Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Rice Krispie Symphony



You know how good it feels to wake up in the morning and streeeeeeetch really big?  These days I do that like always, but I sound like a one-man Rice Krispie Symphony....Snap, Crackle, and Pop.  Multiple ankle bones, right knee, neck, left elbow, and more finger-knuckle pops than I have knuckles.  (How is that even possible?)

I've been trying to figure out why my right knee is hurting so much.  It's so bad I've actually had a little limp when I walk lately.  Then I read somewhere that one of the possible side effects of aspartame (the artificial sweetener) besides constipation, diarrhea, varicose veins, an abnormally long left arm, web feet and premature ejaculation, is sore joints.

Hmmmmmm.  I wonder?

I drink a lot of Coke Zero's.  I drink it like most people drink coffee....3 or even 4 a day.  With all the talk about high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks I thought I'd give a diet drink a try.  I remembered how nasty the first group of diet drinks years ago tasted, and frankly I wasn't optimistic I'd find one I'd like.

But surprise, surprise....Coke Zero tasted GOOD!  That's been my caffeine of choice for a couple of years now.  I guess that also means I like aspartame, as that's what makes Coke Zero taste sweet.  Could it be that all that aspartame is backing up on me?

For a few days now I haven't been drinking anything containing aspartame.  I'm drinking a few Pepsi's, some sweet tea (sweetened with cane sugar), a morning bottled frappuccino, and any water that happens to trickle down my throat when I brush my teeth.  Oh, and an occasional adult beverage.  

So far, I think my knee feels a little better.  I say "think" so it might just be all in my head.  (Lord knows, there's plenty of room in there for other stuff.)  Another few weeks might give me a definitive answer.  I'll let you know.

Happy Saturday everyone.  Limp on!  ;)

S

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Park Clan, Gangnam style

"Park" is a very common Korean name.  All I can figure is that centuries ago when most of my ancestors took the traditional route from Scotland westward via sailing ship to the New World, a cousin or two peeled off eastward instead and hiked their way across Russia and China before settling in for a while in Korea.  Hence all those little "Park's" running around the Korean peninsula today.




For some reason Korean Air thinks I'm from that Asian twig of the family tree and keeps wanting me to sign up for one of their credit cards.  At least that's what I think it says.  Or maybe it's a demand for child support, I'm not sure.


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It's all in the presentation....


The idea that airline ticket prices should be based on the passenger's weight seems to be gaining some traction.  The topic comes up often when airlines industry groups talk about reforms needed to insure their long-term financial stability.

If you stop and think about it, it does make sense.  Whether you're moving letters or packages or passengers, whether it's via truck, train or plane, the more the freight weighs, the more it costs to move it.  It's simple "fizzicks".

The problem is when airlines suggest that "large" people pay more all the equal rights people get their panties in a wad.

"You're discriminating against the 'girth challenged'.  This is 21st Century America.  We're better than that!"  Then they all run down to the Hungry Heifer who has generously donated poster board and sign paint (and refreshments) for the protest march. 

OK, so it's politically incorrect to charge large people more.  So why not set ticket prices based based on what it costs (fuel, space, in-flight refreshments, etc) to accommodate large people, then give a discount on a sliding scale for thinner people?

Would that be any more palatable?

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(Talk about the perfect segue!)

EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS....

The Ballpark at Arlington, the home of the Texas Rangers, has announced the overhaul of their food concessions for the upcoming season.  The featured offerings this year will be from their signature "24" menu....




....dishes that are 24" long like this "Murph-a-dilla" quesadilla....



....or this 24" long "Boom Stick" hot dog...



....or containing 24 ounces of meat like this GIANT "Rio Grande" steak sandwich....



....or the 24 ounce "Beltre-Burger".


Like cheese?  The "Bases Loaded" has 24 ounces of the gooey stuff.

So far patron feedback has been very....



....umm....

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And on a happier note....here's wishing you all a very Happy Easter.  :)

S


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Too much time on my hands....


Meet UK residents Ryan and Jade King and their son, George.  The interesting thing to note here is that baby George was born weighing 15 pounds, 7 ounces, and that Jade was in labor for 16 hours.  I can only imagine the stream of invectives Jade hurled at Ryan for 16 freakin' hours!  Check out this little butterball:



I wonder what the sequence of events were?  Birth, bottom spank, weigh-in, trip to the barber shop?  Looks like daddy Ryan is going to have to find a new hobby.  ;)

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You know it's gonna be a bad day when you wake up, look out your window, and see....


"Umm, Marge....remember when you said you liked 'living on the edge'?"

An entire neighborhood in the Seattle area lost their back yard yesterday when it just fell off into Puget Sound.  I wonder if this was one of those exclusions mentioned in the fine print on page 36 of their homeowners insurance policy?

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How come we can't have nice dining places like this where I live?  It sort of makes my "drive-thru" dining experience kinda lame.  (I wonder if it's because of our 100+ degree heat for much of the year?)

I really need to stop perusing the internet so much.  ;)

S


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What goes around comes around


I heard just yesterday that a store in Australia will soon institute a $5 "cover charge" to come in and look around.  They say they are trying to discourage people from coming in and trying out whatever it is they sell, then going home and ordering it online.  (If you do buy from them the retailer credits back to you your $5 cover charge.)

Interesting.  I can imagine their frustration with people like ME who look locally, but often buy online.  Not always though....I'll buy locally if the difference is just a few bucks, but for 30% or 40% difference, it's Amazon here I come!

But here's why I don't feel guilty about doing that: The big stores that I shun to order online are generally the same big national stores that blew into town 10-20 years ago and put all the local mom-and-pop stores out of business.  Seems to me they're now getting a taste of their own medicine.  To me this is just retail evolution.

Home Depot didn't shed any tears when they put Plaza Hardware out of business.  Nor did Best Buy show any remorse when they pretty much destroyed Hollingshed's Appliance.  Same with Walgreen's and CVS as they shuttered Payne's Drug Store.  And who killed Larry's Shoes, and do I have to say anything at all about all those little guys Walmart squashed?

Some things I won't buy online or from a catalogue.  Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware both send me a very nice catalogue several times a year full of their new offerings.  I've found their furniture to be of commendable quality, but how do you buy a chair, for example, without sitting on it first?  I don't care what it looks like if it doesn't pass my butt test.

Shoes....I've found that even within the same brand line, shoes can feel different.  I want to try them on in a store and see if a particular style is all-day comfortable.  If so, then it's time to check Zappos, may the best cut-throat mega-retailer win.

And now a plug (unfortunately uncompensated) for my all-time favorite online retailer, LL Bean.  I've just replenished through them my summer wardrobe....3 pair of chino shorts, 3 very nice polo shirts, and 5 (various colored) t-shirts.  And if something is wrong, they make it right, no arguments.  Can't beat that!

If I was a big brick-and-mortar retailer, I'd be scared.  VERY scared.

S




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

And nobody saw this coming? Really?


Once again it has been brought to my attention that the world's economy is royally screwed up.  This time it's the tiny island/nation of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean that has imploded.  It seems Cyprus and its banks have become a major tax safe-haven for the world's oligarchs, particularly the newly-rich Rooskies.

Except, as with banks almost everywhere, the Cypriot banks didn't have enough safe places to invest their depositor's money.  Instead they chose the high-yield but also high-risk route and invested in Greece.  Yes, THAT Greece.  

Here's the problem in a nutshell:  There is too much money concentrated in the hands of too few people.  The wealthy have already bought essentially everything they want....homes, islands, exotic cars, planes, trains, jewels, art....and they still have trillions of dollars left over. Their excess cash just piles up and they often have no where but high-risk places to put it.  That's a disaster just waiting to happen.  

Meanwhile, with too much of the world's wealth in the hands of too few, there isn't enough left for the masses to buy enough of the things that spurs production and creates jobs.  That's why unemployment is so high worldwide.  The wealthy simply can't buy enough "stuff" to keep the rest of the world busy producing it.

So how do you fix it?  No, you don't just pull a "Robin Hood" and confiscate money from the rich and drop it on the poor.  That's a double-bad move.  The rich won't have any incentive to work because they'll just have their gains taken away from them, while the poor won't have any incentive to work because they'll just be handed a windfall for doing nothing.  

So what then?  Level the playing field.  We need a new tax code written on a clean sheet of paper and not just another band-aid on what we have now.  Start right now phasing out all the hundreds (thousands?) of tax credits and deductions and subsidies that are increasingly making our "free-market" economy anything but.  

The idea that we need to give all those loopholes to the wealthy so they can have more money to "invest" in the economy is bull!  They have several trillion (with a "T") dollars on the sidelines right now doing very little.  (And let's be honest....it isn't just the wealthy that benefit from loopholes.  We all benefit from a few....it's just that the rich's are bigger.)

Without special favors for a few I think you'd see in short order income becoming more equal based on the efforts of those working and not just flowing one-way to those who know someone important or can afford a lobbyist.  

The rich can still work and get richer, but it will be due to their superior intelligence or by the sweat of their brow and not by just knowing a congressman willing to sponsor their heavily camouflaged loophole.  More well paid workers = more  consumers = more production = more tax revenue.  See how this works?

It's called "growing the economy", and it's not a new idea.    We've heard a lot of talk about it recently, but very little movement towards it.  That's because some toes will have to be stepped on for it to work.

Finding someone willing to do a little "toe stomping" is the first challenge.  Any volunteers?


S

Monday, March 25, 2013

Super star or dunce?


Yesterday was Luke's first day at doggie obedience training.  So far the results are up in the air:  He's either A:  Smarter than the instructor, or B:  Dumber than dirt.

The exercise was to get him to sit via "positive reinforcement" (a tiny treat).  We were supposed to tease him with a treat, taking it to his nose/mouth, then slowly moving it back over his head so he would look up...up...up until his butt went to the ground, then say "YES!" and give it to him.  The other 11 dogs performed the trick as advertised.  My dog just backed up

There were several other exercises we did that also used treats as rewards.  The other dogs were just lapping it up:  "Look at me....'YES!'....here's your treat.  Over and over...."Look at me....'YES!'....here's your treat."  My dog got filled up with treats, declared "class over", then just sat there watching everyone else.  Once I think I even heard him mumble, "Suckers".

Now if they would just give out diplomas for butt sniffing..... 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

S


Saturday, March 23, 2013

This makes NO sense!

My 12 month contract with my electric provider is almost up, so a few days ago I began shopping around for the best deal for the next 12 month term.  Bottom line is this:  It looks like my rate will be going UP $.03 per kWh.

Huh?  S'plain it to me Lucy.



Here's a map showing the BOOMING areas of natural gas production in the US.  See that big blob of red at the bottom/center of the map?  That's Texas, where I live.  We're sitting on so much oil and natural gas (not counting the gas that's spewing forth from our politicians in Austin) I'm afraid to strike a match....I'm scared the whole damn place might explode!

And what is the main fuel used by our power companies in Texas to produce electricity?  Natural gas!  Not to mention super-cheap nuclear and wind power, Texas being the nation's leading producer of electricity from the latter.

Did I mention that gas is selling at near record LOW prices?  So low producers are cutting back on new drilling because the market is in freefall?  Yet my electricity rate is going UP?  Really?

Oh, and as a corollary, did I mention that our gasoline prices are =/+ the national average?  FYI, the producing oilwell map looks similar to the natural gas production map....it's right here in my back yard.  

You know what I think?  I think we're getting...


S


Friday, March 22, 2013

Don't Mess With Texas

You speed through a small town in North Texas and the local Constabulary will run you down and shoot your ass!  Oh, I sorta forgot to mention the guy was a White Supremacist who was likely involved in the shooting death of the head of the Colorado prison system.  

The perp led the cops on a high-speed chase and eventually wrecked out, then got out and engaged in an exchange of gunfire with said Deputy.  Bad move lead-foot!  He was airlifted to a hospital where he was pronounced brain dead.  Game...set...match.

Haha...."brain dead"....White Supremacist....how ironic.


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"So, dad....are you enjoying the iPad we gave you for Christmas?"



The life of a technological Neanderthal is NOT easy.  I should know.  ;)

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Sunday afternoon Luke the Wonderdog attends his first obedience class.  I'm thinking he'll turn his teacher into a cat lover within a week.


If this doesn't work I'm thinking "military school".

Have a great weekend everyone.  :)

S

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I fought the lawn and the lawn won

Ahhh.....spring.  That time of the year when we all have visions of turning our hum-drum yards into showplaces like this:



Nurseries and the garden departments at the home improvement stores call this the "100 days of hell" as people come out of the walls buying plants and new sod and seeds.  I've been there myself.  Fresh air, sunshine, being outside without sweating....wonderful!


  But by early August, however, my song was more like "I fought the lawn and the lawn won."

At some point in history somebody....I'm guessing maybe Karl Marx or one of Adolph Hitler's ancestors....decided we didn't have enough to do just surviving and should spend hours and hours outside every week manicuring the field in front of our houses.  Bastards!

Here was an average summer week for me:  Wake up on Friday morning at 5 am, ready to mow as soon as the sun popped it's head.  By 9, dripping wet due to the early morning 99 degree heat, I had mowed, edged, weed-whacked, de-weeded the flower beds, and blown all the grass residue down the street where in theory it would somehow magically disappear.  This gave me Saturday and Sunday free.

But because Southern Botanical had come and fertilized my lawn the week before and it had come a little rain shower on Sunday evening, by Monday my yard was looking pretty shaggy again.  Naturally all my neighbors were in a headlong competition to win the Yard of the Month from our HOA, while I was just hoping to not come in dead last.  

So Monday evening at 7 pm, as the temp was on it's way down from its mid-day hell-on-earth 105, I was back out with that damn lawnmower, just hoping the guy across the street and two houses down would let his go, assuring me #119 to his #120.

Screw buying flowers when I had little yellow ones popping up everywhere for free.  Yes indeed, I definitely had a green thumb.  Johnson grass is green.  So is crabgrass.  And I learned I was quite the entomologist, too.  I always had chinch bugs, grub worms, and other assorted crawlies cavorting all over my yard like it was their Six Flags.  WooHoo!

I finally had my "gesundheit" moment (my 600th sneeze of the week +/-) and threw in the towel.  I hired a yard-mowing crew to come weekly and do all those lawn chores I so hated.  I timed them....their truck came to a screeching halt out front, 3 guys jumped out, and in 14 minutes they had done all those things that used to take me 3 hours. 

Sorry kids, but I spent all your inheritance.  And loved every minute of it.  F__k you Karl Marx!

S

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How come they get to have all the fun?



How come all the good stuff happens overseas?  This ^ was a fight that broke out in the Ukrainian Parliament yesterday over...who knows.  Probably one guy said his goat was better looking than the other guy's goat, I dunno.  Anyway, they picked up some fat guy and threw him in the middle and the fight was on.

We need some of that here.  All they do in Washington is talk.  Talk, talk, talk.  Why don't they throw Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell together and let 'em duke it out?  I don't know if it would really accomplish anything, but it would spawn a whole new genre of reality TV.

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It was just announced that apparel maker Lululemon is recalling a popular line of yoga pants because it turns out they're so light weight they're "see thru".  They say yoga practitioners tie themselves in knots, spread, bent, etc, baring all in the process.  

Now I'm about the most un-limber person in the world.  K does yoga every day and has urged me to give it a try.  Had men known the pants all the women were wearing were see-thru they just might have swamped all the yoga studios with new members.  It would have made a pretty convincing sales pitch for sure!

Ummm....just thinking this through....these pants were for women only, right?  I really wouldn't want to see a bunch of other guy's junk first thing every morning.  Noooo.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally....


Spring time in Dallas.   Yea.

S





Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You know what I'd like to see?

For some time now K has been watching all those cable TV cooking shows.  I'll admit I sorta enjoy watching them, too. My favorite is Giada De Laurentiis.



She boils a mean pot of water.

But I digress.  What I've noticed is that, without fail, they will whip something up, take a bite, throw their heads back and almost orgasmically coo, "Mmmmmmmm!"


Giada does it very well.


Paula Deen does it, too.


As does Rachel Ray.



And it's not just the ladies.  Guy Fieri does it.


So does Bobby Flay.  They all do it.  It's just how they end their shows.

For once, I'd like to see one of them cook like crazy for half an hour, tease us like they do telling us how good it's gonna be, then with the credits running take a big bite and go....


"Oh my Gawd, y'all.  This tastes like crap.  Forget everything I just did.  Don't cook this shit for anyone you love.  Well, OK, it might make a good "breakup" last meal with that dud you're trying to ditch, but no one else."

  "Quick....mouthwash, wine.....SOMETHING....NOW!"  *blech*

Haha!

S


Westy

I know several of you here on Blogger were also active on the now defunct Journal Space, too.  If you were you are most probably familiar with Dorrie Van Cleef, whose pen name was Westy.  News has reached me that she was seriously injured in a small aircraft crash in Germany.  She was airlifted to an area hospital where she underwent surgery.  For reasons unknown she has yet (a week later) to regain consciousness.  Please join me in sending prayers and good thoughts her direction.

Dorrie was an American who as a teenager in California met a young German Luftwaffe  (air force) pilot sent to the US for pilot training.  They moved to Germany where they married and he went on to a career with Lufthansa Airlines and Dorrie raised their family.

They later divorced and Dorrie began her career with the German equivalent of our FAA.  She just retired last year and was enjoying life with a new man-friend.  It was he who was reportedly the pilot of the aircraft that crashed, although Dorrie was herself a licensed pilot.

It was because of our mutual interest in aviation that Dorrie and I became acquainted.  About 5 years ago when she was back here in the US to visit her parents she made it a point to stop here in Dallas and spend a few days with us.  She is a dear friend, and I'm hoping she makes a speedy and complete recovery.

S

Monday, March 18, 2013

Remorse


Did you see this court scene yesterday when 2 teenage star football players were convicted of rape in Ohio?  Right on que they started crying and telling the victim, her family, and anyone who would listen how sorry they were.  

That's the way it always works.  People seem to find remorse as soon as they're arrested, and certainly after being found guilty, right before sentencing.

A little suspicious?  If they had gone home after the rape, felt guilty, and then turned themselves in, I might believe their pleadings of remorse.  It's never too late to get forgiveness, I understand, but how come people only realize they've done something bad AFTER they're caught doing it?

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Remember this scene from a few days ago when hundreds of thousands of people crowded St. Peter's Square looking/hoping for white smoke to come pouring from the little stovepipe at the Vatican?  Here's what I want to know:  Where were the porta-potties?  

Did they have a couple of hundred just a block away out of sight?  I mean, wouldn't that be considered "tending to the needs of the flock"?  I'd think that should be #2 (pardon the pun) right behind "salvation". 

Does anyone but me think of things like this?  It's a helluva lot of responsibility I carry.  ;)

S


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wearin' the green....


Yep.  That's it.  That's all I've got. 


I suppose if I'd thought far enough ahead I could have looked for some of my Scottish family tartan and made a vest or something.  Although with St. Patrick being an Irish dude (right?) I'm not sure flaunting one's Scottish-ness would be too cool.

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While it's sort of a hassle to attend....traffic is terrible and parking is non-existent....the annual Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day parade in Dallas is always fun.  Because of a budget crunch at City  Hall this year's event almost wasn't.  But at the last minute Mark Cuban, the wild and crazy owner of the Dallas Maverick's peeled off a few "K" from his bankroll and things went off just like in the good 'ol days.



My favorite parade entrant was always the Paddy O'Furniture Lawn Chair Drill Team.  As my mentor Alfred E. Neuman was fond of saying, "Why be normal?"

Hopefully your St. Paddy's Day / weekend has been a fun one, too.  :)

S


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Auto Show debrief

Yesterday my friend Neil and I had a good time at the Dallas Auto Show.  We rode the light rail to the convention center, avoiding all the traffic and parking hassles....easily worth the few bucks it cost, and we arrived ahead of most of the crowd.  Much to my delight and surprise the show was NOT dominated by Bubba trucks.  I was rather disappointed that there weren't any wild concept cars.  None.

Of course I was immediately drawn to the European exotics:


Like this 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish.


Of course I ordered mine "Well Equipped".



After gawking at this more proletarian Vantage ($150K) for a while I was invited inside the velvet rope and assigned my own personal advisor, Aaron Stephenson IV*. Before long I had one of his high-dollar catalogues and was calling him "Biff" and picking colors and accessories.  He's probably still waiting for me after I excused myself for a rest room visit.


Maserati Gran Cabrio


McLaren MP4-12C


The new, soon-to-be introduced Jaguar F-Type.


I didn't say there weren't ANY Bubba trucks there.  This was some kind of "wrap" treatment you can cover your truck with enabling you to hide from ducks and deer and such.


I'm not a big Range Rover fan, but I must admit the Evoque ($58K) was rather impressive.


There were some vintage oddities stuck over in one corner, like this Datsun 2000.  It was quite a screamer back in its day....


....as was this '71 Datsun 240Z.  As a college student I lusted for one of these.  ('Course, I lusted for all kinds of things back in my college days. ;)  As I didn't have $34 dollars back then, much less $3400, it became another of my lost loves.


Awwww, my little Fiat 500 Abarth.  Innit cute?  One of these days I'm gonna convince K it followed me home.


One thing I took away is that cars are getting ridiculously expensive.  A decent BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Infinity, etc, is just more than I want to pay for wheels.  They're for those who want a "look at me" experience.  Or Lottery winners.

What I found was that Subaru and Mazda in particular have some quite good cars at very reasonable prices....mid-upper $20's.  Even Volkswagen's are getting pricey, although the new GTI @ $33K still seemed like a good value.  Chrysler products seemed way behind the curve, and poor GM seems to be in a continued slow decline.  Ford, however, had some good small world-class cars worth looking at.

The Geneva or Frankfurt or New York show it wasn't, but all things considered the Dallas show was worth the effort to attend.  Oh...and the "booth babes"?  Not a disappointment, either.  ;)

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On today's "to-do" list?  I asked K if she wanted to go to the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade and Alcohol Soiree, but she said she'd rather take a bullet to the head.  I guess that's a "no".   At this point I'm just hoping for lunch out.

Have a great weekend everyone.

S

*not his real name