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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Today In Pain ...

I don't know what I dropped, but while walking through my kitchen I "acquired" a splinter. I'd like to say I was stoic in the face of the pain, but my eyes teared like a little schoolgirl who got her pigtails yanked by the glass bully. It hurt! And I've been in a few fights and had my share of black eyes and broken bones. Aaaaagggghhhhhh!!!!!

About two weeks ago, I dropped an old serving dish, but I was very careful to sweep up all the "remains" and then run a damp mop under the edges of the lower cabinets ... I even swept the carpet in the adjoining hallway. Maybe it was a tiny piece of wood from the legs of my old table or some debris from one of my repair projects. It could even be a piece of "bone" left over from when my neighbor stopped over to drop off a piece of misdelivered mail ... he and his dog (with a chewy bone treat) invited themselves in and that dog laid there making the most disgusting grinding noises.

But regardless of its origins, I could see the thing's "head" just below the surface of the skin on my right heel ... not the easiest point to access with my medical tools (safety pin, tweezers, and a small flashlight).

I remember my mother telling me that if a splinter isn't protruding from the skin, then you have to "dig it out." I think we can agree that my mother had no official standing in the medical community, so I first turned to common sense. I washed the area gently to make sure the area was clean. Then I tried to "milk" the skin around the splinter, hoping the sliver of whatever would pop out of my foot like a frisky meerkat. No such luck.

Then I tried to recall all the old home remedies concerning splinters ... duct tape, hot candle wax, and model glue all came to mind but, again, these worked best if the splinter was close to the surface and I could feel this little bitch moving toward my spine.
So I turned to technology and hobbled over to my laptop. "While avoiding pressure, use a needle and nail clippers to gently make a hole in the skin and clear a path to the foreign object." First off, trying to remove a splinter and applying pressure kind of go hand in hand ... a ham and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs kind of relationship. Secondly, I already had a hole in my foot ... the place where the damn splinter pierced my body. And thirdly, the foreign object ... we'll call him "Frenchie" ... wasn't cooperating.

I tried some additional sites and combined steps to create the perfect "Kill Frenchie, Part 1" plan. Step One: Walk gingerly to the bathroom and locate an old abandoned tube of Oragel; apply to affected area to lessen pain. Step Two: Carefully use nail clippers to "nip away" skin from surface of punctured area. Step Three: Create a paste using water and a small amount of baking soda (1/4 teaspoon) and apply to would, causing the skin to expand either forcing the splinter to the surface or making it more accessible. Step Four: Remove splinter and plan recovery celebration, maybe apply to medical school if all goes well.

"Kill Frenchie, Part 1" was not without its mishaps. Being in pain, I zealously applied too much Oragel and created a very slick work area. And after applying the paste and taking a second for a quick reread, I discovered that the baking soda trick works best if placed on a splinter and then bandaged for 24 hours. And if the splinter is made of wood (???), then the paste would cause it to swell, too. But all in all, I think having a clear-cut plan of attack emboldened me to brandish that safety pin with abandon and dig the puppy out. I think the foot can be saved.

POINT OF RANT: If women marry for assistance with killing spiders, then men should consider mates for the singular purpose of splinter removal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today At The Wine Shop ...

It's really cold out. The snow is whipping around and the sunlight looks thin, like it lacks the power to even consider properly warming this part of the Earth.

I need something to warm things up. I could start a nice fire, but first I'd have to build a fireplace, chop some wood, load it in the fireplace, buy matches or one of those starter logs ... nope.

I need a good book ... I've read everything I have from the library and a "reread" just doesn't feel right at this time ... next.

A good bottle of wine ... that I have in spades. I use the term "good" because I have several bottles of vino that A) were affordable, B) have cool names and labels, and C) have tasted great each and every time I've tried them.

Wine is typically produced from fermented grape juice and comes in hundreds of subtle shades and flavors. Apparently nature had special plans for the grape because this fruit has a unique chemical nature, one that freely promotes fermentation (the transformation of sugar into alcohol) without the need for additional acids or enzymes. Just add yeast to the process and watch it go!

The history of wine dates back to 6000 B.C. in regions that are now Iran and the old Soviet Union. For American, wine has a unique cultural history, often thought of as an indicator of taste and sophistication. For decades, wine was considered a European of French "thing," with young lovers Claude and Gizelle sitting outside a Paris cafe sipping Merlot and snacking on bread and smelly cheese. Or the raucous Italian family sitting down to dinner at 9 p.m., and everyone from 80-year-old GrandPappa to 8-month-old Jacques had a glass of Chianti. Today, Americans enjoy the works of vintners (that's a fancy term for winemakers) from across the globe ... not just France and Italy but places like Chile, Australia, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, and many more. And America celebrates its own wineries, from small businesses popping up in nearly every state to more developed spots like Napa Valley in California and Willamette Valley in Oregon.

The "taste" of wine is determined by dozens of factors, including type of grape, type of yeasts used, climate, soil, and storage methods. Some people shop for "good" wine simply by color ... a clean "white" or a strong "red." Did you know color is simply a matter of what type and how long the grape skins remain in contact with the grape juice during fermentation? ... all grape juice is white or clear. Others shop by "dry" vs. "sweet," meaning the level of residual sugar relative to acidity after fermentation is complete. And still others shop by region ... foreign versus domestic products ... or cost.

I think the most commonsense approach to buying wine is usage. We buy certain wines for cooking (sometimes just short of vinegar) and others to celebrate special occasions. And we don't always buy the same level of wine when having the boss over for dinner as we do when drinking alone. Hell, some of us just pull out a box of wine and go to town!

The world of wine is a land of subjectivity, full of snobs and pretenders who like to tell others what is good and why it's better than the bottle right next to it on the shelf. I have an older neighbor who has a good "winehead" on his shoulders. He once told me, "Good wine is something you try and you like, and bad wine is something you try and don't ever want to try again. Price and place and friends and family have nothing to do with it!" Good advice.

I have a "winetasting" scheme that I use to broaden my experiences without bankrupting my wallet ... I'm not proud and sometimes feel a bit ashamed about it. When I'm introduced to someone ... a business contact or a friend of a friend ... and they try to show those around them that they "know a thing or two" about wine, I feed their egos. Almost always, I get them to brag about one of their favorites and end up getting them to buy me a glass. I've tasted a few really good ones and jotted down the names and details. I've also swallowed a few stinkers. I had an old manager who liked to take the office out twice a year ... called them "collective birthdays" even though we always had cake for every individual on their appointed day (or close to it). Anyway, at one dinner I stroked her into buying me a glass of "the most magnificent white" she'd ever had. It was so dry I though the enamel would crack off my teeth!

I've always wanted to go to a formal winetasting event. I did go to a champagne tasting once. It was at a neighborhood pub/deli/bakery that a pair of married friends frequented almost nightly. We went as a foursome (them, me, and a friend of theirs I just met that day) and worked our way through about 20 types of champagne paired with unusual delicacies. Now the place was filled with couples who were using the tasting as a tryout for their wedding receptions ... not the most fun crowd, with cooing brides-to-be and matching bored-for-a-beer would-be grooms. But I did learn several important life lessons: 1) champagne isn't that great but it can get you TIPSY fast, and 2) I actually love caviar and smoked salmon, two things I never thought I'd ever try.

So get crazy and try some wine. Develop your own profiles. Mine is simple ... I enjoy a sweeter wine, something where I know there's fruit involved with every taste. I enjoy Rieslings, and South African and Australian products have given me consistently good pours. I've never spent more than $30 on a bottle of wine (in the store) and don't think I could go higher than $40 without my head exploding. And if I'm dining in a restaurant with a sommelier, a wine specialist who is there to help me make my selections, then I know I can't afford the wine and I propbably can't afford the restaurant.

What do you like?

POINT OF RANT: Should I be more concerned with the fact that I drink alone ... often?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Today In TVGuide ...

There are two things I really get steamed about: tennis and segregation. Tennis is a sport that is ssssooooo boring to watch and tough to play. To be good at singles, you have to have the speed of Mercury and the stamina of a pornstar. And to play doubles effectively, you have to like the sensation of another person whizzing a sturdy neon ball into the back of your head. Like the feeling a lot! And there are rules in tennis like staying inside lines (coloring for adults), spectators have to be quiet, and players have to grunt like patrons in the video arcade at the back of an adult bookstore.

Also, tennis matches take forever. The are sets and matches and game points that go on and on and on and on. The only thing good I have to say about tennis is that players are usually pretty spiffy dressers.

And then there's segregation ... isolating or separating people, often by force, from certain resources based on some socially-explosive criteria. It's just bad.

But put tennis and segregation together, and you've got yourself the next great idea!!

Let me explain. On my television dish system, I have approximately 300 channels of eye-popping, mind-numbing, pulse-raising entertainment. There are channels for home improvement, shopping, cooking, and dozens of other special interests. And sports ... we got sports. We have a golf channel, and a channel focusing on high school athletics, and ESPNs numbering in the threes and fours. Let's force all televised tennis onto a special channel ... NetTV ... or GSM (Game-Set-Match). Now the major networks can focus on more epic dramas and edge-of-the-seat medical shows, and the independents don't have to mess up my "Whatever Marathon" watching to sponsor Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

And once we have tennis in its proper place, we can get those damn fancy dog shows onto Animal Planet where they belong, and develop a forensic drama channel where I can sell my pilot scripts for CSI:Cleveland and NCIS:Fort Wayne.

POINT OF RANT: Don't ever make me watch dogs playing tennis ... I won't be responsible for my actions.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today At The DMV ...

I had to renew my driver's license on my birthday and I'm late. Late by about two weeks for the renewal itself, but also late because I took extra "prep time" to get ready for the license photo. I shaved extra slow to avoid any cuts, I used extra gel in my hair for the effortlessly spiky look, and, to be completely honest, I even dabbed concealer under each eye to soften the always-there shadows that I inherited from my mother's family.

I don't know why I bothered. DMV photos (and those for passports) are notoriously bad, making you look like a few pairs of chromosomes didn't quire match up. Like many people, I just hate seeing my own image on film. It's kind of like hearing yourself sing ... you may think you're American Idol material, but someone records you and the playback is similar to kittens racing to drag their little claws down a chalkboard while an audience of teething babies cheers them on. It's bad!

The whole photo taking process amazes me. Not the science or the mechanics, but the sheer dumb luck involved in getting good pictures. I have a friend who is obsessed by the bazillion megapixel camera in his new cell phone. And he's always trying to take these candid-but-carefully-staged pics. They never turn out. But other times, when we're stopped at an intersection for a red light, he'll go crazy and run around the car snapping rapid-fire pictures, or he'll aim the camera at himself and start shaking like he's haiving a seizure (not really funny to neighboring drivers, but I'm not his mom). Sometimes we fight over the results ... they're like these bizarre alien characters or just smeared urban scenes of buildings and various textures. I've used a couple as backdrops on personal design projects.

My nephew is another example of "planning for nothing." Recently he and his fancy digital camera went to a concert. My nephew is crazy about the performer and wanted to get some great photos (since he paid through the nose to acquire great seats from which to take the great photos), so he spent the week prior to the concert looking at every Website he could find about this artist's other concerts. He actually constructed a list of song, stunts, and costume changes to help him plan his photo attack strategy. A few days after the concert, I called my nephew to ask about the concert. He really enjoyed it but, he said, he only got about two decent pictures. "What about all your prep work?," I asked. He just sighed and said he thought he took some great shots, but things just didn't happen. His friends, however, singing and waving their cell phones in the air, got way better pics.

POINT OF RANT: Not everything in like needs ... or even desires ... a plan.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today On YouTube ...

Another Josh Hopkins song ... this one involving his short on-screen romance with Sheryl Crow on Cougar Town. It's great that ABC sees the merits in allowing Josh to showcase his talent as part of his character.

POINT OF RANT: I want cooler friends like the people of Cougar Town ... without having to relocate to Florida.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today At The Post Office ...

In this rubber band, I have a stack of Valentines. I've poured my soul ... my true soul ... into them. I hope the selected recipients appreciate them.

This year, I went old school ... old school for a seven-year-old kid, that is. I was at the "card shop" (you know your name) and couldn't believe the prices on single Valentines. Or how mushy and smoochey they all were. I wanted fun. I wanted cards with Be-Dazzled jewels and glitter and attached balloon animals. I wanted something that spoke to me.

So I ditched the fancy place and went to my neighborhood SSSSSUUUUUPPPPEEEERRRRRSSSSSTTTTOOOORRRRREEEEEE (that's "Superstore" with an echoing sound effect) and purchased a dozen boxes of the strangest cards I could find. X-MEN ... Spongebob ... fuzzy Trolls with moving eyes ... unicorns ... HotWheels ... anything that meant fun. I also rounded up Silly Putty and Slinkies. Little green Army guys. Rubber snakes. Silly String. Water guns. And playing cards in the shape of those chalky hard candy hearts with the sayings on them.

Not only was I mailing cards, but I was preparing small "care packages" for a few of my special relatives and friends. I was going all out.

I'm back home from the post office. On my entry table are the nine special "treats" I've assembled (they'll be delivered over the next few days). I sit back in my favorite chair and think, "damn ... I did good. I found things I actually like to give for Valentine's Day ... a holiday that is usually only embraced by romantically-elevated men and hormonally-heightened women." And then it hit me ... I sent lame cards and cheap little toys to people who make decisions that affect me, make more money than I do, and who haven't had a fond thought of childhood in 15 years.

POINT OF RANT: Being cute often means being screwed ... Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Today In A Parking Lot ...

It's late February and most of the parking lots have recovered from the winter snows. The lines demarcating the roughly 9' X 20' (give or take) typical parking space are clearly visible, many with bright yellow cement "bumpers" at the inner edge. So why does parking seem to be such a tricky activity for so many people?

During the holidays, I'm much more carefree about parking issues. People are rushing around looking for deals ... or to just run into a store for a single item ... so if they get a little close on one side or the other, who cares.

But usually, when someone decides to park their multi-ton vehicle nearly against my car's door ... allowing only a Chinese acrobat to enter the driver's side ... I get into an awful snit!

I'm just a regular guy with a medium-sized sedan. I'm not asking for any special treatment. And I don't fault those who can partake of "Employee of the Month" spots, "Expectant Mother" spaces, or those designated for individuals with physical handicaps. But most of us have been driving since we were 16 and the rules haven't suddenly changed with the new millennium. Ya pull in the middle of your space ... treat neighboring vehicles with respect ... exit your car and do your business ... then reverse the process. Duh.

When I was a "young whippersnapper," I was on the tail end of the parallel parking craze. Part of our driver's education program was to learn to basically pull past an isolated spot running parallel to your vehicle and then back sideways into it. Sounds easy but I remember getting the sweats just before that part of the test for my license. And for what ... parallel parking spots are a dying breed. They only exist in downtown areas or off-street urban neighborhoods, and those two areas are shrinking from the American landscape faster than you can get your hubcaps stolen when parking their.

teens face "maneuverability," the modern equivalent of parallel parking. In this scenario, driving students learn to move their vehicles through five "hazard" cones. Again, a bit of complex driving that rarely occurs in everyday life.

And now some fancy cars have automated parallel parking features known as "intelligent parking assist programs." Since the mid 1990s, auto manufacturers have been developing this type of technology using lasers for charting distance, sonar applications, and other emerging technologies. In 2004, the Toyota Prius featured this type of system is some option packages. In 2007, Volkswagen and Lexus joined the bandwagon ... BMW and Ford are more recent adoptees.

POINT OF RANT: Wait long enough, and what you need to do will
be mechanized ... then you truly CAN blame computers for everything that goes wrong!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today On YouTube ...

If you haven't already, meet actor and writer/composer John Hopkins. I first "met" Josh when he showed up on an episode of Bones ... one of my ten favorite shows in the history of television ... as an old love interest of Brennan's. Next, Josh and I enjoyed his time on ABC's Brothers & Sisters, where he portrayed "Warren Salter" ... a liberal Democrat who proved a competent foil for the Republican conservatism of "Kitty Walker." (If you haven't watched it, Brothers & Sisters is pretty good, a Falcon Crest for the new millennium.) Now Josh has become a resident of Cougar Town as "Grayson Ellis, the neighbor full of charm, whit, and male snarkiness.

I really like Josh. We have a lot in common ... we're both handsome, urbane, and like saying out loud all the stuff that other people keep locked in their heads. Of course, Josh has the voice to do this in song. Enjoy this video of "Feigning Interest."

POINT OF RANT: We really do look alike ... in my head.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Today On The News ...

No one can afford health care ... jobless rates continuing to climb ... no money for social reform ... the news never seems to focus on opportunities and I have a prime one. Let's start today ... February 1 ... severely fining people who still have Christmas decorations up.

In my family, we had a tradition of keeping trees and mangers up until the first day of the New Year. And when family gathered together for New Year's Day meals and revelry, we could all help re-pack the delicate ornaments and animated display items for their home in the attic.

Here's my plan. January 15 ... issue warnings to all homes and businesses with Christmas decor clearly observable like lawns, porches, eaves, and rooftops. And then on February 1 we drop the hammer ... $50 (one major item) to $100 (two or more items still on display) fines. I originally wanted higher dollar amounts, but utilizing police and security officers doesn't allow a great deal of incidental fines for "tacky" and "no style" ... they just don't have the training.

And if we can get a major utility behind this plan, failure to pay within 10 days would result in cessation of electricity or water and a 15 percent additional penalty.

Now I love Christmas ... and the more lights the better. So I would also make available licenses for homeowners and businesses to "trim" their buildings with rope lights and icicle lights and such. Those buggers are hard to get set up correctly, so the license (renewed each year) would allow for that hard work to remain in place.

All funds collected could be used for job assistance programs, or local scholarships for people in need. A portion could also be funneled into food banks and homeless shelters for the remaining "cold months."

POINT OF RANT: Everyone else makes money off of Christmas, why shouldn't we put some of it to good use!