Thursday, November 13, 2008

Climbing Tree

I remember the weeping willow tree in my grandparent's front yard. I would dangle from that tree as a kid -- upside down, right side up -- hanging like the little monkey that I was. That was my hiding place, with its long green fingers stretching all the way to the earth, it was like being behind gauze netting. The wind got in, diluted. Light got in, dappled. I got in, with little regard for whether or not the tree minded me climbing all over it.

Seems to me that climbing trees are getting harder and harder to come by. That wonderful willow, for example, was cut down by the new owners of the property. And so it goes these days. I see trees with fabulous limbs outstretched begging for children to climb them, but the limbs are all out of reach, the lower ones having been cut back "for safety".

Yeah, I had friends that fell out of trees; a couple of them broke their arms. I'll bet not one of them became an arborist. But we enjoyed the challenge of climbing up, and then swinging our feet from the branches enjoying the view we had earned ourselves. We even enjoyed laughing at younger siblings too scared or too small to join us.

Sounds a bit like a corporate job, doesn't it? Makes me wonder if the problem with finding a good climbing tree is that they've all been cut down to make ladders.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A fresh breath of air

Political change is riding the wind. Sure, we have the heightened culmination of the last year this past Tuesday, and since then it's been a blur of activity, what with choosing the new cabinet and making first president-elect speeches, reminding us of the lame duck president and current administration.

Lame duck is not an insult, by the way. it's a term used to describe a current president leaving office but before the new one is sworn in. I felt I had to take a minute to clarify that after what I've seen out of people's "understanding" of politics lately.

Anyway, the air. It's a changing folks. Some people think it's starting to smell like sulphur and others think it's infused with ozone and rose petals. I'd like to take a look at this breath of fresh air at a more grass roots level.

For starters, there are breath mints and chewing gum. Gum's scope includes choices for denture wearers and kids that like candy flavors and of course the minted varieties. Altoids are a long-time favorite. Mint flavored dental floss is another good one, especially after a lunch or dinner date. And speaking of "scope", there's mouthwash, too.

But it's not just the quick fixes that really freshen up a breath of air. It's the everyday habits in the master bath, like water pics and toothbrushes that run off of batteries. More important -- if you ask toothpaste manufacturers at least -- is choosing a toothpaste with tartar control and long-lasting results. There are various ways to whiten teeth at home, and even if white teeth don't really freshen the air by themselves, they give a solid appearance of it.

Some people will argue that it's not just how you clean your teeth, but what you put in your mouth, that affects the breaths of air. Onions are a long-standing scapegoat of bad breath, but some other foods accused of fouling up the air are pickles, beans (though mostly for their end results), and various alcohols.

Getting a good fresh breath of air shouldn't be a national issue. It should begin with the individual, and it should be taught at home to the next generation. Regardless of party lines, everyone should be focusing on what they can do right now, right where they are, to change the air around them. Beginning at the local level will begin the changes that ripple all the way up. Then everyone can breathe a little easier.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Abracadabra debunked

A couple of weeks ago I was out with my toddler, and had the privilege of encountering a street magician. Now, street magicians like young audiences, because they're so easy to amaze. Or so it was with this guy, at least. So he turned all his slight of hand skill to my boy, in hopes of wide eyed wonder complete with "how'd you do that!?"

Not with my boy. But the magician was yet to learn that. He started out with the old coin-behind-the ear gag, drawing an audience in, and not really fooling the toddler, who replied with "no, I'm not, you did that!" to the magician saying "you're magic!" when the coin "disappeared" only to "reappear" behind my boy's ear.

The magician was enjoying how the bright lad was able to feed off of him so cleverly that the audience was drawn to the hamming up going on. The magician played to the audience, using the boy as bait, with "well ya can't fool this one, can you?" and winking and such. At this point the magician had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand, just as he wished.

Then the tables got turned upside down.

Out came an animal cracker cookie with a flourish. "I'll show you the very first trick I ever learned" he said to all, focusing on my boy again. With large sweeping arm movements, he "placed the cookie" in his left hand and made a fist. He then sprinkled "fairy dust" over the cookie with his right hand and said "abracadabra" and Poof! the cookie was indeed gone from his left hand. Now, this was meant to bring everyone into the magic, as only my boy was supposed to be fooled by this. But in the next moment, the toddler not only stole the show, he ended it. For my boy, just 4 years old, said very directly to the street magician with absolutely no hesitation nor doubt whatsoever, "You didn't make the cookie disappear! You just crumbled it up with your other hand!"

Everyone had a good laugh. A very good laugh.