very old. Fortunately she's not a dog, in which case she'd be 700 and something. And definitely an old broken down jalopy of a dog.

Then there's the house we live in. It was an old broken down jalopy of a house when Grandpa was still alive. I exaggerate perhaps. He was good at keeping things patched up. But then he himself became an old broken down jalopy of a Grandpa and died. That was I think 1977 or '78. Which is an old broken down jalopy of a year by now, since even cars from 1985 are old broken down jalopies.

And finally, the last one standing is me ... and will be me. The other day I was looking at the scrapbook my Mom made of the cards people sent when I was born. She wrote in there how much I weighed, how long I was, the time of birth, and how "sweet" I was. The scrapbook is in fairly good shape, but it's almost 60 years old, and if I don't take good care of it, it'll soon be an old broken down jalopy of a scrapbook.

And what about the guy it describes? Bad teeth, losing my hair, my looks are more ruggedly mature than what my baby pictures showed. I'm a mess. I am well on my way, it would seem, to being an old broken down jalopy of a man.

But my doctor says I'm still in pretty good shape. So that's a great comfort.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Interesting Way To Spell Biscuit


Now there's a good rock group name. I doubt if there's a group that's already got it. "Hi, we're Bzikgut, pronounced Biscuit."

I was driving along thinking of group names. I don't know music (except what I like), but I occasionally come up with a killer group name. Like that one.

Or another, that I thought of while looking at cars illegally parked on snowy streets: SNOW ORDINANCE. "Hi, we're Snow Ordinance." It's very catchy.

But my killer name for the day has to be Bzikgut!

UPDATE: I do realize there is a group called Limp Biskit. If they had any sense they'd change it to Limp Bzikgut, then immediately drop the Limp and pay me a big finder's fee for this weirder spelling of Biscuit. Really, why limp when you don't have to?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Still Eating Candy Canes

Christmas is almost a month past. And you might recall I had my neighborhood Christmas get-together around then, maybe just a bit before Christmas.

I didn't know how much candy to get. Including candy canes. I was thinking, If a lot of kids show up, they'd probably be delighted each to get one. Maybe they'd line up and receive their little candy cane individually. Maybe we'd get some cute photos of toddlers trying to hang one from their finger.

But how many to buy? What if I only bought one box and had three boxes worth of kids show up. Then I have 24 kids disappointed and 12 kids happy. Suddenly the individual lining up wouldn't look so equitable. In fact, it'd be like a soup kitchen, or cattle at the trough, with the difference being that two thirds of them would not be served. At least at soup kitchens you can stretch the soup. But you can't be splitting candy canes.

So I was standing there at the store thinking over the whole situation. If I get too few, that's worse than too many. But on the other hand I'd already laid out some serious cash for summer sausage, salsa, chips, blue cheese, pop, etc. It was really adding up. And yet candy canes are relatively cheap, but then what do you do if you get way too many? It's just throwing good money away.

I weighed it in my mind for a while, then decided, We wouldn't do anything special with them. We'll put them on the table, and if a kid wants one he or she can have one. If we don't call attention to them, it's no big deal. First come, first served. Win or lose, it's your fate. Que sera sera. So I only bought one box, and sweated it all the way home.

When the big day came, I had the whole spread, and it was lovely. Ghiradelli candy, other candies, plus the mounds of other stuff mentioned above and more. With a mere 12 candy canes in a little clump on the table.

As it turned out, 12 was plenty. The kids must not have seen them that well. I don't think I saw even one kid with a candy cane. Maybe they get too many candy canes at school or something. Or maybe they're considered an old fashioned candy now, like horehound drops or sassafras sticks. I didn't see even one kid even looking at the candy canes.

Because of the lack of interest, of course all my prior thoughts about kids lined up to get one came to nought. And as far as anyone dangling one from their finger, it just wasn't the year for it, as it turned out.

So the 12 candy canes have been setting on the table, moved from the serving table to the regular table, because the serving table was put away. In the last few days I've been picking up one every now and then. They're good for a quick breath refresher if someone drops by or if I'm going out.

It's kind of hard to believe I could stretch out 12 candy canes this long. And actually there's plenty left, even though it seems like I must have eaten several by now. I've got a little piece of one right here. When you break them, they really snap. And they drop crumbs too. I had a crumb land right between the keys of my keyboard, and I had to work at it to keep it from dropping out of sight. When down there -- if you know anything about candy canes -- I'm sure it would get heated up, then melt, then gum up the works.

Anyway, as I close, I have the taste of candy canes in my mouth. They're very good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The God Of The Fishes

Time to feed the fish. You ever notice how tough it is when you go out to fish? You throw the line out and the bait hits the water and immediately sinks out of sight. Then it's down there, taking it easy. Not a fish in sight.

I've done that lots of times. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and nothing shows up. At times that's the way it is. So you're sitting there, praying to the God of the fishes that a fish will come along stupid enough to take the bait. But maybe that's why they call him the God of the fishes, because he's on the fishes' side. So nothing.

I used to go out with Grandpa, who was a masterful fisherman. I don't know where he got it. It had to be his nature, that's all. He grew up in the wild, in a tiny speck of a town in Missouri, with a big river in his back yard. So he was probably down there like Huck Finn, communing with the fish, and well acquainted with the God of the fishes. Somehow he got fishing and the success at it in his blood.

By the time I was born, then grew up enough to know what fishing was, he was in his late '50s and early '60s. He had all those years of being a master, and he tried to pass it on to me. Which happened a little bit -- especially when he was with me. He had the idea that farting on your bait was a good thing. I think I mentioned that before.

That of course would make an objective difference to the bait. Unlike other things that would be more in the realm of the superstitious. Like sitting in a particular way, pretending you're ignoring your pole, or praying to the God of the fishes. And it is a well known truth that some fish like "stink bait," so I don't know -- it'd be nice if a present day Grandpa would weigh in on this subject. Mine's dead, but I know that was one of his opinions.

I was checking out the fish in the aquarium. Just passing by. And they're so used to getting fed that they're clustering over by the glass all the time when someone gets near. Especially at feeding time. So they're creatures of habit. And know enough to know when it's feeding time. They're not like they are in the wild, going somewhere else to eat.

Of course they haven't got much choice about what to eat. It's some kind of flaky stuff that lasts forever. Sprinkled out of a can. I think it's dried and flaked worms or some other ex-living creature, plankton maybe. No telling if farting on it would make them like it better. They don't seem to need any additional incentive to take the bait.

That reminds me. And this is a cruel, terrible story. I knew a guy who raised catfish in his pond. He went down there with a bucket of whatever ... to feed them in the morning and maybe in the evening. They came swooping up to the surface and got just like the domestic fish in the tank. It was a sight to see, the swarming. And these were big fish, as big as a newspaper lengthwise.

The cruel part is that whenever he wanted a fish or two to eat, whatever he threw in had a hook in it, and up they came. Never knowing what happened. The God of the fishes in that case must've been on the guy's side. Or the fish themselves had failed their God, not depending on him for their sense, but going off on their own path.

Whatever it is, fish have to eat. Just make sure there isn't a hook in there somewhere. Like fish in the wild do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Drive For Pride" -- Be Constantly At It

One of the worst things that I'm conscious of in life is the gap between a potential threat and a potential resolution.

Into every life rain must fall, they say. And to live is to suffer. So it's not surprising when bad things (or potentially bad things) happen. We work to avoid them, then something happens anyway.

When one of these situations comes up -- as they often do -- for me it's a draining things. A withering experience. Then after it's over I tell myself I need to work on that, so that next time I'm facing it with some equilibrium.

That's what we're supposed to get out of our spiritual traditions, such as "Do not worry about tomorrow, for the evil of this day is sufficient." True, true, true. But how to practice it? That's the thing.

But if every time there's a setback or even a perceived threat of one it's a withering experience, then you still have a ways to go. I know I do!

The lesson for me -- and I hope I don't forget it, even though I likely will -- is to be working on my foundations in the good times, then maybe it won't be so bad when it is bad. Just be constantly at it, taking out time for bathroom breaks, meals, sleeping, and hobbies. Don't let a day go by without some positive soul searching or soul feeding.

The whole thing -- pride, self-esteem, confidence -- has a foundation, and as far as I'm concerned that's it. It's like eating, except it's nutrition for your soul. I had one of these withering experiences today ... and I wasn't fully ready. So that's something to work on harder for me!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The "Drive For Pride" Rolls On -- Again

Like Elvis said, "It's been a long time, baby!" (He said something like that in the '68 comeback special, which I just saw again in the last month.)

What I'm quoting the King for is because, for this blog, "it's been a long time, baby," since I've been able to say "The 'Drive for Pride' Rolls On!" I semi-checked the archives and it looks like the last time I used that exact phrase was October 9, 2009. (I also alluded to it on Oct. 18, as well as some variation of it on Sept. 21, 24, and 27.)

So, yes, "It has indeed been a long time, baby!" A long time comin', but now it's here. I can honestly say it, with my sleeves rolled up and my spirit soaring. Once more. Not down, not out, not on life's edge, nearly medication free, and clean as a whistle. I'm dry, I'm straight, and I'm feeling proud.

I'm here to bless your socks off. With what? With my teachings on pride, confidence, self-esteem, self-help, and the lifestyle sciences, of course, silly. What else? It's what I do. It's why I was put on this green earth, with a great talent -- all innate, no formal training -- to expostulate with those who may be without pride, postulating various postulates on pride and all the rest.

I'm geared up. I've been in for my 3,000 mile checkup. I'm venturing forth with a clean bill of health. I've got the brain of a 57-year-old man (please don't tell him), and I'm ready to do something with it. I'm all revved up and can't be stopped, can't be slowed down at this point. I've got my life's mission before me ... and I plan to fulfill it both to the heights and to the depths. Every ear shall hear my life's cry!

There's just one problem. One tiny problem. It's going to have to wait till tomorrow. It's getting practically to my bedtime tonight. And I've been up since 5:30 a.m. I'm afraid I can't get to it tonight, being tired and also wanting to maximize my time for rest tonight. So I need to take my dog out for her nightly duty, then brush and floss and get to bed.

Tonight is a night simply to exclaim that The "Drive for Pride" Rolls On! Again!

"Boy, my boy! I did 29 pictures like that, baby! Could just move my little finger: 'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog...'"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The "Drive For Pride" -- Eye To Eye

The eye is the pride master's most valuable friend. Both eyes.

With your eyes you communicate a million things, good and bad. Direct eye contact, while being conscious and merciful with it, shows concern and real care. It shows that someone's "home" inside you.

The use of the eyes is something I'm both good at and fail at often.

When I'm with someone, my problem is I'm thinking too much and not letting nature take its course. I'm not instinctual enough in the moment. That's something I need to work on. So I'm afraid I'm communicating a lot of this thinking when the eye contact is happening. And that conveys a very calculating look, which I hate. So I've got it about half going on. Not good enough!

Another problem I guess I can confess to is not having enough pride myself. So when I'm dealing with some folks, I don't have an adequate basis for giving them the non-thinking, non-worried eye contact that makes a real connection. There's still a lot held back, because I'm still dealing with too many things in my "home."

The place I want to get to is this: To venture forth with everything settled within. My own pride locked solidly in place. Fully secure in my role. Valuing myself what I have to offer. Then when I walk into a room, whatever the circumstances, I can be so many miles ahead, instead of having to play catch up. When you're playing catch up, that's where a lot of the thinking comes in. It's a matter then of really only being half there.

What would it be like to be all there? I'm not saying there have never been times. I've been "all there" at times in my life. For me, one on one is always better. But I've been "all there" with more than that, just not usually. But if I keep it in mind, if I work on it, I'll get there on a more regular basis.

So you get pride -- however that happens. The voice you speak to yourself with. You become comfortable in your role. You see the relationships you have and you have a valuable part in them. Then there are other relationships, that occur more on the fly, very incidental relationships ... you have a basis to step in them immediately. Then you're there, it's a matter of being there at this point with all you are.

That's where the eyes come in. You make that meaningful eye contact (without too much conscious thinking about it) and the world will be at your feet, in a good way.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Drive For Pride" -- Do It Or Drop It

Boy, oh boy. Another day has come and practically gone. I've really noticed over the last year how hard it is to write a daily thing. And that's really true when you're seeking to put forth something that will do people a lot of good and you know that so many people are counting on you. It's tough.

I remember seeing some footage on TV once, where a helicopter was swooping in to help some people in dire straits, and the guy dipped the thing a little low, while they were throwing out the rice, blankets, and beer, and the frantic natives grabbed on to it and I believe pulled it down. They either pulled it down and it crashed or the pilot lifted it and shook them off and flew to safety.

Regardless of the outcome of that particular incident, and I'm sure it's been repeated countless times in every disaster we've had since the invention of the helicopter, that's how I feel when it comes time to serve the public in this daily column. It's tough to swoop in, then see that the need for pride, confidence, self-esteem, and a basic understanding in the lifestyle sciences is so great that one man can barely keep up, let alone that man being me. I haven't really had the training -- I'll admit it -- but my intuition (and experience) is pretty good on a limited basis.

But I take the responsibility very seriously. I do not want even a baby bird to suffer, so of course I feel a lot of sympathy for the seething masses at my door, in a manner of speaking. Nature has her way. I can't help every baby bird, so some are going to be missed. Yet how precious is each one, and certainly that goes for you and the thousands of others who show up at this blog everyday for help and guidance.

(You and I are something of a team. So let me ask you, and I'm not going to be checking your answer to see if it's true -- I'll just trust you -- have you bought a book or something that I've been advertising through yet? It would be good for my own well being, in this case financial, since Amazon and I are partners and we split the money 50/50, or some other percentage, 85/15 or 90/10. One of those I get, but which I still need to find out. Today's ad is for a Feng Shui book. We used to mince feng shui and mix it with chop suey ... very delicious.)

Anyway, the bottom line is this, I'm seriously thinking about -- even pushing for -- a return to the "Drive for Pride." At the very least, I promise that I won't be dangling it before you forever. It'll be known in the next few days, so thanks for your patience, whether it's going to happen. I will make the choice, either to do it or drop it all together.

I believe my choice essentially is being made for me, because, again, you are in great need.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No "Drive For Pride" Review Is Possible

I have determined that it is impossible for me to do a full review of the "Drive for Pride" project as it existed in 2009.

I looked back through the archives for a few minutes, refreshing my memory on certain aspects of the "Drive for Pride." It looked more extensive and more complicated than I remember writing at the time. At the time, I felt like I was master of the whole scheme. And I guess I was, since it was in the moment. But now that that time has passed, and I don't regularly read my own writings in the aftermath, just looking at it, it looks momentous, huge, and imposing.

The short answer is it is impossible for me, with my busy schedule and current interests, to engage myself and take the time to do a full review of the project. Earlier today I thought that would be helpful for myself and the readers of this blog. Obviously it would be helpful, to help get us all on the same page. Because maybe your memory is like mine ... and a refresher on the whole thing would get your back up to speed.

I really would like to do it, but as I've said, I feel that it's impossible.

Right off the bat, when looking at it, I noticed something interesting. Everything did not come to a screeching halt when I was criticized about whether spines can be made of steel (a figure of speech) or whether they should always be considered bone (as they literally are). When I reviewed some of the archives today, I saw that I continued on for a respectable little while after that criticism hit the fan.

Which is funny, because that's what I associate with being the end of the "Drive for Pride." Maybe when you telescope it with hindsight, it really was the end. But when you look back at the historical record, there were some additional entries following the brouhaha that her criticism caused.

I invite (and welcome) anyone to browse my archives -- Sept., Oct., Nov. 2009, in that vicinity -- and see what some of the "Drive for Pride" topics were. It's all quite interesting. And if I get it started again -- let's say it happens -- I'll hope to match the quality of some of the posts of those days, posts that I have for the most part forgotten.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is It "Drive For Pride" Time Again?

I had to look at yesterday's post to remind myself. I came very close there to declaring that the "Drive For Pride" was back on.

For me it's a long time between one day and the next. I'm busy. So I had put the whole thing out of my mind. Then I sat down and it all came flooding back to me, that I had spoken once again on the subject.

It really is, like I was saying last night, like reopening an old wound. It was going great guns there for a while, then the criticism came in fast and furious -- that a spine can't really be termed a "spine of steel," with the hyper-literal objection that spines are in fact bone. That has weighed on me for a couple of months.

I have thought over every possible retort, everything from sarcasm to sincere debate, including some things I copied out of a book on writing about figures of speech, but I didn't say much in response. Instead I just quickly dropped the whole thing.

But, as they say, time heals all wounds. And now this one has pretty much healed, it really could be time to try it again, and hopefully this time I won't open myself up to charges and criticism along those lines again.

That doesn't mean I will be any more careful when it comes to figures of speech, because, really, how can you talk about anything without occasionally having to dip into well known figures of speech? I don't know how. I've heard other people say things like that. "So and so has a spine of steel. He can't be beat." I believe the average person knows what we're trying to say ... and it's not something to get excited about.

It's like saying you're so hungry you could eat a horse, or someone was riding like the wind. It's a form of exaggeration for effect, hyperbole being a good term for it.

I will give it another day's thought. I was thinking about launching into the "Drive for Pride" tonight -- just going for it ... cold. But as it turned out, I wanted to lay this groundwork. It's a way of psyching myself up for it. Anyway, I'm not psyched yet. I'm too cautious tonight. Too tentative. And when I start teaching -- I like to use a little bluster, to have a little kick in my style. That's what drives home the point.

Give me a little more time. Then get your thinking caps ready. Because we'll be right back in the thick of it. Pumping up people's pride, their confidence, their self-esteem.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Might Restart The "Drive For Pride"

I might, I said. But it's getting late in the day, and I've had a busy day and I'm tired, so I don't know if I can exactly do it tonight.

I'll just put it out there that I might. Restart the "Drive for Pride" theme that I had for a while a couple months ago. It's a possibility, something to hope for maybe.

I hate to reopen old wounds, of course. I have a very sensitive nature, and it was from some unjustified criticism, some hyperliteralism from one of my critics, that the whole "Drive for Pride" went down the tubes. As I recall -- and I have put most of it out of my mind -- I gave it a brave effort after the criticism started, but my heart was no longer in it.

I had a teaching, a theme, on having a spine of steel -- something like that -- and someone took me to task over that! True! She insisted that you can't actually have a spine of steel. Which should go without saying. I think we all know that spines aren't literally made of steel. We do all know that, right? It's a figure of speech, and I knew the criticism was unjustified. But sometimes that's all it takes for me. That's how sensitive I can be. I'm sorry.

So whether I get the "Drive" going again or not, we shall see. A part of me would really like to. Because I remember how many people were helped. I was sailing high for a while. And for the most part I was just winging it. Whatever self-help thing I could think of, just off the top of my head, I was going with it. And as unbelievable as it sounds, I felt like I was really helping people.

I imagine people were reading it and making personal decisions based on what I was saying. And even on the biggie -- the spine of steel one -- I'm sure more people were helped by that than were hurt. I seriously doubt that anyone was hurt by it. Just that one critic, who should've been dismissed out of hand.

But can I do it again? Like I said, I was flying high, winging it. Because I had a lot of confidence. It was a wild time. Like the wild west of imagination. I could do anything. If I get going on it again, I'd like to get that back, and not have to be all tentative and reluctant to express myself, lest I be criticized. Certainly I would probably qualify many things that shouldn't be taken literally. But even that could stifle me. So I don't know.

You might want to check back often and see how I'm doing. It could be interesting. I don't know exactly how I could get going again in the same way. But I'll explore it in my own mental reveries and see what happens.

Maybe it won't be tomorrow. Maybe it will! I could be in a very fresh frame of mind tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see.

The "Drive for Pride" may or may not rise again! If it does, that will be a reason for rejoicing!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm A Cool Guy -- Listening To Frank Sinatra

I'm such a cool guy tonight, listening to Frank Sinatra. Yeah, baby.

The guy had real potential as a singer. LOL. And I've got this swinging record. Wow. I love it. The last song I heard "This Town" was a definite swinger. Beautiful.

Some of the other stuff is just exquisite and not so swinging. Still all quite lovely. I don't know why All Music Guide gives this album 1½ stars. They don't say what the problem is. I like it.

The album is called "The World We Knew," Reprise 1022, and what I'm listening to is a stereo LP (record) of it, which I got at a thrift store the other day. Pretty good shape.

The cover of the album is a fairly dreary affair. I see for the CD version they dropped off a bunch of clutter from the cover, which on the original is a real swinging bit of liner notes (on the front!). And my copy has a big huge, 96 point radio station number, since it was part of a radio library once upon a time. This is their LP #341!

Anyway, the liner notes say:

The sun had plunged into the Pacific, somewhere southwest of Bel-Air. In Studio One, Sinatra, like the Pacific, makes his own waves. Fluorescent light turns the singer a slightly tanner shade of grey. And amid this neon's irreverent hum, the singer looks out into the plastic, humming world about him. He stands at the microphone, singing in depth. Doing his best thing ... sharing. Sinatra's songs, soon to scatter worldwide the belongings of one man's soul. He tilts his voice into a microphone, ust as he has for three decades. Decades spent in living in recording, and in singing small but poignant truths about loving. This ambiguous man, with clear, touching insights. Sinatra at a microphone, nurturing a bouquet of emotions, then plucking them in full flower, without first checking for possible thorns.

Couldn't've said it better myself. Fortunately we had Stan Cornyn to write that piece. It would've been fun to be in the recording studio, eyeballing Frank as he sang these songs -- maybe glancing away out of reverence -- then writing something so touchy feely. It's Frank, man. Frank and the Pacific Ocean. Two giants!

I'm actually not a big Sinatra guy. Far from it. But when I hear him, I wonder where I ever went wrong. I should've been. 

UPDATE:  For some unknown reason, the CD of this is over $50 at Amazon. Must be hard to get. But the download is just under $10, so I'd go for that. Except I have the LP and I'm recording it to MP3 as I type.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm Not Going Anywhere

Neither of these guys is going anywhere, so can we just move on. Unless we also don't want to go anywhere, in which case we won't move on.

Each one of them had a rough week. I haven't been keeping track. But it appears that Harry Reid made an offensive racial comment about President Obama in 2008. In 2008! So they (the Republican hypocrites) say he should resign now.

Then Michael Steele isn't exactly beloved by the vultures of the Republican party, so they want him to resign, just because he's said a bunch of kind of nutty stuff. They should shut up. That just proves he's one of them!

But Harry Reid says he's not going anywhere. And Michael Steele says he's not going anywhere.

Good for them! The idea in this country that just because you occasionally say something stupid that you ought to immediately resign is stupid itself. That wouldn't be a good use of our resources, our people. Because who hasn't said something stupid?

In fact, the very ones calling for these men's ouster probably would be caught short if we had the chance to examine everything they've ever said or done. Such morons.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Fascinating Winter Experiment

First, let me just say up front, this is my 666th post at Grandma Slump. Fortunately I have a devilishly absurd idea today to go along with it.

This idea was a brainchild I had last night. It was a scientific experiment that occurred to me just before getting ready for bed. It turned out to be an inconvenient thing, since I had to get dressed again, everything, including galoshes, because it's cold outside. It has to be below zero ... yes, I just checked. At this moment it's minus 4 degrees. And it was equally cold last night, if not colder!

My experiment, now that I'm thinking of it 24 hours later, was probably not that valuable to the furtherance of scientific knowledge. I don't know because I haven't told anyone about it ... until now.

My thought -- and I was expecting the exact results I got -- good scientists always do -- was what would happen if I took a pound of frozen hamburger out of the refrigerator and put it outside over night. Given that it was well below freezing, would the hamburger remain as hard as a rock? Frozen? Would it somehow become even harder than what a refrigerator can manage?

I didn't want to skew the experiment in a bad way, i.e., handling the hamburger too much with bare hands, because of body heat, so I lifted it with some tongs we have and sat it in a bowl. Then, carefully, so as not to heat the bowl with my hands, I put a towel at the edges of the bowl and handled it from there.

Then, outside I went. Bowl, hamburger, towels, and tongs. Very delicately I lifted the pound of hamburger and sat it down in the snow next to the stoop. I was hoping it wouldn't put off a hamburger odor over night, lest a stray dog wander in the yard, smell it, and eat the specimen.

With it securely next to the stoop, I went inside. At that second is when the waiting began, which time I sped up by falling asleep quickly.

In the morning I looked outside for dog tracks. Seeing none, I figured the specimen had to be in place. And sure enough, there it was, still resting in the exact same spot next to the stoop where I put it. Proving once and for all that hamburger doesn't get up in the middle of the night and run around the block.

But that wasn't the experiment. The experiment was to see -- once and for all -- if it had remained frozen and if it was any harder than what it had been in the freezer. It turned out that, yes, on a night when it's below zero, hamburger does stay frozen. But whether it was any harder than what it had been in the freezer, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't quantified the exact hardness, because I hadn't wanted my warm hands to touch it.

At this point I decided to rely on past experiences of handling frozen hamburger. When I picked it up, with this past evidence in mind, it was not noticeably harder. It was very very hard, to be sure. But whether you could say it was harder than what it typically is in a freezer, I couldn't discern any difference.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Our Sympathy To Joe Biden

Regular readers of this blog -- especially those with a super photographic memory -- will no doubt remember my post about Joe Biden's mother back in August of 2008.

Looking back, I see I complimented her good legs. And noted that she was a youthful 92 at the time, not quite the mature woman that my Grandma Slump is at 104.

I figured she might go on for many ages to come. But bad news has come. Mrs. Biden died. So our truest sympathy goes out to the Biden family. She seemed like a great lady. We're sure she was.

Catherine Eugenia "Jean" Finnegan Biden: 1917-2010.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Doctor's Appointment Tomorrow

I have one, a doctor's appointment. It's my regular six month checkup. I'm not looking forward to it, but of course I never do.

I've gotten over (pretty much) the whole fear of being stuck with the needle, although it's still not pleasant. The part I'm really not looking forward to it my doctor asking if I've been regularly exercising. Since I haven't. I hate to give the impression that I'm not faithful to doing the right things. But sometimes I'm lazy, or busy, or tired. I have several good excuses, but none of them will fly.

I think I'm still in reasonably good condition. So that's not the problem. And I've been taking the medicine I'm supposed to take everyday. So my cholesterol levels ought to be OK. And my blood thinning is probably OK with the baby aspirin. (Somewhere there's a baby saying, "How come the store didn't have enough aspirin for me? Is some adult using it all up?)

My time for "fasting" is right now ... at the top of the hour. Oh no. I'm never so hungry as when I know I can't have any food. Somehow I need to survive the next 12+ hours without eating. I don't usually eat after 8 p.m., but I'm not usually restricted. Now I'm hungry! Craving something. Soon I'll be asleep and then it'll be OK.

I hope everything checks out OK. I don't want to go back to the 3 month checkups. I should've been doing my exercises. I should've been good! It's too late now! I'll have to go in ... and take my medicine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Three Cabelleros

We're three cabelleros,
Three gay cabbelleros,
Three gay cabbelleros are we!

There's one cabellero,
There's two cabelleros,
The third cabellero makes three!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tea -- The Choice Is Yours

I'm sipping on a fresh, hot cup of English Breakfast Tea, one of the Twinings of London varieties.

My normal way of making a cup of tea is to put a teabag in a cup of cold water and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. That's the time I do it for in my own particular microwave, although I was at someone else's place the other day and their microwave was more powerful than mine so it didn't take as long. At 3 minutes and 20 seconds it's still not boiling in mine, but in theirs it was boiling way before that. Whether it boils or not, though, doesn't seem to make any difference.

Anyway, my post here wasn't meant to be a lesson on how to boil water. Most of us know how to do that.

In the course of my 3 minutes and 20 seconds today, I had time to go to the bathroom. Then there was still a little time, so I started reading the tea box, reading the official instructions (what they call "suggestions.") It says, "Pour freshly boiled water over teabag and allow to brew for 2-5 minutes depending on desired strength." That clearly would take a little longer, because you've got to get the water boiling, then wait an additional 2-5 minutes. But there must be some good reason for it. I'll take another sip. It's still pretty good my way, and, anyway, they say it's just a "suggestion."

Also in reading the box, I came across this nugget, and I thought I'd share it: "English Breakfast can be enjoyed with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened -- the choice is yours."

It's the last phrase that got me. "The choice is yours." I laughed, because of course the choice is yours. I've never heard of the Tea Police who come kicking your door down because you prepared a cup of tea in something other than the approved manner. Some Twinings secret agents, long posing as your friendly neighbors, then, when they've gained your trust, start inquiring as to how you make your tea, all with the purpose of ensnaring you in a confession, complete self incrimination.

Then, after your guilt is determined, they come and confiscate all your remaining tea, and the police sell your microwave to fund their Beverages Enforcement Unit, since it had been used in the commission of a crime. Not only that crime, but the more technical crime of boiling water without a boiling permit, like the way the law says a narcotics offender needs a "drug stamp" before selling illegal drugs.

(My tea's getting cold while I write all that legalese.)

"The choice is yours." Of course it is. But that's just Twinings' nice way of saying it can be prepared several different ways, depending on your own taste. Just because it's called "Breakfast," they say it's "not just for breakfast." OK. Then it can "be enjoyed with or without milk." It seems like we used to put milk in tea when I was a kid, but I haven't done that for years. It'd probably be OK but I think I like it better without. And it can be enjoyed "sweetened or unsweetened." If you want it sweet, put some sweetener in it. As for myself, it all depends. Generally -- this is my typical habit -- I just drink it straight. One thing I hate, though, is sweetened iced tea. It has to be straight! If I ever catch someone making sweetened iced tea, I have my own little police force, and we swoop in and confiscate the remaining bags and microwave, as above.

"The choice is yours." Just make the right choice!

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Can Leftovers Be Any Good?

Whether leftovers will be good or not is always one of my concerns. Generally speaking, I hate leftovers. But then there are some that aren't so bad. It's really a matter of preservation and preparation.

Some things make terrible leftovers. Like turkey, but there's only one day a year that we have to worry about turkey. The rest of the year turkeys are free ranging. I was driving through the countryside the other day and literally saw 40 turkeys up on the hill in the snow. Turkey never looks as yummy as when you see it walking in a field. It makes you feel like a pilgrim, till you're out of sight.

I think hamburgers are terrible as leftovers. Why this is, I don't know, because there are things with hamburger in them that aren't bad. But say you have a hamburger patty, and you put it on a plate, and you wrap it in plastic, and put it in the fridge. When you get it out -- whether a week or five minutes later -- it's going to be terrible. A hamburger patty, once it's been touched by refrigerator air, is instantly spoiled ... even through the plastic.

Yet, and this is a weird thing, hamburger mixed in with tomato sauce, such as for spaghetti, heated up isn't so bad. Of course you're going to lose some of the juiciness and looseness that the sauce originally had. A little bit of water loosens it back up, but you have to be real careful not to put in more than a few drops. It loosens up faster than you think it will.

I went out for Mexican food yesterday, noon -- had steak fajitas. The portions are pretty big. You have three soft shells, plus a big platter of sizzling steak pieces mixed with onion. Then there's a bowl of cold stuff, tomatoes, a little lettuce, some guacamole, some sour cream, etc. And lastly there's a big plate of rice and refried beans. So it's huge. Meaning you can't eat it all, meaning it will be leftovers.

I had the leftovers from this tonight, and maybe it was because I was especially hungry, but to me it tasted better as leftovers than it did originally. I was really surprised. Because I thought, you know, steak is in the hamburger family, and if hamburger goes bad with refrigerator air, steak might have some of the same problem, like a genetic flaw. Like red hair on people.

Pizza I don't especially like as a leftover. And I've had it a million times. It all depends, but it's one of the things that usually is going to be bad. If it's just in the box, it has that inch of air surrounding it inside, which is basically the same as leaving it completely exposed. It's going to be dry, ugly, and unpleasant tasting. If you wrap it in plastic that's not always a perfect solution either, because the plastic and any remaining heat when it goes in makes it wetter and soggy.

The best thing I would suggest is if you live near one of those cryogenics labs, to befriend someone who works there and have him freeze it for you, like minus 40 degrees. Then if they ever find a cure for bad tasting leftover pizza, you can have it thawed out and enjoy it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I Hope Dogs Can Talk In Heaven

I've been getting a lot of good, quality face time with my dog. Because it's so cold out, below zero, I've been carrying her places, then setting her down so she can go to the bathroom, then picking her up. Her feet get so cold that sometimes she's mincing around and acts like she can hardly stand it. So if I'm carrying her, that's for her benefit as far as the discomfort, and also to my benefit because I hate to see anything suffer.

In all this quality time, I'm busy reassuring her that she's a good girl and commiserating in a gentle way about how cold it is. My face is right up to the back of her head and sometimes her ear. So it's an interesting fellowship. The longer I carry her the harder I breathe, so it sounds like I'm really putting some exertion into making sure she's got all the comforts.

We have lots of other quality time. She's usually on my bed till I fall asleep, then she's off in her own little place on the futon. So it's a very special relationship.

All that to say, I hope dogs can talk in heaven. Because it bugs me that dogs can't talk. The whole silent treatment is almost too much. I would like to have a few words. So let's say dogs can talk in heaven. I look forward to talking it over with my dog, about all the winter mornings and nights, and what we went through.

Have you ever heard that poem "Footprints In The Sand"? Most people have. It's corny. But you can think of it, the same thing, with man and dog and all the snow. "Two sets of footprints in the snow...One, a big pair of galoshes. The other, four little mincing canine tracks. Then, suddenly, the snow reveals nothing but one set of footprints, just the big galoshes, apparently depressed in the snow like an extra quarter of an inch. Why, thinks the dog, did you abandon me at those terrible times on the path, the coldest days of my life? I didn't abandon you, dear dog. It was those times I was carrying you! Anyway, think of it, if I abandoned you, wouldn't there be your own little canine footprints left behind and my big galoshes running the opposite direction?"

We're in for tonight. Thank goodness. She did her business in a good way, so we didn't have to be out there forever. With all the sniffing she does sometimes, you can't depend on her getting done before her feet get too cold.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Rose Parade Went Off Without A Hitch

Back in September I had the wild idea of a guy sabotaging the entire Rose Parade. I forgot all about it until today when I saw a few minutes of the Rose Parade. Then I suddenly remembered!

Thinking about the guy who might've done it, I'm sure he would've been watching with great interest to see if his little scheme would've worked. Although he probably would've heard of it by now -- that the Parade would've been in trouble -- since he probably would've also had a subscription to the newspaper in Pasadena, or at the very least have been monitoring the news from there by the internet.

If the panic had happened, on the part of float makers, contractors, builders, and all the rest, everything would've had to have gone to pot well before January 1. It seems like they would need to have everything well in place before the beginning of December, because everything has to go in a step by step process to get such a huge production accomplished.

Seriously, I'm glad they were able to have the Rose Parade. It would've been a tragedy if they hadn't had it. 1) They probably would've been looking for me, to see if I had some inside information on the sabotage. Of course I didn't. It was just a thought piece. But that doesn't mean there couldn't be a guy who read my post -- or happened to have the same idea on his own -- who would then want such a scheme to become a reality.

But it'd be tough for him to get all the pieces in place. He'd have to have some dumb luck as well. He would need an awful lot of things to go his way, probably too many, against such a team that the Rose Parade people no doubt have, having 100 years of successful parades under their belts.

Anyway, it was interesting to suddenly remember the whole scheme. And it was a relief to know that the guy didn't do it. There was no guy. I don't know the guy.