Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Popcicles

This dragon graces the streets of Seoul, Korea and is made entirely out of popcicle sticks. Someone must have a terrible tummy ache for their efforts.

The artist is to be commended for both undertaking such a large project (those shiny things at the bottom of the picture are the roofs of minivans), and for choosing small wooden sticks as a medium. I hope he used Gorilla Glue TM.

I remember being a kid and trying to dye my tongue various shades of orange, purple, green, and red with popcicles. Growing up, I thought we were given the frozen sugar-water treat as a reward for behaving, but after becoming a parent, I realize it's really just to force the kids to go outside for a good 20 minutes and get out from underfoot. I had no idea how much easier it is to do the dishes without a three year old trying to help, until I learned that it was worth the subsequent bath just to get him away from the kitchen knives.

I also learned that giving toddlers baths is a great way to get the bathroom floor clean. For surely if you have to run answer the phone, save dinner from burning, or change the laundry, a toddler can soak a bathroom in a half-inch of bathwater in the three minutes that you are gone.

Frankly, I think the Corps of Engineers could learn a few things from toddlers with regards to efficiency in controlled flood projects.

And as I watch my son demolish all my hard work at assembling a 2 1/2 foot long jetliner made from legos, I realize that demolishing teams could learn a thing or two. Including how far schrapnel can fly through the air with the least amount of force.

I'll bet the artist of that popcicle dragon has kids.

*Photo appears courtesy of E. David

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Early is as others see it


Drops by =nemisis11 on deviantART

Early morning isn't my time of day. It used to be, when I was young and getting up at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning meant getting up in time to see the good cartoons. Then college happened, and I learned not to schedule a class before 11:00 am.



It seems that some people get up early, and drag their cameras out to prove it. It seems that this is not at all unusual in some circles. I do not run in those circles.



It's not to say that I'm a nightowl and cannot get up early. Simply, I will not get up early. The sun is my alarm clock, and it beats me up with regular frequency every single sunny day, despite my drawn blinds and the pillow I subsequently throw over my head in protest just after the crack of dawn.



Why is it that contractors and architects always want to build the master bedroom facing east? I'd prefer sitting in my chamber, watching the sun set over a finely chilled glass of white wine, full bodied and fruity, than I would rising to the invasive rays of morning long before anything happens in a town where the stores work from 10 am to 6 pm.



Wouldn't it be beneficial if with all the other labels real estate agents use to sell houses: 4 bedroom, 2 bath, colonial, cape cod, brick, stone, bungalow, fixer-upper, move-in ready... wouldn't it be great to add the category of "MB east" or "MB west" so we could easily tailor our house hunting to the direction of the sun in the early morning?



Were I to be a crack-of-dawn type of person, I would see the beauty of dew still on the grasses. I'm sure I'd love it. Instead, I'll just be grateful for early morning fanatics who go around toting cameras and taking shots like the one featured here by Jon Lawrence.



Photo appears courtesy of Jon Lawrence

Monday, February 26, 2007

all used up


photo by Cat

So what do you make of roses haphazardly thrown into the kitchen sink, inches away from a blender-esque doom at the hands of the garbage disposal?

Either love went horribly awry, or Valentine's Day - and all it's perishable remnants - is over.

Not long ago, I opened a small porcelin hand-painted box that I had given my grandmother as a birthday gift some decade or so back. Inside were a few dried rose petals from the corsage she wore to my wedding. What a lovely sentiment, but the reality wasn't nearly as attractive.

The roses in question had been a pale pink, and the petals were a horrible yellowed brown color, and to crisp to salvage once removed from the box. Just as well, since they were on their way back to dust anyway... and I have enough dust lying around without the help of old rose petals.

The sentiment stayed with me, much like the box of papers dating back to my kindergarten days, with "I love you MeMaw" scribbled in barely legible red crayon on a pink heart, or a crude and colorful drawing of a stick house with three stick figures in random sizes outside in the yard next to the bubble-leafed tree.

I stared at that dumb box for almost an hour contemplating whether or not to keep it and it's contents, much the same way I cried when the dried rose petals crumbled in my hand.

Who she was and how much she loved me is reflected in the physical existence of such memorabilia, even if it completely useless to me now. That is my history, and her legacy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

imprecation


imprecation \im-prih-KAY-shuhn\, noun:1. The act of imprecating, or invoking evil upon someone.2. A curse.
In Japanese culture, standing your chopsticks up in a bowl of rice = cursing the ancestors of another (usually the chef, in this context).
It's not considered favorable by the recipient of such an act.
Photo appears courtesy of Cat

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taxes for Dummies

Taxing the People

Sometimes politicians, journalists and the liberal left exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" and it is just accepted to be fact.

But what does that really mean?

Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, I hope the following will help. Please read it carefully.

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1
The sixth would pay $3
The seventh would pay $7
The eighth would pay $12
The ninth would pay $18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." Dinner for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to eat their meal.

So, the restaurant owner suggested:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings)
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings)
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings)
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings)
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings)
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings... the least proportionate savings)

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings:

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The first nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start eating overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Reasons, Excuses, and my Tongue in my Cheek

Someone recently requested that I blog on Star Crossed again, with more of my personal thoughts and feelings.

I think it's awesome that the three loyal readers I still have1 can't get enough of me and want more than I put here. But the demands of meeting the demands of all of three readers is exhausting! (ok, not really. Ya'll don't usually ask for much.)

There are all these great new projects I'm involved in. For starters, there's the deviant art thing. (see Feb. 19, 2007 blog for more information). Then there's the submitting articles and shorts2 for publication. Now there's talk between me and a brilliant-minded friend of mine of a joint creative venture. And I've got a birthday party to throw too!!

So obviously, getting more out of me than you all have just can't be done. On second thought, it may be possible, but I think that that is only legal in Nevada and Amsterdam, and I'm in Georgia.

cue the drums: (buh-du-du-cheu)

1 I lost a reader for unknown reasons. He was 25% of my audience. Please tell all your friends about this blog, so that I can recoup the losses....
2 Not actual shorts, like bermuda shorts or walking shorts or hot pants. No, I mean short short stories, which are actually shorter than short stories. Maybe they should call them Daisy Duke stories or Hot Pants stories....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dismantling Lady Liberty

I did not write this; I just wish I had.


New Immigrants
From: "David LaBonte"

My wife, Rosemary, wrote a wonderful letter to the
editor of the OC Register which, of course, was not
printed. So, I decided to "print" it myself by sending
it out on the Internet. Pass it along if you feel so
inclined.
Dave LaBonte (signed)

Written in response to a series of letters to the editor
in the Orange County Register:

Dear Editor:

So many letter writers have based their arguments on how
this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one,
suggests we should tear down the Statue of Liberty
because the people now in question aren't being treated
the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and
other ports of entry.

Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out
to people like Mr..Lujan why today's American is not
willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer.
Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of
Europe to come to the United States, people had to get
off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be
documented. Some would even get down on their hands and
knees and kiss the ground. They made a pledge to uphold
the laws and support their new country in good and bad
times. They made learning English a primary rule in
their new American households and some even changed
their names to blend in with their new home.

They had waved good bye to their birth place to give
their children a new life and did everything in their
power to help their children assimilate into one
culture.

Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare,
no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the
skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to
trade for a future of prosperity. Most of their children
came of age when World War II broke out. My father
fought along side men whose parents had come straight
over from Germany, Italy, France and Japan . None of
these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought
about what country their parents had come from. They
were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the
Emperor of Japan . They were defending the United States
of America as one people. When we liberated France , no
one in those villages were looking for the
French-American or the German American or the Irish
American. The people of France saw only Americans. And
we carried one flag that represented one country. Not
one of those immigrant sons would have thought about
picking up another country's flag and waving it to
represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace
to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here.
These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an
American. They stirred the melting pot into one red,
white and blue bowl.

And here we are in 2006 [2007] with a new kind of immigrant who
wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to
achieve it by playing with a different set of rules, one
that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of
being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry,
that's not what being an American is all about. I
believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island
in the early 1900's deserve better than that for all the
toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future
generations to create a land that has become a beacon
for those legally searching for a better life. I think
they would be appalled that they are being used as an
example by those waving foreign country flags.

And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of
Liberty , it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who
are voting on the immigration bill. I wouldn't start
talking about dismantling the United States just yet.
(signed) Rosemary LaBonte

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Quoting Ray Welch

Inflation? The Cost of Free Speech Just Went Up $1,203,000.

Ray Welch, successful copywriter, shared a fabulous anecdote in his book Copywriter. I cannot reproduce the entire short here, as it would be a violation of the copyright. I can however reproduce "brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews." So for the rest of this particular blog, pretend I wrote a brilliant article.

Critically speaking, Ray Welch is one of the funniest story tellers I've had the priviledge of reading. The book is creative, witty, and jam-packed with poignant humor. By that I mean that I learned a few things through my laughter.

The particular quote I'm referencing here is from the story "Kelly". And it's about an ad that never went to print, because it was never commissioned. For the whole story, get the book. For the ad, let me quote the fine print that fell between the large bold words "Inflation?" and "The Cost of Free Speech Just Went Up $1,203,000.":

On March 9, 1978, four oil companies and their advertising agencies got a letter from a Senate subcommittee.

It ordered them to hand over some information:

A copy of every single ad the companies ran during the past five years. A copy and a transcript of every single radio and television commercial, and the dates they ran. A record of every penny the comanies spend in producing and placing the ads. A copy of every single letter, memo, report, survey, test, file, document or phone call to or from anyone in th eworld, concerning the ads, their audience, or their effect.

The companies' crime?

None.

The punishment?

Over a million dollars worth of man-hours to comply with the subcommittee's order.

Why?

You will never believe this, but it's true:

So the subcommittee can figure out which of four
other government agencies to sic on the advertisers -- The FTC, FCC, DOE, or IRS -- each of which has the power to make the companies jump through the very same hoops again!

But there is some comic relief.

That incredible document from the subcommittee actually contains the following words: "Clearly [this] review by the Subcommittee... can have no chilling effect... on an advertiser who may be found... to be exercising his First Amendment rights."

The Feds don't like what you're saying in your ads, so they throw a subpoena at you with a million dollars of "compliance" tacked on, and that's not "chilling"?

You may ask why we're paying good American dollars to complain about problems that aren't even ours:

First, because we have this quaint notion that the First Amendment actually means what it says; that the "Government shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." And any law, whether it's enacted by the Congress of the United States or by some jerkwater bureaucrat, can be equally abridging, equally "chilling."

Second, because we suspect that it's precisely this sort of regulatory rigmarole that's greatly contributing to inflation. (Ultimately, who do you think will be paying for that $1,203,000 in compliance?)

Therefore, we're going to put the First Amendment to the test:

....To raise awareness. To raise questions. And, when it seems like it's in the public interest, to raise a little hell....


I would enjoy meeting Mr. Ray Welch. His book and the stories therein suggest he is ballsy at the very least. Brilliant as well. And he fully grasped the First Amendment. To see what I mean, go get your own copy of "Copywriter." It's worth it.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Cool as colloquialisms allow

Where did the term "cool as shit" come from? Let's face it, excrement isn't really cool in any way. When referring to hooved creatures, there are such cliches as "beware the steaming divot", which indicates that temperature plays a part on the warmer side of cool.

Colloquial speech picked up "cool as shit" and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. It always seemed on par with "you're all that and a bag of chips". Wow, a whole bag of chips? Now that there's a compliment....

So I checked out Wikipedia to see what they had to say on the subject, because I'm that bored. I found 291 references to things Wikipedia had some hand in explaining, but there was no linguistic explanation of the common phrase. So I sought beyond Wikipedia in the internet universe and found 55,400 references to something, someone, or someplace being "cool as shit", but none explained why any of them were in fact "cool as shit". Depressing, really, for an English major to be unable to unearth the linguistic roots of the phrase.

I found cool (!) = Adj. 1. Excellent, great. [Orig. U.S.]2. OK. [Orig. U.S.] at the Dictionary of Slang, but they fell short of addressing "cool as shit". Continuing my search, I checked out 7 possible leads from 4 different searches taking up probably 20 minutes of my time, and then gave up.

But only because I became bored enough to do so. At the end of my search, the whole process became quite literally cool as shit. It was old, cold, and needed to be moved away from.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Wrong Number

The Phone Call

((((RING))))


**Pick Up** "Hello?"

"Hi honey, this is Daddy, is Mommy near the phone?"

"No Daddy, she's upstairs in the bedroom with Uncle Paul."

After a brief pause, Daddy says, "But honey, you haven't got an Uncle Paul."

"Oh yes I do, and he's upstairs in the room with Mommy right now"


..... Brief Pause

"Uh, okay then, ..this is what I want you to do. Put the phone down on the table, run upstairs and knock on the bedroom door, and shout to Mommy that Daddy's car just pulled into the driveway."

"Okay Daddy, just a minute"

A few minutes later the little girl comes back to the phone. "I did it, Daddy"

"And what happened honey?" he asked

"Well, Mommy got all scared, jumped out of bed with no clothes on and ran around screaming. Then she tripped over the rug, hit her head on the dresser and now she isn't moving at all!"

"Oh my God!!! What about your Uncle Paul?"

"He jumped out of the bed with no clothes on, too. He was all scared and he jumped out of the back window and into the swimming pool. But I guess he didn't know that you took out the water last week to clean it. He hit the bottom of the pool and I think he's dead."


*** Long Pause ***


****** Longer Pause ******


Then Daddy says: "Swimming pool?? ... Is this 486-5731??"


The fun thing for me is that with stories like this, ripping them apart as urban legends is almost ancillary to the enjoyment, but not quite. It's hard for me to simply be entertained by the gross errors in storytelling that occur in shorts such as this one. For example, how is the little girl gonna know her mom jumped out of bed unless the bedroom door is open, and this would be socially unacceptable on many levels. Secondly, is the little girl really gonna know that much about "Uncle Paul" and her mom's relations? I'd think that there might be some sounds of scrambling around fumbling back into clothes, but depending on the age of the girl -- and we can assume that it's 10 and/or under -- she might or might not know how to interpret the sounds. And why is the daddy reacting so passively to his supposed wife being knocked unconscious or killed when she hits her head on the dresser? Not to mention that the tripping and falling would've been behind closed doors, so again, the little girl shouldn't know enough to report those facts.

This seems to be a case where the original author/teller of the story had a clear vision of the punch line, but seemed to force the story to fit it.

I have a hard time enjoying such forced stories beyond the initial giggle at the punchline itself and the meaning therein. Before many nanoseconds go by, I'm poking at the story with a stick, seeing if it's as dead as it seems to be. It usually is. This one was.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Side Effect of side effects

Watching TV the other night, I found an informative commercial about Lunesta - a sleep aid - particularly amusing when "drowsiness" was listed as a possible side effect. Imagine that. So I checked it out here and Ambien lists drowsiness as a possible side effect too! Wow. Sleep aids that have the side effect of causing the potential for sleep. Who would've ever thought of such a thing....

So I decided to check out some other well-known and frequently prescribed medicines to see if I could uncover some other rather amusing side effects, and what I uncovered is actually that I'd rather suffer with whatever my original complaint might be.

Nexium, the heartburn drug, includes this partial list of possible side effects:

back pain, chest pain, hot flushes, fatigue, fever, flu-like disorder, pain, hypertension, tachycardia, goiter, bowel irregularity, constipation aggravated, dyspepsia, frequent stools, gastroenteritis, GI hemorrhage, GI symptoms not otherwise specified, hiccup, melena, mouth disorder, pharnyx disorder, rectal disorder, tongue disorder, tongue edema, ulcerative stomatitis, vomiting, earache, tinnitus, anemia, cervical lymphoadenopathy, epistaxis, leukocytosis, leukopenia, thirst, vitamin B12 deficiency, weight increase, weight decrease, arthritis aggravated, cramps, fibromyalgia syndrome, hernia, anorexia, apathy, appetite increased, confusion, depression aggravated, dizziness, hypertonia, nervousness, hypoesthesia, impotence, insomnia, migraine, migraine aggravated, sleep disorder, vertigo, visual field defect, menstrual disorder, vaginitis asthma aggravated, coughing, dyspnea, rhinitis, sinusitis, acne, dermatitis, rash, sweating increased, taste loss, taste perversion, abnormal urine, fungal infection, conjunctivitis, vision abnormal.

Did you notice that insomnia is a possible side effect of taking Nexium?

At least there's a drowsiness-inducing sleep aid for that!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Weighing in on Weight

Since today was Tyra Banks's day to voice her opinions about her now 161 lb. frame on her talk show, I thought I'd ante up with my two cents too.

Now I have no idea what went on on today's show; I've neither watched the show, nor the news. I'll wait and let Extra or Entertainment Tonight give me their spin on what I missed. What I do know is that the previously 131 lb. former supermodel-turned-producer/talk show host/actress is now tipping the scales at a reported 161 lbs. as seen (airbrushed, of course) on the current cover of People magazine.

And she looks gorgeous.

The magazine boasts the headline "You call this fat[?!]" and I, for one, do not. I call her healthy looking, beautiful, glowing... but I do not call her fat.

I also am quite excited about Milan and other European fashion centers putting a weight limit on models, stating (finally!) that there is a "too skinny" for the runway. Their attempts at putting meatier (ha!) models on the runway is the backlash for such controversy as eating disorders and an industry that promotes little girls make themselves sick in the name of "beauty".

No, I'm not putting any links in this particular blog to help you get to the sources of my info. If you want more, go pick up a current copy of People magazine, go google Tyra Banks' show or Extra! or Entertainment Tonight or just form your own opinion about the Kate Moss' of the world. Watch the actresses on Oscar night, vying to see who can be the thinnest in their designer gowns. Then go to an art gallery and look at the paintings or reprints of classical pieces. All the women portrayed there had meat on them and curves. Some even had dimples in their elbows! the fatties....

Maybe a couple of generations from now there will be a complete reversal in society as to what *beautiful* is. For now, let's all go get a big bowl of ice cream and a couple of carrot sticks.