Friday, November 04, 2011

so regain a lovely thing (Friday's Sunday's Poem/ Hot AcTOR)

Daylight Savings Time
by Phyllis McGinley

In spring when maple buds are red,
We turn the clock an hour ahead;
Which means, each April that arrives,
We lose an hour out of our lives.

Who cares? When autumn birds in flocks
Fly southward, back we turn the clocks,
And so regain a lovely thing
That missing hour we lost in spring.


About the poem: This morning, I mentioned to Sweetie that I had selected my topic for this week's POP!Best!, and Sweetie said "Is it Daylight Savings Time?"

It is not.

But that would have been a great topic, what with Daylight Savings Time ending this week, and I said so to Sweetie.

So when it came time to pick today's poem, I googled "poems daylight savings time" and found this one, which was not only a good poem, but also in the first sentence reminded me of a short story I wrote once called "Atomic Timekeeping" in which Albert, a science teacher, has a kind of existential crisis when he begins to feel that time is running out, and briefly he focuses on the fact that every year people "spring forward" and lose an hour of their lives, and they say they'll get that hour back in the fall, but then what do they do with it? Nothing.

In short, Albert concludes, we're losing an hour of our lives each year and the longer you live, the more time you've lost, and that bugs him and he begins to obsess over time.

(If that sounds like the kind of story you'd love to read, then you can certainly do so; the story is now in my collection of short stories: Just Exactly How Life Looks, and this didn't start out as an ad for that book but why miss an opportunity?)

Anyway, I chose the poem because of that, because what really do we do with that extra hour? Tomorrow night, everyone's going to turn their clocks back an hour and will anyone do anything special with your extra hour? Will you take someone out on a surprise 1 hour date? Will you opt to spend that hour, I don't know, giving yourself a break from your diet and eating that ice cream Sunday you've been craving? Will you watch a TV show you wouldn't otherwise or read a book you might have felt you didn't have time for?

I think every year, we should have Extra Hour Time and vow to do something really super-special with that hour. I don't know what I'll do yet but I'm going to do something.

About the Hot Actor: (A) I'm going to subcontract out this portion of the post every week to Sweetie, but I'll still take suggestions from you; if there's someone you think is hot, let me know and I'll post him/her/it here, because the point of the Hot person/thing is to get people to actually read poems and if posting a picture of someone hot is what it takes, then I'm willing to do that. (B) I'm removing all restrictions; it can be any age, any gender, any color, etc. (C) did you ever notice that when people are making a point about how non-racist, etc., they are, green is the go-to color for a color of person they wouldn't mind? Every nonjudgmental person in the world who wants to prove how nonjudgmental they are always says something like "I don't care what color you are, black, white, or green...". So how did we as a culture land on green as the default color for people who are not black or white? Why not purple? Why not mauve, which I'm kind of sure isn't even a color?

(D) I asked Sweetie to name the Hot Actor and she said "Um... um... I don't know. Josh Hartnett" and when I said "Why him?" she said "I don't know he's cute and I'm distracted by Mr Bunches" who I could in fact hear in the background.

But here's what I know: Josh Hartnett was in "Halloween H20" which we saw part of on TV last Saturday night and so that means that Josh Hartnett has stuck in Sweetie's mind for six whole days. That guy's got staying power, and now I feel threatened.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Appreciating The Big Things (Thinking The Lions)

Every night, I get to drive home past these two giant cranes. I love to look at them, especially silhouetted by the sunset. They make me feel impressed by what people can achieve. These cranes are so big that they have to be built onsite. Which means guys build by hand something that's necessary to build something even bigger.

What is it, America? Are you dumb, or just mean?

Because of the subject matter, this is a triple-post and is appearing simultaneously onNonsportsmanlike Conduct!, Thinking The Lions, and Publicus Proventus.

I'm only 78 items into my once-daily series "1001 Ways To Tune Up The World," but my impact is becoming clearer and clearer, even if it takes a while for people to realize how right I am.

Back in August, 2009, Way Number 15 was "Just Allow Colleges To Pay Athletes Already," which, I'll note, everytime I mentioned it most people were aghast -- but they're college students! - -they'd say, and I'd point out that many college students get paid for interning in a job.

Now, in November 2011, colleges have decided I was right all along; the NCAA recently proposed to let conferences decide to pay athletes up to $2,000 a year to cover "expenses," and, as a Grantland writer pointed out in commenting on the story, once you decide to pay someone $2,000, you can pay them $5,000 or $10,000 or $100,000; the "moral" objection to paying "student-athletes" being removed, the only question is how much can they get paid.

If he'd seen this coming, Cam Newton might have stayed in college. And also: I'm not a hypocrite for saying Newton shouldn't have the Heisman because not only did he plead guilty to a felony while in college, but also, he broke the rules at the time. Future Cam Newtons should have the right to demand a $175,000 signing bonus to go to a college. This Cam Newtondidn't.

(But, then, it doesn't matter because the Heisman Trophy is the most overrated sports award ever.)

That alone was enough for me to mention Grantland, which is actually one of the better sports sites around (not surprising, since Bill Simmons gets much of his material from me.)

But even better, that writer went on to note why it seemed fair to cut "student-athletes" in on the mountain of money generated by college sports.

And it is a mountain:

But the ancillary income — television revenues, the sale of jerseys and other gear, the use of a player's "likeness" in video games, and on and on — completely overwhelms the equation and makes the relationship inequitable. The Southeastern Conference made over a billion dollars last year. The Big 10 made $905 million. These people may have a moral right to their ticket sales based on the scholarships they provide, but they don't have a moral right to every last nickel they can squeeze out of their labor force. That's absurd. It's un-American. And it cannot last.

I'm just going to highlight the important part of that block quote:

The Southeastern Conference made over a billion dollars last year. The Big 10 made $905 million.

Last year was one of the years that took place in what news organizations blandly refer to as "the current economic crisis," wasn't it? I'm pretty sure 2010 was part of "the current economic crisis." I'm pretty sure that in 2010 we were bogged down in Racist Tea Party arguments that we didn't have enough money to pay for Medicare or pretty much anything else that wasn't Dennis Hastert's million-dollar-a-year-office. I'm 100% certain that Candy Man Paul Ryan began 2010 by saying that we couldn't pay for health care for seniors.

But we -- you-- could spent two billion dollars on college football games.




That's just on two conferences. And one of those conferences is pretty awful, when you think about it. (I'll let you figure out which one.)(Hint: It rhymes with Mig Men.)

I keep wondering when it's "Game Over" for people like the Racist Tea Party and every Republican currently running for office and Scott "Patsy" Walker, and I keep being amazed that people are so damn dumb. And before you get mad at me for thinking people are stupidfor voting for Republicans and letting them claim we've got no money when we can spend two billion dollars watching %(*%^%&$ Purdue play Iowa State, remember that the only otheralternative is to think people aren't dumb but are just mean.

So what is it, America? Dumb, or mean? We've decided that we can take two billion dollars of our money to pay college athletes to play games, because Lord knows we need more football on the air. Having voluntarily done that, do you think you can maybe quit supporting people that want to kill the poor and start making this a country that lives up to its promise?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Middle Daughter wants to steal your ideas for meals. (What The H?)

It's the weekly (or so) guest post from Middle Daughter, who this week shares with you how she shocked a bunch of senior citizens. But in a good way...


For all of you who do not know, I am a cook.

No, I am not a good cook, but I am a cook at a nursing home.

As much as I enjoy cooking there is not a whole lot that I can do with the food to be creative, but at the same time I want to expand my cooking horizon as well as try and get the residents of the nursing home to eat food that is out of their comfort zone but at the same time is a food item that they would want to eat again.

Let’s start with the meal that I had to cook on Saturday. The meal was baked cod with a broiled tomato. Every other cook that I cook with on a day-to-day basis would cut a tomato in half and maybe add a little bit of salt and call it a day.

I, on the other hand, wanted to add just a little bit of something to add some different flavor and be different than what any other cook would do there.

Here is what I came up with…

I added a little salt and a little pepper as well as some whole thyme leaves as well as a little basil.
They turned out beautiful and delicious. They shocked some of the residents, but people loved them.

Now that was the way that I decided to create my broiled tomatoes; what would you do to make a broiled tomato? Would you do anything different? Let me know so I can try out some of your ideas and see the differences…

Monday, October 31, 2011

Of silly computers, time-travel, and, most importantly, ME: (Thinking The Lions)

I'm sitting here typing away on a brief in support of a motion I made in court, and the brief is full of fascinating things like "promissory estoppel" which is not only a thing but a thing that my word processor insists must be plural, so that when I type

promissory estoppel

My word processor -- do people still call them that? I don't know why I use a term that sounds like it should be on a sign in the "Electronics" Department of K-Mart, circa 1982 -- my computer tries to change it to

promissory estoppels

which is both annoying and proof that computers will never replace lawyers, because while lawyers are silly enough to think up phrases like promissory estoppel, we're not silly enough to think they're plural! HA! Stupid computer, not knowing that.*

*Dear Computer: I was only kidding around. Showing off for the guys. Please do not slash my credit rating, or sign me up to automatically download all of Taylor Swift's podcasts about how great unicorns are. I am very sorry and will get you a fancy flash drive in the future.

Anyway, what with the backbreaking nature of my work and all, I decided I needed a little break and I remembered how author Michael Offutt tagged me with something called a meme, which sounds dirtier than it really is, and then he Twitter-shamed me into not complaining about it (much), and so I figured this would be as good a time as any to meme-reply.**

**Not a word. Sorry I said it.
So below are the questions I've been directed by the Blogging Authority to answer, and the answers I gave little to no thought to typing up. If I'm lucky, my computer did not, after I hit "Publish," change all the answers to "Nyah, nyah, I'm a little jerk-face."

1.If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

This puts me in kind of a bind, for two reasons: 1. The "NESTLE-R" problem, and 2. Time travel.

First, the "NESTLE-R" problem. Remember Wheel Of Fortune? In the olden days I used to watch that and not be appalled at how easy it was, and also note that on the final problem, people were required to pick five consonants and a vowel, and everyone uniformly picked "R, N, S, T, L, and E." Which I eventually converted to "Nestle" (like the candy bar) "R" as shorthand for what to remember to say if I ever got on Wheel.

The NESTLE-R problem in real life is this: Whenever someone asks something like "Who would you have lunch with?" or "What five people would you like to see?"or "Which vice president do you think was secretly a space monster?" you're required to say certain things or you're an idiot and terrible human being.

For example: Which five people would you like to have lunch with if you could sounds easy, but let's say you name your five and leave out the Big Ones, like Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi or Jesus or Superman. Well, you're an idiot, or probably a heathen. Or both.

And if you do name Jesus and Superman and also maybe George Washington (forgot him, didn't you?) then you're using up your five slots, and then you realize "Oh, crap, I didn't even invite Mom!" and then "Dad! He'll want to come, too!"

So in the end, you end up blurting out that if you were given a chance to have lunch with any five people, those five people would all be family members.

That's the first problem with this question, because when you ask what moment I want to re-live, I'm supposed to say "My wedding day" or "The births of all my kids all of whom are equally important to me, I'd like to see them simultaneously" and everyone says "Awwww" but those answers, as nice as they are, aren't really indicative of what I might really want to see -- but if I say I might really want something else, then you/Sweetie/humanity are potentially going to say "What kind of monster doesn't want to relive the day he married his amazingly beautiful, smart, supportive, funny, beautiful wife?"

Then there's time-travel. The way the question is phrased, it suggests I could only pick a moment I actually lived through, but if time travel is possible, then I could have lived through any moment, conceivably, as I could travel back in time, say, to when they claimed to have discovered velociraptors, and I could prove that they did not, and then I could go back and re-live that as my greatest achievement ever.

Or am I overthinking this?

In any event, here's what I'd relive: About 7 or 8 years ago, after everyone had gone to bed on Christmas Eve, I got my Walkman -- it was a Walkman, then, not an iPod -- and I turned on the Christmas tree lights and I sat down in the otherwise dark house and listened to "O Holy Night" by Mannheim Steamroller while I just sat quietly and looked at the tree and thought about how lucky I was to have my life.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

I would have the asteroid kill only some of the dinosaurs, so that humans evolved into their niche while dinosaurs stayed alive, because not only would it be extremely cool to have dinosaurs around today, but also there would be no oil in the world and most of the bad stuff of the 20th century would not have happened.***

***Note: I'm aware that it was actually plankton that formed oil, but it would not be in any way cool to have prehistoric plankton wandering around the Earth, so I'm sticking with dinosaurs.
3. What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?

I'll go with a combination of Doug Heffernan on The King Of Queens crossed with Ed, from that eponymous show. I'm not as clever or funny as Ed, not as degenerate as Doug, but I'm close enough to both.

4. If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would you choose?

Anyone who complains that taxes are too high but who also owns either (a) a football jersey or (b) an "app" that revolves around birds. If you can spend money on stupid stuff, you can pay higher taxes. And if you think otherwise, I'd like to push you off a cliff. A foolish inability to realize that tiny adjustments in egregious overconsumption by the middle class combined with a modicum of input from the rich would make our society a paradise is at the root of most of why I hate people.

5. Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

The habit I'd most like to change is being amazingly self-centered. But I'm working on it. And I'll tell you at length just how much and how hard I'm working on it, probably doing so by butting into your completely unrelated conversation. I gotta be me, but I try not to make everyone else gotta hear about me.

6. Why do you blog?

Mostly because it lets me talk about myself and my thoughts almost as much as I'd be inclined to do in real life, thereby sparing people from my inflicting my self on their selves; if you come read my blog, you're doing so willingly, except in Russia where I understand some political prisoners are forced to read me.*4

*4. Not true. Also, originally I wrote China but that seemed not funny, so I changed it to Russia, which seems better, humanitarianly-speaking. Was I right?
I first began blogging when I first discovered what blogs were, and that I could talk about myself on them and people would read it and I could therefore exponentially increase the number of people who know how awesome I am.

Sadly, my first-ever post is lost to the annals of time; I deletrd it a long time ago. I bet I wrote something like "Hey, I have a blog!"

I also make money from my blogs -- ads and sponsored posts-- which is nice, because it's like getting paid to talk about me. In fact, it's not "like" that. It's literally that thing: I get paid to talk about me. If I could get paid more to do that, I'd be living the dream.

But I kind of already am. Living the dream, I mean. And talking about me. A lot.

7. Name three people to send this to
: George Washington. A clone made of equal parts Gandhi and Jesus. My mom!

No, wait. I panicked. How about

Anna Carrera at [i like that],

Stephen Hayes at The Chubby Chatterbox,


Lee, at Bookish Boy.

Welcome to: SCIENCE 2: The Re-Sciencing!

Also known as "Science 2: Electric Boogaloo."

That, as you no doubt guessed, is a "Poinsettia In A Can." And it is also...



Man, I really need to learn how to do graphics. Imagine how great that would have been if it had been flashing and glowing, as it was in my mind.

But, then, I don't need a lot of "hype" and "glitz" and "knowledge" and "facts" to introduce what will be easily my most amazing Adventure In Science since I ate that Twinkie, a SCIENTIFIC Experiment I am calling:


In A Can...


Okay, maybe that needed a little bit of glitz.

Yesterday, as is our usual routine, Mr Bunches and Mr F and I stopped off at the Dollar Store to get some necessaries like "A ceramic house" (Mr Bunches has 9, now), a "Roo" Pez Dispenser (Mr F likes the dispensers, I get the candy) and the like, and on our way to the checkout, we stumbled across a shelf containing little rows of cans.

The first can I saw said "Real Snow In A Can," which (a) seemed doubtful and (b) was likely to be just water by this point, so I passed on it, but I was immediately enthralled with the idea of a Poinsettia In A Can and bought it because there's really no way that phrase can turn out to be anything but awesome.

I didn't even read the directions until we were in the car, at which point I'd realized it was more than just awesome, it was awexome, a word I'm trying to get to catch on so if you'd kindly use it once or twice and pay me a nominal fee I'd appreciate it.

It turns out that Poinsettia In A Can is pretty much the only product left in the world that is exactly what it purports to be, more or less. It's a can... with poinsettias in it.

Only problem is, you have to grow them. Which is actually no problem for me because as you know, I'm pretty much the best gardener ever provided that you judge me based not on effort or results but on what I imagined the garden would be.*
*Mr Bunches' Victory Garden, by the way, as yet has produced no sunflowers, no pumpkins, no carrots, and no watermelons. But in terms of success, I'm counting it as a win because I don't think we even planted watermelons.
As always, I do not perform SCIENCE at home, because home also contains Mr F and Mr Bunches, who are extremely hard on SCIENCE, or I imagine they would be because yesterday I also fixed our kitchen sink, which had a pipe that was leaking, and Mr Bunches at first helped me fix the kitchen sink by laying on my head before deciding he was going to work on his own pipes, and while I fixed the leak that existed I'm not entirely sure that there's not now three other leaks.

So I brought the


In A Can...


to work with me today, where, heedless of the 10,000 things I need to do, I immediately sat down and read through all of the instructions on the can, instructions which referred me to the more detailed instructions hidden inside the lower lid of the can. So I took off the plastic bottom and retrieved the instructions, and also what I immediately hypothesized**
** actual SCIENCE term!

were seeds:

Then, because this is SCIENCE, I read all of the instructions on the sheet, even the one in box 1 at the bottom that reads "open the lid and read the instruction sheet," which also has a diagram showing one opening the lid. There is no diagram for reading the instruction sheet; you're on your own with that one.

The instructions first told me to pop the top and peel the lid back, and I immediately popped the wrong tab because why wouldn't there be two pull tabs on your


In A Can...


I realized my mistake almost immediately and pulled the OTHER tab off and peeled the top back, so my


In A Can...


Has an open top and a hole in the bottom, but what could possibly go wrong with that?

Then, I was instructed to get 3-4 ounces of water, which was problematic because (a) I am not entirely sure how much an ounce is; I think it's about a hectare, but I've never been able to keep those straight in my mind, and (b) this is a law office, where we do not have graduated cylinders**
** Actual SCIENCE term!
to measure out ounces and dekameters, so I had to improvise by using a glass from our kitchen.

I chose the one with the decorative forest scene:

And, as you can see, my Improvisation of SCIENCE also included measuring my hectare of water up against a handy reference, the handy reference being in this case a "Crayons Sports Drink" that one of my staffers bought for me to give to Mr Bunches because (and I quote) "You said he likes red crayons."

Crayons Sports Drink, as you can see, contains no high fructose corn syrup but does contain electrolytes.

I don't know what electrolytes are. My sole experience with them was the time that Charlie Brown's baseball team began drinking "a balanced electrolyte solution"

And then lost the game because they were all too full of electrolytes to play. Let that be a lesson to you.

Anyway, having measured out the appropriate acreage of water, I then had to pour it into what the directions assured me was "soil":

That's the "soil" after I watered it and sprinkled the seeds on it. For comparison's sake, I left one seed on the desk; you can see it as the tiny black speck in the lower left part of the picture.

The directions then said "Sunlight is not required for germination" which is how you know this is truly advanced science, in that about the only thing I remember from science class is that sunlight is what makes plants grow, because they convert it into energy.

But the


In A Can...


does not require sunlight. Instead, I was told to "Keep [it] in a dark room or covered loosely with an inverted paper bag." There were no directions on how to obtain a paper bag or invert it, and I do not have the option of sealing off my office from all light and intrusion, much as I would like to do that, so I did the next best thing:

I put it in my desk:

That alone would not be nearly secure enough, though, and I can't find the wind-up chicken I ordinarily post as a guard for these things, so instead, I took other precautionary measures:

You'll note that the symbol is intended to be "Mr Yuck." If you are my generation, then you have an irrational fear of Mr Yuck, because

Mr Yuck is mean.
Mr Yuck is green!

And he denotes poison. And if you think that jingle isn't scary, see it in action:

With that done, I promptly threw out all the rest of SCIENCE, and then just as promptly remembered that I didn't recall the schedule by which poinsettias need to be exposed to the light in order to bloom by Christmas, so I pulled the directions back out of the garbage. They were none the worse for the wear:

I'll keep you updated on how this is going, and whether I decide to eat any of it.