Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food! Glorious food!

That is a brief quote from the musical, "Oliver", which became a movie in my youth.

And, to paraphrase Leslie Gore (use a search engine, youngsters!): It's my stomach and I'll put in it what I want to.

A sampling of some of my long-time favorites:
- steak, medium rare
- pot roast
- roast bests of various kinds: cattle, pigs, deer, fowl, rabbit, lamb
- red skin potatoes
- lumpy mashed potatoes
- green beans w/bacon or ham
- cheese
- glazed carrots
- pizza! especially cheese pizza
- ice cream
- Dr Pepper
- coco wheat
- oatmeal w/raisins
- oatmeal raisin cookies
- spaghetti
- my homemade chili
- my homemade applesauce
- goulash

SOME NICE THINGS I'VE MISSED (Frank Sinatra's "comeback" album)
Newer additions to my culinary repertoire:
- spicy foods
- occasional Chinese foods
- red wine vinaigrette on a meatball sub
- sundried tomato bagels
- Herr's red hot chips

GO AWAY, LITTLE GIRL (Steve Lawrence)
I have removed these items from my dietary wanderings, many because I ate way too many of them as a wee lad:
- tapioca pudding
- butterscotch pudding
- snickerdoodles
- circus peanuts
- coconut cream pie
- egg nog
- black licorice
- spice gumdrops
- no-bake cookies

I WILL SURVIVE (Gloria Gaynor)
Things I absolutely will not eat unless tied down and force-fed:
- salad
- potatoes au gratin
- scalloped potatoes
- liver
- sauerkraut
- stinky vegetables
- burnt popcorn
- shrimp, lobster, crab
- potato salad
- deviled eggs
- pickles
- three-bean salad
- pasta/macaroni salad

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hug a retailer day

I propose that tomorrow, the dreaded Black Friday should be renamed Hug a Retailer Day. I have been a retail manager for twenty-five years. With that comes all the trepidation and angst concerning the upcoming holiday shopping season. While others enjoy time off from work and regular weekends off, retailers like myself and those who serve in restaurants work even more hours than we normally do. That makes enjoying the holidays very difficult for us year in and year out.

And it's not just the hours in the day that matter. Many times it is like throwing grease on a fire. Stores are dealing with a tremendous spike in customer traffic. Most stores aren't built to handle the abuse that five times the normal customers can inflict. Stores are built for 'normal' traffic patterns. Hire more people? That can cause just as many problems as being understaffed. People who have only been on the job for two weeks just don't know how to help customers which leads to unhappy customers.

Shoppers in today's society want everything and they want it now. The stores that offer the best customer service and strive to do so are often the ones screamed at for giving the worst. A shopper will typically walk into a super-duper big box store and walk around for an hour without any store associate saying a word to them. Then, they get to stand in line for another thirty minutes while they wait to check out. After that you exchange a five word 'conversation' with your cashier and are out the door. Nothing says great customer service like never speaking to a store employee.

Then there is the other type of retail stores. Some are locally owned or are specialty retailers. These are the one who offer the really good customer service. They ask you questions about what you want, what you need and offer a smile while trying to help. Unfortunately that is too often returned with rude comments or angry stares from those who feel pressured to buy. Those of us in this retail world are actually trying to help you. We ask because we want you to return when the shopping world is normal again. Have you ever walked into an Old Navy three days before Christmas? That is the customer response they get, ransacked stores and rude customers. (And for the record, I don't work for Old Navy).

Retailers at store level work very hard to make your visit enjoyable and relaxing. We don't control the pricing, how many we were shipped or how fast other people bought them out before you got there. We are working people just like you. If I went into a non-retail business and behaved like many shoppers I would be arrested in less than five minutes.

So come on in, relax and enjoy the season. We'll help all we can and I'm willing to bet if you hug your retailer, I'll bet he hugs back!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Those you love to hate

As you can see, North of 50 has a strong dislike for michigan. So strong as to not let him capitalize the name of the state. It is the life of an ardent Buckeye. He also takes a particular dislike of a certain Boston baseball team, who in deference to him shall go nameless. Such is the strength of his dislike for rivals.

My first induction to rivalry was in grade school. I hailed from Christ the King. The fierce rival was the adjoining parish, St. Catharine. I played basketball in my younger years and they were the team to beat as they were the next strongest school. The rivalry was such that I know of family members (not mine) who would not speak to each other.

My next venture into rivalryhood involved my high school. Loath were we to respect the Watterson Eagles. They were evil incarnate. In my latter days in school that changed somewhat, or at least veered off course. A new school, St. Charles reopened after many years taking part of the student body that should have been ours. Nothing says 'what would Jesus do' more than Catholics who want to pummel the hell out of each other.

So, what makes a good rivalry and what makes a good rivalry great? A good rivalry develops over time. A great rivalry mixes in a small amount of loathing. It also can not be one-sided for long stretches of time. Some teams believe others to be their rivals because they repeatedly lose to them. That doesn't mean the rivalry is reciprocated. To be a true rival you must be a direct ongoing threat.

One of the greatest rivalries was the classic Army/Navy football game. Decades ago it was the premier rivalry in the United States due mostly to WWII. After the war and the decline of both schools as football powers it has lost it's status and prominence. It is now relegated to near obscurity. The most current version of the best rivalry belongs to Ohio State/michigan. Some outsiders will claim it is not and offer their version but most rivalries come and go. An example is Oklahoma/Nebraska football back in the seventies and eighties. It was much hyped but the schools now no longer play each other every year. Ah, but the 'Ten Year War' with Woody and Bo established it as the best rivalry in North America as rated by a sporting magazine (sorry, I don't remember which one).

I learned several years ago it's fun to be part of this type of feud as long as you're winning and it's all in good fun. But, when you lose and take it too seriously, it's a sad state of affairs. Good thing for us michigan still sucks!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We still don't give a d*mn for...

the wHOLE state of michigan, the wHOLE state of michigan, the wHOLE state of michigan,

We don't give a d*mn for the wHOLE state of michigan,

We're from O-HI-O!

We're from O-HI-O!


We're from O-HI-O!


We don't give a d*mn for the wHOLE state of michigan,

We're from O-HI-O!

Go Bucks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hey, what time is it?

I returned home from a visit to my mother-in-laws house with a slightly puzzled thought. As I stood in the kitchen getting a bottle for my grandson, because that's what real grandfathers do, I noticed all the clocks. She had a clock on the microwave, a clock hanging on the wall, a clock on the table by the television and a clock on the coffee pot. All this was in a space that couldn't hold half of an offensive line. I walked into the living room and she had a clock on the television and one on the cable tuner. That's a lot of clocks for someone in their seventies. What does she have to be on time for?

Then I returned home and looked at my kitchen. I have a clock on the stove, one in the microwave and one on the clock radio. From that same spot I can see into the family room and there is one on the cable box and a battery clock one shelf over. As I make my way into the dining room there is one built into the thermostat as it happens to be one that is programmable. Did I mention there was one on the laptop sitting in the family room, one in the phone in the kitchen and one on the coffee pot? That's nine clocks so far and I haven't even been in the living room where there is a clock that doesn't work and God only knows how many are on the gadgets in the den where the other computer equipment is.

I'm willing to bet that out of those no four have the same time. I'll bet if I go look upstairs in the bedroom areas there is at least one clock in each room and I'll bet two in at least two rooms. I know there is one in the garage and one or two in the basement and the only thing the basement is used for is storage and my workshop.

In an effort to help out with the global warming thing, forget about all the stuff plugged in that uses power even when it's not on. I'll bet if we unplug three-fourths of all the clocks we could ratchet that temperature thing back to about 1950 levels, or at least save an hour twice a year when daylight savings rolls around.

Did I mention I was wearing a watch?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's all about me

Do you ever wonder why famous folk feel they have to speak every five minutes? Geez...get a blog!

I don't begrudge how people make their money or the built-in advantages some people start out with in life. Some come from wealthy families and that in itself it a tremendous head-start on the rest of us. In those cases I would hope they use their advantage in a positive way. Others are strikingly beautiful or handsome when compared to the rest of the population. That as well is an advantage as the world favors those who are more attractive. If that advantage is not combined with other traits then all you have is another Paris Hilton. Hardly worth the print on page and just short of working in low-level porn. Life is not fair and we all need to take whatever advantages we have.

I've often said if it wasn't for ugly people like me no one would know how good looking you are. Therefore all the attractive people should owe me a quick thank you.

LeBron James has used his abilities to excel in sports. I don't follow NBA much. I know who the most talented players are and what teams they are on and being from the Midwest, I know LeBron. He is one who has tremendous built-in advantages. He is 6'7" tall, approximately 240 pounds with an athletic build. From all I can gather he is one of the truly 'nicer guys' in sports and has some 'smarts' to go along with his abilities.

In a recent quote section of the paper he was heard saying (in effect) if he focused all his energy and talent toward football he would be a very good player no matter what team he was on.

LeBron, if I was 7 foot and 340 pounds I could play against Shaq. I'm not, be quiet and go play basketball.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marketing quandry?

Isn't the drug 'Flomax' named exactly opposite of what you want it to do?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


It's awesome; grabbing a rising wave out past the breakers, paddling in until you hit that sweet spot and the wave begins to break. You have just seconds to get up on the board, stand in front and ride it in. No, not that kind of surfing. I've never done that, been to Hawaii though and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once (I think).

I'm talking about surfing channels on the telly. Everyone has their own way and what they look for. I don't actually watch much television, at least by myself. About the only time it is on is when My Beloved watches. I often am in the same room to sit together but she controls the remote. I don't mind because as often as not there is nothing that interests me coming from the box.

When it is my turn I have very defining patterns. My search starts in the lower bands and the 'broadcast' stations. Normally a quick click click click reveals nothing. The next parade flips though popular secondary stations such as TBS or similar that mostly rebroadcast movies. They are usually quickly plowed through. If I don't recognize the title a very quick synopsis judgment takes place; a poignant story of 'click', a telling coming of age 'click'. Both of those are an immediate death sentence and I won't even go to Lifetime or Hallmark unless it is Christmas time. There are, however two movies that will stop me in my tracks. War movies or aliens flicks you ask? Nothing takes the cake like a massive invasion or John Wayne or Robert Mitchum fighting the Germans. Anzio is one of my favorites but I haven't seen it in years. No. for some reason 'An American President' and 'Dave' always stops me fast. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it is my feminine side needing the comfort of a chick flick.

Then it is on to what I mostly settle on, the higher numbers of science channels, discovery channels and history channels and the military channel. I am prone to watching these types of shows and learning something new. Rarely do I watch much sports as I am often tuned to sports radio. On a day off that is what occupies my time as I fumble around the house doing chores and fixing things. Having speakers wired throughout our abode is great. I can amble from room to room and never miss a beat. You can't do that with television. My Beloved gets nervous each time she sees me with a new batch of wires in my hand. 'What the hell are you doing now' is the typical refrain. She gets even more nervous when I start adding electrical wires to things but that is another subject.

Perhaps some day I will evolve and watch different things on the telly. Perhaps not, or I might just rip it out completely and save a whole bunch of money in the process.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A day after Veteran's Day

On this day after Veteran's Day, I find myself contemplating our country's situation in the middle east, Afghanistan in particular. My initial thoughts are not to make any soldier in the US Armed Forces a veteran again. How best to do this? That is the question.

Foreign policy of any country needs to be a cohesive and unified process all over the globe. What happens in one area can easily affect the position somewhere else. Our world has truly 'shrunk' as knowledge of events is easily gained and information gathered in the global media age. Decades ago the only thing we knew was what was told to us through the evening news and newspapers. Much of what happened over-seas was deemed so far away by the average American it could never affect us. Well, times have changed and Afghanistan might as well be just down the block.

Our military after WWII was used to protect us and project power across the globe. Gone now is the main adversary of the USSR. It no longer exists. Russia is a shadow of what the Soviets once were but their power and influence is growing again. But to be a true power in the world means an economic power. Even as the US and the rest of the world struggle through this downturn, economic power is the true measure of strength around the globe.

I believe the US should withdraw from the middle east as an armed force with a caveat known to all. Declare that we will leave you alone if you leave us alone. As a measure to protect ourselves, let those governments know that we will interject force at a moments notice, at any time and any situation we deem immediately dangerous to the US. Then we will leave again, even if that means gone in a day. Your country may have whatever government you so choose as long as it does not endanger the US. With the unmeasurable amount of corruption in governments in that part of the world it is impossible to rebuild their countries by ourselves. It does not benefit the US to spend our dollars in those situations as it is obvious to all the money does not go where it is supposed to, nor does it deserve the loss of any more members of our military.

If those countries want our help to rebuild their world without all the internal conflicts we will gladly go back in and help. We can't be the world's police force any longer and frankly, you're just not worth the trouble.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to those men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, from Revolutionary War days through the present day. Without their commitment and sacrifice this country would be radically different. They train and (if necessary) fight to keep our country safer and our way of life and our freedoms alive, despite the efforts of our enemies, both foreign and domestic, to bring us down.

Beloved Father was a volunteer, joining the Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although he rarely spoke about his time in the Army, he was proud to have done his duty. Those in The Greatest Generation helped to save the world, and then handed it off to their friends, children, and total strangers to keep it going.

If you know someone who has served or is serving in the military, please thank them for all they have done.

I will start by saying, "Thanks, Dad."

Remember to fly your flag as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crime and punishments

From a newscast I was made aware of the Supreme Court hearing a case involving a juvenile who murdered a young girl. The juvenile is seventeen years old and was sentenced to life without parole. The appeal is on the grounds that the sentence is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment for someone of that age. The newscast stated the justices were sharply divided on this issue.

I have no such reservation. The legal definition(s) I have found for 'cruel and unusual' simply states it can be defined as punishment that is excessive compared to punishment measured against lesser crimes or crimes committed in other states. The biggest problem with our system is too much interpretation and misuse of definitions of words. The English terms cruel and unusual are easily defined. Look them up, they are in the dictionary.

A person sentenced to life in prison is not unusual as it is in fact, the norm in this society and in all states of the Union. In so much as being measured against a lesser crime, there is not one. Murder is the king of the hill. We're not talking about a ten year old whose brain is not fully developed. A person who is seventeen is in full command of his choices in life. He knows right from wrong. Someone younger than that can be legally emancipated from their parents. Again, able to choose the direction their own life takes. This person made a choice and therefore must live by the consequences. His sentence is neither cruel or unusual.

As my family has suffered through a situation similar in nature to this I believe I am fully able to offer an educated opinion on this subject. I would ask any of the Justices this; how would you feel if the girl was a member of your family? Sometimes being removed from a situation can cloud one's judgement just as much as being too involved. In this case being personally removed strips all the emotion away. Emotion can be a great barometer of right and wrong. It's often the only stable reality as legal rulings are often overturned and rehashed by someone twisting and turning words to fit their own definitions. It's not about his rights anymore but the safety of society. He gave up his rights when he committed the crime.

Lock him up and although you can't throw away the key (as it might cause someone to get their panties in a wad), bury it deep in the yard surrounded by angry dogs. It'll be there if it's really needed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Days of yore

I have always wondered why the best holidays fall into the coldest seasons of the year. Perhaps they are situated to help us get through the long, cold dark months, except of course if you live in Florida, Texas and the Land of Fruits and Nuts. Most of the rest of us must dwell in perpetual darkness to some extent. We start with Halloween then move to Thanksgiving and of course Christmas. Then it is on to New Years and finally St. Patrick's Day, a favorite of N of 50.

I think Thanksgiving always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to celebration. After the introductory lessons of grade school, pilgrims and paper turkeys, it's all about football and shopping the day after. I have let it be known to My Beloved that if the day ever comes that I find myself out of retail, don't ever ask me to shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's just not gonna' happen.

In my youth I believed Thanksgiving was always the sendoff to winter. Sunny and warm days are finally behind us and the only hope of fun was winter's first deep snow to play in. My beloved parents were not subscribers to 'Chef's' magazine or any such culinary endeavor but they always managed to put a great Thanksgiving feast together. More often than not 32EM would attend which made our little family complete.

Beloved Father usually handled most of the work on the main courses and Sainted Mother the side dishes or desserts. Usually the turkey was juicy although we had our share of slightly drier birds. The day always started out with the Macy's parade and often watching the original Miracle on 34th Street movie. (I don't think the later version ever compared). As the day wore on football became the dominant viewing option and as the years went by we would often sit two TVs next to each other to watch multiple games. After the main dinner early in the afternoon the day became a snack-fest. We were able to gobble up all the things we never had during most of the rest of the year. One of my favorites was dates rolled in powdered sugar. I always made the mistake of inhaling as it approached my mouth resulting in a coughing spell. Then it was down the hatch.

In the evening games usually came into play. My family is quite fond of Euchre and we would often play for hours at a time. The original game of Probe was also a hit for many years. We purchased a newer version (I don't remember why) but it was never the same. I think we graduated to Uno for a time before we all began to move away from the homestead and Thanksgiving was never the same.

We have all started our own traditions with our extended families through marriage and in-laws. After the death of my parents you 'can't go home again,' but it is still one of my favorite holidays with memories I will always treasure. (Especially N of 50 spilling his dinner on the living room rug causing a massive stain never to be removed. Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I survived Craigslist

Well, it was bound to happen at some time. I survived my first direct internet scam attempt this week. As I regularly have bouts of 'get-rid-of-it-itis', recently I posted my drafting table and a new chair on the wonderful world of Craigslist. I posted a picture and price and within hours I was contacted.

Please sir, take down your posting and I will send you your $250. I am satisfied just by the picture alone. Send me your name and mailing address so I can send you this CERTIFIED CHECK! OK I replied.
Sir, your check will be delivered today. You can contact me after you have cashed it and my mover will be by to get it. OK, I again replied.
I was getting dubious as in his email he stated he had a bad stammer and did not like to call people. I assumed his 'stammer' also happened at the keyboard as his English and typing skills suffered from the same ailment. I was beginning to wonder if he had relatives in Nigeria. Then it happened.

Please sir, my secretary made the check out for too much ($2500). Please cash it and send the balance to my mover in Texas and keep an extra $100 for your troubles. DING DING DING DING, and the claxons sound. I replied I don't care that your secretary is a moron, if you have a return address I will mail your check back to you. Our business is concluded.

I haven't heard from him again. It's amazing how many dirtbags are out there. Anyone want to buy a great old drafting table?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Toilet paper

Toilet paper used to come in just a 4-roll package in either single or two-ply, and in one "softness", read, little.

There was also the industrial strength abrasive tissue-thin single-ply that came in all public restrooms, hard on the tushie and a decidedly bad use of the forest it once was. I believe it was (literally) made from hardwood trees.

Nowadays, your grocer has shelves of all types of TP: soft, plush, ultra soft, with aloe and Vitamin D, weaves and ripples, unbleached, perfume-free, and who knows what else. And a regular 4-roll package just won't do, either. It is all about double rolls in packages of 6, 9, 12, 16 or more; they have even come up with mega-rolls that need an extender on your holder just to fit it in place.

Under the category of "too much information" is the now-familiar statement on many brands: "made from 100% post-consumer content".

I really do not want to know exactly what that means. I hope I am wrong, but (butt?)seriously, folks, re-cycled toilet paper?!?

As my Sainted Mother used to say, (in reference to something else) "You don't know where that has been!"

Actually, we do, and I really don't want any part of it!