Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eat, drink, be merry

Police reporters have more fun. A Minneapolis teenager told police his breath smelled of booze because he had been kissing a drunk female. Nice try kid. Here’s your citation.

A guy in Connecticut is helping save a breed of cattle that may have helped with the Revolutionary War. The herds’ ancestors likely pulled the cannons from Ticonderoga to defend Boston way back when. The bovine heroes nearly went the way of the dodo with only 15 remaining on the planet. Today, there are some 300-400. Don’t ask. OK, you asked. The cattle are slaughtered at eight months and sold as Randall Lineback rose veal. It can be found in only six restaurants. Best served slow-cooked with smoked peaches.

While we are on the subject, the Dexter is an Irish breed of cow that has a big future in England. The little cow stands no taller than a large German shepherd dog, gives 16 pints of milk a day that can be drunk unpasteurized, keeps the grass “mown” and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer. Let’s mooove on. Sorry.

A British food and wine writer slicked The Wine Spectator into giving its prestigious award to a place that did not exist. The Osteria L'Intrepido di Milano was the figment of the imagination of wine writer and author Robin Goldstein, who invented its existence in order to expose what he regards as the lack of rigour in the granting of many food and drink awards. Cheeky.

Dave Freeman, co-author of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” dead at age 47.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Hour ammo

It's OK. You can recycle beer bottles with limes inside. Clink.


George Orwell, blogger? Yup. His copious diaries are now being published daily in blog form by a group of scholars who think his writings are still relevant for young people. They have lots of fodder. Orwell’s collective writings fill 20 volumes. Guess where he got most of his inspiration? Newspapers.

Globally, golf tee sales reach $100 million annually. Amazing, when you consider you could hit off a thimble just as easy. Claim is you can improve your accuracy and distance with any number of new tee designs: three little prongs that hold the ball up, or a smaller concave inny atop a wooden tee, or a tiny composite brush that nests the ball more freely, and biodegradable tees made of corn starch. Wouldn’t a reliable swing do?

It wasn’t the invention of electricity so much that changed the world. It was invention of the electric meter that enabled them to charge us for it.

What is the best-selling car of all time? Mustang? Beetle? Model-T? All wrong. The title goes to the lowly Toyota Corolla with 32 million in sales since its introduction in 1968. Second is not a car; it’s the Ford F-series pickup. Third, the VW -- but not the bug – the Golf. Huh. my favorite is still the ’57 Chevrolet.

When Taryn Davis’ husband was killed in the Iraq war, she decided to honor his memory and help others through their loss by filming a documentary of the somber routines and protocols of a military death. Ms. Davis criss-crossed the country to record the reactions of other survivors in the making of “American Widow Project.” It will be released online next month but a preview can be seen on YouTube.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meet at the dog park. Pass it on.

This is not about bikes. Rather an event that mimics the Critical Mass bike rides around the nation. You know – once a month bike riders meet for a ride down the main drag in an attempt to promote sharing the road. Now comes the New York Boston Terrier Meetup Group that meets at dog parks throughout the city once a month to let their pups co-mingle with their own breed. The club claims 400 members but fortunately only a couple dozen show up at any given event. Still, quite a sight.

Found on CraigsList: Semi for sale. It 535,000 miles on it, motor and tranny and rear ends have transferable warranty to 725,000 miles. I don’t think I’ve been 725,000 miles my entire lifetime. Airplanes included.
And yet—I’m out of warranty.

Human babies, as well as wallabies don’t have to be taught about danger. All species seem to be hard-wired to get the hell away from creatures with big teeth. But humans are the only species to create art on purpose. One of the traits that defines being human. Plus, we may be the only species to practice delayed gratification. You maybe; not me.

This really happened on the Hebridean island of North Uist – a fight between hedgehog lovers and wading-bird enthusiasts lasted for years. Hedgehogs were eating bird eggs. The brouhaha entangled Scottish Natural Heritage, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Uist Hedgehog Rescue and the Uist Wader Project. Finally, peace broke out when they agreed to airlift the invader hedgehogs to a better place.
Pints. All around.

Good quote herewith. “Funny is like pornography. You know it when you see it.” From author Allison Glock in a recent book review.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rocking and rolling ... uh huh

Kenwood Slim. Ever hear of him? I doubt that Slim cares whether you have or not. He is a R&B singer of a certain age with a gravelly voice and a demeanor to match. Plays a lot of Jimmy Reed music. Heaven.

Last evening, Slim and the guys were playing at the bandshell in Minnehaha Falls Park. So we jumped on the bicycles and hoped it would not rain for at least the next hour and a half. (Sprinkled on the way home.)

The crowd was larger this time with 65 people rather than the usual 50. The majority were our age – and older.

As I looked around the audience, I realized something else. A high percentage -- fourteen of us -- had ridden in on bicycles. Not the road bikes that bend your colon into a semi as you lean over to reach the handlebars. No. These were sensible uprights. Some call them leisure bikes, or comfort bikes. Soft seats, with springs. None of that banana seat nonsense that threatens your sex life.

I don’t know who these aging road warriors were or how far they rode to get to the bandshell. That’s not important. What matters is – they got there. On their bikes. With their Medicare cards in their pockets.

It’s a new generation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

He's open! He shoots! Crap.

Careful readers will note that I am still alive on this, my THIRD day at the school playground basketball court.

Note to self: ask whether the goal is set to adult heights. Eighth graders can't dunk.

Today, I lured my first gawker. But I was too far away from the street to read the magnetic sign on the side of the car. It had to be either a realtor or a mortician.

Yesterday, my skills ran the gamut from A to B. Today, I was not up to my usual game.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thump, thump, damn

Since three of my former high school team-mates read this blog, I am forced to tell the truth. OK, I was a better B-team player than I ever was on the A-team. But I looked good.

Fifty years and two pacemakers later, I have taken up basketball again. Playground basketball. We live three houses down from the outdoor asphalt court and if I get out early enough, I can get a court all to myself before the 8th grade bullies have finished their cereal.

TWO – count ‘em – TWO days in a row, TWO consecutive days, TWO days back-to-back have I made it to the playground to shoot some hoops. Already, I’ve doubled my time on the court. Now, if I can just get EMS to cut their arrival time in half, the Mystery Woman won’t worry so much.

This is more about survival than showing off. Five surgeries in the past two and a half years have robbed me of my self-proclaimed nom de guerre: Geezer Hunk. Three years ago, I was biking at least ten miles nearly every day, bounding up four flights of stairs two at a time and primping on exercise machines. But it takes longer to bounce back from each surgery.

Hence the return to basketball. Gotta exercise the ticker. Although my jump shot needs to be filed alongside dreams of Tahiti, I still try. Damn, I hope I can find the Band-Aides before these endorphins wear off. I cut my nose. Hit it on the rim.

PS -- no doubt you've heard of Minnesota Nice? The boys who played last night left a basketball on the court for the players today. Been there for days.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yo-Yo, extreme sport in your pocket

“Permabear.” That’s what economists call analysts who predict doom in the world markets. “Rich” is what people would call me had I but listened to the few who predicted a housing bust, a mortgage bust, an oil shock, consumer confidence tanking, and the world’s financial system shuddering to a spasm.

Stock tip: Duncan Yo-Yo. The venerable toy maker’s sales are up 30 percent thanks to Internet videos. Ever since the invention of the ball-bearing transaxle. It's called an extreme sport in your pocket. Wha?

"You know that you're over the hill when your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill." -- the Late Lowell George, Little Feat

You think I have a dirty mind? Ha. Read "Sex and the Semicolon" in the Boston Globe. To quote: Ben McIntyre, writing in the Times of London, added to the collection of semicolon snubbers: Kurt Vonnegut called the marks "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing." Hemingway and Chandler and Stephen King, said McIntyre, "wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch with a semi-colon (though Truman Capote might). Real men, goes the unwritten rule of American punctuation, don't use semi-colons." Your thoughts?

Boeing has successfully fired a real-life death ray that could become U.S. Special Forces way to carry out covert strikes with “plausible deniability.” No bomb fragments left behind, you see. More here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How the ultra-liberal New York Times ruined our neighborhood while pandering to Republicans

Now they’ve gone too far. The ultra-liberal New York Times has blatantly pandered to the aimless Republicans coming to the Twin Cities for their national convention. And they’ve ruined our neighborhood in the process.

Under the “36 Hours” column, the Times lists the top ten things to do while in Minneapolis/St.Paul. Number One tout is a day trip to Minnehaha Falls, which is only six blocks from our house.

For you unwashed, the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write “The Song of Hiawatha” without ever having seen the falls. He made some cultural mistakes, but nevertheless, it was the first piece of American literature sympathetic to the plight of the American Indians written by a white man.

We love that park. It’s a step back in time. Just this week, we listened to some blues at the band shell where the combo belted out their best for an audience of fifty. At sundown. You bet’cha. The day before, we wanted to hear some hot licks from the Inver Hills Community Band but got there too late. Earlier this summer, we walked to the park to participate in Norwegian Day where the oom-pa-pa band provided the ambiance for all the Ole and Lena jokes from the MC. If you’ve ever heard Aggie jokes or Polish jokes, you know the Ole and Lena jokes. Each is hardcore corn.

And now the NYTimes has to go and ruin it all by revealing this urban jewel to those GOP hordes. Why this park? Minneapolis has 149 other parks and lakes. From now on, when my conservative friends wail about the Times, I shall nod. Knowingly.

Thank god they stopped at the Top Ten. I’m afraid Number Eleven would be our front porch. Oh, what the hell. It’s a small porch with a big heart. Come see us.

Gotta go. Eighteen bicyclists are coming down our street and I have to wave the flag and cheer them on. Then I have to walk up to the school yard and shoot a few hoops before the sun gets any higher. Seriously.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nice and easy

Many visitors attempt to compare the Great Lakes with the oceans. But in the end, there is really no comparison. Witness this note from Maura Casey: “The Great Lakes are contralto; the ocean, a deep baritone.” Lovely, either way.

A gallon of milk in Barrow, Alaska, costs nearly ten bucks. Unleaded gasoline, ditto. Up there, all-terrain vehicles are used for survival, like hunting, not for sport. Worries mount that gasoline will reach $12 by the fall hunting season. So quit whining.

You’re never very far from the countryside in Minnesota. Only 16 miles from the Burger King in North St. Paul, there’s an alert for bicycle riders: “Please warn horses of your approach.”

The first clothing designer to put 17 snaps on a Western shirt is dead. Jack A. Weil, the cowboy’s dresser was 107 and still CEO of his Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Company. He was also the first to manufacture the bolo tie. Clark Gable wore one in “The Misfits” and Heath Ledger wore one of Papa Jack’s shirts in “Brokeback Mountain.” Happy Trails.

Newspapers now have the distinction of being the only industry to screw up a monopoly worse than the phone company.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Political theory and the comma revisited

This theorem has withstood the test of time:

The reason Democrats get into trouble is because they don’t understand sex (John Edwards).

The reason Republicans get into trouble is because they don’t understand power (George Bush).

"It doesn't matter how big a ranch ya' own, or how many cows ya' brand, the size of your funeral is still gonna to depend on the weather." Harry Truman.

How cool is it getting in Minneapolis? Well, son, we’ve already developed a hankering for a bottle of red.

The author of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” has done it again. This time, Lynne Truss is helping us understand how to use the apostrophe, or the flying comma. Check it out: “The Girl’s Like Spaghetti.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mac and cheese

If you order mac and cheese at the posh Waverly Inn in NYC, bring your American Express – and your Visa. The price: $55. This is not a typo. Food, as one reviewer wrote, is not the point. Even the wealthy are pinched by the downturn. Instead of paying $4,000 for a bottle of wine, patrons are paying $500. This is not a typo either.

Wouldn’t you just love to see what Johnny Weissmuller could do in one of those modern swim suits worn by Olympian Michael Phelps? What, you don’t remember Weissmuller? He gave Tarzan his distinctive ululate. Jane gave him the motivation.

If you don’t get enough Vitamin D, you’re going to die. Well, sure, you’ll die anyway but bulking up on the vitamin can move the due date further out.

Bail out now if you are squeamish. Researchers digging in the ruins below Mt. Vesuvius have uncovered ancient libraries. The big eruption in AD79 carbonized many of the papyrus scrolls. In 1756 a Vatican researcher devised a way to preserve the damaged goods. Here comes the gooey part. They would unroll the papyri by suspending them from silk threads attached to their surface with a paste of fish oil. These were fixed in place by a slice of pig's bladder. More amazing, the device was used for the next 250 years, well into the Twentieth Century.

Include me out. I will not buy a ticket for “Tropic Thunder.” Ben Stiller is no Monty Python. He crudely skewers war, black face, Jews, splatter films, and all of Hollywood. But he crosses the line by grinding the word retard over and over into the dialogue.

A national boycott is growing.

"People with intellectual disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are among the most vulnerable in our society. They should be encouraged, nurtured, and respected, not nationally humiliated in the name of a buck and laugh,” said Lori Tullos Barta, local attorney and president of DSACT. “The Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas hopes others will join with us in sending Hollywood a message that such words, depictions and scenarios are offensive to the disability community and will not be tolerated.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Carrie Bradshaw, philosopher

A seventh grade student tested water samples at the University of South Florida and discovered water from toilets was purer than water from ice machines, some of which were contaminated with E.coli. Lesson? B.Y.O.I.

In California, bicycle plaintiffs lose two out of three cases that go to trial. Road rage in the jury box or bike riders flaunting traffic laws?

A reader writes: “You have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.” Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Gallup has more fun in the field than other pollsters. Recent findings: 62% of Americans say they drink a little alcohol. The average liar reports having consumed 3.8 drinks in the past week. Surprise – older drinkers are more likely than youngsters to have consumed alcohol in the past 24 hours.

Chuckles from CraigsList: Dune buggies advertised in Minneapolis.
Long way from either ocean, bub.

Personal note: postings may be sporadic this week. Relatives are in town from Florida. It’s show time.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Share your nuggets, thoughts, wisdom

BREAKING NEWS from The Onion: Al Gore Places Infant Son in Rocket to Escape Dying Planet.

A reader writes: I have been reading a book about aging called The Measure of My Days by Florida Scott-Maxwell. Here is a quotation I like:

Age is truly a time of heroic helplessness. One is confronted by one's own incorrigibility. I am always saying to myself, "Look at you, and after a lifetime of trying." I still have the vices that I have known and struggled with—well it seems like since birth. Many of them are modified, but not much.

What’s your favorite? Send it to me via email:

English is a tough language. Playwright George Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that the word "ghoti" could just as well be pronounced "fish" if you followed common pronunciation: 'gh' as in "tough," 'o' as in "women" and 'ti' as in "nation." And he was a playright.

Now we’re in trouble. The NY Times reports that with new analytical techniques, a fingerprint can reveal not only the identity of the person – but also what the person was last touching. Such as drugs, explosives, poisons, or cookie jars.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Insert headline here

Barack Obama and John McCain have both switched their positions on offshore oil drilling. They both used to be against it, but now they say they are for it under the right circumstances – like if it helps them get elected…Jay Leno

We missed the last recycling pick-up and stuff piled up. This morning I heard their truck stop and the crackle of their two-way radio. I think there were so many empty bottles, they were calling for back-up.

Dang. Seems none of my friends are into racing power tools. The fad began six years ago in (surprise) San Francisco. Entrants have since raced power drills, circular saws, grinders, vacuum cleaners, belt sanders, leaf blowers and even chain saws. Losing with grace is also important. There are eye-witness accounts of a guy wearing a seersucker suit who raced a can opener that was so slow it crawled only 18 inches in five minutes. NASCAR started this way. Did, too.

Does your doggie have a Gold Mattress? Do you? Probably not. Lovingly stitched with 22-karat gold thread for rich humans, the queen sells for $24,000; the king, for $30,000. Only 100 have been sold in two years. Regardless, the manufacturer, Magniflex, created lower-priced units for our good doggies priced between $1,000 and $3,000.

Combat troops in the U.S. 10th Mountain Division are going to war armed with special iPods which have been loaded up with languages of the mid-East region. Soldiers can now translate native languages on the spot. Solar power keeps the units running and Velcro keeps them within reach. Handy. Mighty handy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Truth in bumper stickers

Scary bumper sticker: Nixon is starting to look really good.

But not if you eat lots of fried fish. You can ward off memory loss, dementia and stroke by eating good fish. Just don’t think about fried anything. Broiled of baked, indeed. Memorize this: fish that swim with high levels of DHA and EPA nutrients include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies. Don’t forget to wash it down with red wine.

Books on (cassette) tapes are bound for history. But huge libraries will survive as long as there are still memories of high school sweethearts. What’s in your attic?

Beep. Could be the morning paper. Verve Wireless uses cell phones to deliver 4,000 newspapers from 140 publishers. Increasingly, people are using cell phones to surf the Web, 40 million every day. Is that a newspaper in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

The actor, Andy Robinson, who played the Scorpio killer against Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry was so good that be received death threats after the movie premiered.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Road trip without cars

OMG. Now you can go online and determine whether someone has a criminal record. It is public information and has been available all along, but never so easy. Check it out: Want to know more? Find out about political contributions is easy at or If you want to confirm suspicions about me, remember it is Phenix without an “o.”

Best geezer bumper sticker of late: Cremation? Think outside the box.
Next best: At my age, flowers scare me.

Neil Bowers has compiled a unified list of the 100 best novels. This list was generated by merging 10 different ‘top 100_ lists from the UK, US, Australia and Canada, to see if the cream floated to the top. The lists are a mixture of public popularity and literary merit. Interestingly, only one book appeared on every list: it’s in first place.

Adrian Monck, TV exec turned academic, thinks the decline of newspapers has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with the changing world. Wingnuts would argue that institutional bias is to blame. That brings to mind the last line in King Kong: “twas beauty that killed the beast.”

Quick. Name the only state highway in America that's never had an automobile accident. If you've ever been to Mackinac Island, you know the answer. Cars aren't allowed on the eight-miles of roadway. Horses, hikers and bicycles, welcome.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to the drawing board

Many nursing homes embrace Xtreme Aging, a course designed to teach younger health care providers what it is like to be 85, the nation’s fastest growing age group. It’s not a program for sissies. The young folks’ prep included putting on distorting glasses to mimic blurred vision, cotton balls in ears and noses to reduce hearing and dampen sense of smell, latex gloves with adhesives around the knuckles to impede manual dexterity and kernels of corn in shoes. Intelligent design?

Has the semicolon reached the end of the line? Well, the French are worried about its decline – and they blame, who else, the English language. The Guardian has published a delightful insight into the row which pits intellectual against smart ass.

In the red corner … The point-virgule, says legendary writer, cartoonist and satirist Francois Cavanna, is merely "a parasite, a timid, fainthearted, insipid thing, denoting merely uncertainty, a lack of audacity, a fuzziness of thought".

In the blue corner … the left wing weekly Le Nouvel Observateur waxed - "the beauty of the semicolon, and its glory, lies in the support lent by this particular punctuation mark to the expression of a complex thought".

For more, click here.

"A confidential survey of MPs and peers suggests that one in five parliamentarians suffers from mental illness caused by the stress of their public lives." OMG. If they undertake a similar study in Washington, can Democracy withstand such truth in packaging? And the Texas Legislature would have to be scored on a Bell Curve. There’s a ding-dong pun in here somewhere.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Shark Week and Wolfman Jack

Glass – a thick liquid or a disordered solid? Scientist are puzzled. Do you really care as long as your wine doesn’t leak?

Throughout the whole, wide world there was but one fatal shark attack last year according to scorekeepers at the U of Florida. That could force Shark Week into re-runs.

If your drinking buddy is a cicerone, no matter his nationality, you’re in luck. A cicerone is to beer as a sommelier is to wine. Both are in your Funk and Wagnalls.

Imagine this: the day is coming when our home computers can sense our medical problems and call for help. I have on order a wireless device that will sit on the nightstand while it monitors how well my pacemaker is working. And, if atmospheric conditions are just right, some nights I can listen to Wolfman Jack.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible." So said a Yale management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith founded FedEx anyway.

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