Saturday, January 31, 2015

Can't fly on one wing.

So you may have heard that there's a little football contest on Sunday, and you know that means chicken wings and lots of them. The National Chicken Council claims that 1.25 billion chicken wings will be eaten during the game---or they did until the Chicago Tribune called chicknanigans on them. They then said that would be the amount of wings consumed all weekend, which is definitely cheating. But whether during Super Bowl parties or all weekend long, 1.25 billion  is still, let's face it, one whale of a lot of wings.

I like Buffalo wings well enough, and had some last night in fact, helping to warm me up while our temperatures dropped like the Hindenburg. I guess Friday night puts my total in with the 1.25 billion, then.

But I do think McDonald's and Burger King both had an excellent idea, one that will eat into the wing totals, so to speak: Fifty chicken nuggets for a discount price (like, around $10). I assume they come with an assortment of dipping sauces. It's a great idea for the protein element of your Super Bowl noshing. Unlike getting or making actual wings, you don't have to worry that your wings are too wimpy or too deadly for your crowd; you don't have to supply the tub of blue cheese; you don't worry about finding chicken bones around until Spring Training; and you don't have to cut up and clean celery. Box of nuggets, packets of sauce, knock yourselves out. Here's Doritos for dessert.

The question is, do fast-food chicken nuggets contain wing meat? If so, they may contribute to the 1.25 billion wing total. Wings are white meat, and these nuggets are supposed to be white meat, so maybe. But who knows? After all, parts is parts.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The bloodletting.

Once again it was time to go drop a pound. After all, a pint's a pound the whole world 'round, right?

Yeaaahhh, bro, maxin' and chillaxin' at the blood drive, boyyyeeee.
It's like a high-end spa, you know. People take you to your lounge chair, check on how you're doing, escort you to where they serve you food and drink... and all it costs you is some life's blood (literally).

I'm a longtime bleeder, as I've written before, and I recommend it. It's great for us tightwads, who can commit an act of charity without spending money. And people need the stuff -- there's no artificial blood. I've been hearing about the promise of plastic blood since I was a kid. It actually may come true soon -- but not yet, and even then the stuff in development is not going to replace all need for human blood.

Meanwhile, people need blood for all kinds of reasons, not just because they thought motorcycle helmets are for wimps or they thought it would be multitasking to shave while chain-sawing firewood. More than 41,000 blood donations are used a day, says the American Red Cross, and it's needed by people with cancer, sickle cell disease, and all sorts of other medical problems not related to stupidity.

And it doesn't hurt a bit!

No, really, it only hurts a little. Man up, babypants!

So that's what I did, and I hope you will too if you can. Yes, you will feel better about yourself, and yes, the Recording Angel may add your pint to the good side of the scales and wipe out a pound of your miserable sins. But most of all you will help someone by doing something the person really and literally cannot do for himself---get healthy blood when he needs it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Boy, if I had a nickel...

Charlie had had that nightmare---where he shows up for work naked---so many times
 that he didn't realize he had done it when he actually did it. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Your pal and mine, Herb.

In addition to writing wonderful novels that will make you forget all those other, lesser novelists, I have spent a good deal of my career working on copy for health publications. These days an awful lot of that awful stuff is spent on alternative medicine. I'm sorry to say that I am sick and tired of alternative medicine.

I hate to put it that way because alternative medicine is a very broad field and there is some fine work being done in it. There are also raving lunatics at play in it. I'd say you know who you are, but you don't, not really. People who have completely lost it really don't know that they're crazy.

Herbal medication is one of my bugaboos. Now, you can jump on me right away, and thanks! No, I mean, you can get on my case about the known medicinal qualities of herbs, how herbs and other food items are the basis of many over-the-counter and prescription medications that we use today, and how I'm a big fat jerk and I don't know anything. And I won't deny any of that.

But here are the problems:

1. I know that a lot of great medications started off as herbal medications. But the clever scientists at the labs took the good stuff, learned how it worked, and isolated it, tested it, measured it, codified it, and left out the rest. Why chew a hunk of willow when you can take two aspirin? You want splinters in your mouth along with your headache?

2. There's a boneheaded idea that natural = safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bacteria, viruses, belladonna, arsenic, UVA rays, tsunamis, brown recluse spiders, blizzards, large comets, and lightning are all natural as all get-out. They all can do a pretty darn good job of making you personally extinct.

3. I am sick to vomiting over hearing about traditional medication, especially Chinese medicine, as if it magically gets a pass because no one you know speaks the language. You know what traditional medicine includes? Sawing off rhinoceros horns and sucking out the bile of caged moon bears. And it's all natural, too!

4. The FDA will not allow a drug company to make any claims for what its medication does without massive amounts of disclaimers and warnings, but if you sell an herbal remedy and make the most outrageous claims you can get away with it forever -- or at least until the sclerotic agency turns away from honest drug companies and looks at you with your arginine pills that promise to boost strength, grow hair, add wick to your candlestick, and basically do everything plus the windows. In other words, if your drug actually does something and has proven to do it without deadly effects in one huge and expensive trial after another, you may have the privilege of selling it if you warn everybody about everything (including every single symptom reported by every single hypochondriac in every single expensive trial: "May turn knees blue"), BUT if you throw some dried plants in a bottle and claim it will fight cancer, end diabetes, shrink your prostate, and end the pain of PMS, you can get away with it if you include a little disclaimer that the FDA has not verified your preposterous claims.

These make you French!
And people buy it because it's all natural so it couldn't hurt, and nothing else has put hope in your rope, so why not?

I swear I'm in the wrong business. I should start picking weeds and selling them as medication. My lawn alone could provide a fortune in Digitaria --- proven in clinical studies (that I will pay some schmuck to mock up) to burn fat, cure COPD, focus attention-deficit kids, and treat housemaid's knee. It's the AMAZING SECRET that the BIG DRUG COMPANIES DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT. Only $39.99 a 2-oz. bottle. Be careful it doesn't make you too healthy. BUY PANASEEYA TODAY!

UPDATE: Worse than I thought: “Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels." So the nonworking herbs aren't even in the herbal supplements. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

About the you-know-what. (Dog.)

Following yesterday's entry, I was informed via PM that I was very mean to my dog on Saturday. Tralfaz (for those just joining us) chased after a neighborhood kid, just to play with her, and would not respond to any calls. So I went berserk in front of the neighbors and dragged him in the house.

It was pointed out to me that 1) my dog is very young, and 2) my dog is just being friendly, not aggressive, and 3) I'm a big fat baldy-headed jerk.

I'm perfectly willing to agree with #3, as that is exactly how I felt after I stopped being furious. I'm not good at furious. Some people like anger; it is painful to me, and I hate it. TV shows and movies to the contrary, I do not do things better when I am angry. And I can't even remember when I allowed something other than the dog to make me that crazy.

But the dog does make me crazy, and he did on Saturday because:

1) he weighs more than ONE HUNDRED POUNDS, and scares the life out of some people who can't tell a gigantic friendly dog from a gigantic unfriendly dog (and considering that you could get knocked down into the street by either type, it is a fine distinction); in the past he has frightened a toddler to crying with his friendliness (that kid will never own a dog); 2) he was in the road, which could have killed him and whatever ran into him; and 3) we've worked on this stuff for months and he makes no progress at all and is frustrating the hell out of me. Oh, he'll come when you call inside the house, but not when he has anything better to do. He's always had the selective hearing of a surly teenager.

Someone else suggested that Tralfaz may be understimulated; he may need a job. He's a draft dog by breeding, but I haven't got a shay to hitch him to. With a blizzard coming our way it might not be a bad idea. Get a sleigh, charge for rides.

I actually was chatting with a fellow I know who told me he has a broken dog sled that he used to use with a couple of medium-size pups. But his dogs were not particularly controllable and went running wherever they wanted, chasing deer, cats, air molecules, whatever. And if they banked around a tree, the sled---10 feet back---would not bank, but would rather brake, suddenly---which is how it broke.

Tralfaz is actually too large to be a sled dog. With his weight he tires quickly. But he is as strong as a brace of oxen, which gave me another idea. Maybe it was time to get a plow, break the soil in the backyard, and supplement my income (Good Neighbors style) with a suburban farm.

Of course, you can get oxen to plow good, sturdy lines:

But a dog plow... eh, based on my experience and that of my pal with the dog sled:

I'm not going to set my four-legged friend up for failure. He's had a tough enough couple of days.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I got nothing.

Sorry -- I got nothing today. I am so miserable with this winter, and we have two more frigging months to go. 

The new book is going very, very poorly; my early reader gave the first chapter a thumbs-up, but I've had no time and no patience to work on it. You ever hit a one-damn-thing-after-another phase? So have I. And there's so many more things that need tending to, things that don't resolve any major issues or put a dollar in the checking account. So I'm going like a hamster on a wheel, furiously pumping, staying put. 

And I'm already tired of being cold every day, a weariness that doesn't usually set in until mid-February.

Bite me, winter.
Yesterday the dog was romping in the white crap (sorry, "snow") and unexpectedly one of the neighbors' kids came down the street. Tralfaz took after her like she was a squirrel, except he never bothers to chase squirrels. He refused to acknowledge being called. It escalated. He was even going into the street, which he knows is 100000000% bad. By the time I corralled him, I had managed to look like a maniac in front of the entire block. Because I am. I suppose they might as well know it.

So the dog is nervous (although still misbehaving), the wife is sorry (maybe that she married me instead of that nice bowling-ball polish salesman), the neighbors wary, and me, depressed and ashamed to show my face outside. I'm falling behind on a freelance project despite working on it every freaking day. And more snow is coming Monday.

You know the difference between me and a hamster on a wheel? The hamster can get off.

I am tempted to go back to bed now. It's just gone six thirty a.m., but if today is like yesterday, it's not going to get any better from here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Man bulldozes home with stuff in it.

Just up the road a piece from me, in Middletown, a 48-year-old man bulldozed his home. Rented an excavator and took the entire house to the ground. While his wife was out running errands. And all their stuff was inside it.

She was entirely unaware of this development. 

So were the local authorities and utilities companies that would have required notifications.

In news reports, one neighbor said, "He bulldozed all her clothes in there. Washer, dryer, furnace, hot water heater, everything was still in there. In fact, her medication was still in there."

The bulldozerer, James Rhein, supposedly said the house was in such bad shape it could only be demolished. Even if this were the case, it still strikes me as something one wouldn't really do spontaneously. Even if the couple had been having an argument about how he never got around to the old job jar. 

The Rhein home in its happier, pre-annihilated state.
I think Mr. Rhein is in a heap of trouble, and as a friendly gesture from me, a fellow Hudson Valleyian, I thought I could offer some more plausible excuses for why he tore down the house without warning anyone. No one likes to sound completely batpoop crazy. So maybe he could say...

  • "Moving is such a pain, you know?"
  • "I left the keys in the excavator while I went for a sandwich -- it must have started up itself!"
  • "I had this pirate map that showed buried treasure under the foundation."
  • "I thought we could recycle the old place."
  • "She kept telling me to pick up the room, so..."
  • "I was gonna have the whole new house built as a surprise, but she came home too soon!"
  • "I was aiming for my dadblasted neighbor's place but I missed."
  • "Practicing to try out for a new job in Detroit."
  • "My mother-in-law was supposed to move in and I was desperate."
  • "I thought Ty Pennington would build me a new house."
  • "That excavator was a Decepticon!"
  • "Termites."
  • "Just as I was about to dig the new well, a micro hurricane struck."
  • "Too many Twinkies."
  • "I call it Suburban Renewal."
  • "I was gonna just take off one room, but it's like potato chips. Once you start it's hard to stop."
  • "It's not destroyed. It's underinflated."
  • "Ghosts?"
  • "You mean my wife wasn't inside?"

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chef Fred.

You all know Fred loves to cook. I can microwave a burrito like nobody's business, pilgrim.

So it's no surprise that I enjoy watching Food Network's show Chopped, the show in which chefs have to cook their way through three elimination rounds, using hamper baskets full of horrible mismatched ingredients. Host Ted Allen will introduce each round like:

Ted: This is the appetizer round, chefs, and you will have to combine the following ingredients in your baskets: Calf's liver... Hostess Fruit Pies... fiddleheads... and absinthe. You have twenty minutes... time starts now!

Like everyone who's watched the show, I have idly wondered how I would do as one of the chefs. I love to cook; I have moments of intense creativity in combining weird ingredients (frozen burrito and Sriracha!), and like all writers, I secretly want to crush my competitors.

Have at thee!

One problem: I suck under pressure.

No, really. My interviews are a mess. When I've done public speaking, my 30-minute talks would be 10 minutes long if you excised the uhhhs, y'knows, and ummmms. And the times I chuckle at my own jokes that no one else laughs at. So I expect I would have some problems.

Here's me in front of the judges, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and Aarón Sánchez (minus my uuhs and umms):

Ted: Chef Fred! What have you prepared for us?

Me: I have... a meatloaf-marmalade ice cream with a flaming pickled mangosteen sauce and a shredded swizzle stick garnish.

Alex: I like how you've repurposed the swizzle stick.

Me: Thanks.

Alex: But it wasn't a basket ingredient.

Me: No.

Alex: It isn't even food.

Me: No.

Marcus: I'm curious as to your decision to use the ice cream machine.

Me: I thought meatloaf ice cream would make a memorable and unique dessert.

Marcus: You can say that again.

Me: Thanks.

Marcus: But this is the appetizer round.

Me: I panicked.

Ted: And you broke the ice cream maker.

Me: Sorry.

Marcus: It's about the least edible thing I have ever seen in my life.

Me: It was a tough basket.

Ted: The basket contained lobster, spanakopita, Macoun apples, and lime gelatin.

Me: Oopsie.

Aarón: Chef Fred, didn't you pick on one of my products on your blog?

Me: No, I didn't.

Aarón: Yes you did!

Me: Hey. don't link on my blog.

Aarón: You break machines, use terrible ingredients that weren't even in the basket, you don't use a single ingredient that was in the basket, you serve us something that looks and smells like elephant vomit, and you picked on my pork! This is the worst thing I've ever seen on this show!

Me: Uh... I cut myself and bled into the ice cream, too.

Marcus: WHAT?

Me: I'll try to do better in the next round.

Ted: ...Thank you, Chef Fred.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President calls on Americans for "sacrifice."

WASHINGTON -- In his State of the Union Address last night, President Barack Obama called on Americans for "sacrifice" in the ongoing struggle against the organization known as the Islamic State.

"People who like to kill people are very difficult to deal with," said the president, "but fortunately most of the people they are killing are far away from us. Our job is to make it so none of you have to worry about them.

"I know in your hearts you would rather be thinking about the love life of Jennifer Aniston or how Beyonce will keep her figure if she has another baby. But we know the peace of mind that allows for such meaningless considerations only comes from not having to worry about some creep in a black mask trying to hack your head off. The reality is, to make that happen, sacrifice must be made.

"I have consulted with the best minds in Washington and Hollywood over this problem. My task force, including Vice President Biden and Academy Award winner Matt Damon, have noted that the group called ISIS seems to be pretty happy if they can just cut the heads off one or two Westerners every other month, especially if they are Christians. Jews, of course, are the best. Michael Moore, my lead technical adviser, argues powerfully that direct armed conflict with ISIS would require cowardly actions, not courage, unlike the dozen or so brave American lives lost to human sacrifice. We agree that a handful of Americans sacrifices to the blades of our noggin-chopping foes beats the hell out of thousands lost in the hell of war, or in man-made disaster on our own shores.

"Therefore, beginning next month, my Lamb Initiative intends to bring regular, targeted deliveries of Americans to our enemies, which will satisfy their bloodlust and prevent them from pursuing Americans outside the miserable pile of sand they call home. I know you will agree, and Congress will agree, this is a small price to pay for a peaceful and prosperous 2015 and 2016."

The president went on to point out Mr. Moore, seated near the First Lady and former president James E. Carter, who helped Mr. Moore to his feet for a bow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More sugar.

The continuing taste test of things I should not be eating:

The Boyer Candy classic: Mallo Cups! (Sorry the corner got ripped off before the picture was taken; the eagerness of our reviewer was so strong he could barely be restrained. Plus I forgot.)

The Mallo Cup is one of those candies that you're almost surprised to see when it pops up: That's still around? Like the Charleston Chew or the Mary Jane. Candies from your grandmother's day. There's nothing wrong with them. I mean, yes, they're bad for you, but I mean they're not worse than the popular candies from Mars or Nestle or Hershey or Cadbury or any of that crowd. But they have nowhere near the distribution. Before Hershey bought Jolly Rancher, that brand was stagnating; when I was a kid they were considered grandma candies too, like Werther's Original (which is wise to play off that in its advertising).

It's true that some tastes have changed in candy over the last century, though. Licorice is not nearly as popular as it once was. Butterscotch is a shadow of its former self. Molasses candy is too bitter for most kids. But the Mallo Cup has good milk chocolate, a perfectly acceptable---and very, very sweet---marshmallow center, and the addition of coconut, which does little for me but is certainly a fave with your Mounds/Almond Joy/Zagnut/Bounty fans. I liked it.

Boyer (all kosher!) also makes other products that include a dark chocolate Mallo Cup, a peanut butter cup, and a butterscotch covered peanut butter cup called a Smoothie, which I figure will be either the most horrible food in the world or cure cancer. Probably somewhere in between. If I should spot one, you know I'll risk my health to bring you my review. I'm eager that way.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I have nothing at all against Martin Luther King Jr. (The Chicago Manual of Style no longer uses commas for Jr. or Sr., FYI) or celebrating his day. I'm sorry I am compelled to say that up front, but you have to nowadays, and even then you're accused of racism.

But you're waiting for the But, aren't you?

Of course there's a But, or this would be an extremely short entry.

But the But has little to do with Dr. King. It has more to do with the half of our nation that is incapable of loving their own country. You know who you are.

The reason I bring it up today is that this is a day popular with that hateful half, popular because they only admire Americans who fight other Americans. The Founding Fathers were ultimately united, so they don't count. Abe Lincoln gets a tepid thumbs-up because he fought other Americans, although those Americans considered themselves Confederates at the time. Heroes of the two World Wars? Didn't fight Americans. Forget them. In fact, American war heroes were always in the bad habit of fighting other people, so never mind.

You might bubble to the surface if you were a female or minority war hero, but not for your war accomplishments, which tend to get overlooked. White guys -- Alvin York, Audie Murphy, Omar Bradley, William Sherman, Ethan Allen, "Black Jack" Pershing, etc., etc., -- all meaningless. They fought other people.

I'm still rooting for the home team.

I'm deeply grateful for those who root out corruption and fight evil and injustice wherever it exists, because it's the right thing to do, and also because it makes the home team better and stronger. I like my Americans who fight the enemies of America, too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I wrote last year about the interesting aspect of Man being the "talking animal." Well, nothing else talks, unless you know something I don't. Maybe your neighbor's cat is talking to you, telling you to kill people. In which case, please stop reading this blog and call 911. Just tell them all about it. They can help you fulfill your mission.

My dog does not talk to me, although he is very vocal for a dog. Some dogs are nearly binary -- on or off, bark or no bark. Maybe trinary: bark or whine or nothing. Tralfaz makes a large variety of noises, including some very convincing imitations of mules, cows, monkeys, buffalo, rusty gates, and Chewbacca. And he does an excellent disgusted sigh. Sounds like someone's grumpy and demanding dad sitting back with the newspaper.

But he doesn't talk. I'm glad he doesn't talk.

For one thing, he's too cute. He has this great friendly face, reflective of his love of people and other animals. It would be terrible if dogs could be pitchmen. You'd buy everything.

"Hello, friends. It's me. The dog. Have you ever considered the advantages of a reverse mortgage?"

"Hi, everyone in TV land. Gee, you all smell great. May I take a moment to talk about the wisdom of investing in gold today?"

"Hi, friends. Dog here again. No one likes to think about life insurance. But if something happened to you, what would happen to your dog?"

Actually, what's worse is that anything that talks has the ability to lie. Small children are terrible liars, but they give it a shot. Dogs may try to be sneaky, but that's not quite the same. When Tralfaz tries to convince me he has to pee so I'll take him outside, I don't know if he's actually lying or making some connection that just seems like a normal request in the only way he can express it. If dogs could talk they would wind up lying, and we would know it, and that would make us sad. Then we wouldn't buy anything from them. So it would all be for nothing.

We like you as you are, dogs; don't go trying to talk. It's not all it's cracked up to be.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


I never lived in the part of New York with tall buildings and famous stores, penthouse apartments and Broadway shows,  nannies running babies around and hot and cold running taxicabs. Or the part of New York with funky artists' hangouts and little old shops and great bookstores. The kind of places they shoot TV shows and movies in (or at least some establishing shots while the rest is filmed in Toronto). Most people within the five boroughs don't live anywhere like those places. 

The maintenance fee alone is more than your mortgage, and if you don't tip the doorman a pile your life will be hell.

Most live in small apartment buildings, clustered houses, or dumpy housing projects.

One of the nicer dumpy ones.
I've mostly encountered four types of people who live in New York: Those who can do math and those who can't. No, I mean, I've known people like me who were born in the city and know it's not that big a deal, people who come from other places with big dreams who have a lot of money and connections from family or colleges, people who come from other places with big dreams who have nothing and barely hold on to that, and people who were born in New York with a lot of money and connections who talk a game of charity and live with a hand clutched on every throat they can reach.

I don't think it's generally true that in America the rich are always getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. For one thing, poor has a cellar -- nothing -- while rich is unlimited, so anytime rich people are getting richer there will be growing income disparity (as Kevin Williamson has pointed out). I think if it is true, it's true in Manhattan and places like that, where the rich have made rules for decades that have chased the middle class out. No one cared much when the Ronzoni pasta or Domino Sugar factories closed down, but those were places where good middle-class livings were made, not miserable food sweatshops with impoverished urchins working nine days a week. What was the middle class supposed to do, live on the dole? Like those lunch pail-toting slobs should have some pride?

Out in suburbia the middle class can roam free and breathe easier. I don't miss living within the five boroughs at all.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Peeps Mini review, part 2.

Today we tackle the Strawberry Crème Peep Mini. Right off the bat we're annoyed, because Blogger sucks with the special characters and you have to use an accent grave for Crème. 

Another squashed li'l Peep.
It has a mellow flavor, and being one we associate with sweetness, it went better with the marshmallow than the Sour Watermelon flavor, I thought. Mrs. Key thought it was roagy. Maybe even grody. Of course it was totally bogus strawberry flavor, like the stuff Starburst takes out of Strawberri Tank #5 or something, but artificial flavors have never shown any evidence of killing anything but taste. 

I noted that this Peep is 14 calories, as opposed to the 13 from the Sour Watermelon, and Mrs. Key accused be of being a lardbutt for preferring the more caloric Peep. So sue me. 

Now I must confess I bought these Peeps Minis from the supermarket's discount (or clearance) shelf, having not even found both flavors on sale together in the eight months they've been out. They just don't seem to be catching on. And there's a fourth flavor, Vanilla Crème, that I've never seen at all. I think it was a late release---there were only chocolate, watermelon, and strawberry mentioned in the original campaign. 

Should I find the vanilla one I will duly buy it and review it, out of a sense of completion and obligation. And because I like to eat sugar. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Peeps Mini review, part 1.

Or really part 2, since I reviewed the chocolate Peeps Minis way back in September. Now we have the others.

I know, plunging into the world of candy reviews seems to contradict my resolution to cut down on the sugar, but I said cut down, not out. Besides, this is for the sake of you, the reader. My public. Besides, Mrs. Key was willing to  help out.

Today we present the review for the Sour Watermelon flavored Mini Peep, which, like most "watermelon" candy, features flavor and color found nowhere in nature, or at least nowhere near an actual watermelon.

Kind of smushed li'l Peep.
They were a bit sour, but not eye-wateringly sour like Skittles Sour. "Cool, for a sour marshmallow," was Mrs. Key's judgement, and I would agree. I thought they would be more Jolly Ranchery. Only Mellow Ranchery. As with the chocolate ones, I was vaguely disappointed. Then again, at just 13 calories each, I can stand to be a little disappointed.

As I noted before, in real life marshmallows are never sour, but when you're Just Born, the Peeps peeps, you can do these things. Except not really, and maybe still not all that well.

Tomorrow we'll have a look at the Strawberry Crème Peeps Minis. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


When I first saw an ad for the Garmin Vivofit, I thought it was so colossally stupid that it had to be the stupidest thing I'd seen in the last, oh, forty minutes. Basically it appeared to be a naggy wristwatch, a weenie little device that looked like a cheesy digital except it had the power to annoy you until you threw it against the wall. If I wanted to not use an irritating electronic gizmo, I would just continue to not use the pedometer I was given years ago.

"Get off your hinder, you big pantload!"

Then I found out that the Vivofit was just the beginning. There are a ton of these fitness bands, and each one is more annoying than the next. Basically I thought that these were predicated on the idea that people had no idea they have to get up and move to get exercise; that they were under the impression that the best way to get exercise was to push the A button faster. 

But a relative of mine got one for Christmas. I would have presumed it was a gift---or an intervention---from a very brave loved one, but it turned out she had asked for it by name. She got into it, and her New Year's resolution, right away. She enjoys syncing it up and seeing her progress, earning medals and stuff, trying to beat the achievements of the day before. Basically it's like Candy Crush, only useful. 

I'm proud of her, and I may rescind some of my disdain if it really helps her and keeps her motivated. As for me, I will continue to use my low-tech fitness device, a device that acts as a reminder to keep me motivated, and has done for many years---my pants.

"Get off your hinder, you big pantload!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Insoluble puzzle for the average man.

Insoluble puzzle for the average dog.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Yep, still taking down decorations.

Don't judge me!

If you put up Christmas decorations with care, effort, and consideration, it takes time to put them up and time take them back down.

After Christmas, it's just an ol' sock.

It does take less time to take decorations down than to put them up, but since there's no fun in the job and no sense of urgency, it still feels like it takes forever. Also, playing Christmas carols can keep your energy up while putting decorations up, but what do you play when you take them down? Downers?

What we need is a raft of post-Christmas songs. Now, I'm not much of a poet (as readers of this blog will admit as they wince) and I'm certainly no musician, so I shall not write the songs. I'm more of an ideas man. So I have some suggestions for post-Christmas songs that will help us get the de-decorating done:

  • "(I'm Dreaming of a) White Sale"
  • "Another Frigging Chipmunk Song"
  • "Happy New Year (War Is Back On!)"
  • "Do They Know It's January 12th, Either?"
  • "The 353 Days Not of Christmas"
  • "Holly Jolly Monday"
  • "Frosty the Solid Man-Shaped Ice Block"
  • "(Walkin' in a) Winter Land"
  • "It's Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Anymore (Sucks to Be Us)"
  • "Santa Claus Is Goin' Home for Now But He's Still Watching"
  • "Baby It's Even Colder Outside Now"
  • "All I Want for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Is You"
  • "(Simply Having) Mediocre mid-January"
  • "Grandma Got Run Over by a Groundhog, Too"
  • "Little Drummer Boy Arrested as a Public Nuisance"
  • "I Really Did Get Nuttin' for Christmas"
  • "Have Yourself a Thrilling Little Presidents Day"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Odd Couple building.

When I was a kid I was a big fan of the TV show The Odd Couple. I'm still fond of it. The characters from the film were broadened for TV into readily understandable types, and the writing and acting were always fun. The TV show had a brighter edge than the original movie. And there were other reasons I liked the show. 

Although I did not grow up in Manhattan, we in the outer boroughs knew that of all the shows on television, only one did a good job of portraying life in New York at the time---everything from the high cost of parking and alternate side of the street parking, bad Broadway musicals, shoes stolen on subways from sleeping passengers, high-security buildings, vandalism, finding apartments through the obituaries... Things that didn't happen in normal cities. It was great.

Consequently every time I was in Manhattan I thought I saw the building Oscar and Felix supposedly lived in. But I never could be sure.

That's it! No, darn it.
Well, I love the Internet. According to the show's trivia page on IMDB, the address was 1049 Park Avenue... except that the address was said to be 74th and Central Park West on one episode. This is a serious conflict, as the former is on the Upper East Side and the latter on the Upper West Side, and there's a huge difference to people who live in these areas and to no one else on the planet. (The Central Park West park-view apartment would be a pretty swank address for a sportswriter and a kiddie photographer, even in the 70's.) Anyway, 1049 was used for the exterior shots in most episodes, and that's where fans flocked when Jack Klugman passed away.

That's IT!

Seinfeld never seemed like New York to me as much as a set that looked like New York, peopled with about a hundred characters that knew each other. Forget Friends and Mad About You. Various Hallmark and Lifetime movies set in New York might as well be set on Mars; they don't even look like a Neverland version of the city. The Odd Couple always felt like Manhattan. Unfortunately, it felt like a Manhattan you didn't want to live in, but in the 70's, it wasn't.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Office...of TERROR!

Yes, friends, the modern workspace is a wonderful place, a miracle of modern engineering, designed as a cheerful, bright playpen where poorly dressed slobs with bad hygiene and no concept of professionalism can collaborate openly by wearing headphones all day so they don't have to listen to one another.

But what goes on behind these merry scenes?


These shocking photos, taken behind a secret door on the mid-level floor of an average office building, show the hidden menace within the American office: the LOCKUP. Here it is that the worker is jailed for such tiny offenses as making a joke about someone who is not white or blond, mentioning their faith in Christianity, or wearing a non-comical necktie to work. that a TRAIL OF DRIED BLOOD on the floor?

And what's that tiny little door behind the ductwork?

Rumor has it that this tiny little door with the bloody finger streaks---known simply as "Keebler Hollow"---opens up to a shaft leading deep underground, where lie the bones of unrepentant employees. Perhaps those who could not be trusted to keep the secret of the OFFICE DUNGEON following their imprisonment and torture? Or those who were caught taking photos...?


Friday, January 9, 2015

Okay, that's cold enough.

We've been slammed by that cold snap that's sucking the life out of the midwest and northeast---literally in some cases, as the other day the death toll was reported as 20. Which isn't a lot, considering the millions of people in these large regions, but if they could add in all the people whose cause of death will be listed as heart attacks and whatnot that would not have happened if it were not so freaking cold, it would be much higher, I'd guess. You just never know.

Yesterday the thermometer said it was nothing degrees when I got up, so with the wind it would have been less than nothing. That kind of cold is an insult, in the old meaning of an injury, and standing there waiting for the dog to decide he'd had enough fun sniffing and licking the crumb coat of snow off the lawn, I thought I would wind up with an injury. I had a heavy coat on, but that didn't help my legs or my face. I look funny enough as it is; how much worse would I look without a nose?

I know this kind of cold is nothing compared to what they get in more northern climes. I agree that we probably don't pay our Alaskan crab fishermen enough. But it's cold enough to kill around here now, and that's cold enough for me.

Looking at the dog enjoy himself, romping around like it's the bestest day of the brand new year, inspires a question for the evolutionary biologists out there: Why would we have ditched fur? This guy is just fine in the cold; the deer are not freezing like lawn statuary; most animals seem to be getting through all right. Those that aren't tend to be domestic animals not bred for outdoor living in the north. I don't see any advantage to being hairless as a naked mole rat. If we evolved from apelike creatures, why did we leave the hair behind? So we could wear Hermès?

You could say that our species ditched the hair before we left Africa. Okay, then why aren't all the African animals hairless? Many are, but not the ones we're kin to. We've got more in common with the gorillas than the rhinos and elephants; why aren't we hairy as gorillas? Whose bright idea was this? I'm freezing!

I'm sure the evolutionary biologists and their fanboys in the media have legitimate answers for this; these days they seem to think they can answer all kinds of questions, even those that are outside their ken. And I guarantee I'm not the first guy who ever looked at animals while freezing his nose off, wondering why they got to keep the fuzz and all I got was downy hair that's hardly worth the trouble and a coat from JCPenney.

I'm just wondering if we're the smart ones here after all. Is intelligence a better adaptation than hair? Or are it all just hair-brained? (Ha! Get it? Okay, never mind.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

20 bad similes.

  • Plays banjo like an angel
  • Swift as the mighty oak
  • Bakes like a ballerina
  • Cold as Vanilla Ice
  • Light as a balloon that has been filled up with light things, not a bunch of tiny pebbles like my cousin Mario once spent an entire afternoon doing when he was bored, because that would be heavy, not light
  • Runs like diarrhea
  • Small as something really small
  • Fat as a pancake
  • Tight as the seal on a CF8M (316), ISO 4144 standard stainless steel weld nipple
  • Strong as a stink
  • Hot as my spankin' hot Camaro, uh-huh, uh-huh
  • Hairy as Grandpa Pete's nostrils
  • French as a fry

Graceful as a bus station

  • Happy as a stapler
  • Waves breaking like water
  • Proud as a mini golf course
  • Groovy as a hepcat, daddy-o
  • Tidy as a toddler
  • Fartin' like a boss

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The S&P indesk.

Recently cleaned out the desk and found these:

Too good to throw away, too unnecessary to use, they accumulate in the desk until:

  • You leave the workplace, and the desk and its contents become the next guy's problem.
  • You sneak them into the office kitchen where they join 10,000 other such packets and become everybody's problem.
  • You throw them away and say the hell with it.

I don't even get takeout very often, so I don't know how I got these. They seem to multiply in the desk. But the variety of fonts tells me they are not even directly related. 

If I were to just pitch these, how much salt and pepper would I actually be throwing away? I wondered. So I brought them home and emptied them out.

Hard to tell how much that is. I have about the same amount of each, so I put the pepper in a sliding measuring spoon.

About half a teaspoon. So it wouldn't be much to lose, even if I just threw the packets away. Of course, coming from a Depression-educated family, I thought of the pepper mines that are being used up, the salt trees being stripped to provide this savor, and I still couldn't bring myself to just throw out the spices. Wars are fought over spices! You remember the Dutch-Portuguese War? The Anglo-Dutch Wars? Dune? No, I couldn't waste such an important resource; I had to put the salt and pepper in the shakers. 

Of course, the plastic utensils that came with these packets are in a landfill somewhere by now, but that's the way it goes!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Song from the dog.

Earl from Mutts is in complete agreement with
my dog, Tralfaz, whose song this is.

All I want for my birthday is a belly rub
I don't want no special kind of puppy grub
I don't want a bath in a claw-foot tub
Just a belly rub from you

All I want for Christmas is a belly rub
I loved them since I was a little cub
I don't want to hint; right here's the nub
Just a belly rub from you

All I want for anniversaries is a belly rub
I don't want to dine at some fancy club
I give places like that a great big snub
Just a belly rub from you

All I want for New Year's is a belly rub
I don't want a ginger lemon body scrub
I don't want to ride in a Disney sub
Just a belly rub from you

All I want for Valentine's is a belly rub
I don't want concerts and a souvenir stub
I don't want to eat at the local pub
Just a belly rub from you

All I want for Tuesday is a belly rub
Are you starting to see a pattern, bub?
If you want me happy, focus on the hub
Just a belly rub from you

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sweetness and light.

Thank heaven the holidays are over---at least in the United States, where Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday after January 1 rather than on the exact date of January 6. Not that I am sick of Christmas. I'm just looking forward to tapering off the sweet stuff. You know, even I can hit the wall, but it's hard to lay off the candy when you're in the habit of stuffing it in your mouth. And I have 31 sweet teeth (one rotted away).

So I'm glad to have some time away from the sugar, because---

What the HELL?

This was the supermarket on Sunday. And they still haven't unloaded all the Christmas sugar. If you look closely, in the center of the picture are a couple of boxes of Christmas-themed animal crackers.

I think the love of chocolate is the main love being celebrated with this stuff. No guy in his right mind thinks it's a safe bet to chuck a sack of M&M's at his true love for Valentine's Day in lieu of really fine chocolate, unless she is obsessed with M&M's. And I mean so obsessed she wears M&M's pants.

Yeah, like that.
But if, unlike me, your loved one is serious about avoiding candy or all sugar or something for health reasons (not just because she or he wants to brag about being on a sugar fast), avoid giving them candy for Valentine's Day, and especially five weeks before Valentine's Day. It's hard enough to resist temptation. When it comes from someone you love and trust, it's even harder.

Just send the candy to me. I love you and trust you, but not that much. You can keep the M&M's pants.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The reckoning.

Okay, people, time is running out.

At the Key house we still pay our bills the old-fashioned way, waiting for them to arrive by Pony Express, paying them as they do with handcrafted artisan checks.

To this process, in January, we also include my hair standing up like Linus Van Pelt's when I open the envelope.

This year I found a way around it. We spent a bunch on Christmas in November. That way my hair pops up on end twice, once last month and once this month, but only for half as long each time.

Spreading the shock around helps keep the heart from giving out, you know.

As I write my checks, focused on the expenses incurred to give good things to others (rather than the expenses based on things that I, uh, happened to buy myself) I try to remember our old pal Ebenezer Scrooge. We think of him as a miserly old creep, but years ago an editor pointed out to me in the context of A Christmas Carol that that was not the way London remembered him; rather

it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

So if Scrooge could do that, maybe I can find a way to pay my Christmas bills too. God bless us, every one! (And hurry!)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Projects for 2015.

Determine why Underwood makes deviled ham but not deviled cheese.

Lose weight or convince CDC to redefine “fat.”

Start new history book on the Battle of Gettysburg, How I Won the Battle of Gettysburg, and make everything up. (Was Gettysburg, like, a state? Like, four score and seven miles from D.C.? Should find that out.)

Train the dog to wash the car. What the hell.
Get checkup; cover ears and go “La la la” when doctor tries to talk afterward.

Put toothpaste back in tube. With my bare hands.

Begin campaign for Nobel Prize for inventor of undo.
Break into every single Starbucks with big Sharpie; change every single sign from Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti to Small, Regular, Large, and Extra Large.

Call the White House once a month to ask if their refrigerator is running.

Join mob; whack the capo; take over; turn into peace-loving handmade toy company.
Find out if in other countries baseball is a game of centimeters.

Read Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary cover-to-cover; can get it wrapped up in a year by reading just 617 definitions a day.
Find out why deviled ham is so maligned; could there be angeled ham?

Start riot against racism during white sales.
Ask accountant if it’s okay to just tell the IRS whatever since it apparently no longer cares about documentation.

Start new novel (a family saga spanning many generations that takes a small peasant clan through war, famine, disease, a quest for a new life as pioneers, struggles, more war, prosperity, ruin, industrialization, still more war, return to prosperity, politics, again with the war, sacrifice, glamour, and fame) entitled The Humphinschnitzels.
Call White House once a month to ask why, if Obamacare is working so well, nobody else is.
Determine whether Kraft Easy Cheese can be considered deviled cheese.