Sunday, August 30, 2009

Suction, Football, and Sean vs. John

Ah, the things that pop into my head while lying on the couch brandishing the
TV remote control with Grandbaby sleeping on my shoulder (don't worry,
I'm an experienced broadcast equipment operator; I haven't injured anyone
in years).

- She generates considerable suction on her bottle while sleeping. She
drinks it dry, then creates a vacuum inside that causes a loud hiss
through the nipple when she finally lets go. When my daughter was a
baby we used disposable bottle liners; this kid would collapse one of
those into a tiny ball in the tip. Happily it doesn't seem to give her any
tummy trouble, so she must not swallow the air. In case you're wondering,
she has judged a pacifier to be unacceptable as a substitute for an empty

- While the two sports that use the name football - oops, two of the three;
mustn't forget Australian rules football, which can be a hoot to watch
when I can find it on TV here - are about as different as possible,
I've noticed a few similarities. (1) At any given time, most of the players
aren't involved in the primary action. NFL football is especially big on this;
all the shifting and motion for a handoff up the middle can be hilarious.
(2) Certain penalties seem designed to be killjoys, inhibiting exciting
moments. The offside rule in soccer and the many variations on holding
in football are the big culprits. (3) A lot of down time, although in football
it's designed into the game while in soccer it's more a matter of players
kicking the ball back and forth either waiting for a chance to try something
or take a breather.

- Craig Ferguson's stand-up bit about his fellow Scot Sean Connery brought
John Wayne to mind. Ferguson noted that Connery essentially plays himself
no matter the character; Wayne did that for years. Each has/had a natural
presence, although Wayne never had Connery's sex symbol image. Both
also attempted to resemble Asians with unfortunate results; I'd give
Wayne's Genghis Khan in The Conqueror the advantage over Connery's
disguise in You Only Live Twice, because Wayne had better makeup and
enjoyed the advantage of having other less-than-convincing actors with
him, whereas Connery was working almost entirely with actual Asian actors
during his scenes, which made him look even sillier.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Enticing Anthony

I see that Anthony Bourdain's next show was done nearby, in Montana. For
those of you who don't know, Bourdain is the host of a program called
No Reservations on the Travel Channel (new shows are on Mondays at
10:00 Eastern, with reruns at various times). He is a former chef who
travels the world in search of local food and whatever else he can find.
My wife and I are regular watchers,and we occasionally try to think of
what he might find interesting in South Dakota.

Of course Mt. Rushmore comes to mind, but he tends to skip the big-name
attractions. He intentionally skipped the Pyramids when he was in Egypt, so I
can imagine him not taking in the four faces. Deadwood could appeal to him,
especially if he came during the Sturgis bike rally. My wife suggested a reservation
pow-wow, which would offer some unusual food and a glimpse into a culture many
Americans who don't live nearby don't think exists anymore, and the annual Custer
State Park buffalo roundup. Then there's Wall Drug for the what's-this-doing-here
angle. Hmmm...that would probably be enough, and we're barely out of the Black Hills.

Moving east, I suppose the Corn Palace could offer a relic-from-the-past attraction.
The vinegar museum in Roslyn has an odd food angle. He enjoys drinking, so he
could stop at whatever small-town festival is going on at the time. As for which
restaurants he should try, I would have to consult others with more knowledge.
But I think the state could show him a good time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stacking 'em Deep, Selling 'em Cheap

Once again, the mind wanders on the overnight shift......

The AP reported that Tito Jackson announced he'll pay tribute to his brother during a series of concerts in England. I know nothing about Tito or his act, but I can't help but think that the fact that he is even able to put on several shows in England is itself a tribute to Michael's reflected star power.

As the health care reform "debate" slops about like mud wrestling, my own health insurance naturally comes to mind. As I understand it, the State of South Dakota actually insures itself and hires DakotaCare to process the paperwork; a public/private combo. I wonder if such an arrangement could be modified to include everyone and still be made acceptable to enough people to get it implemented. Another personal angle is the fact that my daughter will soon be kicked off my insurance for the crime of turning 19 and not being a full-time student. We are exploring some options, but universal insurance would simplify life considerably.

I see the cash-for-clunkers program is being closed down amid claims of success, but I think a bit of restraint is in order. The largest total sales number associated with it that I saw was 472,000, so it may make half a million by the end. New car sales for this year were being projected at roughly 10 million, compared to 13 million in 2008 and 16 million in 2007, so while the program provided a nice bump, it was essentially a gigantic government-sponsored clearance sale, not an industry saver. It's also hard to say how many of those sales would have happened without the program or how many were pulled forward to the detriment of next year. In addition, I saw that of the top selling cars in the program, only one - the Ford Focus – is made by a U.S.-based manufacturer. I haven’t seen any reports of what is being traded in, but it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a lot of domestic-brand SUVs and big old gas-guzzlers, which means the domestics lost more ground in terms of people owning their products and therefore caring about them. This can only hurt their still-precarious position. I do applaud the exchange of gas hogs for more fuel-efficient vehicles, and not just from an environmental and economic point of view. As someone who has been driving small cars for some time, I can appreciate having fewer large vehicles clogging up roads and blocking views. But overall I think it's best to think of the program as a day's rain during a long drought; momentary relief, but nothing more.

At Least It's a Prime Number

Another birthday passes by. 47......not a milestone age; basically it's one of those "a few years until..." points in life. On the other hand, it’s also part of that pleasant time in life when the pop-culture marketers have given up on you and the AARP doesn't have you on the mailing list yet. Only the “do not go gentle” weight-loss and plastic surgery people have you in their sights. Weight moderation for health is fine, but the "look younger!" angle sold by cosmetic surgeons (and the cosmetics industry in general) is a bit silly. Some people do get positive results, looking good for their age, but most that try to look younger just end up looking like they're trying to look younger.

I celebrated in grand style by going for a check-up required to get a doctor's signature on an entertaining form that was part of an application to take a work-required class, certifying that I'm "free of physical and mental defects that would prevent or restrict the performance of duties" that I've been doing for 7 years. The doctor and I shared a chuckle over the form, she checked a few vital signs, asked a few questions and signed it. She also burned off a few suspect moles with liquid nitrogen on the “it’s easy to do, so why not” theory of preventative medicine.

Later my wife and I went to one of the fancier restaurants in town. I had never been there and hadn’t planned to ever go, since I had heard the menu is pasta-oriented (we eat enough pasta at home) and pricey, but we had gift cards to provide motivation and lessen the sting. Since this was going to be a rare event we decided to be adventurous with a breaded and deep-fried calamari (squid) appetizer, which was fairly tasty. Both of us had non-pasta dishes, she the salmon and I a veal chop which, like the squid, was something I hadn’t had before. It was roughly 3 times the size I anticipated, and also quite delicious. The most interesting item was the goat cheese (another personal first) which was served as part of each meal. It went very well with the potatoes. We finished off with a fine piece of rum cake. Everything was very good but I don’t imagine we’ll return anytime soon without financial aid; at $70 for the two of us it was just too expensive to make a habit, although they do have cheaper items on the menu. I know in many sophisticated places that’s a good price, but I’m just a tight-fisted rube at heart.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Two Unrelated Questions

As still more Michael Jackson-inspired drivel sullied the TV screen a few days ago, a co-worker asked what I thought made him so successful. I must say that I struggled for a coherent answer at the time, and the question had been rattling around in my head since. I finally realized that for all the complex angles one can take in analyzing that (racial, demographic, musical), the basic answer is that he was a good song-and-dance man, and they have always been successful.

Of course all those angles did come into it - he was still young enough and cute enough to attract young fans as well as bring back his old ones; the country was finally ready for a black superstar; the musical scene at the time (late 70s-early 80s) was due for a comeback of that type of performer. But under it all is the fact that he was a good entertainer; people liked his show.

During a later conversation a daughter of that same co-worker asked a more offbeat question: Why don't men use romance novels as a source for some type of clue to wooing women, since they seem to provide what many women like? Again, I didn't have a ready answer, but a few thoughts came to mind.

First, doing that would require reading such literature, much of which is simply bad. I'm sure there are well-written romance novels out there, but the process of locating them would be too much effort for most men, especially young men, whom I believe were the target of this. Even among the good ones, finding something appropriate and applicable could be difficult. Those books tend to be period pieces, and translating that into a modern relationship might be problematic.

I suppose the above problem could be mitigated by finding out which books she has read and limiting the research to those, but then there's the matter of whether she would really want that. Those are fantasies, after all, and fantasies rarely transform into reality well, especially when the man attempting it lacks the abilities and resources of a fictional character. It's also possible that she just likes reading that type of fiction and has no interest in actually trying to live it. No man wants to find that out the hard way.

Finally, there's the pathological aversion to reading instructions. If a man won't glance through four pages of a chair assembly pamphlet, how could he be expected to read an entire book about something he thinks he can just figure out on his own?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bubbles and Dancing

Recently I did something I hadn't done in over twenty years. Hmmm... over twenty years. I seem to make increasing use of that time frame. The list of activities or events from a score or more years past to which I find myself referring has grown quite a bit lately. Looking back I realize that a good many of those activities were things (1) I shouldn't have done in the first place,(2) not worth doing again, and/or (3) not repeatable even if I so desired. On the other hand, it's better than not having anything memorable on which to reflect. What? I wandered off-topic again? So I did. Perhaps that's connected to the increased twenty-year flashbacks somehow. Probably best to not think about it.

What I did was set foot in a Catholic church, for the same reason I did back then; a wedding. The building has a floorplan that leaves no doubt that it has been expanded at various times and within limited real estate boundaries, resulting in small staircases and ramps to connect the additions and a sanctuary with pews set at many angles to the altar, which does seem to maximize seating capacity but feels like it was set up solely with that goal in mind, neglecting aesthetics and ergonomics.

The service was pretty much what I remembered. It had calisthenics (sit, stand, kneel, repeat multiple times; I passed on the kneeling due to bad knees) and, for Catholics, communion; others could go up and receive a blessing (I passed on that too). It did seem less stiff and formal than the previous service, which is fine by me. This one was also over in about an hour, whereas I recall the past one taking forever, mostly because the preacher loved the sound of his own voice and seemed to think he should use his sermon to instruct the couple on every conceivable aspect of marriage. This one also had something I hadn't seen before; we were given small tubes of soap with utensils for blowing bubbles as the couple left the church. From rice to bird seed to bubbles; soon we'll be given small bottles of seltzer to generate congratulatory burps.

The reception meal featured roast beef and chicken breasts, the latter better than the former, although that may have been mostly due to the inability of the plastic cutlery to handle the beef. In addition to the punch they also gave each person two tickets good for any beverage at the bar. An unattended cup with a tiny bit of residue of one of those beverages led to an unsurprising but amusing discovery; Grandbaby, unlike her Grandpa but like most people, doesn't like the taste of Guinness. She also wasn't happy with a 3yo boy - the son of a friend of her Mom - who took a liking to me and sat on my lap. She didn't actually squawk, but she gave him the Evil Eye.

She did like the music, however; she held onto various people's hands and shook her diaper energetically, at least after a short nap that once again made me envious of her ability to sleep under almost any conditions. My daughter also hit the dance floor hard once she got the nerve, aided by a lady who cajoled both her and an equally reticent young man into action. I limited myself to some slow dancing with the wife and trying to keep up with Grandbaby, which was more than enough to do me in. We just received an invitation to another wedding with the reception at the same facility. I don't know if I'll be able to go, but if it's anything like this one I'll definitely have to be well-rested if I do. All in all, a pretty good time.