Monday, June 30, 2008

Weeds and new journalists

In the world of sprinters, the 100 is an optical illusion. Nobody can run full-out for 100 meters. Ergo, the winner is not the person who can speed up the most at the finish, but the runner who slows down the least.

Albanian dogs go “ham, ham” and not “woof, woof.” Hungarian pigs go “rof rof rof” not “oink oink.” In both countries, dumb asses sound the same.

I think Adrianna Huffington said it first, but I wish I had: “Karl Rove has fallen so low he’s now working in journalism.”

“American Graffiti” is so dated. How can you tell? It’s not the cars; it’s that teenagers can still afford gas in their cars for summer cruising. No more. Register those kids to vote!

The cover story in the NY Times magazine deals with Eurpoe’s falling birthrate. The writer asks: “Will Europe as we know it just peter out?” That’s graphic.

What’s a weed? Seriously. Isn’t it a matter of personal judgment? Many of the noxious plants targeted for destruction were deliberately introduced into the U.S. by people absolutely convinced of their beauty or utility. Farmers define weeds as any plant that interferes with profit. To Ralph Waldo Emerson a weed was “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Ralph never met kudzu.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good health, good hockey

High rollers know Macao is the epicenter of all the gambling in all the world, earning $10.3 billion in 2007. That’s more than Las Vegas. And Sheldon Adelson,who owns the Sands Macao among other properties, allegedly earns a million bucks an hour. Early in his career, he sold newspapers on Boston street corners. I had a paper route in Ft. Worth but the similarities stop there. I’m taller.

Think back to “Brigadoon” with Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly and Van Johnson. Remember the discovery shot where the village emerges from the mists? They filmed it backwards. First, they shot the village (actually a set in Culver City) on a clear day and pumped in fog to cover it over. Then, they projected the sequence in reverse and Brigadoon emerged as if by magic as it does every 100 years. Does, too.

The United States, richest nation on Earth, is not the healthiest. Not even in the top 40. Plus, being poor is bad for your health. In the U.S., if you are in the 95th income percentile, expect to live nine years longer than those at the 10th percentile or lower. Even that’s not very good compared with the rest of the world.

Up north, they call hockey groupies puck bunnies. Ohhh, Canada.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jelly Bellies, Sports Beans, Beanboozled

Jelly Belly is producing 300,000 pounds per day – and you can thank the Republicans. When word got out that President Ronald Reagan liked the smaller, gourmet jellybeans, sales went from $8 million to $16 million in one year. Jelly beans have been around since the 1890s; Jelly Bellies since 1976. Copycats abound. Sports Beans are marketed to athletes as a performance bean filled with electrolytes and vitamins. No telling what’s in Beanboozled beans described in the Harry Potter books.

Dublin, Texas, has the only plant that still uses the original formula for Dr. Pepper, the good stuff. Check it out:

Guys, have you ever wondered if you are showing too much male cleavage? Blame it on the buttons. The second button makes or breaks the shirt. And there are no standards. Set too high and the shirt appears awkwardly tight. Too low and you’re showing chest hair. Your shirt is chest-friendly if the gap between the first and second buttons is 1 5/8 inch. Some men, who constantly long for Saturday night, prefer 3 1/2 inches. Never thought much about it.

Before the electronic age, most people were unaware of type fonts. Since the computer, everybody became an expert in type selection. But, in truth, most amateur work looks like a ransom note. Get your custom type face from idea folks like – cheaper than you might guess. At Chank Fonts ( designers can make a new font out of your handwriting.
Tell my doctor.

And that's a tip of the hat to L. M. Boyd, greatest trivia writer ever.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Root beer and rabbits

Do maple baseball bats shatter more than others? Professional baseball wants to know and has commissioned a study. Bat makers must carry $1 million in insurance but officials worry for fan safety. More netting could be one answer. Oddly, there is no uniform code for netting behind the plate. Maple bats cost $65 each; ash sells for $40.

Noooo. The Orange County Register is out-sourcing some editing and page layout duties to an outfit in New Delhi. Institutional memory is withering. Local memory, too. And just wait until they have to talk with tech support. File this under dumb.

Maybe it is because we live only six blocks from the Mississippi, but we have bunny rabbits. Rabbits being rabbits, there are several. Hope Jimmy Carter was wrong.

If you go to Mexico, drink their version of Coca-Cola. It’s better than ours because they use cane sugar rather than the industrial sweetener in the U.S. version. If you want to have some fun with root beer, read noted wine critic Eric Asimov’s piece. Discover why he writes: “We don’t need no stinking frosty mugs.”

Today’s blog is coming to you from our screened porch in Minneapolis. Sun-up starts with coffee, classical music, newspapers and a front seat view of the neighborhood tapestry as it cinches up for the day ahead.
File this under lucky.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Both ends of IH-35

Shhh. Writer at work. Not me – the Mystery Woman is working on her fifth book. She started writing this book nearly fifty years ago as a young bride but shelved it for all those years while she raised three kids. Found the original manuscript in the attic and picked up where she left off. Re-writing. This one is a children’s book and the woman is focused. I’m her muse – but mainly I just stay quiet out on the porch while she is at the keyboard. I like it out here.

The Civil War was not a contest of equals. In 1861, the Union outnumbered the Confederacy in total population by 2.5 to 1, and in free males of military age by 4.4 to 1…in total wealth by 3 to1, in merchant ships by 9 to 1…in corn production by 2 to 1, and in wheat production by 4 to 1. So writes Jim Webb in his book “Born Fighting” about the Scots-Irish influence in the shaping of America.

Get thee to your maps. Go to Lake Superior. Find that nubbin of an island in the water east of Grand Portage, MN. Squint. You’re looking at Isle Royale, the 40-mile long namesake of a national park that includes 400 islands spread over 850 square miles. You’d think the islands would be part of Minnesota but you would be wrong. How about Ontario? Nope again. It’s in Michigan. Because Minnesota wasn’t officially on the map when that decision made. Go there anyway.


Want authentic? While you still have the maps out, find Los Ebanos on the Tex-Mex border in far South Texas. That’s where you can cross the Rio Grande on the only hand-operated ferry on the U.S.-Mexican border. Daily from 8 a.m. til 4 p.m. Hurry, before Homeland Security discovers it, too.


“It is a poker axiom that if a player has his knees under the table and cannot tell who the sucker is, he’s it,” writes Jim Rosenbaum, chief judge of the Minnesota District federal court.

“Life is too short to drink bad beer. You only have one liver. Use it wisely,” says Brock Wagner of the Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Texas.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Live long and prosper

Everybody knows that oil is the world’s most traded commodity. What’s second? Move to the front of the class if you said coffee. Some 23,000 cups of coffee are downed every second on earth. Quick head math calculates that’s more than 710 billion cups per year. OK, I lied about head math.

A switch-pitcher can throw lefty or righty. Ditto, a switch-hitter. So what happens with two guys who can go both ways match up in a ball game? It happened in the NY minor leagues. After a low comedy routine of change ups by both pitcher and batter caused a seven-minute stand off, the refs ruled each could change once. If you are still following this, the batter struck out.

Does the high price of gasoline and crowded airplanes make you think of taking the train next time? Get in line. Amtrak carried about 25 million passengers last year and will likely hit 27 million this year. Fuel costs hurts the railroad, too. Oil costs may reach 11 percent, up from six last year. Bad news: Amtrak is using airline-style “yield management” to raise or lower the ticket price based on how many seats remain. Idiots.

Now that jealous husbands are no longer a contributing factor, type in “how long will I live” into a search engine and mess with some of the Q&A. For example, if you’ve made it to age 65, there’s a good chance you’ll see 82 (male) or 85 (female). Next question: do you really want to know?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pay attention

Have you heard this? Nature is filled with geometric designs. But the square shape belongs only to mankind. Every other design can be found in nature. Credit: Bucky Fuller.

Multitasking – it’s a myth. Research shows “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” That’s serious, dude.

Buy plastics. That was the advice in “The Graduate.” Turned out to be true, too. If the movie were made today, the advice would be “buy cement.” Because China is adding a one to one and half Los Angeles worth of city every year. Every year!

Why so many smart people from China and India? They want it more. Ask kids in India what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll get engineer, scientist, doctor. Guess which nation’s students reply with movie star, football player, singer. They get an edge early. Chinese students, for example, study an average of 583,200 minutes over the course of high school. Indian students follow with 422,400 and U.S. students bring up the rear with 302,400. Tick, tick, tick.

E-mail is now considered to be old school. Instant messages, ditto. They’ve been replaced by text messaging, blogging and social networking. Research shows that’s what today’s young adults prefer. OMG. I got a cell phone only a couple of months ago.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Outrage alert

A freshwater mermaid graces the label of a limited-edition beer in Minnesota. Lakemaid Beer says the personalities of the beer girls on the labels are like those of the fish. Huh? Well, Miss Muskie is sullen and brooding. Miss Bluegill the most peppy and Miss Walleye hard to please. I’ve never understood mermaids. Question: what makes a mermaid sexy? Answer: beer.

Crickey. No more trips to the grocery? Soon you could have a scanner in your kitchen that is connected to your grocery. Before you toss an empty container, scan it into the device. (As a side benefit, the appliance will tell you whether the empty container goes into trash or the recycle bin.) After a few days, you’ve built your shopping list. Hit the button and wait for the delivery. Cheaper than driving, especially when you consider the time you used to spend up and down the aisles.

Never forget a face? But can’t remember phone numbers? Somebody invented a gizmo that links photos and telephone numbers for your caller ID. You can know who is calling from across the room. Yawn.

Insert outrage here: Pfizer managed to stave off generic competition for Lipitor until 2011, nearly two years later than analysts anticipated. Lipitor is the world’s best-selling drug. Over $12.7 billion last year. We pay that! Greedy bastards. But where’s the consumer outcry? Can you imagine the same malaise with a generic Viagra? There would be riots in Florida.

For your retired friends, there’s a clock with no numbers – just days. “What day is today, hon?” Clever. Poignant. Pisser.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Don't kiss that frog

The best dancer ever from Amarillo is gone. Tula Ellice Finklea died this week in Los Angeles. You probably knew her as Cyd Charisse, a tall drink of water who danced in the movies. She was thought to be 86.

In America, we eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined. Still not impressed? Although there are thousands of banana varieties, we eat only one kind of banana: the Cavendish. They ship best.

You want to be careful next time you are thinking about kissing a frog. Especially if you are in Cameroon. Local frogs in the region have claws. Just back away, slowly. There will other frogs.

GM has more than four times as many dealerships as its nearest competitor, Toyota. Yet Toyota is only three percentage points behind in sales.

In 1934, fifty years before Al Gore invented the World Wide Web, a now-forgotten Belgian sketched out plans for a global network of computers, or “electronic telescopes.” Paul Otlet was that lost pioneer. He leaned heavy on the best technology of the times – the 3x5 index cards.

Respect. A full page ad on the back page of today’s NeY Times reads simply:

Tim Russert

We celebrate your life and honor your life’s work.

We will miss you.

The ad was paid for by his competitors at CBS News.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Past 30? Tsk, tsk.

Race and gender were the hot buttons during the primary season. Now comes age. Polls will show that younger voters can look right past race and gender, but age is a deal killer. Interestingly, the same polls will likely show voters 65 and up shy-away from candidates in their age bracket. “Older voters really know what the measure of their infirmities are, even if they are well,” said Herbert L. Abrams, professor of aging at Stanford, who has written extensively on aging and presidential leadership.

Technically speaking, if you’re past 30 – you’re dying. That’s the age when there are more cell deaths in your body than cell replacement. Yeah? How come I can’t lose weight?

The conventional bombing of Tokyo killed more people than dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

To get a better listening post on the communists, in 1954 the CIA dug a tunnel under Berlin that was 1,476 feet long. Somehow, our spooks hauled away 3,100 tons of dirt undetected and replace it with 125 tons of steel liner and 1,000 cubic yards of grout. The tunnel was discovered in 1956 when a team of East German telephone workmen unearthed the dig while inspecting the cable system.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fifteen stadiums

If you could bus in all the centenarians living in the U.S., they would enjoy the trip and would fill the 85,000 football stadium at Stanford. By the year 2050, as baby boomers ripen, you would need 15 such stadiums. Boomers again. Getting on.

Ed McMahon’s publicist, Howard Bragman, says there’s a misconception about all the millions celebrities make. The money dwindles fast after they pay agents, managers, lawyers, publicists and the IRS. Next thing you know, Mr. Bragman says, you take $20,000 per month.” Net or gross?

Ruby, unfortunately, is no longer with us. Cancer. She was a therapy chicken and was awarded the ASPCA Trooper Award for Animal Heroism. The award is given annually to animals that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to furthering the human-animal bond. Learn more.

The Twin Cities Animal Humane Society is over-run with rats. More than 400 abandoned rats this year. Want one? Allegedly, they make good pets but are not good companions for your snakes. See "food chain."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

William Faulkner said it

How is the high price of oil reshaping our national habits? Signs of change are cropping up in funny places. At one Lowe’s store, they sold out of clothesline last week. Sales of vegetable seeds run 25 percent higher than last year. Remember the Victory Gardens from WWII – they’re back.

In the South, the past is not dead; it isn’t even past – William Faulkner

One precinct in the Bronx has no swimming pool where people can cool off in this heat wave. And the Bronx River is not very clean. The solution? Float a swimming pool atop a barge and anchor the rig at a public park. But the notion is not new. In the last century, NYC operated 15 “floating baths.” Yankee ingenuity.

Even Republicans are getting concerned about the shrinking value of the U.S. dollar overseas. French champagne, like non-vintage Moet, is edging above $35 a bottle. The horrors.

Brain freeze? It’s the nerves in the back of your palate sending urgent signals to the brain that your head is freezing. Lasts only about a minute but it’s painful. Best defense? Press your tongue against your palate or blow into your hands. Heat. We need more heat. And go slower on that daiquiri.


You hear the expression "to vet" or "vetting" a lot these days. Originally, it was a medical term having something to do with examining large animals. Hmmm. Conjures up quite an image, doesn't it. When the expression crossed over into politics, it must be about determining what kind of asshole the person has been previously.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Short attention span?

Are you having trouble reading, Bunkie? Do long, dense paragraphs fade faster from your depth of field? Having trouble concentrating? Blame the web. Blame Google. Immediacy is replacing deep reading. One researcher says we now “power browse” while going for quick wins. But I’ve carried on about this long enough.

Can plants think? Make decisions? Along the shores of the Great Lakes resides a beach weed called the sea rocket. Underground, where roots do all sorts of things, this plant recognizes kin and lets them be. But the rocket starves out non-related plants by aggressively sprouting nutrient-seeking roots. How does it know? A highly sensitive sense of “something” enables the weed to detect chemicals in the soil and air and act accordingly. This is creeping me out. I used to love salad.

Considering moving into one of those downtown condos? The upper floors get less street noise. But anyone who can remember flying kites will tell you: the higher up you go, the stronger the winds on your balcony. Wrought iron outdoor furniture is making a comeback.

The public's perception of "the butterfly effect"is wrong. Remember in the 1990’s movie “Havana,” Robert Redford, a math-wise gambler, tells Lena Olin, “A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean. They can even calculate the odds.” Wrong. That’s backward. Think about all the Monarch butterflies in Mexico. If each touched off a tornado, we’d have a helluva time just hanging on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not the Boy Scouts

News of their storm-related deaths cut through me like a knife. It’s not supposed to happen that way. But it nearly happened to me and my troop. I know the terrors of a storm-filled campout.

Troop 5, Austin, Texas, had a long tradition of strong adult leaders turning out great kids of all ranks. Ours was oldest and largest troop in the city. Still is.

But my first weekend campout as a green Scoutmaster was pretty bad. Near disastrous.

We were spending the weekend at a Boy Scout wilderness camp in Bastrop State Park about 30 miles from Austin. Weather forecasting was not as sophisticated then and cell phones had not been invented.

After supper, the storm hit with a sudden fury. Fierce ball lightening zapped through the trees. The rains fell in torrents. Soon, even our best tents were sopping, inside and out. As a last resort, we crammed the boys into the few vehicles we had in an effort to get dry and maybe catch some sleep. I think I finally managed some sleep around 3:30 in the morning.

Throughout Central Texas many people died that night. Thirteen, I think. Fortunately, none at our campsite. But a scout troop at another location was marooned for hours by a raging river out of its banks.

Next morning, we were all still wet, cold and groggy. There was no dry firewood within miles but a 12-year-old said he could fix that with “Scout juice.” Before I could collect my senses, the kid poured Coleman fuel on the twigs – and tossed in a match.

Fwump. A huge fireball jumped up his face. I was terrified that a child had been blinded. But we were lucky. Singed eyelashes, that’s all.

Two days later, we returned the boys to their grateful parents and I vowed to never again put my scouts in the path of danger – any danger. I would get prepared. For the next four years, I took every training course offered to adult leaders. And enjoyed many a wonderful campouts every month with the kids.

Those young men are in their 40’s today. Several are still active with the old troop. They may not remember that awful night in Bastrop. But I will never forget it.

And I know this: today, Scouts everywhere remember those young men who were killed and injured last night in the tornado that struck the Little Sioux Scout Ranch near Omaha.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ballpoints, Bluetooth and Indians

Invention of the ballpoint pen made technology portable. The idea had been around more than 50 years before they got it right. Initially, the ballpoint was so crude it’s primary use was for writing on leather or cloth. The first ballpoints in America sold for $12.50 in 1945. That’s about $150 in today’s money. The pens were immediate sensations. One New York store sold 8,000 the first day. Amazing, people standing in line to be the first to get the new technology. For me, it’s been downhill ever since. The ballpoint pen was the last technology I mastered. My children think I must be Amish.

Touted in an article about Jewish foods: He’Brew, the chosen beer.

A guy in a bar told me that the new hearing aids are so advanced they are Bluetooth compatible. Honey, what’s a Bluetooth?

Comanches evolved into the “Spartans of the Plains” once they got on a horse. And they had plenty. Historians estimate the Indians had 120,000 in their herds plus access to millions more running wild. Their informal empire called Comancheria dominated Texas, New Mexico, parts of Louisiana and northern Mexico. It was territory made fierce by the collision with westward U.S. expansion.

Humans claim to have invented agriculture about 10,000 years ago. And it spread across the world, followed by great imperial conquests during the last 800-900 years. That’s a lot of togetherness. So how come we still speak about 7,000 different languages? Don’t tell me your wife doesn’t understand you. Tell him. Bartender.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Old guy walks into a bar...

This is not about presidential politics. This is about the politics of aging.

We begin with the quote of the day:
“Expect open season in the coming campaign for implicitly bashing the elderly as McCain’s political foes and some media personalities stereotype him in ways that are justifiably considered off limits regarding Barack Obama’s race. Still, there is a silver lining for McCain if Clinton’s experience is any guide. Women voters rallied to Clinton in response to the rampant sexism... Democrats and media commentators who relentlessly mock his age could end up rallying elder votes to his side,” Congressional Quarterly political analyst Craig Crawford.

I like Craig Crawford.

But he is too young to understand the older generation. We largely poll against John McCain because we know things. Each of us who has reached a certain age understands the way aging diminishes the playing field. We acknowledge that we’ve lost a step – and we fret that McCain has, too. The White House ages the occupant fast.

The late night comics and some Democrats will not be able to resist pin-cushioning McCain about his age. That’s an opportunity for AARP to step up as our defender and knock down ageism. But AARP doesn’t seem to have the brass. AARP should mount an assault. But they won't. Too cowardly. Just lip service.

So night after night Leno and Letterman will freely mock this genuine American hero. In doing so, the comics mock us all. There is a delicate line between fun and ridicule.

Understand. I’m not voting for McCain. Not for president. But I am pulling for him to overcome the assaults of ageism. McCain could become a symbol for all older Americans if he can figure out how to kick some comedian’s butt rather than playing along with the jokes about being old.

Sure, humor has its place. But try this simple little test tonight when Leno and Letterman do their monologues. Every time they make an old person joke, change "old" to terrible, hurtful, off-limit words like nigger, or kike, or wetback.

Get the point? Stereotyping diminishes us all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Honk if you're feeling frisky

Six buck gasoline. It's coming and that changes everything. Not counting WWII, has America ever faced such massive changes to our culture so fast? We are on the leading edge of a new way of life. Sociologists will point to this summer of stay-at-home love as the start of the Second Baby Boom.

Six buck gasoline. Road rage redefined.

Six buck gasoline. Go ahead. Try to convince me the oil companies aren't making billions and billions from this mess. Just try.

Six buck gasoline. I call BS. You, too?

Congratulate yourself if you guessed there are more than four million miles of paved roads in the U.S. And 93% are covered with asphalt. According to Wired Magazine, you’re never more than 22 miles from a stretch of blacktop (Alaska and Louisiana excluded).

Get ready. There’s a car coming that will determine if you are too old to be driving by monitoring heart rate, vision, alertness and such. The “Aware Car”is being developed at MIT’s AgeLab. Hope they also measure whether you are too young. The youngest drivers (age 16-24) are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash. But we’re next (ages 65-74).

Who doesn’t like electric cars and hybrids? Children, old people, blind people, that’s who. They don’t hear the new-fangled autos coming and are getting mowed down. So researchers are developing speakers for each wheel well with noise that sounds like, well, like a car motor running. You can bet Friday’s paycheck that it won’t be long before they get pimped out.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Can't think of a headline

Cellphones and cancer. On national TV, three prominent neurosurgeons said they use them but recommend speakers or ear-pieces to keep the microwave antenna away from the brain. No link has yet been proven. But doubts linger when three biggies like these express concern. If they are correct we are in deep trouble. Even tiny risk among three billion users worldwide sounds like an epidemic. Facing a lifetime of exposure, children could be more vulnerable due to their thinner skulls that protects a still growing brains.

More culture changes awash in the price at the pump? High-octane fuel for race cars is up to $8.25 per gallon. Even more money is spent filling the truck-and-trailer rigs that haul the fast cars to the track on five buck diesel while getting 7,8, 9 miles per gallon. How long can the racetracks survive at those prices? Not that I care.

A study by Deloitte & Touche reveals English soccer teams are money machines. English Premier League clubs raked in $3 billion compared to $6.5 billion made by NFL teams over the same period. But, with less revenue sharing, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal each brought in more money that the Washington Redskins, the most profitable NFL team in America ($312 million).

In 2002, an international panel gathered in Rome to study world hunger. Opening day lunch menu included lobster and foie gras and good wine galore. This year, mindful of the uproar, the menu was toned down: pasta, spinach and sweet corn. Lesson learned?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tip of the hat to L.M. Boyd

They are charging full price for half of an umbrella. The outdoor half-umbrella is $299 and the base is another $99. What’s it good for? Along a wall, perhaps. Over a window or a small apartment balcony. Or maybe you are half-assed and just want to keep it dry.

Been invited to a cupping? It’s a coffee tasting. For your inner barista. So you can talk pretentious about coffee: “the Kenya had hints of curry and cedar…nuts and bark in the Guatemalan.” How about a hint of Joe?

That typewrite on Andy Rooney’s desk is a 1920s Underwood.

Talk about targeted mailing. The postman delivered a flyer from a company claiming to be America’s cremation specialists. You can even enter a drawing to win a pre-paid cremation. Quick. Where did I put that corkscrew?

The Mid-east is very confusing. The first wine-makers were neolithic Iranians who got silly thousands and thousands years back. Flash forward and the Bible makes many references to wine. Boom. Islamic conquerors put an end to wine production in what is now Israel. The hiatus lasted until the beginnings of the Zionist movement in the 19th century. These days, the region consumes more JP-4 (fuel for jet fighters) than wine. Pity.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beach books

Like fruit? Know this – in the wild, feral bananas are filled with tooth-shattering seeds and the untamed peach is an acrid pea-sized pellet. Yep, fruits need humans messing with them to reach ambrosia. But we go too far the other direction. Having bred fruits to sweet, plump perfection, man then breeds them back to awful. Fruit bound for the supermarket has been engineered to be hard, picked before its ripe, able to withstand the rigors of travel. Stepford fruit: gorgeous replicants that look perfect and taste terrible. The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner.

Kingsley Amis issued these instructions on how to read his book on booze. No binge reading. Instead, he suggests one chapter per night, perhaps with a pitcher of martinis. Everyday Drinking is actually a compilation of three of his books written first as columns. Bicarbonate helps.

Willie Nelson started writing lyrics at age 6. By the time he turned 75, the Red Headed Stranger had sold 50 million albums. Not bad for a guy also known as a pot-smoking, tax-dodging supporter of Dennis Kucinich. Willie Nelson by Joe Nick Patoski. (Note: if you want, I’ll send you the hilarious – but blue – quote from Willie upon his turning 75. You must be over 18. My email:

What? Hydrocrats control the flow of water over Niagra Falls, opening the spigot every tourist season. It’s a glorified faucet??? Turn it on high when you see my 55-gallon drum. Inventing Niagra by Ginger Strand.

Rank has its privilege. Thomas Jefferson was paid $25,000 as chief executive. Out of that, he his wine tab was $7,500, stockpiling some 20,000 bottles from France. Bordeaux, mostly. His records indicate he never received an order of 125 bottles late in his career. Or did he? In 1985, a bottle engraved with Th.J fetched $156,000 on the auction block. Fact or fraud? The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace.

Quick joke: the young writer, as yet unpublished, knew he had written something big. Maybe bigger than War and Peace. Knowing how important a good title would be in marketing, he sought the advice of the old master, who quickly agreed that the book would be big.

“Help me with the title,” begged the novice.

“OK,” intoned the master, “are their any drums in your book?”

“No, sir.”

“Any soldiers?”


“Then that’s your title: Neither Drums nor Soldiers.”

Monday, June 2, 2008

Women on top of Internet

Who uses the Internet most? Women. They took over three or four years ago. And magazines, television and newspapers are falling behind. Here's a sampling of gender-specific sites. Women also control 83 percent of spending in America. Estrogen anyone?

According to Steelcase, one of the largest cubicle manufacturers, nearly 70 percent of office work in the U. S. happens in cubicles. Have you ever worked in one? Cubicles are a rat maze without soul. Thankfully, they are falling out of favor. Even the manufacturers are apologizing. Too late.

Swede researchers say the death rate for golfers is 40 percent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. That corresponds to a five year increase in life expectancy. Wouldn’t you know it, golfers with the lowest handicap are the safest. I'm a goner.

More bad news. The electronic book is gaining traction. Ever hear of Kindle, the electronic reader from Amazon? You will. You will. The evil device already accounts for six percent of Amazon’s sales of books that go both ways – electronic or paper.

Six or seven thousand years ago, Neolithic Iranians were the first to ferment wine. Wine snobs were born in the next litter. Car mechanics, next. Both groups use special, pretentious lingo to keep the rest of us in awe. Things like, “You blew a rod.” And, “Are these grapes nebbiolo or temprauillo?” Don’t panic – bluff. Write these down: bright, silky, luscious, robust (for good wines) and putrid, mouldy, horsey (for the bad). Horsey?

A friend sent this niblet:

Here’s a handy website. Almost anything you want to do on the Internet is here. One click and you’re there.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Boomer litmus test

Here’s a quick litmus test to determine whether you truly are a Baby Boomer: who is older, you or your financial advisor?

Not convinced? OK, who is older, you or your doctor? Had you noticed?

Gregorian chants are enjoying a renaissance, says the Star-Tribune. Want proof? Both Amy Winehouse and Snoop Dogg recently inked contracts with Viennese monks to record an album. Not bad for music sung in a dead language. Wait. You never heard of Amy Winehouse or Snoop Dogg. Then, friend, you could be older than the chanticleers of the Middle Ages. I know -- wrong use of "chanticleers" but it sounds right.

Two reasons you don’t want to try and time the stock market:
--Average decline in a bear market since WWII has been 30 percent.
--Average rise during recovery has been 120 percent.
That’s according to the Leuthold Group, an institutional research gang in Minneapolis.

To become a master falconer requires seven years of training. Seven years. Perhaps that explains why there are only 12,000 top guns in the whole world, 6,000 in the U.S. alone. The Chinese pioneered the use of hunting birds around 600 B.C. Hawks are considered more cooperative than falcons or eagles. So they claim.

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