Friday, March 31, 2006

18 Jedi Mind tricks for parties

So I saw this article on (who in turn stole it from Men's Health) the other day and thought it was pretty interesting. I'm not entirely sure that I believe all of it (well, any of them) but I thought I'd pass it along. If anybody tries one of these this weekend and it actually works let me know.

1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear.

When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, but you're more discriminating. Take that tickle in your throat; it's not worth gagging over. Here's a better way to scratch your itch: "When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm," says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose and throat specialty center in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. "This spasm relieves the tickle."

2. Experience supersonic hearing!

If you're stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It's better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you're trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.

3. Overcome your most primal urge!

Need to pee? No bathroom nearby? Fantasize about Jessica Simpson. Thinking about sex preoccupies your brain, so you won't feel as much discomfort, says Larry Lipshultz, M.D., chief of male reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. For best results, try Simpson's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" video.

4. Feel no pain!

German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.

5. Clear your stuffed nose!

Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you'll feel your sinuses start to drain.

6. Fight fire without water!

Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? "Sleep on your left side," says Anthony A. Star-poli, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The esophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you're on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so gravity's in your favor.

7. Cure your toothache without opening your mouth!

Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 percent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.

8. Make burns disappear!

When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr. DeStefano says, but since the natural method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.

9. Stop the world from spinning!

One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance—the cupula—floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. "As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises," says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.

10. Unstitch your side!

If you're like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.

11. Stanch blood with a single finger!

Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed—if you don't mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums—just behind that small dent below your nose—and press against it, hard. "Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose," says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. "Pressing here helps stop them."

12. Make your heart stand still!

Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical-services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It'll get your heart rate back to normal.

13. Thaw your brain!

Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. "Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too," says Abo. "In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache." The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.

14. Prevent near-sightedness!

Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. "It's usually caused by near-point stress." In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles—like the eyes—into relaxing as well.

15. Wake the dead!

If your hand falls asleep while you're driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It'll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr. DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don't let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.

16. Impress your friends!

Next time you're at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He'll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that's a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will fold like a house of cards. By misaligning his hips, you've offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body's ability to resist.

17. Breathe underwater!

If you're dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first—essentially, hyperventilate. When you're underwater, it's not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it's the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin' ain't right. "When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity," says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. "This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen." It'll buy you up to 10 seconds.

18. Read minds!

Your own! "If you're giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep," says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"I ate him with some jelly beans and a nice Capri-Sun"

I ran across this site while doing an image search on Google* and am fascinated with the possibilities. Sure, it's nowhere near Halloween but I can't wait that long to share it, as for all I know you all have friends graduating from medical school this summer and no idea what to get them. So throw convention to the wind and make them a cake that doubles as their first chance at real surgery!

You could also probably throw in gummi candy between the layers once the cakes were baked. A gummi heart for the heart, gummi worms for intestines, and so forth. It'd be like a real-life game of Operation, only without the annoying buzzing sound and bothersome legal issues regarding what to do with the body once you have successfully removed the "butterflies in the stomach" and "water on the knee". Also, I think I would probably use Twinkies for the arms and legs rather than bother with marshmellows, which would probably roll all over the place trying to escape when you try to frost them. Even better, if you use *two* twinkies per appendage you could even articulate the limbs, thus creating a more realistic overall effect!

As I've noted before, the GF is a ginormous halloween fan. If she has a party this year I'm *sooo* making one of these. Even if I have to buy a set of nestable pyrex baking pans.

*No, I don't recall precisely what I was looking for but rest assured it wasn't "pastry-centric pseudo-cannibalism"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Quickie - Much better than a "professional weight-guesser"

You know, this was surprisingly accurate...

An open letter to the CEO of Target

Dear Mr. Target CEO,

First I would like to thank you for being a regular reader of my blog. Your support is greatly appreciated by all of me over here. That said however I need to talk with you about an incident that happened to me in one of your Chicago-area stores last week.

Given that spring is upon us, it should come as no surprise that season allergies have also returned to spread their malevolent brand of evil throughout the sinuses and nasal passages of the populace. As you are probably aware, each year representatives of the various tree, grass, and shrub factions meet at the headquarters of the Legion of Doom* where they plan every detail of how they will make my life a living heck for the first three months of spring.

Mercifully, however, many stores (such as your fine institutions) carry a secret weapon to fight against the evil-doers: Claritin-D. A magical invention, these pills allow me to function like a normal part of humanity rather than becoming a whiny, cantankerous lout who would drive the GF to the edge of violence. Even better, your stores now offer generic versions of the drug, allowing me to avoid being fleeced by Schering-Plough like I was when Claritin was a perscription-only drug. However, because my allergies have recently become more tenacious, I require the version that includes the pseudoephedrine decongestant as well as the antihistamine. It's sad, but true, the loratadine alone doesn't cut it anymore.

This said, I want to let you know that I am aware that pseudoephedrine is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. I am also aware that 96% of America must be addicted to meth, therefore requiring that anything containing pseudoephedrine be kept behind the counter and dispenced only by pharmacists. Obviously, the slavering masses of meth addicts can only be kept at bay by the calm, reasoned demeanor of a person in a white lab coat. The logic is perfectly clear why this is necessary, given that I am (obviously) unknowingly addicted to meth, my access to it must be limited as much as possible.

However, last week when I took the little "Take me to the counter and BEG for your meth fix you freak" voucher-card for a 10-pack of the Target-brand version up to the pharmacist. Handing over the voucher I asked for three boxes, figuring that would be enough to get me through the next couple weeks but not so much to have the DEA tackling me in the parking lot. The pharmacist informed me that she "could only sell me one box at a time". At that point, I noticed that there were three boxes of the OTC version of the drug behind the counter: a 10-pack and 20-pack of the brand name version, and the 10-pack Target version that I was trying to buy. The conversation between the pharmacist and me quickly went south from there:

P: "I'm sorry sir, but I can only sell you one box at a time."

GB: "But you *could* sell me the 20-pack box of the brand name stuff, right?"

P: "Yes sir."

GB: "So if I buy 20 of the brand-name pills, I'm a normal and upstanding member of society. But if I buy 20 of the generic, I'm going to rush off and turn them into meth in order to satiate the burning fire coursing through my veins, is that right?"

P: "..."

GB: "Listen, I'm not trying to be difficult here, but can you honestly tell me it makes sense to you that you can sell me 20 of the Claritin pills but you can only sell me 10 of the generic?"

P: "Sir, I can only sell you one box at a time."

At that point I left her alone. She was a nice enough young woman and obviously lacked the rapier wit and sense of sarcasm posessed by my other readers in her profession. She would only think I was being mean or crazy, which meant it was in my best interest to ease off, considering she probably had a button under the counter that would summon the DEA with a secret "Hey, there's an agitated drug addict over here you can bite!" signal that only their dogs can hear.

So now I come to you Mr. Target CEO, to discuss this ridiculous "policy" of yours. I understand the need to keep meth out of the hands of addicted people everywhere, but come on - rescrictions based on the number of *boxes*? Seriously, I had no idea people used the containers the pills came in to make the drugs, silly old me I thought they actually used what was *inside* the boxes! Foolish me, all that meth I haven't done must've cooked my brain.

Seriously, how about a restriction based on the actual *amount* of the drug being purchased instead? Especially since the only people allowed to dispense the stuff are professional pill-counters. I'm guessing it would be pretty easy for them to count to 20, then stop.

Particularly since boxes only come in 10- or 20-packs.

Thanks for your time,

* Register today for your private evil-doing event! Call 1-800-KAL-EL-SUX for
availability today! Neo-cons, don't forget to ask for your 15% discount!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quickie - Makes one question whether *we* have a free press

Have any of you been reading your Pravda lately?

I just recently re-discovered it and it is pretty darn priceless. A little scary, but priceless.

But where else could you read a story like this:

Condoleezza Rice's anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems

And folks, it only gets better from there...

How would one reference mens magazines in a bibliography anyway?

I, for one, am happy for the laddie magazines. They have managed to take an "old media" format and make it relate to a whole new generation of young men, by condensing everything they love about the internet* into something light and portable enough to carry with you on the plane. And unlike our father's "men's magazines" it's not outright porn. If you're seen reading one at the airport, you are perceived as edgy, but just a little bit pervy. And then only in that "I'm not a scoundrel, I'm a nice man"-Han Solo sorta way.

Before you argue with me ladies, picture the following: you have a broken ankle** and you enter a packed gate area at the airport. Only two seats are available, both next to young men reading: one is reading "Maxim" and the other is reading "Barely Legal". Which do you sit next to?


Despite my laddie-fandom (and - full disclosure - subscriptions to two) I still have a problem with lending them any sort of academic gravitas with respect to being barometers for the minds of men. Just because I read them doesn't mean that I think they should be lent any more credibility than women's magazines. Just like how I don't interpret the latest issue of Cosmo as a window into the psyche of the GF. Mostly, it's just as laughable as the latest issue of FHM.

Which gets to my point. Since when has FHM's "Top 100 Sexiest Women" become a gold standard for hotness? I mean, there are no doubt a couple dozen magazines that list similar lists*** but none of them command the headlines like FHM's list. I knew this was getting out of hand when the publication of the list was big enough news to show up on the Yahoo! frontpage headlines section (see image).

Why is FHM the last word in sexy women? If you ask me, the fact that Jenny Macarthy is in the top 10**** automatically raises questions about the validity of their survey methods. One might hypothesize that perhaps they erred by unknowingly interviewing gay men, but I doubt they can stomach Macarthy's "antics" either. Besides, gay men are still pretty good at spotting hotties, from the few I've known. More likely they all conspired to throw off the results by voting en masse for Jenny Macarthy - thereby proving that even straight men don't know a good woman when they see one. And since I'm now blogging about it in a rage, I guess it worked. Touche my well-dressed and manicured friends. Well-played!

Oh well, perhaps this is the end game for old media, where institutional publications like The New Yorker, Utne Reader, and National Geographic get pulled down into the mire and all start coming out with their own top 100 lists. But I hope not, photoshopped pictures of Sylvia Plath in the bubble bath are just wrong...

* e.g. 4th-grade potty humor, pictures of scantily clad attractive women, ads for penis enlargement
** So no long-term standing
*** Including Cosmo, probably
**** Higher than Catherine Zeta-Jones *and* Eva Longoria? Puh-lease!

Monday, March 27, 2006

In my opinon, your opinion is biased

Both of my phones have been going on the fritz lately. The one with the answering machine in the kitchen now radiates a bizarre buzzing sound that renders all incoming messages so garbled that they sound like something spat out of an Enigma encoder. My secondary phone in the office also refuses to recharge handsets placed on the base station – no doubt in a sign of solidarity with the kitchen phone’s obvious strike tactics. They haven’t yet changed their ringtones to “We are the Union, The Mighty Mighty Union” but I expect that to happen any day now. Obviously my only recourse was to replace them with cheap, non-union labor.

So among the many purchases made at Target on Thursday was a new two-handset phone that will hopefully serve me well for a year or three before it too breaks and needs to get replaced. My post-college life has been a parade of cordless phone after cordless phone, with each one lasting about 18-24 months before something goes wrong and it needs to get replaced. It doesn’t matter how much I spend or what brand I buy (believe me, I’ve tried all of them) so now I just shoot for the cheapest one available at the GHz range I’m looking for. This time I’m trying the 5.8GHz range, because I think my new neighbors downstairs have some sort of white noise transmitter that is creating all the static on my current phones. Obviously, they are spies for Al-Qaeda.

Naturally, once I returned home I looked up the phone I purchased on a bunch of “Hey Consumer, Bitch Here” websites. These sites exist for no other reason than to give joe shmoe the feeling of empowerment from being an “expert” in something. Whether it’s and its “top 100 reviewers” or anyone at all on, there is a movement sweeping the nation to make people feel more important than they really are. Bitch about a crappy product in person and you’re a whiner, but if you do it online then you’re "a critic". My favorite part about it is the feedback option these sites give me, where I can indicate whether I “found a review helpful”. So not only can I review the product, but I can also review other reviewers? Oh boy! Sign me up for more of that!*

Sheesh, no wonder the country is obsessing so much about developing new ways to avoid changing the toilet paper roll. Friends, people have completely lost all perspective. Hopefully bird flu will take care of all this, wouldn’t it be nice if this mutation we’ve all been hearing about made it so that the virus only infected the terminally stupid?

* In case you were wondering, my new phone apparently "sux big time". Oh well, it won't matter it'll still only last 18-24 months.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Friday, March 24, 2006

Quickie - And still they come...

Number of visitors in the past 24 hours = 67

Number of them who used the search term "Debra Lafave yummy" to get here = 38

Sorry to disappoint you fellas, but not only do I not have what you're looking for* but I don't even have a remote clue what that would be.

* (Yes, I *still* don't have it)

Mr. Whipple would kick those bears' collective asses

Yesterday, as I continued catching up from my start-of-week issues, I ran errands like I have never ran errands before. After work, I got my car washed, went to the bank, dropped off my dry cleaning, returned a movie that the GF and I watched last weekend*, and finally headed off to my happy place – Target.

It had been a couple months since I had done any serious errand-running, and I really needed to pick up a bunch of necessities – including basics like soap, deodorant, and toilet paper. Yes, by yesterday morning I found myself completely out of TP for the first time ever. I blame the parade of guests over the past few weeks and the significantly higher proportion of women using my bathroom in the last year or so.

Once inside the store, I was faced with a mind-boggling assortment of brands, ply-counts, roll-counts, and most shocking – roll sizes. Yes, Charmin now has four different sizes of rolls – from “Regular” to “Mega”, all of which are essentially the same roll but with more or less paper wound on it. Since I had a coupon for Charmin** I first examined the “Mega” rolls, which have so much paper on them that they are shipped with a special adapter, allowing these super-sized rolls to fit in a regulation-sized TP holder. I wasn’t interested in actually purchasing them (because even with the adapter they wouldn’t fit the design of my holder at home) but I was fascinated by what their very existence says about American society – changing the roll is now so much work that people are actively seeking solutions to avoid doing it.

The fact that Charmin is actually catering to this perceived “customer need” by designing rolls so big they require special adapters only makes me loathe them more. It’s bad enough that they have replaced the lovable Mr. Whipple with his stern-but-fair admonishments against damaging his product. But to do it with this whole “Bears Crapping in the Woods” cartoon irritates the crap out of me*** as a person with a graduate degree in marketing. First off, are we actually expected to believe that bears in the woods need to use TP? Furthermore, are bear anuses sooo easily irritated that they require the softest, gentlest TP available? “Hey you consumer! Try Charmin! If it’s good enough for the easily irritated anuses of bears, it’s good enough for you!”.

In the words of Adam Sandler – who are the ad wizards who came up with that one?

* More on this later
** Yes, this was the first time I have ever used a coupon…ever.
*** No pun intended

Quickie - Somewhere, an English teacher is crying...

Anyone need a job as an editor? Apparently, the AP needs people...

(click on the image to see it in its entirety - if you can stand it)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Quickie - Hell hath no fury...

... like what's waiting for this guy at home.

If 30 days in jail and a $500 fine sounds pretty light to you that's because they take into account the absolute beating he's going to get at the hands of his wife.

Not that he doesn't deserve it...

I'm just a pretty face - pretty nerdy, that is

Thanks to Sam Burns, I recently found a neat little web-toy that lets you see which celebrities you most resemble. All you have to do is* upload a picture that shows your face and the software will automatically find the celebrity picture that most matches yours.

My top 5**:

1) Paul Allen
2) Fabio Cannavaro (Italian soccer player)
3) Linus Torvalds (inventor of Linux)
4) Mikhail Gorbechev
5) Augusto Pinochet

Obviously I am a Serpentor-like creation, combining the uber-nerdliest genes with those of former world dictators, and a twist of Italian sports hero for sexiness.

The GF’s top 5***:

1) Rachel Leigh Cook
2) Ashley Judd
3) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (President of the Phillipines)
4) Rachel Weisz
5) Shakira

Obviously, the GF is a woman genetically engineered for hotness and eventual rule of a small, tropical archipelago.

The funniest one I ran in my albeit brief test-drive was TOWWAS’ favorite picture of General Stonewall Douglas. First off, the software wasn’t even able to find the face on the picture (obviously, too much scruffiness due to the beard). The first time I ran this image through the software, it matched up to Hugo von Hofmannsthal (Austrian writer) and Bashar Al-Assad (president of Syria) before coming up with Michael Douglas. It also matches him to Jerry Garcia (albeit not a very close match).

Man, I can’t wait to try this out at home…

* Well, after you register with the site, but it seems to be a legit geneology site so no biggie
** Selectively, I admit. I ignored some others in there that were either wholly wrong (Emma Watson? Come on, I look nothing like Hermione Granger) or completely unknown to me (if they are not a celebrity to me then they aren’t a celebrity)
*** Similarly edited – the GF looks nothing like Marcia Cross.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Well this week has sucked. After getting my bracket busted and being clobbered by neurological “issues” earlier in the week and sleeping more than I’ve been awake for the past three days I’m finally starting to get my life together. Yesterday I celebrated by allowing myself to stay up until 9:30 to watch the season premiere of South Park. After hearing all the hype about Isaac Hayes leaving in a Scientology-induced hissy-fit of pseudo-values, I was expecting a hysterical episode. I mean, really, what’s funnier than Scientology? As anyone who witnessed the “Tom Cruise wont Come out of the Closet” episode – Trey and Matt know how to rip on crazy religions.

But after watching it I have to say I’m really pretty disappointed. In fact, I think the show may have just jumped the shark. Maybe it was all the jokes about pedophilia (which I just don’t find funny), maybe it was the “disguising” of Scientology as the “Super Adventure Team” (which I thought was unnecessary – just call it Scientology and say they are crazy people). The whole episode felt like Matt and Trey were just really really pissed at Hayes for leaving and were determined to rip him and Scientology to bits. But none of it was terribly funny. Sure, Kyle’s little eulogy at the end was a nice touch (“We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brain”) but in general, the dream I had last night where my dad lived in a house full of secret doors and hidden rooms was way funnier.

At least I still can count on the Daily Show.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Emerging slowly from the fog


After taking a few days off to host my buddy J/T and hosting a phenomenal benefit for my theater company I have been pummelled by migraines for the past two days. As a matter of fact, I have spent so much time asleep lately (only awake for 3 of the past 19 hours in a pitiful attempt to go into work this morning) that I have discovered that much sleep will mess with your head.

For example, sleeping is apparently really hard work when you do it in bulk. I haven't been this sore in some time, so I can only believe that I was working out while unconcious.


Yup, more sleeping there. Not quite as sore now. I think maybe I was smart enough to sleep-stretch before working out again.

I've now spent 19 of the past 25 hours sleeping. I can only hope that I can fall asleep at a reasonable hour tonight. Come to think of it, what day is it anyway? I sure hope it's still Tuesday...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Quickie - Robert E. Douglas?

What is up with Michael Douglas?

Is he:

A) Ready to play the role of Robert E. Lee in the upcoming re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg?

B) Sick and tired of all the late-night hosts making fun of his plastic surgery so he's hiding behind a mask-o-fur?

C) Being attacked by a small badger?

D) Overcompensating for the erosion of his chin over time?

E) Trying to guarantee that he won't be cast with Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct II due to the potential threat of rugburn?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Just when I think I'm sophisticated - this stuff happens

Last night I had to make a trip to the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine. My theater company has its annual benefit this Sunday, and all board members are supposed to donate a bottle of wine to the “Board Wine Basket” item that is part of the silent auction. I had been putting this off for as long as possible because I’m not really much of a wine drinker. I frequently feel as though I should be one, however, and have made multiple attempts to develop the skills required I still prefer a nice bottle of beer or glass of strawberry kiwi juice to the vino.

This case was even worse, because I’m sure the other board members probably know tons about wine since all of them are older and infinitely more sophisticated than I am. So I will end up being judged not only by the purchaser of said basket, but also by the other board members (although to their credit I’m sure they will be nice about it). I was tempted to just buy a bottle of Boone’s Farm, Charles Shaw, or something in a nice box. But I thought that wouldn’t be fair to whoever bought the basket, and since the whole point was to try and appear classy, I gave up and went to the one place where I knew people could help me – Sam’s.

No, not Sam’s Club – Sam’s Wine and Spirits which is a local liquor store where the people actually know what they are talking about. The people who work there have often helped me find wine that people liked for every wine-requiring party I’ve ever thrown. So I walked in with an air of confidence, but then I remembered that the point of the item was to give a collection of “board favorites” which meant I probably needed to pick the bottle out myself – without the help of the only people in the building who knew what they were doing.

This should be pretty simple, as there are only two wine labels that I even recognize* - the first being a Rioja called Cote de Inez** which I had for the first time in Madrid, and the second being a white California Table wine called Conundrum. At first I tried searching for the Conundrum, but I found that it’s now bottled in a screw cap. Now from my research, I have learned that a lot of very good white wines are now being bottled with screw caps because it provides a better seal and helps protect the wine better. But I still cannot see a screw cap and not think of Boone’s. And even if I love the wine itself, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it for the basket.

Then I tried searching for the Rioja, but was terrified to discover that the only one I knew wasn’t there. “Well great,” I thought, “now what?” I figured that if I can’t find what I know, I’ll just resort to the same technique all guys use when in this situation – Pick a type of wint you know you like (chardonnay, merlot, etc), ignore everything with a rating of less than 90, and then pick one based entirely on the name plus the packaging. I ended up choosing a Rioja based on the fact that it’s named after the actor who played Bud Bundy on Married with Children and that it’s encased in fishnet-style netting. And hey, if it’s wearing fishnets it must be good, right?

As long as it doesn’t come from this guy

* Other than Yellow Tail and the aforementioned two
** I think that’s how it’s spelled

Monday, March 13, 2006

Man, I'm not 19 anymore...

This past weekend I played host to my cousin and five of her friends from school, who were on their sprin break trip and wanted to come to the big city and play tourist for the weekend. Yes, that meant that my two-bedroom, one bath, 1100 square foot condo would be full of seven people, 6 of them girls between 18 and 19.

You heard bathroom.

Surprisingly, the weekend went pretty well. The six of them were really fun, polite, and well mannered. We compressed 4 days of touristy stuff into about two days, including shopping on Michigan Ave, seeing the Saint Patrick's Day festivities downtown (including the green river), ice cream at Margie's Candies, pizza at the real Pizzeria Uno, more shopping, the Hancock Observatory (at night during a thunderstorm no less - lightning is way cool from up there), breakfast of cousin Grrrbear's famous chocolate-chip pancakes, 2 hours at the Art Institute, circle tours of the loop on the "el", lunch at Rainforest Cafe, souvenir shopping, Milennium Park, a free orchestra concert at the Cultural Center, introducing them to both "Animal House" and "The Jerk"*, and a spirited game of Dirty Minds. Man, I'm exhausted.

Here's what I learned from my weekend:
1) You can never underestimate how much toilet paper you'll need when hosting six girls
2) The Rainforest Cafe is *outrageously* expensive. Every entree was about $20.
3) The best tour of downtown is riding the Brown Line around the loop.
4) Even with digital cameras that share photos easily, everyone still wants their own picture on their own camera.
5) There is hope for the future of art – all the girls wanted more time at the Art Institute.
6) Unless they have a guy with them, any group of girls will get hit on by drunk college boys during St. Patricks Day. Just one token male, however, will keep them at bay.
7) When giving directions to people leaving my house, always draw them a map. Or go with them, at least to the freeway. Never assume it’s as easy as I think it is.
8) No matter how often you tell them to hold onto the grab bars, at least one girl will lose her balance when the el starts moving.

Still, in a weird way, I really enjoyed myself. They gave me a nice "Thank You" card (addressed to both me and the GF who was kind enough to come out with us on Saturday and proceed to be way cooler than I was). But I think part of my fun was in showing the girls the lesser-known parts of the city that I really like - such as Margies, Arturo's, and the Cultural Center. I remember my big spring break trip down to New Orleans when I was in college and how nice M-CBo's mom was and how she stuffed us full of home-cooked deliciousness. I'll admit I was working really hard to give them the same sort of good memories for their spring break as I had for mine. And of course I wanted to given them all hope that eventually the meathead, self-centered, shallow, Grand Theft Auto-addicted man-boys they go to school with will mature into something you could actually take out to a nice dinner somewhere where he'd hold the door for you.

Of course, it would have been nice to spend my Sunday afternoon doing something other than laundry and cleaning up, but that’s the price a good host pays, right?

* None of them had seen the first, and only one had seen the second – the fact that today’s youth are seeing Paris Hilton in “House of Wax” and not seeing these movies is a root cause of America’s Great Cultural Backslide.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Whatever happened to the Plain Brown Wrapper?

I arrived home from work last night, much like any other day. I had dinner plans with the GF later, so I ran downstairs to grab the mail – in a rush to change out of the work clothes that would in no way meet with her approval*. Than I proceeded to sort through the envelopes: fundraising letter from Public Radio, mortgage statement, postcard from breakfast delivery restaurant, offer for free porn, credit card solicita…

Wait a minute…[shuffles back an envelope or two]…that can’t be right…

Oh, but it was. Yes, I had somehow been sent a postcard offering me three free DVDs from Adam & Eve’s video division:

Yes, for only $9.95 to cover shipping and handling, I could indulge in such forbidden fruit as “Fire and Ice”, “Devoured**”, and “Guilty as Sin***”. It is a tempting offer, but somehow frustrating as well. I remember the never-ending quest to see nude women when I was a teenager. Stumbling across a dirt-caked copy of Playboy in the county fairgrounds one year was a seminal experience of my young adulthood. Everything about it seemed dangerous and illicit. I would have emptied my savings account for an offer like this back then. But now society will send letters to my house asking me if I want it for free? What's next? Will whorehouses in Nevada start mailing me brochures and offers for free airline tickets? Little sample bottles from my friendly neighborhood crack dealer showing up in my mailbox?

Of course, when I told the GF about my unexpected mailing, her question was the real uncomfortable one: “How did you get on their mailing list?”. Truth be told, I have no idea. So I can only expect that every male between the ages of 21 and 49 is receiving the same postcard I did in their mailbox this week. Or at least I hope so. If not then somehow the porn mafia has identified me as their next patsy. And that can’t be good.

* I have a few straggling “outfits” from me pre-GF days that I still use if for no other reason than a delusional feeling of loyalty to shirts that have served me well over the years

** What could this possibly be about? A porno about cannibalism? Maybe vampire porn. Or a tale of the forbidden love between a woman and her Twinkie...

*** I'm guessing this one is a high-stakes courtroom drama...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Quickie - Celebrity Yawn-off

Okay, see how many you can get through before *you* yawn...

Ready? GO!

I made it until Meg Ryan and have to admit I'm pretty pleased with myself...

My boots aren't made for walking

I found a neat website where you can create maps showing all the states that you have visited. You know, so you can better understand your "coverage". I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty proud of what I've been able to get done in only 31 years:

However, before I got too big a head I also tried the world version, and was significantly humbled:

So I've got a long ways to go. I'd better start planning my around-the-world vacation pretty soon if I'm ever going to finish up before I die.

Maybe this is a good time to start looking into the "Masters of International Arms Dealing" program at University of Phoenix...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where I come from, Combines bring in the winter wheat

Somehow between my overcommitted Saturday and the complete waste of life that was Sunday I managed to watch almost 20 minutes of the NFL scouting combine this weekend. Even through the season has been over for barely a month*, I’m a big enough fan that I’ll still pay attention to the goings-on as they happen. So while flipping through channels on Sunday I saw that NFL Network had coverage of the combine all day I was intrigued. The combine is something that regular joe fans only hear about from draft “experts” like Mel “My Only Job is to Make a List Four Times A Year” Kiper Jr. So I figured I’d check it out for a few minutes and see what all the fuss was about. Obviously given all the talk it would be nothing but stunning athletic performances coupled with deeply moving backstories in the style of the Olympics.

"And up next in the 40 yard dash is Samuel Danish, a Senior receiver from Middle Northern Tennessee State Valley Tech. His mother is here with him today, having never missed a single one of his games. But she's never actually seen him play, having lost both eyes in a horrible juggling accident involving a knife, a flaming torch, and a gasoline can..."

As it turns out, the draft combine is really really boring. It’s a collection of drills where you get to watch as all the jocks who picked on you in high school succeed, yet again, at the one thing you never did: the Presidential Fitness test. Seriously, the "events" they are run through have no real football value. I mean, when was the last time you saw any wide receivers need to pull out the move as shown in the Vertical Jump**? What, is there a need to jump as high as you can and bitch slap a pesky DB? Or maybe they want to have someone smack the new cable camera***? Come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I saw a full-blown shuttle run break out during a game either…but they do that one at the combine too.

But, even though the drills lack any sort of real-football application (just like the real Presidential Fitness Award tests develop skills in no way needed in the real world) these guys proceed to do every test about 50 times better than I ever could. I mean, men who are 6’5” and weigh in at 330 lbs run a 40 yard dash in five seconds. Oh, and they are probably going to make 6-7 figures in a few months, too (not that I'm jealous - damn you bike acident for ruining my dreams of NFL stardom!!!). I always thought the point of the Presidential Fitness Award was to be as fit as the President. Of course, since I grew up during the Reagan administration that allowed me to hold myself to a pretty low standard. I doubt the Gipper could have done more than three pull-ups himself at 84+ years old****. Good thing the communists didn't know that though, otherwise they never would have torn down that wall like he commanded.

At least now I understand why ESPN pays Mel Kiper Jr that much money. I don't know if I have the strength to take three entire days of that since I could barely stay awake after 20 minutes. Unless I was amped up on Ritalin...maybe that explains Mel's high energy level.

* Thus concluding another season of boundless hope, predictable collapse, and familiar disappointment at the hands of the Vikings

** For the uninitiated, the vertical jump is a test where the player makes a standing vertical jump and tries to swat as many sticks as he can (see image above), the more sticks he swats, the higher he can jump.

***What do they call that thing anyway? You know, the new camera that whizzes around above the field on those four cables to follow the action?

**** In fact he probably wouldn't have even been able to *find* the bar, particularly later in his second term.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Quickie - Imagine an entire live-action show...


I'm amazed they did such a good job keeping it up to the speed of the original.

I love it, although I'm a ltitle suspicious when the Brits start doing our stuff better than we do. they're already funnier than we are.

But not as funny as Canadians.

A sad day for Minnesota...

I’m sad that Kirby Puckett is gone. He provided me with so many good memories during ’87 and ’91. I’ll never forget watching him in game 6 of the ’91 series, the miraculous catch off the wall to keep the game tied and then the walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th. As for the controversy, I tend to focus on his playing days and gloss over all the scandal that surrounded him after he retired. Like most of my fellow Minnesotans, denial is a powerful tool that helps us focus on the good in people.

I think one of the reasons that Kirby was so popular was because he was a regular guy who just loved the game. He was short (only 5’8”) and on the chunky side – but he loved playing the game and had a great smile. Unlike some athletes these days he didn’t come off as a thug (Ray Lewis), a sociopath (Randy Moss), a spoiled brat (Kobe Bryant), or an asshole (Barry Bonds). He just played ball and we kids loved him for it.

So Kirby, presuming they have internet access in heaven and you read my blog regularly, thanks for everything. I’ll tell stories about that ’91 walk-off home run to my grandkids.

UPDATE: Oh crap, I just found out that Rio died this morning. Rio was one of two Bottlenosed Dolphins that lived at the Minnesota Zoo when I was in elementary school. Every time I went to the Zoo Rio was there, swimming around - usually with one of her babies (she had four). Oh man that's's like when your folks call to tell you beloved family pet or the Easter Bunny died.

UPDATE #2: Now I'm worried that everyone living in or formerly affiliated with Minnesota are all dead - possibly of bird flu*. Id' be just like us to lie in bed coughing up our lungs, saying "Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine. It's just that 24-hour flu bug that's been going around. I just need some saltine crackers, some 7-up and a nap and I'll be fine." I'd better call my brother and make sure he' hasn't been infected yet...

* I know that the H1N5 virus doesn't cause strokes, but maybe that's the mutation that all the bird-flu doomsday scientists have been predicting all along! Just like those devious viruses to disguise themselves as blood clots...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Thoughts on the Oscars

George Clooney is all class. I’m totally man-crushing right now. He has totally elevated himself to the Top 5 People I’d Invite to a Dinner Party list with his self-deprecating humor*, non-pompus political statement during his acceptance speech (Did you see that Sean Penn? That’s how to do it right), and timeless tuxedo attire.

Speaking of which, I would have killed someone for the chance to hang out with this group before the show. This is totally the "cool actor guy" clique of Hollywood.

[That's (left to right) Jake Gyllenhall, George Clooney, some lucky bastard, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Heath Ledger]

I was a little disappointed with John Stewart, but it’s not his fault. I think it’s asking an awful lot to take a comic known for skewering the Hollywood and media establishments, put him in charge of the ultimate insider event, and tell him that if he skewers anyone too much (Chris Rock anyone?) people will say he did a lousy job so he can’t rip on Hollywood too much. It’s like telling George Carlin that he can’t swear during a show. So, given those limitations, I think he did fine. Hollywood will still ask Billy Crystal and Steve Martin first next year.

I felt bad for Lauren Bacall, her dropping lines and slight tremor made me wonder if she’s got Parkinson’s. And it’s sad because she’s got that “I don’t care what you think of me I’m Lauren f*cking Bacall” moxie in all her interviews. A classy, strong, indomitable lady of the screen.

Will Ferrell and Steve Carell = Hysterical.

What was the deal with the bow on Charlize’s shoulder?

Rachel Weisz looks hotter at 7 months pregnant than 95% of Hollywood. The boobs probably help but I think it’s more that she doesn’t look like she’d snap in half in a strong breeze.

Dolly Parton looked fine during her song, but afterwards, when I saw her seated in the audience – helloooo collagen. It was downright scary. See?

Salma Hayek’s only job at awards shows these days is to look hot (has she done anything since Frida?) but she’s good at it.

Howard Berger, you suck. Because you wouldn't shut up and rambled on and on in your speech you left no time for Tami Lane who got played off by the band**. I hope you're happy with yourself. You should know that they are not going to give the best makeup winner more than 45 seconds - it's unfair yes, but you're not Reese Witherspoon.

Wait, William Hurt went to the Oscars with his ex-wife? I’m confused, I thought people got divorced when you wanted to stop going to events together…

I know I wasn’t the only one waiting and wondering whether Reese Witherspoon was ever going to get around to thanking her husband in her intermindable*** acceptance speech. I loved how the camera kept focusing on Ryan Phillipe in a “look who she’s forgetting to thank in her speech” fashion during the entire thing.

I love Reese to death, I think she’s a classy woman who has her act together, but for her to get as long as she wants for her speech while they cut off other non-celebrity folks left and right was classless on the part of the producers.

Terry Pheto is going to get a lot more work in Hollywood thanks to her director getting her screen time in his acceptance speech – she is really pretty.

Why did the camera focus on Mimi O’Donnell right when Philip Seymour Hoffman was talking about his mother? Who thinks the Oscar editors believed Mimi was his mom?

Lee Majors was at the Oscars? Gosh, I wonder how many other forgotten stars were there that I didn’t know about? Maybe Joe Don Baker was there...

I guess I need to go see Crash, Capote, and Memoirs of a Geisha now. I was hoping one of them would clear the table but it appears that Hollywood couldn't decide which one it liked either. I guess that those three films plus Brokeback Mountain**** all won three Oscars.

* To quote: "It's a funny thing about winning an Academy Award. This will always be synonymous with your name from here on end. It will be, 'Oscar winner George Clooney, sexiest man alive 1997, `Batman,' died today in a freak accident' ..."

** Apparently, Tami's mom thought the same thing.

*** No, I have no idea how if that's spelled correctly.

**** Seen it. Loved it, thanks in part to the fact that I saw it before all the hype.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Quickie - This one goes out to all you gene-type science folks


Although, I feel kind of bad for the white baby. I mean, it's great that she's been born healthy and with two parents and all. But wouldn't you worry about how often she's going to get asked if she's adopted? If it were me, I'd start wondering pretty early.

Back to work now...

UPDATE: You know, come to think of it, *both* of these kids will probably be asked if they are adopted. Plus they'll have an uphill battle to convince classmates they aren't. Hopefully they aill go to a school that covers genes in, like, the first grade curriculum.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No time to least not well

Whew, this week is going out with crazy business. Oddly enough, there are at least 2-3 other members of my blogroll have also quieted down lately due to that pesky real world. Work has been busy and I've got a strategic planning meeting for the theater company this weekend - and I have promised to bring chocolate truffles for dessert as my contribution to the foodstuffs procurement.

So, as I sit here waiting for the chocolate balls to set* prior to coating I thought I'd share a little entertaining blurb that I saw on one of those "viral video" TV shows that seem to be popping up all over television these days. What is it with Triumph that no matter how much of his schtick is re-cycled, it's still good stuff. I'm glad somebody finally called out Hawaii. Wussies.

Gotta run coat the truffles in delicious candy coating, followed by a light drizzle of semi-sweet...mmm....deliciousness...

* No, they are neither salty nor schwety. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Those darn kids and their acts of youthful rebellion

On the way home from work last night, I heard a story about students at an Indiana middle school staging a planned food fight last week. Apparently several students orchestrated the “event”, prompted no doubt by one-too-many servings of chicken fried steak. So after the fracas, there was about $1,000 in costs incurred by the school for cleaning costs and overtime. Apparently, mashed potatoes are a bitch to get off ceiling tiles.

Because of this story though, I now know that I’m a grownup. When I was younger, I would have totally rooted for the kids. I always dreamed of having food fights when I was in elementary school, to the point where I told stories about school-sanctioned ones occurring in my Fargo, ND kindergarten to classmates in my new elementary school after we moved there. I told these stories so often that I honestly started to believe them, and in fact only really questioned that story’s validity when I sat down to start typing this*.

But now that I’m older I find myself feeling sorry for the custodial staff who had to stick around for hours afterwards cleaning up spoiled milk and gravy everywhere. My question is why not have the kids clean up the mess? Just lock the doors and give everyone mops, sponges and buckets? Who cares whether the kids cleaning were the ones who actually threw stuff? If you just make everyone clean, then the innocent kids will dream up their own punishments for those who weren’t. And believe me, the punishments the kids mete out will be much worse than anything the principal could have imagined; kind of like mob justice, really.

So now I’m wondering what other famous stories from my youth I completely imagined. Maybe I never knifed that neighbor girl after all…

* Essentially, the logic behind my story just didn’t add up – there’s no way the school would have trashed an entire cafeteria and let kids stain whatever clothes they were wearing that day with grape juice and milk but not go home early.

After all, Elmo seems equally disinterested in both...

I have a hard time believing that Elmo was traumatized by Katy Perry's decollatage after discovering that he had already "been arou...