Thursday, December 14, 2017

Friends till the end.

As you look over your Christmas card list, you may find yourself thinking various thoughts:

1) Why do I have fewer friends than I used to?


2) Why am I sending Christmas cards instead of just posting something on Instagram and calling it a day?

Well, the impersonal holiday messages you share online may have something to do with it, but often one simply loses friends over time.

Proximate cause: Kramden's Delicious Marshall

In fact, I have found that friendships break up over many things, but that those things are predictable in the varied stages of life. Here’s my handy list of common reasons friendships break up.

Ages 0-10

Your family moved
You stole my pudding
You ratted me out to Ms. Kloopheimer

Ages 11-20

You’re the opposite sex and there are social school rules about that
You spilled juice (or beer) on my best shirt
We both wanted the same girl

Ages 21-30

You fragged me on Facebook when I didn't pay you back the loan, which I was totally gonna do
My spouse thinks your spouse is insane
You had a baby and I didn’t

Ages 31-40

You took up golf, which I think sucks
You had more babies and I didn’t
You went to work for the competition

Ages 41-50

You moved to L.A. and I just can’t be bothered
You found Scientology
You became a better golfer than I am

Ages 51-60

You bought a motorcycle and I’m revolted by your pathetic attempt to hold on to youth
You stopped going to church when the kids left home
You stopped drinking

Ages 61-70

I finally got sick of your malarkey
You won’t stop talking about your miniature schnauzer, Mr. Piddles
I made a pass at your daughter when I was loaded

Ages 71-Up

We both wanted the same girl
You stole my pudding
I can’t remember who you are
You died

Occasionally you find people who have been friends from childhood and have never stopped being friends. They may be people who have stayed in the same social or geographic area throughout life, like poor people in the same lousy housing project, or rich people in the same small and rarefied atmosphere.

More often they are relatives of some kind in a tight family, so they’ve always been obliged to stay together through the rough patches. They may be inoperable Siamese twins.

Really, I’m not the guy to ask. I hate everybody. Except you. You I like.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gordian knot.

My wife is always looking for ways to keep the dogs thinking, keep their mental skills from getting sluggish. I thoroughly endorse this plan. A stupid dog is a dog that can't remember his training. And a bored dog is one that chews the wallboard. 

Fortunately there are a lot of companies that make toys designed to challenge doggies' smarts and make them work for their treats. Here's one we saw mentioned on TV that we thought might make our little guy think. 

The Spot Seek-A-Treat by Ethical Pet! And in French, for extra brain exercise!

As you can see on the picture, the puzzles would be tricky for a dog or a baby. You hide the treats under the flaps (operated with the wheels on the side) and under the sliding caps, and the dog works out a way to get them. Hours of fun!

Or, minutes. 

Our younger dog, Nipper -- almost called him the little dog, but at 100 pounds a dog ain't little -- got the toy and did what you see here. He Alexander the Greaterized it.

Wanton destruction may seem not like an expression of intelligence, but remember Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. Every schoolchild knows the legend that Phrygian Gordium had a knot on an oxcart and a prophesy that whoever could unravel the knot would become ruler of all Asia. One might have expected that the king would thus be a man with patience, cleverness, and practical knowledge, for who else could untie an impossible knot? Alexander, some say, having heard the prophesy, just pulled out the ol' sword and hacked the thing up. There! Solved! And the prophesy fulfilled, in that Alexander conquered as much of Asia as he could get to.

One might call him some dummy who solves everything with a sword, and that's one way to look at it. I've never really bought the old saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It would tell us that when all you have is a sword, everything looks like a neck. That seems to work for guys like Harvey Weinstein; all he has is a screwdriver.

But Alexander fulfilled the prophesy by being bold and seeing the fastest, simplest solution to the problem. The prophesy did not demand that the knot be unraveled by untying it, so I give Alex credit on this one. But I wouldn't want him doing my Christmas lights.

As for Nipper, he's a dog, and you can't explain to him that he has to open the flaps and things to get the treats any more than you can explain to him that he has to take out the wrenched ankle to win the Operation, the Wacky Doctors Game. He's going to sense something he wants that we gave to him and figure out the fastest way to get it. That he won't be able to play with that same toy again is of no consequence. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nosebleeds I have known.

So this is fun -- yesterday morning I blew my nose and gave myself a nosebleed. Whee!

It's interesting to me because I can't even remember the last time I had a nosebleed. Eighth grade?

Trust me when I tell you eighth grade was a long time ago.

I guess the current one was caused by the very wintery conditions we've had lately, leading to exceptionally dry air. Or maybe I have a blood clotting disorder, possibly as the result of some weird cancer, and I'm gonna die by New Year's. I don't know; go to WebMD and you'll always come up with cancer somewhere.

Certainly the nosebleeds of yore had nothing to do with cancer and everything with being a kid. When I was a little boy it seemed like I was getting popped in the nose all the time, either in fights or just falling down or walking into walls. It appeared that bloody noses were going to play a large part in my time on earth. And yet they began to taper off by the middle school years.

Not that I was entirely nosebleedless even then. While I was seldom getting in fights anymore, I did once get sucker-punched in the stands at a basketball game, which put an end to the disagreement I was having with another youth. The gym teacher came to my aid and there I was, head back, in his office chair, trying to save my shirt. (In those days common wisdom said to put the head back to stop the bleeding, but now it is feared one might gag or vomit on the blood and should sit with the head forward.) Another time, in that same gym, I was playing dodgeball -- not my idea -- and was leaving the court when someone helpfully looked at me and pointed to the opposing side. I turned my head in time to catch the ball on my nose. And it was back in the gym office again.

After that, though, no nasal contusion resulting in blood. I'd been in fights a couple of times and a car-totalling crash once, but nothing ever smashed the schnoz. So yesterday's bloody mess was a trip down memory lane.

If you're a healthy and careful adult with no action-packed profession or hobby, I'd wager you have not had a nosebleed in some time either. If you're on a blood thinner like warfarin, or you're an amateur boxer or a cop or Batman, then yeah, maybe you've had a bloody nose. For adults it's often an unusual story, and so if you've got a good one, I'd love to hear it.

As for me, I just coincidentally am going to see the doctor today, so if he finds I have an enormous nasal tumor I'll let you know. But maybe he'll just tell me to drink more water in dry weather.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas calories.

Last week I said I might break down and eat that third seasonal doughnut by Dunkin' Donuts, the Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut. "No!" you said. "Be strong! Don't eat the fattening, tooth-rotting sugar bomb, Fred!"

I thank you for your concern, but I did it anyway.

This doughnut was described by Dunkin' Donuts as a "frosted donut with cookie dough flavored filling and topped with crumbled frosted sugar cookies" -- my fear, you may recall, was that it would taste like a sugar-frosted sugar doughnut with sugary-sugar-flavored filling and topped with sugar. I mean, I could just spoon sugar out of the five-pound sack directly into my mouth and save the trip. But that's not what this doughnut was like.

As with the gingerbread cookie I described in the last thrilling doughnut episode, the cookie crumbles on top of this doughnut have little flavor, and seem to be there to provide just texture. The filling is not that pure gout of sweetalanche that other Dunkin' products have had; it does have a bit of sugar cookie taste but not just sugar. However, "sugar cookie" is a flavor that is usually characterized by butter as well as sugar, and is subtle -- I don't feel that it has been captured here. I will say that the doughnut is not aggressively oversweet and is pleasant. While the unsweetened crumbles used in place of actual sugar cookies help prevent it from being too powerful, they still come across bizarre, a cookie that doesn't taste like anything.

On the topic of Christmas and cookies, though, I have to ask Nabisco: What the heck is this?

The Oreo "Winter" limited edition is the laziest excuse for a special Oreo that Nabisco makes. Look at that thing. That is a plain Oreo with red food coloring in the center. No unusual flavor. This is the outfit that gave us Cookie Butter Oreos and Cookie Dough Oreos and Birthday Cake Oreos and freaking Blueberry Pie Oreos, and this is all they do for Christmas? Sorry: "Winter"?

And what's "winter" about this? Red? Obviously they mean Christmas, but they won't say it, or even "Holiday." Christmas is associated with the color red. Winter is associated with white and ice-blue. They're not even trying. This is a lazy, lazy holiday cookie. Too lazy to even call it a "Holiday" cookie.

If they were going to do something for the Christmas season, and didn't feel like inventing a new flavor, they should have made the filling green and red (they used multi-colored fillings in their Candy Corn Oreos and others) or alternated red and green ones in the package. Then call them Holiday Oreos. Or, what the heck, Christmas Oreos.

But just red filling? Cram them in the jar until February and call them Valentine's Oreos. This is just sad.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Honest book blurbs,

"I couldn't wait to finish it!"

"Not highly offensive."

"Words fail me... and the author, too!"

"Doris Razz has tried to write the best book possible on this topic, and you have to hand it to her for trying."

"I'm glad they paid me to read this one."

"Supermodel Elle Emme Enohpee has published this interesting exposé of the fashion world, and perhaps she will even read it sometime."

"The fine, velvet finish of the paper in this spectacular edition was a great comfort to me during an outbreak of cholera." 

"Clarity in writing is so important. I knew who the murderer was on page eight."

"Harvard political scientist Ti-Yu Vee's insight is inversely proportional to his ignorance, and one of them is vast."

"Too short to really annoy me."

"Not the worst thing I've read this year!"

"Doesn't make sense, but I didn't care!"

"Not actually painful!"

"Genius is not a word that comes to mind when one thinks of Hilda Gulgerloaf, but there you are."

"Fulfills his contractual obligation perfectly."

"Ezekiel Dennis the Science Menace, as seen on PBS, undoubtedly does know some things. His own shoe size, perhaps."

"It has pages, and a spine. I was amazed!"

"You won't believe something of this quality could be published."

"Nedd Blarpski has used letters to form words ... and words to form sentences."

"You'll never read a book like this again!"

"It's in the original English."

"I'm not sure that people who like this sort of thing will be the people who will like this sort of thing."

"Best read while hammered."

"It's a book, all right."