Friday, May 29, 2009

President Obama Setting an Example for Schoolchildren??

H. says, "Students have new ammunition in the fight to lean back in their chairs!"

To which D. replies, "Sorry, just because so-and-so (even if it the President Of The United States) does it, it doesn't make it right."

D.'s argument is not without merit, but I believe it is essential that children be allowed to emulate the President and lean back in their chairs. Falling on one's head, or getting the wind knocked out of them when the chair passes its tipping point, provides an early and practical lesson in physics, balance, consequences, and the rationale for listening to authority (which is why it is also essential to tell children NOT to do this, even while recognizing the value inherent in the behavior). Elementary school children (and possibly U.S. Presidents) are 67.4% less likely to sustain a serious physical injury as a result of "backfall." Children, because they are naturally resilient; U.S. Presidents because their Secret Service detail has been trained to dive across the room in under .45 nanoseconds so as to cushion the President's fall.

It should be noted that several important diplomatic protocols would be breached should anyone but Mrs. Obama attempt to point out to the President the likely consequences of leaning back and tipping his chair. Even Mrs. Obama would be permitted only the most subtle of raised eyebrows unless First Daughters Sasha and Malia were also present in the room, allowing the First Mother to use the First Father as an example to them of "what not to do even if you're the leader of the free world."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Da Vinci Cruise

She was built, ironically, as a replacement for the S.S. Andrea Doria. When I sailed on the S.S. Leonardo da Vinci, however, I knew nothing of its "illustrious" heritage. Somehow, I'd been allowed to join a senior class cruise - not my senior class, mind you (I never had one). I was fifteen. I felt very grown up, and quite amazed that my parents were letting me take a cruise to the Bahamas by myself.

They drove me to Ft. Lauderdale, where I boarded the ship for a three-day cruise to Nassau.  Having been on several cruises before, and having been to Nassau more than once, I don't recall being the least bit nervous. I found my cabin, and met my roommate, L. We were supposed to leave our cabin keys in the box, with the cabin steward, but neither of us trusted him. He seemed a bit too friendly. We somehow conspired to get both keys out of the box and dodged him each time he looked as if he might try asking us to return them. His faltering English put him at a disadvantage with two disingenuous teenaged girls; we practiced clueless smiles and pretended to have no idea what he wanted for the next three days.

Our idea of what he wanted terrified us. We weren't about to hand over the keys.

At dinner, I met our chaperones: Two pleasant couples. The first couple consisted of the Coach and his new bride - a plump and radiant young woman who had been a student the previous year. He had waited for her to turn eighteen so that they could wed. This was a honeymoon, of sorts, for them. They were both round and pleasant and obviously very much in love. The second couple consisted of an attractive, middle-aged man and an attractive, middle-aged woman. Or maybe they were young. They were older than me, and younger than the Coach. Who knows. Who cares? I sat at their table, since I was really too young to be on a senior class trip, and they had somehow been rooked into keeping an eye on me, too.

Early experiences cruising on ships like the S.S. United States had spoiled me and led me to believe that cruise ship food should be amazing. A seemingly endless parade of exotic delicacies ranging from "Chilled Fresh Persian Malossal Caviar" to "Kangaroo Tail en Tasse" to "Clear Ox-Tail" to a never-ending row of food and desserts known as the "Midnight Buffet" - an elegant event to be treasured when you are five and your bedtime would otherwise be seven o'clock in the evening.

The Leonardo disabused me of such notions. There were hard rolls in a basket; these, we learned to stab with a fingertip or crush to dust on a bread plate to ensure that we would not see them again at each meal. There was green pasta. I had never seen spinach pasta, and I'm not convinced, to this day, that spinach is what gave this particular pasta its peculiar moldy tint. The food was adequate - I mean, no one starves on a three day excursion to the Bahamas. But the word "scurvy" embedded itself in my brain, and I swear to you the only reason I drank so much blackberry brandy was the vain hope that I might suck down enough vitamin C from it to keep my bones from bleeding.

As on the S.S. United States, I lost my inhibitions (on the former, it was due to being five; on the Leonardo, it was probably due to an overdose of "vitamin C") and I sang in the ship's lounge. The piano player was a good sport; the old folks hanging out in the lounge were enchanted and amused. How many fifteen year olds knew all the words to "Sentimental Journey" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"? After two or three old standbys, the vitamin C buzz was fading fast, and embarrassment was setting in. I went to find something else to do.

Somewhere along the way, I ran into Chaperone Couple #2. I was relieved; somehow, the presence of well-dressed, well-educated, proper adults gave me back my anchor and a sense of safety. I sat down to chat with them a while.

The woman got up to get them another round of drinks. The man continued to hold a pleasant, banal conversation with me. And then suddenly, his hand was on my thigh. We didn't blurt out "WTF?" back then, but something akin to it went whizzing through my brain. I jumped up as if someone had lit my tailfeathers on fire, and high-tailed it back to the bar, myself. By now, they'd run out of blackberry brandy. The bartender suggested something called a Singapore Sling. It looked like a grown-up version of a Shirley Temple, so I gave it a try. Nasty, but there must've been some vitamin C in it, because I was soon feeling a bit calmer.

Two really tall, really handsome seniors came up behind me and introduced themselves. "We heard you singing in the lounge. You sing really well."

Urk. "I don't sing."

"That wasn't you? That was you."

"Must've been my evil twin." It's really hard to sink into a barstool and hide.

"How many of those have you had?"

"Not enough to keep my knees from bleeding. Need more vitamin C."

Somehow, the conversation turned to the chaperones, and my shocking experience with Mr. Respectably Middle-Class. The boys laughed. "That's not his wife!"

"Not...his wife?" I blinked. I think I'd had too much vitamin C, because chaperones who weren't married to each other but pretended to be married to each other was just a little bit more than my brain could untangle. "So, he's not married?"

"Oh, he's married, all right. Last year, he took his wife and his mistress on the cruise. This year, his wife said, 'If she goes, I stay home.'"

"Oh, my. So she stayed home, and he brought the mistress?" I'm slow, not entirely stupid.

"That's right."

The animals were running the zoo. "Please don't leave me." I appointed both of these handsome young men my bodyguards, and they performed their duties admirably and chivalrously. (Really. The words "jail bait" used to work remarkably well. They were smitten, but probably had girlfriends and definitely had plans that did not include jail time.) Their constant presence also helped to fend off the advances of an amorous Italian cabin steward who apparently took my saying, ¡Felíz Pascua! as "Wanna do me in the engine room?" and tried to pin me to the wall in a spontaneous embrace that was part bear, part welterweight champion.

By the last night, I was quite ill. I was feverish, possibly delusional, and the glands in my neck were swollen to the point where I might be mistaken for someone with a goiter. Even vitamin C couldn't help me. I turned in early and took a coat hanger into the upper bunk - by this time, L. and I had both managed to lose our purloined keys and I didn't want to lock her out. Drunk seniors came in and out of the cabin to chat, most notably a maudlin K. bemoaning the fact that the girl he loved had fallen for a bad boy who was going to just break her heart and...Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Next thing I know, the cabin steward - a new one, this time - is looking for our baggage. Which we had placed out in the hall, already, as we'd been instructed to do. By the time he got into the middle of the room and saw me, I was perched on my knees in the top bunk, ready to bring a heavy wooden coat hanger down on his head. He crossed himself, said a prayer, and ran. The rest is fuzzy, but I do remember K. coming into the room with a girl. "Can we use your bathroom?"

"Why? Oh, never mind, sure, whatever, go - use the bathroom." I didn't want to discuss it. My throat hurt and I think I had the flu. I went back to sleep.

Around two or three in the morning, L. finally came to bed. She opened the bathroom door, and out fell K. and the girl. Fully dressed.

They hastily scrambled up and out the door. For the rest of the night, I heard Lisa muttering, "What was K. doing in our bathroom?" (Holding the girl's head while she puked, as it turned out. That's one way to prove your undying love when the "bad boy" gets grossed out and heads for a girl with better sea legs.) L. was clearly annoyed, but so was I. I just wanted everyone to shut up so I could sleep, and the cruise could be over.

"Don't know, don't care." I rolled over and did my best to keep L. awake with my snoring. I was never so glad to see my parents as I was when I disembarked the next day.

I read of the Leonardo's demise in Newsweek or Time Magazine in 1980. "...a fire started onboard on 4 July 1980. The ship burned for four days and eventually capsized. The burnt-out hulk was later righted and towed to the scrapyard at La Spezia where it then was scrapped in 1982." Can't say I miss her, but I do wish I'd known I was sailing the Andrea Doria's replacement. I'd have appreciated the irony and the humor, even then.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicken Stuffed Peppers with Valley Fresh Steamers



· Chicken Breast, no skin, 8 ozs

· Cilantro, raw, 4 T

· Lentils, .25 c.

· Royal Blend Texmati White Brown and Red, 0.25 c.

· Olive Oil, Extra Virgin, 1 T

· Swanson Chicken Broth 99% Fat Free, 1.75 c.

· Red Bell Peppers, 2 medium

· Salt, 1 dash

· Green Giant - Valley Fresh Steamers W/Sauce (Roasted Red Potatoes, Green Beans & Rosemary Butter Sauce, 2 c.


1. Boil rice blend and lentils in chicken broth until most of the liquid has evaporated.

2. Cut chicken into small, bite-sized pieces. While rice is boiling, brown meat in extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and cilantro. Add to rice and lentils, and stir well.

3. Cut a hole around pepper stems and remove top with seeds. Stuff peppers with rice, lentils, and chicken.

4. Place in a pan, cover with foil, and heat in oven for about 45 minutes.

5. Prepare Valley Fresh Steamers and serve as a side dish.



Acrobatic Parasailing


Yep. This is me, in 2002. Parasailing upside-down, getting my head dunked in the Atlantic.


8 Good Things About Boys

  1. Boys can be ready to go anywhere in under 10 minutes. (Provided it's not too formal and they can bring the Nintendo DS.)
  2. Boys are unselfconscious. (For the most part. Provided there are no girls involved. Mom is not a "girl." Sisters are only girls when they're going out on a date.)
  3. Boys don't understand why girls spend so much time trying to look good. (They're girls. They look just fine.)
  4. Boys always appreciate Mom's cooking. (Actually, they appreciate anything edible that's not nailed to the counter. But let's pretend it's Mom's cooking they love.)
  5. Boys are handy with tools. (Though occasionally, they need a little guidance: "No, I need you to put this bookshelf together, not to take apart the car...")
  6. Boys like to drive. (Sometimes, they like to drive Mom, Dad, and girls nuts - but the ability to get from here to there on their own is generally a good thing.)
  7. Boys like to fix things. (Even things that aren't, technically, broken. Talking about "issues," not so much. Not unless those "issues" can be fixed. Preferably, with a hammer or a few lines of Javascript.)
  8. Boys can entertain themselves. (Their fascination with knives, guns, and flamethrowers, though, is why video games were invented.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Search Engine Funnies (SEF): Olfactory Hallucinations and Plain Ol' Stinky Stuff

How do you spell the sound a kiss makes? I still have no answer to this one, and I find it exceedingly odd that none of my so-called “writer” friends will even venture a guess. Consider all the variations:

· a chaste brush of unrouged lips against a powdery, wrinkled cheek;

· a tentative brushing of an eager mouth against warm, quivering lips;

· a hungry kiss, in which two lovers employ tongue, teeth, and lips in a frantic attempt to devour the other’s breath and soul;

a…yeah, I’d better stop here. But you get the idea. If two teens kiss in the dark, and there’s no one around to hear, does it still make a sound? Seriously? If you’re so sure about that, describe it!

I get a lot of visitors from “febreze sport” and “phantosmia symptoms.” I don’t think even Febreze can combat phantom odors, but it’s a novel approach and well worth a try. If it helps, be sure to leave a follow-up comment here.

Someone told Google that cell phones rule teenagers. To think, it used to be peer pressure, hormones, and rebellion. Isn’t technology grand?

There is still a lot of concern about whether we need to worry about influenza; is the outbreak over, or do we still need to worry about it? I recommend using a good hand sanitizer and taking sensible precautions against the spread of germs – all germs. Panic and adrenaline may be good for lifting cars off babies, but they’re not so good when there’s nowhere to run. Though it has proven itself a seasoned world traveler, this particular strain of influenza seems to be a mild one, but if you’re still nervous, try drinking the 151 instead of bathing in it.

Someone wants to know “what to do before I sell my farm fresh eggs.” I’d recommend trying that recipe before selling the eggs, but I’m assuming they wanted to know how to clean and package the eggs. I like the minimalist approach, myself – the “word of mouth” regulation described here. Your state regulations may – probably do – vary.

I love the searches that bring people here in the name of improving their spelling skills. Except that they usually spell the troublesome word correctly in the search itself. Like “how to spell render.”

Learn something new every day. (Like the fact that “every day” is two words, unless it is an adjective – for example, “everyday search terms.”)

To whoever found my blog while looking for jurassic park velociraptor cake molds, I apologize. In a pinch, I’m sure you could get really creative with that old Barney birthday cake mold. Just give him claws and color him brown. Use a little gel icing to angle his eyebrows down towards the bridge of his nose and make him look really, really mean. How many search results pages did you have to go through to find your way here? I’m guessing you have the patience of a saint. That, or by making velociraptor cakes for the kids to devour, you’re sublimating the desire to see the kids devoured by velociraptors. The value of sublimation as a parenting skill is highly underrated.

Okay, who’s the smart ass who’s looking for “funny ways to spell Holly”? How about Holli, Hollie, Hawley, Haleh, Holy (that’s a common misspelling, actually – almost as common as “teh” for “the” but it amuses me to no end), Hallie, and, of course, Ilex.

That's One Tall Baby!

Katie makes a friend while William snaps a photo keepsake for his sister on her cell phone.

"I'm going to hug the giraffe." It's not often that Katie wants to be in pictures, but she handed her cell phone over to William and taught him how to use the built-in camera, so that he could record the giraffe-hugging for posterity.

Dad got a few decent photos, too. Looks like Katie and the baby giraffe are having an earnest conversation. "Are people always saying, 'Wow, you're so tall?'"

"Yeah, I hear that all the time."

"At least they don't come out and gawk at you and feed you alfalfa pellets from a plastic cup."

"That must be humiliating."

"You said it, Sister."

Katie and the baby giraffe argue over who's taller.


Next came the longhorns. "Feed me, Seymour, feed meeee!"

"My name's not Seymour, it's William, and the tour guide said you're faking it. They feed you well here."


You have to admit, the crazy-desperate look in the eyes, coupled with the lolling tongue, is pretty convincing. And, if that doesn't work, one quick head-roll will put you on the wrong end of the pointy horns - at which point, the steer have calculated that 83% of the tourists will drop the plastic cup.


This is not a Buffalo. This is an American Bison. You can tell by the horns - can't you?


Not to be outdone by the steer, the Bison gets into the tongue and eye-rolling thing. "Hungry! Feed me!"


Okay, now I have that dratted song running through my head...


I wonder if this is how the Pied Piper felt?

Click the picture to listen to The Unicorn. It's not the Irish Rovers' version, but still...cute song.

All of these photos were taking at Global Wildlife Center in Folsom, Louisiana. If you're ever in the area, it's definitely worth a visit.

FW: What is this truck? What does it do?

What is this truck? What does it do? Looks like the Tin Man holding a tin fire hose! I'm guessing it's some kind of oilfield equipment, but what, exactly?