Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mystery Meat

I have to admit on more than one occasion in my life, when I have sat down to dinner, it was a mystery as to what I was about to eat. Especially as a hungry dude in college you learn not to be too picky about meal planning. Because usually, chow-time consisted of showing up at the cafeteria to enjoy exactly one of two choices – eating and NOT eating.

So since we had guests in town, we vowed to throw a new twist into the old-fashioned food trough. We are not really that thoughtful as hosts go, it’s just that while we have transient guinea pigs to experiment on we might as well put them to the test right?

Anyway, we booked a visit to a local murder - mystery ‘Who done it’ dinner house. Actually the place was literally a mansion a hundred years ago, so the ambience was great for killing off a victim as well as a tasty meal. If you have not ventured out to try one of these participatory ‘death dinners’, the concept is that while your dinner is being served, a comedic mystery slowly unfolds revealing one of the dinner guests as a murderer. You are given a name-tag of your alter-ego as well as a page of character notes, and/or lines to deliver on cue.

Let me just say the food is a lot better than the script (or our acting), BUT it is enjoyable to join in on the fun and deliver a corny line or two between the salad and the steak. Our entire crew chose to participate and had a great time. So now I have a new appreciation for mystery meat and all that goes into making a play, as well as a fillet. Too bad my guinea pig visitors had to depart suddenly - because it really was a pleasure SERVING THEM!

Brave GUTterances

Now like all parents I have a basic understanding of typical body chemistry and functions. It is kind of pre-requisite training if you are going to endure the pleasures of having children. The problem for me is that once my kid was grown and off to college, I thought most of my educational internship in all things organic and gastro-intestinal had ended.

But no, it is clear my Chinese calendar animal was not born under the lucky side of the placemat. Because even now at nineteen, almost anytime I am out with my daughter, she will find some new gurgle, burp, cough, or snort to make me wince and categorically repulse all innocent passers-by.

It does not matter if we are in a store, doctor’s office, restaurant or even a mortuary, the kid has some kind of weird stomach that either makes noise or convulses so violently as to wake the dead with her sonic-boom hiccups. These ‘barks’ of legend are actually a combination of a hiccup, cough, and belch all together and nobody on earth, except terrorists, should be subjected to one, much less her own parents.

The really odd thing is the kid’s own response to her demonstrative gastro-cannon is to simply laugh which exacerbates the problem. No embarrassment or loss of pride – just a short chopped chortle which invariably will cause her to gulp air at the EXACT wrong moment as her diaphragm contracts. This out-of-phase hiccup progressively gets louder and more pronounced, which in turns causes more laughs – more air … well you get the idea.

Within a few minutes, everyone within a 25 yard radius is subjected to a demented body chorus that they will not soon forget, but wish they could. And you thought I was the ‘special’ freak in the family, brave enough to face my problems in a public arena. At least my issues are all mental so people only THINK there is something wrong with me. No the truly brave one is my spasmodic spawn who dares public disgust every day – ‘cause it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know ‘ she’s really GOT GUTS!’

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scents-less Senior

As I have gotten older unlike most of my senses, my sense of smell seems to be getting better. No I am not bragging, I just am really proud. In a time when every morning is taking much longer to crawl out of bed and into action, it’s just nice that something – ANYTHING, still seems to work.

I actually do not really think that I smell any better (how many of you would ever admit that), but it is in fact that I have to use such large quantities of Ben Gay these days to keep the joints all lubed up. Though humans seem to endure my scent ok, oddly the mosquitoes and flies get within a yard or so and simply wave a white flag and head the other direction. Yeah I radiate a wafting trail of menthol bliss for all who dare to enter my personal ‘no fly’ zone.

Now how all this recently started was that I twisted an ordinary screwdriver a couple of days ago to seat three (yes ONLY three) screws into some wood. Now my forearm and elbow ache so much I walk around like Fred Sanford holding his wounded wing and whining to all who will listen. All this does nothing for my ego or my pocketbook either. That stinky balm costs a pretty penny I assure you.

So hopefully the muscles in my arm will heal up as fast as those in my head. If they do, I can finally stop stalking the ‘geezer section’ of the drug store (though I did have my eye on that Shiny Chrome Walker). I’ll be sad though to say goodbye to my menthol aura. Yeah I kind of like getting those ‘senior discounts’ without asking for them. But there’s no need to rush old age any faster than I already seem to be doing right? Most people say it is very likely too late for me – after all I have already lost my scents!

A bad idea to RELISH!

You know every time I want to write about my worst invention idea ever, I get distracted by some random ‘gun and target’ story. Or if that is not boring enough, I will start typing away again and I’ll wander off recalling some fast food antic. Wouldn’t it be great if I could just COMBINE both a food story and a gun n’ target experience into one convenient blog post?

Ok, well there is no mystery how this failed invention floundered as I happened to be hungry so I pulled into some burger joint with my wife and kid. We had just come from the house where we were shooting a BB rifle into (of all benign things on the planet to use as a target) an old pumpkin. Now I don’t know if you have ever spent any quality time with old pumpkins, but as prom dates go, they are not much to look at. Pumpkins after gutting, tend to quickly lose their shiny and regal orange skin as it turns a tad gray, saggy and sad.

Regardless, the pumpkin was still a seemingly good target to shoot at because it was soft so no ricochet issues, and it was big enough that even if I aimed poorly, I still usually could hit a basketball-sized target. The problem of course was that after hitting our formerly orange friend, our shots left a very unsatisfying tiny bb-sized hole in the pumpkin’s epidermis. In fact to distinguish any new shots from old shots, we would have to circle the hole in the putrid pumpkin with a Sharpie marker. We needed something better.

So fast forward BACK to the fast-food place. Well you know all of those keen little catsup and mayo packets food places put out instead of bottles – what if we found a way to use THOSE as targets? Just think of the fun kids would have if you shot a target in the head and it ‘bled out’ white mayo for brain matter. Or you hit the target in the heart, and the catsup packet explodes replicating a quadruple bypass gone wild? I even figured that the green relish packs could be used on ‘Martian’ targets and kids would not get enough of shooting BB’s into an alien life form and watching him bleed ‘ Green’!

You might be amused that I actually SPENT ENERGY and TIME looking for plausible ways to make this work. The inherent problem is that catsup packets are not pressurized so they ALSO are not very satisfying to shoot with a BB. Unless you have some way to motivate the goo outside of the packet, even if you punch a hole in it, all it will do is slowly (if at all) ooze a bit at the breach site.

So I set up targets with packets tightly squeezed behind them in hopes that they might ‘spill their guts’ if I shot them. No Luck! I tried springs, rubber bands, clips – you name it. I think this target holy grail might still be possible if I set- up some kind of switch and solenoid to punch the back of the packet when hit by a BB? But I always worry about ricochets when metal parts are involved, not to mention the time and expense. This was supposed to be a fun little throw away idea not a ‘Be or all Be’ (BB) life goal. Turns out those irritating little packets are just as worthless giving up their contents as gun targets as they are on hamburgers. Makes me want to shoot them all the more, especially those green Martian blood packets – now that is an experience I would indeed RELISH!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elderly Entertainment

As I mentioned we have guests in the house this week. The in-laws have come to visit so our goal is usually to try and do a few interesting things while they are in town. The problem is that they live in Las Vegas. If you have ever been to Vegas you will know that there is literally endless possibilities for entertainment so how can we possibly compete and keep them entertained?

I know what you are thinking – just lock them in a room and force them to read my blog. Well, beyond the fact that it is very questionable whether this qualifies as ‘entertainment’, in some states it might be thought of as torture. So with all river casinos out, and my humor too much of a risk of boring my guests to death, I must leave no stone unturned in search of some age-appropriate fun.

Then, like a golden vision sent down from the mountain top, it occurred to me – THEY’RE OLD! Why am I working so hard to try and find entertainment when everything I need is already right here, IN FRONT OF ME. One of our favorite games is called ‘Hide the Glasses’. Not a day goes by that at least one member of our troop misplaces (or perceives to misplace) his or her spectacles. Invariably after a search party is organized and last steps are re-traced, the mis-located eyewear will be found on the victim’s own head.

If the oldsters are ever short on ‘confusion’, I will unleash my daughter on them to teach them the rules of random card games. Actually my in-laws are quite skilled at Bridge, Hearts, and a variety of strategy card games. My daughter on the other hand is an expert at making up or informing us all LATE of rules and details that are germane to playing new card games correctly. Nobody of any age can hold up long to the length of these games, constant changes, or much less remembering the mind-boggling scoring and rules shuffle.

By now my in-laws are so rattled that they want to seek some definition where ‘rules are rules’, and justice is swift. So we try to calm them down with a parade of the ‘TV Judge’ shows. There are literally a slew of these type of television shows with litigants suing over tiny disagreements. Is this REALLY entertainment? My goal in life is to stay OUT of courtroom theatrics, not sit in the front row of the jury box with popcorn. My plan seems to work though because soon enough, the elders are drifting in and out of consciousness, only occasionally waking up to comment on an unjustified verdict, or the fact that the judge has changed not only their race, but their sex as well!

Now don’t get me wrong, I aint no springy chicken myself, so much of what I say here already applies to me now or in my immediate future. But until I start getting some serious discounts for dinner, I am going to fight it all the way. In the meantime, I will bone up on lots of card game rules. I don’t want my kid pulling anything over on me (except a warm blankie) when I come to camp-out at her house. Who knows, eventually I may even need burping and an occasional diaper change – now THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

Ham and Turkey

I was reflecting on how complex technology used to be. My in-laws are in town and they always come packing a personal computer, a couple of cell phones and irritatingly, MORE knowledge and ability than me, when it comes to how to use all that stuff. My Father and Father-in-law both use the web for stocks and financial data research. So as a blogger, I am the runt of the litter when it comes to USEFUL computer skills.

For the in-laws, that new fangled Skype website has become their preferred communication method to stay in touch with friends and family. They have established regular ‘meeting’ times on-line to make and place video phone calls. I am not knocking this discipline or the savings that it no-doubt generates as compared to traditional long distance. I am in fact very impressed that even the oldsters in my life have gained quick understanding of the technologies available, and have incorporated them quickly into their normal routines.

What amazes me actually is how all of this ‘NEW’ stuff reminds me of some very ‘OLD’ tech stuff that I used to do except for that it was on Ham radio. We had TV and packet email too but it was via a ‘beamed’ radio signal. We could make REAL phone calls as well but it was over a ‘patch’ repeater and only for personal business – never to make money.

It took so much complicated equipment to accomplish all that we take for granted now. It also took a TEST which would rapidly kill the internet if it were required today. My wife and I still maintain our amateur licenses for emergency situations. However it is clear, if our parents are mastering the net, then there is clearly nothing better for basic, inexpensive, and almost universally available communications now. Yes, I may be a little wistful for the challenge and lost days of radio but who am I to complain? Remember, then I was only a HAM, and now as a blogger, I have been promoted to a TURKEY TOO!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


If there is one food flavor which I never seem to get enough of, it is peanut butter. Whether it is peanut butter flavored candy to plain old white bread sandwiches; cookies to boxes of breakfast cereal – I love everything about the NUTritious peanut paste.

Now I know I am not unique. Many people love the stuff and have a favorite brand. Many like the saltier, nuttier flavor of JIF or the preservative free organics. I frankly prefer the highly sugar infused, and some would say, LESS Peanuty, Peter Pan brand. When they pulled Peter Pan off the shelves due to contamination issues, I was actually frightened for a couple years that they would let the brand die. After eating the last remnants of my Peter Pan stockpile, I could not brush my teeth for a week for fear of forgetting that unforgettable taste and SMELL of happiness.

My own brother-in –law oddly hates the brown goo ( RELAX - I’m talking peanut butter) because growing up in a large brood, the nutty butter was an overused economical source of protein. But now, just the sight of a brightly colored jar or the remote whiff of a PB&J sandwich and he’ll feel queasy! On the flip side, I have a friend who works out daily to stay in shape. For him it is not unusual to grab a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter ALONE, and suck it in like a vacuum in a black hole.

One of the first few Halloween outfits my wife made for our daughter was Peter Pan. It was an easy costume because basically it was just a big brown ‘schmear’ with eye holes. No of course I jest, we dressed the kid in the little green boots, tights, frayed tunic and green cap. We even used an empty jar of Peter Pan peanut butter with a handle for her goody bucket. Of course, we would have to follow along with a larger bag and constantly relieve that dumb little jar of her candy booty. Can you guess what the kid’s favorite candy is to this day – Reese’s peanut butter cups of course – and oh yeah a TOOTHBRUSH!

Water picks on me

Generally I like all kinds of activities that include water. Swimming is the obvious favorite but stuff like boating, bathing, and even rain rank pretty high on the list too. There are only two situations that I don’t trust with H2O and that is automated car washes and when my wife water-boards me for anniversary gift information. Specifically auto car washes are not my cup of tea because ... well they are AUTOMATIC. As long as the things will let me control the water wand by myself then there is no problem. But once you lock me in a little booth and let the machines take over, well that is where the trouble begins.

Now I HAVE been through an auto carwash and I do appreciate the idea that I simply drive my car in one hole and out the other with a clean car. I also appreciate the gizmos and gears that robotically wash, and spray all my car’s hidden dirty spots without nary a scratch to the body. I wish sometimes, that I could say as much for that horribly rough loofah sponge that taunts me in my own shower. It is like trying to scrub with tiny volcanic knives shredding two and three layers of my skin at a time.

Once again I digress but … uh, oh yes, the auto car wash. My problems started long ago when I had to wear a suit to work. Whenever I filled the car up with gas, I would wash it too ( keep up people ... THE CAR not the suit). After fueling, I rolled the window down to enter a code so I could drive my car into the wash bay. I had done this many times before so I was an expert. But this time something struck me as very odd.

As my car came to a rest at the wheel stop inside the automatic car wash bay, I looked to my left at the bank of wash nozzles I had seen so many times before. They were strangely textured in detail and had an unusually bright look of gleaming stainless steel … but why did everything seem so much more tactile and alive in three dimensions? Then it suddenly occurred to me, ‘they look so real and 3D-close because I was looking at them directly …I HAD LEFT THE CAR WINDOW DOWN!!!

Well you can guess the rest, because at that exact moment, all matters of hydro-purgatory let loose. Those high pressure jets concentrated a mixture of soapy warm water on my head, neck, and suit like no water-boarding I had ever experienced. I of course tried to close the window but I had turned off the car so the window was frozen in time. I struggled to keep a pinpoint jet from digging a third nostril into my nose, as I started the car and rolled up that stinking window. Needless to say, my office was not particularly sympathetic to my stupidity. That was the day I lost my trust for water technology – after all, I was THAT guy who not only WASHED his suit, but also had his teeth and NOSE ‘WaterPik’d’ by the car wash robot!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tooth Duped Fairy

There is a long-standing tradition in the world of children which customarily requires turning over your baby teeth to some mystical fairy. If that is not creepy enough, this same entity is to somehow enter your room while you are sleeping, dig around UNDER your pillow, and leave you some cash in exchange for your bloody stump of a tooth.

Now I enjoyed this tradition as a kid but sadly I was born in the days when a quarter was the going rate for a tooth. Maybe at the end of the cycle it was closer to 50 cents a tooth but never approaching the cash that is thrown around today. Now the ‘Tooth Fairy’ union must have negotiated a pretty sweet deal, because kid’s now might receive as much as $5, $10, and even $20 per tooth!

Talk about inflation – no wonder stuff costs so much, it’s the Fairy’s fault. Our kid was somewhere around the $1 a tooth range. She had a little velveteen bag which she would deposit the recently evicted tooth. It was our job to make sure the fairy would have access to the bag, take the tooth for posterity, and then leave the loot in the bag and place it back under the pillow.

Despite this process working very well for most of our daughter’s tooth transition to a mouthful of adult teeth, unbeknownst to us there was a debate raging at school. Some of the kids had the audacity to suggest that PARENTS are the ones who are actually leaving the money. In fact there are really no fairies at all – can you believe that?

In any case, our kid secretly vowed to conduct an experiment. The very next tooth to become loose, she simply placed her ‘dental deposit’ in the small bag under her pillow and TOLD NOT A SOUL.. Sure enough morning came and she excitedly dove under her pillow to find NOTHING had changed. We had been nabbed red handed without ever laying a hand on that tricky tooth at all. That obviously ended the need for the tradition as our toothless kid had duped us but good. The moral of the story is: ‘Whenever anybody or anything gives you cash for stuff that falls out of your body – take it, with or without your teeth – and keep your MOUTH SHUT!’

The language of food

The one thing that we have noticed whenever we stop in at a fast food joint or even at the supermarket, is that these food places have a language all their own. Now the trick is to try and decipher the dialects of this unique language so you can communicate effectively with the indigenous cashiers. When you begin to consume all those questionable calories or pay more for that food, isn’t it nice to know what you are REALLY eating?

For example at burger restaurants, my wife observed that anytime the vendor adds the word ‘Deluxe’ to a burger – that actually means you will receive some sort of fleshy fatty thing resembling BACON on your ‘hamby’. That is great of course if you want some sliced piglet on your sandwich, but otherwise I think the better term for most of these Deluxe burgers is ‘De-Yuchs’.

The same goes for pizza shops who are selling you a ‘family sized’ pizza vs. a personal pie. While I understand that ‘personal’ probably means for one person, I did not know it equates directly to ONE SLICE? Further, that enormous family sized pizza pie will actually feed a family of sparrows maybe but never more than 3 normal adults in real life. At the grocery, they often market things with ‘Squeezable’ bottles for your ‘convenience’. That actually means, ‘No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to get ALL of the product out of this bottle’.

If anything like chips or frozen foods are ‘Cheeseburger’ flavored, that actually means that they will taste mostly like dill pickles and a hint of mustard. If your food purchases are now ‘Richer’ in flavor – that just means that they will be saltier or have more fat and calories. Even that salt has a unique code – if it is Sea Salt , then it is functionally the EXACT same thing as good old fashioned table salt BUT it costs 20% more. So learn to crack the food code and soon enough you will love to speak the TRUE language of food. Be sure you are always respectful to the various restaurant tribes when conversing in their native tongue. Because in most ‘Food’ dialects, except after a fulfilling meal, it is almost NEVER a good idea to end a sentence with an exclamation point … BUUUUURRRRRPPPP!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The power of Advertising

NOTE: This was written when I was fairly HAPPY with Google's eBlogger. But since then, over the last 16 hours, their administration functions have prevented me from posting per my normal blog schedule which was very frustrating. Sorry for the lapse - but it was beyond my control - W.C.C..

When I decided to start a blog I went ahead and allowed Google-provided advertising on my page. The reasoning behind this was three-fold. Obviously if I provide content that people actually want to read, then eventually such ads might produce some coin for my trouble. Secondly, by dedicating sidebars on my site I have placeholders for interesting widgets like the debt clock or maybe something I design myself in the future. Third, let’s face it , just like in grade school, the bigger the borders and margins, sometimes you can fool the teacher into thinking you have written a lot more ‘good stuff’ than you really have – are you fooled yet?

Anyway, I have been basically happy with the idea of limited advertising on my blog. It is not too intrusive and especially since I write on a wide variety of topics, Google constantly feeds ‘content-relevant’ ads which might be beneficial to my readers. The truth is that more often than not, the ads will pique MY interest far more than any of you. For example, If I write on ‘the magic of toilets’, Google will send me ads about toilet accessories or magic tricks. If I write a post on brass, then Google will send my site ads on metal cleaners to marching band supplies. Oddly, I am the type of person who is legitimately interested in learning more about ALL of these things.

The problem is of course is that we who sign-on to Ad Sense revenue, agree to a strict contract which does not allow us to click on any ‘pushed’ ads on our OWN websites. While sometimes frustrating, this is totally understandable. Even web advertising can be expensive so it would be inherently unfair to sign on every day and just start clicking ads to boost hit counts for stuff I have no interest in. However, more than once, I actually HAVE had to leave my site and look up whatever an advertiser is selling, BUT AWAY from my blog. I have never bought anything yet, but at least the little ads are doing their job generating interest … MINE!

But today, on my blog, something new with the side-bar ads, gave me moment to pause and an even longer moment to laugh. The content sensitive crawler that Google’s Ad Sense uses to send my blog ads, posted an advertisement something akin to: “ Lesbian love potions …”. I refreshed my ‘canned meat’ article in disbelief and the ads switched over to accounting and other mundane topics. I refreshed the page again and THERE WAS MORE??? - “Meet Local Lesbians”.

Now I honestly do not know what ‘cute’ phrase or keyword pairing that I wrote which triggered such provocative ads? Would anyone in love really respond to the notion of being playfully referred to as ‘canned meat’? Could It have been the liberal use of phrases like ‘buttered bread’ or ‘special handling’. Regardless, if you ever decide to click on my blog ads or even monetize your own website, you are now in the know. People with alternative lifestyles APPARENTLY love canned meat just like ME! I can’t wait to tell my wife … she’ll will finally be so happy that after all these years, I have finally found a group with which I can truly identify!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Canned MEAT

You name it, Roast Beef, Chicken, Tuna, Spam or Deviled Ham – whatever it is, as long as it is packed in a can, I love it. Now believe me I have taken a lot of ribbing over the years about this. Most people prefer their meat fresh cut and in a non-chunky or mashed pablum state.

Honestly I like all those meats in their natural condition too, but the truth is, fresh or frozen foods are kind of needy. They all NEED some kind of refrigeration, special handling, or fancy preparation to prevent you from getting sick. This is not true with the canned stuff. I can just open a rectangular ingot of canned Spam, scrape off that amber-colored gelatin goo, and eat it straight, happily bundled between two pieces of buttered bread.

Canned Tuna is great on crackers or mixed with a little mayo on a salad. But would you ever yank poor ol’ Charley the Tuna from his aquatic bliss and suck him down head-first like a seal? Yeah some of the old school Japanese folks might filet up a little tuna in the raw, but for the vast majority of us, we want our tuna dressed properly for dinner with a little salt and pepper.

Now I consider my uncanny canned meat obsession a by-product of my inherent need to survive. I can stock up on all my favorites and they will last for decades in the cupboard. Try that with that half a cow foil-wrapped meat puzzle that you have date-labeled in the freezer. You would think given all the obvious benefits, people like me should guard and protect their cans like gold. You are right – because aside from blogging, all I do is sit on my CAN all day and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands!

Old TIMER'S Radio

You know one thing I was a little too young to take advantage of much was old time radio shows. Throughout the late 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, these short plays and comedy acts were THE biggest of the big deal of their day. Yes before television, internet, and satellite programming, radio drama and comedy were the top dogs on the block. Now talk radio is king but it tends to be repetitive, argumentative, and makes for anything but stress-free fun.

By 1960, most U.S produced radio dramas and fun comedy programs were canceled as TV quickly seized control of our lives with a bloodless coup. As a teen, on Sunday nights, one radio station in California would re-broadcast old time radio shows for only one hour. I would try to listen as often as I could and enjoy the colorful way the actors brought a script to life with inflection, emotion, and sound effects.

Apparently Sundays too, were the days with the least amount of radio listeners for normal music programming, because I remember my folks allowing me to listen to the very experimental Dr. Demento radio show. The program featured comedy, music, bawdy drinking songs, and anything goofy, weird and UN-television. Dr. Demento hangs on in relative anonymity today with his web presence and limited terrestrial radio audience. However in the homogenized 70’s, I think the show appealed to me with its irreverent humor and sophomoric innuendo which I embarrassingly still draw on today in my writing.

Despite worldwide media’s huge turn toward internet entertainment, television, and large budget motion pictures, radio still happily lives on today. Obviously with the advent of talk radio, mostly of a political tone, commercial markets in the United States, have boomed over the last 20 years . Still to this day Britain’s BBC media giant, produces NEW regularly scheduled radio dramas and soap operas for their European markets. Many of these programs air daily, or on weekends and are sometimes available through internet podcasts.

Now these days, whenever stuck in my motorized appliance, I have the good fortune of a satellite radio on board for audio entertainment. The XM/Sirius folks provide a whole channel dedicated to JUST old time radio shows. I love listening to the ‘Shadow’, or ‘X minus 1’, George Burns, Abbott and Costello – you name it. All the shows are not rip-roaring funny, or deceptively mysterious, but for anyone who spends as much time with words as I do, they are ALL very entertaining. If you are interested in a taste of the ‘good ol’ days’ then check out this site for true old time stress-free radio programming. Give them a listen, and you may never go back to your redundant talk radio station again.