Sunday, January 31, 2016

Oh, Canada...

I hate to bother our neighbors to the north, I really do. They must think of us as the annoying downstairs tenants who are always making a racket. And yet we have so much in common. Coasts. Rockies. Transcontinental railroads. Football leagues that other people in the world don't understand.

But I must take my broom and rap on the 49th parallel north, and ask them if they would PLEASE do something about these stupid BIRDS of theirs.

I know birds have to do that bird thing, and migratory birds are notorious non-respecters of legal national borders, however well marked. So sure, like the European swallow, or the gold-plated government-union pixel-pusher, Canadian geese must go south in the winter.

My problem is, they are not going far enough south.

Spotted in our area in January. January, people!

New York's Hudson Valley, beautiful as it is, is no one idea of "south" in any meaningful sense. I'm sure you Canadians who plan to vacation someplace warm do not stop in Kingston and say, "This is just as good as Miami, eh?" (And don't tell me you don't say "eh"---I've been there, I've heard it.) No, our winters are hardly better than those for the bulk of the Canadian populace, clustered around their lower border. So why must your geese overstay their welcome?

Surely it is not unreasonable to expect a migratory bird to see the leaves descending in October and November and say, "Welp, time to mosey on down" and "Next stop, Arkansas!" They could easily follow the line of denuding trees through the late fall, passing by us before Christmas and staying away until April. Why is this so hard?

As you can see in the above photo, they have completely taken over the little island of the gazebo, turning it into Geesebo Isle, and any bride who had hoped to take wedding pictures there had better have duck boots and help of the whole wedding party to keep her train clear of the ground. Is this how a civilized nation behaves?

No, I say, and I expect you to do something with these geese of yours.

My idea to put a Goose in Every Pot has run into trouble with the usual suspects. If one mentions that these birds are at the lowest point on the endangered scale---"Least Concern," which is about a step above "Actual Menace"---and that a few dedicated men with piano wire could make Goose McNuggets out of the lot in short order, some jackass inevitably starts complaining about threats to Canadian goose subspecies. So our parks are overflowing with goose feces, and what do you care, eh, Canada? You're probably glad to be rid of them for the season.

This has got to stop, and I fully expect some maple-flavored cooperation with this project. I will be happiest with some pledge to eliminate or re-route these feathered fiends, but will be satisfied with a plan to get them to shorten their stay here along their migratory flight plan.

Contact me at frederick_key AT yahoo.com and we will see if we can arrive at some meeting of the minds. But please: No French.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Duck! Sauce!

We're going head-to-head here today on Vitamin Fred.

Toe-to-toe. Eyeball-to-eyeball. Mano-a-mano.

Sweet-&-sour-sauce to sweet-&-sour-sauce.

Sweet & Sour

I had some left over from BK the other night when I came home with the McD stuff. So, McNuggets in hand, I thought I would taste test these two dipping sauces and see which chain restaurant had the better sauce.

Each is a little one-ounce bowl of sweet & sour (or, in McD parlance, sweet 'n sour), or what is often called duck sauce in the U.S. Let us peel the lids and see what's inside:


We see here that the Burger King sauce, on the right, is a darker and richer sauce, but let's not be too quick to judge. The proof of the sauce is in the dipping. I didn't read the labels to see what was in them, not before the initial dip.

I did find the BK sauce to have a slightly richer taste, with a bit of a molasses flavor. The McDonald's stuff was brighter, more citrusy, a bit more fruity and sweeter. Neither was bad---I did think the McD sauce has a bit of a thinner, less adult flavor, although it had some extra kick the BK one didn't have.

A comparison of the ingredients on the labels doesn't tell us too much. Death-dealing high fructose corn syrup is the #1 ingredient on the McD stuff, #2 on BK's (behind water, which is McD's #2). But I find I was right about one thing: BK's has molasses, but McD's doesn't. Both have distilled vinegar. Both have apricot puree, but they diverge on other fruits---peach for McD, pineapple for BK. BK also has red bell pepper. McD has sherry wine powder.

I don't have a sophisticated palate (oh, you didn't know?) so I couldn't have guessed what different ingredients accounted for the difference in the flavors. Frankly, I was amazed that they didn't taste the same.

I preferred the McDonald's, but it was close. The extra fruit flavor and added sweetness just worked for me on the chicken. My wife, on the other hand, in a blind taste test, gave the nod to the Burger King sauce. She preferred it for its more sour taste, with that bit of bitterness from the molasses.

It really is a matter of preferences. I prefer sweet things, so I married my wife. She prefers bitter, so she married me. C'est l'amour! Vive la différence! 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Double trouble.

Son, you know when you got trouble? When you got two-cherry-picker trouble, that's how.

I have no idea what happened, but it looks bad. 
Computers seem to be at the base of about 98% of all trouble in the world, to use a completely false estimate that I had to make up because I was afraid to ask my computer.

We all know computers cause trouble. The old "to err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer" wheeze goes back to the punch card days. Computers are wondrous devices for multiplying effort, but they also multiply mistakes. A fascinating story about this concerns the disaster of Target Canada (HT: Lileks @ Star Tribune), Target's brief and ill-fated attempt at a massive retail incursion of our neighbors to the north, covered in this Canadian Business article. A staggering amount of Target's trouble came from software involved with distribution and inventory.

Strange things started happening in 2012, once ordering began for the pending launch. Items with long lead times coming from overseas were stalled—products weren’t fitting into shipping containers as expected, or tariff codes were missing or incomplete. Merchandise that made it to a distribution centre couldn’t be processed for shipping to a store. Other items weren’t able to fit properly onto store shelves. What appeared to be isolated fires quickly became a raging inferno threatening to destroy the company’s supply chain.

Billions were lost, along with thousands of jobs; careers were destroyed; and a giant was brought to its knees. Makes you wonder what would happen if hackers really managed to attack our major retail corporations---which sounds like fun to the Occupy types, I guess, except they also like having stuff and dislike starvation.

On a small scale, I learned that friend and occasional commentator Stiiv has been absent due to his old computer giving up the ghost. Whether it was natural death, suicide, or whether Stiiv took it out and shot it, we do not know. Perhaps he feared it had become self-aware like Skynet and he had to slam it with hammers.

Fears of such a thing predate the Terminator movies, of course; in 1970 there was Colossus: The Forbin Project, a film in which the U.S. and Soviet defense computers merge and take over the world. In 1977, in an issue of Justice League of America, a self-aware entity called the Construct arose from all the world's electronics and threatened to push us around as well. And at that time the total computing power in a city like New York probably didn't equal what you have in your neighborhood now.

Scary!

Finally, let us not forget that the endless struggle of man vs. machine is not relegated just to the box on your desk, but on the printer to which it is attached as well:


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trusting the dollar store.

Reviews of products found in the dollar store used to appear on the old version of this site with tedious regularity---I enjoyed them, anyway. What I found over time was that the items I reviewed were as good or pretty close to as good as the same items found in hoity-toity stores like Walmart.

In some areas the size of the product was just smaller, making it cheaper---often $1 cereal boxes are comically small---but that's mainly in dollar stores like Dollar Tree that try to stick to the everything-is-a-dollar philosophy. (Dollar General, on the other hand, is a discounter but along the lines of an everything-is-rounded-down-to-the-nearest-dollar philosophy, which you could use to sell everything from candy bars to Cadillacs.) The quality of the products I tested ranged from Pretty Okay to Meh, with but a few Blecchs. You don't expect much; Quality is Not Job 1 at the dollar store.

And then, while waiting to check out recently, I saw this:


Uh...

Home pregnancy test from the Dollar Tree?

Hmm.

This staggered me for any number of reasons, but those reasons would include:

1) It's on the impulse-buy rack by the cashier. Is this really an impulse buy, along with candy, small lint brushes, Star Wars toys, and notions kits? One of these things is not like the others. "Oh, that's right, I wanted to get that because I might be PREGNANT."

2) Despite all the good stuff I just said about dollar stores, I think whatever drives you to want to get a pregnancy test, your #1 concern must be accuracy. You either want a baby desperately or you are horrified that you might be carrying one, but I doubt any woman is completely indifferent to whether she is with child, and if one was indifferent, then she wouldn't care enough to buy a test. Accuracy is by far the top claim made by manufacturers of these things, so it's obvious you'd want to get the best. This test might be fine... but still. CVS charges about five times as much for its store-brand test. I would think it would be important enough to spend a few more dollars.

3) The other function of the impulse counter is the larceny arsenal---the fave spot for your five-finger discounter, whether the target be candy or lip balm or anything else. I imagine a terrified and humiliated kid swiping one of these tests, scared of being seen, and running out of the store. But that doesn't explain why the store hung these here. Unless they're trying to get rid of them and they don't care if it's through theft.

On the whole I think I'd recommend sticking with the cheap cereal, peanut butter, and hand soap and leaving the pregnancy tests to the drugstores. Sometimes it doesn't pay to pinch pennies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cleanliness is next to the garbage can.

I was zipping through the photos on the phone, looking for what could be deleted, and found this one, taken a few months back while walking the dog. 



It's so cuuuute!!

I've seen tiny washing machines before, but this one is essentially a toy washer. Look at it next to the garbage can, for Pete's sake! It's the only major appliance I have ever seen that could fit in a garbage can!

I mean, I don't have a ton of socks, but I don't think they'd all fit in there.

Maybe five socks.

It's like the Easy-Bake Oven of washing machines.

I've seen kitchen-size washers. I've seen apartment-size washers. I've seen washers designed for the kitchens of apartments. But I've never seen a washer this small.

This is a Sanyo, and I'm not surprised to see a Sanyo by the trash. Not that their products were lousy, just that they're no longer an independent entity, having been absorbed by Panasonic, and a look at the customer service Web site indicates that parts for their washing machines might be extremely difficult to come by. On the other hand, the harvest gold top on this beauty tells me it dates from the early 1980s at the latest, so the fact that it only got pitched at this point indicates that it was a survivor. Yes, it may have survived inactive in the garage for decades, but even in that case someone thought it worth holding all this time.

Who knows how many miles of materials went through this small device, coming out again clean as new? How many shirts, socks, underpants, pillow cases, diapers, towels, blankets? (Actually, blankets, probably: 0.) But, as all flesh + time = grass, so too all appliances + time = junk. And as Sanyo shows, all companies + time = mergers and acquisitions.

The next time I passed this way, the mighty mite from Sanyo was gone, gone with the garbage men.

Ah, Sanyo! Ah, humanity!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Crappy Monday.

Look what Santa left in my stocking!

Yep, dumped in my stocking.
I guess Santa had his reasons for giving me a small bottle of Poo-Pourri, the sensational "Before-You-Go" toilet spray that supposedly coats the top of the water with a stink-trapping film, thus rendering the bathroom fresh as a daisy even while you stagger out. No more "Don't go in there!" after you went in there.

I'd seen the Internet commercial for this stuff a couple of years ago, but had my doubts it could work. Then I saw the review on Glove and Boots (along with their review of the Flowbee) in which they concluded that it "smells like a lemon took a dump." Which, I would suppose, smells better than if a hippopotamus took a dump.


I'm not one to resist hints from Santa Claus, so I did try the Poo-Pourri myself. I did think it was effective, but I do not know if it works the way they say it does. It has a very potent, fake citrus scent, more a scent I would associate with a gas station bathroom than the bathroom in a home. The powerful scent may be what's doing the odor-killing, not this scrim over the water surface. After all, while sitting on the can one can emit all manner of stink that never makes its way under the water.

The product now comes in a wide variety of scents, including Lavender Vanilla, Poo La La, Call of the Wild, and No. 2, among others. If I'd been a really good boy last year, Santa might have brought me the Master Crapsman gift set.

Eh... Don't get any ideas for my birthday.

Upshot: I think it kind of works, but maybe not the way they say it does. Still, that's better than a lot of products can claim.

So thanks, Santa! You've helped restore harmony to the home, while making it smell like a gas station restroom. What could be nicer than that?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A winter's tale.

Once upon a time there was a very big and very hairy dog who loved snow very, very much. His name was Tralfaz, and people always said how very big and very hairy he was. Also how very well behaved. Because Tralfaz was a good dog.

One winter the snow just would not come. It was unusually warm for weeks, and then it was very, very cold but very, very dry. The lady of the house said you could strike matches on her hands, it was so damn dry. Tralfaz just wanted his snow, or would, if his mind worked like a person's mind, which, really, who knows?

Then one day a massive, big, gigantic storm slammed into the east coast where the dog lived, and dumped so much snow that airports and highways and even Broadway theaters were closed. Piles and piles of the white crap (as the man of the house called it) formed around the house all day, and the plow guy was going to own the driveway (as the man also said), but Tralfaz the dog was extremely happy.

White crap, falling.

They took the dog out to play in the snow, and it was so wonderful. Snow was the perfect stuff! You could eat it. You could cool off by lying in it. You could bury your face in it. You could climb it. You could even poop in it! Tralfaz ran around like a knucklehead and had a delightful time. And this happened again later, while the man was shoveling and more white crap was falling. And the man said that if only he loved to exercise as much as the dog did, he would make Chris Hemsworth look like Woody Allen, whatever that meant.

And then later they went out again! And it was still wonderful! And this time Tralfaz decided he was not going back into the hot house where there was no snow, but was going to stay outside and romp all over the fenceless yard and accost passersby and do whatever he wanted, for hours and hours and hours. Whee!

Much asking, cajoling, and eventually shouting followed. The man completely lost his freaking mind, saying that this was supposed to be a quick potty run, and it was wet and freezing, and he had not dressed appropriately for a [naughty word] Arctic expedition, and there was snow in his socks, and the [other naughty word] dog had better stop being so [other other naughty word] disobedient or there would be [collection of very naughty words] to pay. And now Tralfaz got nervous, and decided the best thing to do was stay far, far away from the man until he stopped looking so comically furious. And this went on for quite some time until everyone was very upset.

Eventually the dog got to stay outside, tied up like some [naughty word] junkyard dog, which was okay; and when everyone cooled down he came back inside and apologized in a dog way. And he got off light because he was so cute. Ultimately what had been a very pleasant day had turned to garbage, and clearly this was the fault of the man, who had either not trained the dog well or just couldn't take a joke.

And then the man, still pouting like a toddler, sat down to write a story about it while the dog slept off his wild adventure in the hall.

The End

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow problem.

As we go to press, Washington is getting pounded by a virtually unprecedented avalanche of snow---could total more than two feet when done---leaving the nation stricken with hilarity. No, no, that's not right; the nation is in terror, hoping everyone there is okay, especially the people in charge of its Social Security payments, Medicare payments, Medicaid payments, SNAP payments, farm subsidy payments, etc. etc. etc.... 

As long as I get mine. We're thinking of making that our national slogan.

But we're all concerned that terrorists might attack while Washington is paralyzed by snow. In fact, we know that in the 1990 classic Die Hard 2, the terrorists' plot required Washington, D.C. to completely socked in by snow.



It's like this: When you see the movie, you realize that the carefully devised plot by the evildoers requires Dulles Airport to be in chaos from snowfall with dozens of planes in the air unable to land because of the weather. When the terrorists take over the air traffic control system, they have a bunch of planes circling and low on fuel, unable to head to other airports, a situation that would not occur unless Dulles were unexpectedly snowed in, which never happens.

Is help on the way? Maybe... if it weren't for the impenetrable snowstorm.

There are many technical mistakes in the film that would go over Joe Layman's head, but are detailed by the indispensable site Movie Mistakes. But while detailing the impossible (phony ignition requirements of jet fuel, for example), they ignore the preposterously improbable, like Dulles getting unexpectedly snowed in, which never happens.

Later in the movie, a bunch of bad guys make an escape on snowmobiles, which means they had massive amounts of snow-based equipment in place to carry out their plot---as soon as Dulles was unexpectedly snowed in, W.N.H.

I loved the movie, but the weather issue began to bother me shortly after I saw it, and it bothers me to this day.

Anyway, even if D.C. is buried completely in snow today, no one can say this wasn't expected. So listen, terrorists: Flights are being canceled. The planes are already being rerouted. The airports will be shut down. There's no target. Give it up.

And remember: We still have Bruce Willis.

Even SMOD fears Bruce Willis.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Because it's Friday.




The ad our parody was based on first aired eons before I entered the third grade; you can see an early ad with the jingle below. The schoolyard parody lasted long after McDonald's was on to other jingles. As Weird Al has proven, you can keep a song alive by making fun of it.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

55555

Hit a milestone in the car the other day:



Yes, indeedy---fifty-five thousand five hundred and fifty-five miles. On the second set of tires, but the first transmission.

I wondered if I was supposed to run out and play 55555 on some game of chance. Was 5 my lucky number? Could it be my lucky number until it hit 55556? Was there a lotto retailer within a mile? Maybe I should get out and walk!

The fact is, I don't know how the daily number games work, and I don't know how lucky numbers are supposed to work. Like all kids I had a number I considered lucky; like all kids, it was my birthday. (Yes, children, my lucky number was A.D. 1369.) But my birth date has most certainly never been especially lucky for me. But what other criterion can I use for a lucky number? Should I use YOUR birthday? But you're already using it.

I remember one time when I was a kid I slipped out of the house with one quarter in my pocket. A church down the street was having a carnival, and we were not going, so I ran away from home. (Two blocks, but still.) When I got there I saw one of those carnival wheel guys. I put my quarter on number 4, which is not my birthday. I don't know why I chose 4. Maybe someone had taken my usual number. Anyway, my one and only quarter was on the winning number, and I came home with a cheap kite.

I probably crashed that kite within seconds of trying to fly it, but I never forgot that I won it with my only quarter, and I won it on number 4. (I have forgotten how I explained to my parents that I suddenly had a kite; we were not kite people, really.)

The thing is, number 4 hasn't showered me with good fortune, either.

I've wondered over the years whether my lucky number is a negative number, or even an imaginary number. ("I'll take the square root of negative one, and LET IT RIDE!") There was a piece in the Washington Post the other day (HT: Dave Barry) that says the longest prime number so far has been discovered, and it's 22 million digits long; maybe that's my lucky number.

Oh, the hell with it.

I guess I've given up on lucky numbers. I just never found one that seemed to have any consistent oomph for me. So farewell, birthday; farewell, 4; so long, 55555.

In fact, I am going to give up superstition altogether. Knock on wood.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Schlockey.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post has declared that the New York Rangers' season is over. 

Forty-six games in as of today, with a record of 25-16-5, in second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers are dead. 

I'd hate to see what Brooks would write if their record was 16-24-5.

Longtime patients of Vitamin Fred know that, unlike baseball and football, hockey doesn't ring my bell. Nothing against the game; I accept that it's fast-paced and demonstrates great athleticism. For a long time I thought my lack of interest was caused by the fact that, in the handful of times I have been dragged out onto the ice, I spent half the time on my frozen butt and the other half staggering around like a twitterpated alcoholic mastodon with plantar's warts. On skates. 

But no, the real thing that ruined any potential love I might have had for hockey was this:



Yes, Phil & Tony Esposito's Action Hockey game (photo courtesy of the irreplaceable BoardGameGeek).

Action Hockey could make anyone dislike hockey. Phil and Tony must shake their heads and shiver when they remember signing the deal to make this game. They undoubtedly cashed the checks in shame.

Why? Have a look at this ad for the game:


As you can see, the little men are magnetically controlled; to keep the players from bumping into each other, one controls them from the top of the board (through a clear cover) while the other controls them from under the rink.

In other words, one player can never see his own hands while playing. It was a huge disadvantage.

I've seen slot car sets in which one car was always ran slower, regardless of who was driving; in our edition of the Game of Life, if you weren't a doctor or lawyer you were pretty much hosed before the first turn. But I've never seen another game that gave one player such a big fat obstacle before it even started. We all know life isn't fair, but this is ridiculous.

So I can quite clearly blame the Esposito brothers for this. Their Hall of Fame careers may have inspired others to take up the game of hockey, but their hockey board game inspired me to avoid it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fred promotes unity.

A friend of mine mentioned that she'd been looking at a catalog that had a jacket with an amazing number of pockets. Being a woman who carries many things, and has children, she was attracted to this idea. 

I don't know what jacket exactly it was, but perhaps it was like this vest/jacket combo below:

The SeV System 8.0 from SCOTTeVEST, with a total of 39 pockets. A steal at $300, if you can find your wallet.

I like pockets. Perhaps more than most guys. Even before we were all welded to our cell phones, I needed pockets for cigarettes and lighters (though not anymore), keys, wallet, pens, coins, notebooks, lucky items, memorabilia, and miscellaneous doodads. So I completely understand my friend's desire for a jacket with tons of pockets.

That said, I cautioned her against giving into the pocket obsession. I pointed out that what it usually meant was precious moments patting yourself down like a self-arresting perp while trying to find your car keys in the rain. Whatever she wanted would always be lost in a pocket on the side of the coat on which she was carrying a heavy shopping bag. I said that a couple of large pockets were better than a zillion tiny ones, because it would limit the number of choices necessary before the start of the search.

She admitted that my description was accurate, as she was as disorganized as I am. She added with a sigh that her husband was nothing like that. He had, in fact, become a compulsive labeler, slapping little labels on all the drawers and cabinets in the house to indicate what was inside.

I then revised my opinion conditionally. I said that if she were to get a coat of many pockets that could be labeled, then she and her husband might spend many happy hours labeling the pockets with whatever she wanted the pockets to contain, and if she were good about following the labels, she would never be caught out searching for what she wanted. It might seem silly at first to have a bunch of labels on the outerwear, but that it never seems to bother NASCAR drivers. I said that this would make the pockets useful, rather than puzzling, and would give her and her husband a lovely project to complete together. They could debate whether the labels would be best right side up, or perhaps upside down, so she could read them while looking down at the jacket, or perhaps sideways if that would help the labels fit better. They could decide as a couple whether alphanumeric codes might be best, considering that there would be very small pockets; this also had the benefit of disguising the contents, as revealing the contents in plain language might encourage thievery. And if colored labels could be made, that brought in a whole new world of coordination and themes. A project like this could promote togetherness as well as fashion sense.

Because Fred is a romantic, and believes in promoting unity within the family. Feel free to ask me your questions, and I will provide the benefit of my wisdom.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Stroon?

Inside a box of Kellogg's Mini Wheats:



A "straw spoon." There are six of them to collect. And Disney's Olaf may be involved.

What the hell is this thing?


Some assembly required.

So I got the Buzz Lightyear one, which is good, as he is not Olaf, and he knows how to fall with style. But I still am baffled by the premise. I know what a spork is. And I know what a spoon straw usually is, because you get them with a Slushee. You know, straws with little scoops on the end.

Like these.
But this thing, assembled, looks like a... spoon. How is this a straw? Well, the handle is hollow, and there's a hole down near the scoop, in the back.


But that leaves the two-inch bowl of the spoon, meaning that if you use it in a glass, you can't get the beverage on the bottom.

My wife notes that it is for drinking the milk after you eat the cereal (although the kids on the box seem to be drinking it while the cereal is still in it).

Well, some of us just add more cereal to get the last of the milk, but the point is taken. I used to drink the bowl. (I know a guy who drinks the rest of the salad dressing after he eats the vegetables. Eeeyuck.)

Even then, though, you have to have a bowl with side that slope at a pretty large angle. A bowl with high sides will prevent you from getting all the milk. You could unscrew the bowl from the handle, but now you're messing with a wet utensil, and JUST PICK UP THE DAMN BOWL AND DRINK THE DAMN MILK.

Then again, my late Granny always said not to pick up a piece of china at the table unless it had a handle on it. She might have approved of this bizarre stroon spraw thing. Although it's not dishwasher safe, and Granny believed in hygienic utensils.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Eat more chicken.

I've been doling out some classic recipes from cookbooks I inherited, all of these promotional cookbooks from various food and drink cookbooks. We've so far enjoyed the wok cookbook, the Coke cookbook, the beer cookbook, the Waring Blendor cookbook, and Sue Swanson's cookbook from the days when Swanson was a major chicken company on its own.

Those days of the mighty C. A. Swanson & Sons were in the 50's; by the time the late 80's rolled around, Swanson was a small trademark owned by Campbell's, and the only Swanson products were canned poultry and broth, as now. (And the frozen dinners too, but they were on the way out.)

So the cookbooks in the late 80's were small, and sad.


The cover is not too bad, but the interior is all black print, no recipe pictures.

The labels on the Swanson stuff have not changed much, but we know roughly when this booklet came out. How?


Because the 20-cent coupon expired on October 31, 1990. Which was a Wednesday, BTW, in case you do your shopping on Friday.

Most of the recipes in the booklet are pretty typical, some chicken salads, soups, some more complicated meat dishes that required broth. Nothing inspiring, nothing too awful.

Except maybe these:


Yes, that is a recipe for Reuben sandwiches made with canned chicken instead of corned beef.

Whichever Reuben came up with the sandwich would be rolling over in his grave. Unless he was still alive in 1990, in which case maybe he was just rolling over. Oh, who knows.

I'm not a big fan of the Reuben sandwich, but I respect it. There is a possibility you might not mind these Swanson Reubens too much. The power of the sauerkraut and the Russian dressing might overwhelm the bland chicken and help you not miss the corned beef. But if you're going to all this trouble to get the cocktail rye and the sauerkraut and the shredded Swiss, why not go the extra yard and get the actual corned beef? Or if you must ruin it with canned meat, why not ruin it with canned corned beef?

Campbell's, as a company, may not be that bright even now. Certainly they've done nothing for their hometown of Camden, New Jersey, which is supposedly even worse than Newark and Paterson, and I've been lost in both of those. I may have to split my Campbell's expenditures on outfits like Progresso (General Mills), College Inn (Del Monte), and Valley Fresh (Hormel) until Campbell's gets it act together.

Reubens with canned chicken. Feh.

Friday, January 15, 2016

TV was going to kill us all.

I remember when television was the enemy of civilization and was going to destroy us. What happened?

"I'm going to eat you!"
From the 1960s through the 1980s, while television dominated American media, we were constantly warned that television spread violence, poisoned civilized discourse, encouraged stupidity and ignorance, and cheapened human relations. It was like global warming, in that you could blame anything on it.

There was a time, children, when TV Guide used to run serious think pieces on TV and violence, TV and sexual misbehavior, TV and the breakup of the family. And it was the most popular magazine in America.

Jean-Claude Van Itallie and other counterculture types in the 1960s were always bashing TV. Van Itallie's one-act play "TV" was so hard-core that it makes the actors take their curtain call frozen in place in mid-laugh, silent, to make you feel creeped out about TV.

Congress got involved many times in addressing the miserable content of television. Congressional hearings always led to big fat reports confirming that TV was decadent and dangerous, and then it just continued getting worse.

We have PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, and its predecessor, National Educational Television, because we wanted to use TV to make people better and smarter. How's that working out?

And then something happened, and TV was no longer killing America. I don't know what it was. It was during the 1990s, and I was busy. A level of irony sank into the culture, separating us from our concerns, telling us, "Yeah, it's crap, let's enjoy." Or maybe our intelligensia got lazy. They got much more interested in money. We suffered the rise of the Bourgeois Bohemian. Van Itallie lives on a farm and eats dirt; TV writers live in Hollywood and get girls. Which would you rather be?

Of course, in the 1990s we got the Internet to start blaming for everything, which was great for TV. Took the pressure off, anyway.

Some groups still complain about violence and immorality on TV, but violence and immorality get worse and are now broadcast at all hours of the day (ever hear of "Family Viewing Hour"?). Those voices seem to get more and more faint, fading under the noise.

As for me, I grew up watching much too much TV, but was not immune from the criticisms in the culture about how bad it was for you, how it turned your mind into a turnip, etc. And I resolved never to be a slave to the box again.

It's easy enough now that I have a phone to stare at instead.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

You can't get good customer service anymore.

"Hi, excuse me?"

"Yes, sir?"

"I'd like to return this for a refund, thanks."

"Um... I'm sorry, sir, but you cannot return that item."

"Why not? I just bought it here on Tuesday."

"But--"

"It was very busy, but surely you remember me. And doesn't one of these little codes say where it was purchased?"

"That's not the point, sir. You can't return these."

"But it's faulty."

"I don't understand. It looks correct to me."

"No, no, you see, when I was here on Tuesday I specifically told you I wanted a winning ticket. This is a losing ticket, you see? You sold me the wrong item."


"We don't sell winning or losing tickets. We just sell the tickets."

"Yes, but this one didn't win."

"The drawing did not happen yet when this was sold. There was no way to know it would not win."

"But I asked for one that would win and you sold me one that would lose. I mean, I hate to bandy words like incompetence or bad merchandise or probably sells beer to children or anything else to the gang on Yelp, but..."

"Please do not threaten me with the Yelp, sir. This is not my fault."

"Then why did I wind up with this bum ticket? Look, only one number came up. Is that fair?"

"The lottery has nothing to do with fairness, sir. The odds of winning are very poor."

"And there you go with the attitude again. Are you calling me a loser? Seriously, I think you need to acknowledge your part in this."

"Sir, I don't know if you know how the lottery drawings work. We don't know what the winning ticket is going to be in advance anymore than you do."

"I didn't say you had to know what exact numbers were going to win, silly. That's why I got five chances. You see how generous I was here. I gave you five opportunities to get it right and you failed five times. Don't you see how your actions have disappointed others?"

"I assure you, if I had known what the winning numbers would be, we would not be having this conversation right now because I would be far away from here."

"Your attitude is beginning to irritate me. Let me speak to your manager."

"I own this shop, sir. I work here fifteen hours a day. That's how I plan to prosper."

"Maybe we could compromise. Look, I'm not demanding we run the machine with the little balls in it again."

"Good of you."

"Let's just assume that if things had gone the way I asked originally, that I would have hit the jackpot, right? Now I know things happen, and I'm not an unreasonable guy. Suppose we just split the difference and say I got five of the numbers. You give me a million bucks and we call it square. Surely that's equitable."

"Sir, I am dialing 911 now. Please leave my shop."

"Um... Can I have a pack of Twinkies?"

"Yes but go."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The time has come.

I hope Treebeard doesn't get wind of this.

Down on the corner, out in the street.

Not our tree; we had planned to get a real one but we never had a chance to go get it, so we wound up using our fine artificial one, which has served us well for more than a decade.

If you've been coming around this blog you are undoubtedly sick to death of hearing about Christmas, and I promise you there will be no Santa shaming this year. You want to leave your decorations up until Memorial Day, knock yourself out.

But I did want to mention that we wound up being quite happy once again with our artificial tree, which was made in the United States---in Orange County, New York, in fact, where very few things are actually manufactured anymore---by Christmas in America. These folks make fine trees at good prices, trees that look more like the real thing than any other comparably priced tree, and as our experience shows, they hold up well over time. Of course, if you order now (in January), you can get humongous discounts.

Don't even want to THINK of next Christmas? Then how about some artificial baby palms to decorate the patio?

Yes, really. They're cute!
For the record, I don't know anyone who works at Christmas in America, and I've never actually set foot in the place. I just think they make a great artificial tree. Remember, just 348 shopping days until Christmas!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pup art.

Was watching Antiques Roadshow again last night, and was irritated by this Karel Appel acrylic that was valued at up to $18,000.


It's from 1967, but I don't know what it was called. Piece of Crap would be my suggestion.

Looking at the Appel page on Wikipedia, I was surprised to see that the artist had done a sculpture at the Hague that I liked. Also, the fact that he his from the Nazis to avoid working in the munitions factory gets the thumbs-up from me, which I'm sure would make him happy. Apparently he set out to make childish works, but I can't say this plan is successful. Children don't set out to make childish works; they want to make art that looks like real things, but they only have childish skills. If my kid turned in something that looked like the above, the teacher would call in the school counselor. Or the nurse.

I decided that I could be a wealthy artist, since I'm lousy at art. But I realized that I could not achieve this kind of artistic genius because I would instinctively try to make my art good, not bad. Not that it would be good, but the fact that I was trying would show I was no genius. QED.

That's why my wife decided that the dog should be the artist in the family. He don't give a damn.

Here is one of Mr. Tralfaz's latest compositions:

Paw
All it needs to make it worth $18,000 is the right explanation.

Paw (water on asphalt; 2015) is one of Tralfaz's most ambitious creations. Here we see the artist making his mark, if you will, in a soulless world of cement and steel. The choice of materials is interesting---a watermark, which while ancient is not lasting, and brute paving, which while modern is hard to get rid of. Although Tralfaz has made a mark, it is obviously ephemeral in nature, posing the question: Has he really made anything at all? The irony of ancient but temporary vs. current but permanent is one of his running themes, a theme he has explored in other works such as Chewed Stick, P.P., and Poop in the Park.

Okay, great! Send me a check, art people. Thanks.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Make it a Mud Light.

Yesterday was a rainy mess, pretty much all day. One of those days where you feel wet just looking out the window. One where your commitments must be met as quickly as possible so you can huddle inside. One in which you might wish you'd never gotten the dog, who doesn't mind being wet if it doesn't involve a bath, who loves going outside to do his thing. And when his thing is done, he must bring his big bad muddy self into the house.

Yes, friends, the dog likes mud. He doesn't roll in it like some dogs, and thank heaven for that. He gets plenty messy as it is. A long time ago we got him a stack of towels at the dollar store to go with some old beach towels we were already using for days like this, and yesterday he went through them all.

What he likes best about rainy days is drinking off the driveway. Wherever it pools he goes right at it. He just needs little cocktail umbrellas. Normally the rain doesn't pool on our lawn, but when it comes down as hard and as long as it did Sunday it will, and that's even better. More flavor!

Make it a Mud Light
Try the chunky, satisfying taste of Mud Light!
All that mud gets in his thick fuzz and becomes difficult to wipe off. Meanwhile, my jacket is dripping and my own shoes are tracking in mud, and he keeps wandering off while I'm trying to corral him with a towel. Now I know why some families just stick the dog outside all the time.

But he'd miss us. And we'd miss him. Mud and all.

Anyway, it was a warm day---it cracked 50, which is rare in January---and all that rain could have been a blizzard with a little encouragement. As we say in the north at this time of year, any storm you don't have to shovel is a good one.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vegetables.

As regular readers (who are all kind and smart and good-looking) know, I have a vendetta against certain words. If I were a magazine editor, use of these words would be cause for instant dismissal. The list includes words like yummy, gobble, belly, tummy, and veggie. That's it! You're done! Fired! Don't clean out your desk; we're throwing it all out! GO!

And yet, despite my seething hatred, I caught myself using the word veggie yesterday. The shame!

I saw it coming at the end of my sentence before the first clause was done; as I hit the speed bump comma I knew veggie was approaching, but I was powerless to stop it. I only realized why afterward.

Because vegetable is one of the ugliest words in the English language.

It's true. It's a total train wreck of a noun, much too long and too needlessly complex to express a simple, common variety of objects. My wife nailed it when she said, "They must have been named by someone who hated them."

And these are from Burpee, which is also a crap word.

Merriam-Webster tells us that the word comes from Middle English, via Middle Latin vegetabilis (vegetable), from vegetare (to grow), from vegetus (lively), from vegēre (enliven). Vigor, which is a great word, comes from the same root, as does, believe it or not, wake. It shows the word for vegetable got progressively uglier as the centuries rolled on.

There's no way to make it better. The Britishism veg sounds like the nickname of someone you hate. I used to know a lunch lady who pronounced the whole thing as four syllables---"ve-geh-TAH-bull"---which just prolongs the agony. (Every day the special seemed to be "vegehTAHbull soup.") Any time I hear some nutritionist waxing rhapsodic over fruits and vegetables---including, perhaps, wax beans---the word starts to grate.

Language, like a lot of things that just arise on their own, has its strengths and faults. English is a marvelous collection of words from all over the world, a great borrower, capable of magnificent breadth of feeling, alarming potency, bracing specificity, and dazzling efficiency, but there are a lot of clunkers that pop up.

Usually Latin is a source of great words, but not this one. Why couldn't we have gone with the Germanic Gemüse? The Greek lachanikó? Even the Irish glasraí? Any of them would have been an improvement.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Dude.

Language alert.

This is about the government and pot.

Not as in "a chicken in every".
We live in stupid times. The main question is, are we going to continue to be as stupid as the people who believe they can tell us what to think and how to feel and what to do want us to be.

New York State has now begun its march toward the legalization of marijuana. They don't call it that, of course. The bullshit name is "New York State Medical Marijuana Program." But I think we're all pretty much convinced that "medical marijuana" has been a backdoor means of getting drugs in the house in a legal way in which the greedy state gets a cut.

Yes, I'm totally against medical marijuana. Sure, you can say I'm a heartless bastard who wants people to suffer. Fine. Then answer this:

1) Why isn't Marinol prescribed instead? Marinol is a capsule form of the same active ingredient in weed. No requirement for "medical dispensaries" beyond the pharmacies we use for everything else. I've heard it put forward that it doesn't work as well as puffing the magic dragon. By that logic we should tell Grandma she should be crushing and snorting her Percocet. That works harder and faster, too. The fact is, "medical marijuana" has never been about easing the suffering of the sick. Marinol has been available for more than a decade.

2) Libertarians argue persuasively that we've lost the war on drugs and we would be better off allowing people to go to hell with them if that's what they choose to do; free people can make those choices. This is why I'm not a libertarian. Legalization means approval, and I do not want to condone any more drugs. In twenty years it will be cheaper and easier to legally get pot than to get tobacco in New York, and while you may say pot has medical benefits that tobacco doesn't have, I ask if you'd rather have a surgeon who smokes or tokes.

3) On the topic of tacit approval, people will point out that Prohibition was a failure and equate it to the war on drugs. But alcohol occupies a different place in Western culture than any other drug. Alcohol is a beverage that most adults can consume safely; it was a healthy alternative to choleric (or otherwise unsafe) water; it was used by Jesus in the new Covenant; and bad behavior with wine, for good or ill, goes back to Genesis 9:21. Uprooting it from our culture was always a Herculean, maybe even a Sisyphean, task. Marijuana, by comparison, is an interloper, only felt through the broader culture in the last fifty years. So while our modern scolds are making it harder for a normal man to take a drink, they're going to make it easier for him to be lit up in other ways. This is progress?

4) Marijuana is the drug of idiots. I'm sorry, but it's true, because if they aren't idiots normally, they are with a few applications. I've known many alcoholics who never reached the stage of the morning drink, but few potheads who didn't get to wake-and-bake. Even alcoholics know when alcohol has taken over, whether they admit it or not, but I think that (along with many other things) is less clear to the dedicated bongster.

5) This is not your grandpappy's dope. I'm told that marijuana now is a good deal stronger than it was in the sixties. Like, all we used to have was beer, and now we have whiskey everywhere. Yeah, that will make for a more responsible society.

6) It's harder for cops to tell if the driver they pulled over is stoned than if he is drunk. MADD is already geared up to fight drugged driving. I'm sure we're all happy that legalized pot will give them something to do, since no one drives drunk anymore.

7) People scoff at the idea of pot as a gateway drug, but it has always been connected to the drug culture, which these days includes a tidal wave of heroin that is washing away young men and women and destroying families. Legalizing marijuana is not going to separate it from that.

Back in the sixties, when hippies were a plague let loose upon the land, they said pot was good because it was mellow (no one killed his buddy when stoned, man) and alcohol was bad (squaresville). It was more a tribal thing. But can anyone say with a straight face that having all the pot around since those days has made society happier, more responsible, kinder, or more ambitious?

As medical marijuana has led inexorably to legalized marijuana, legalized marijuana will lead to more bums, broken families, derailed teenagers, weakened and sadder lives.

I've seen drugs and alcohol destroy a lot of people. Getting clean is harder than normal people think. Letting the devil in the window after you throw him out the door does not make him friendlier in the long run.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rabbit season.

While walking the dog, we came around a corner and were shocked to see a big brown rabbit, just sitting there, minding his own business, maybe giving us the side-eye. I got Tralfaz to sit while I slipped out the phone and snapped a shot. 



We have our share of bunnies in these parts, but they tend to be very small and on constant high alert. This guy was pretty big and pretty calm -- maybe because he was so big.

In the past my huge puppy has bounded after rabbits, who are (thank God) too fast for him. I was afraid if he saw or sniffed what I was seeing he would be off like a shot, pulling my arm and maybe the rest of me after him. (Maybe.) Once I got the picture I hoped the rabbit would find something better to do. But he didn't.

Okay, fine. We strolled up casually. Still no movement. Well, they sometimes dash off only when they know you've spotted them. Hmm...

Nope, no movement at all. No reaction from the dog. And no wonder.


The bunny was just part of a busted tree stump.

Well, didn't I feel like a dummy. Should have worn my specs.

Harrumph. We old fogies know it's not nice to fool Mother Nature, but is it fair for her to be fooling us this way?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tunnel.

Enough kvetching! I hereby declare 2016 to be the year we see the light, or at least the light at the end of the tunnel! 


I'm sure it's there.
I never quite believed anyone who says they didn't worry about the future, or at least for a long time I didn't believe such a thing was possible. I think it's a lot more rare than your affirmation-posting pals on Facebook would like you to think it is. I come from a long line of worriers; it is the way of my people. If we were not worried about immediate crises -- bills, stupid family members, hangnails, school tests, medical tests, etc. -- we could worry about the shadow of death that hangs over each of us. If that was not enough, we could worry about nuclear war, the next ice age, meteors, or just God choosing to roll up the carpet and call it a day while we were in the middle of doing the worst sin of our lives. There was always something to fret about.

I truly believe that more than 90 percent of the people who tell you they never worry are full of crap. Worry is a basic human reaction, a means of trying to control the uncontrollable. I don't say these people are lying to you, but they may be lying to themselves. The effort of keeping worry at bay has always worn me out; it was easier just to worry.

People whom I have met who really do seem to have licked the worry problem are both mentally and emotionally better balanced than I am, and generally have a much stronger faith in a higher power. I think I can count those people on one hand. I don't include people who don't fear the future because they have just given up on life; catatonia or suicidal ideation are poor cures for worry, if indeed they can be considered as such.

I don't think declarations or slogans are going to really turn my personality around at this stage. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphanies.

When do you take your Christmas lights down?

"When we move" doesn't seem to be the kind of answer I'm looking for, tempting as it is.

For us, it's after the 6th of January, the traditional date for the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, the day the Magi arrived to pay homage to the newborn king. In the U.S. Epiphany is celebrated on the first Sunday after New Year's, but it's still a day of obligation in the British Isles.

Since New Year's Day the Christmas light attrition on the block has been building, and we're feeling like the last house left. But we soldier on one more day. Then the outside stuff comes right down. Then the inside stuff gets stashed away. Then the cellar, the cellar that I planned to straighten up since the Christmas stuff was taken out of it, ends up looking at least as bad as it did on Halloween.

Soldier on we do, with one last glance back at the holidays and at the previous year.

I am glad to see 2015 go. I've never seen such a grim collection of things pretending to be the opposite of what they are. The hoverboard that doesn't actually hover is just one. The woman who is a man is another. The people who "&^@*##$ love science" who couldn't balance a checkbook are yet another. And there's the college students who raise hell over tiny little microaggressions, while macroaggressions are destroying the oldest Christian communities in the world and putting women and children in a living hell. Then there's the crony capitalist populist, the feminist candidate who destroys women to protect her hubby, the president who negotiates nuclear deals with thugs dedicated to our destruction, the war victories handed over to the enemies of our nation, the entertainment that fails to entertain --- obviously I could go on. I wish the hoverboard was the extent of it.

So I guess I wrote a 2015-in-review blurt after all. Apologies.

Anyhoo, it's almost over. The surly teens are back waiting for the bus outside; what rough beasts, their hour come round at last, slouch toward high school to be bored?

The decorations will soon be gone. The last vestige of Christmas. It's been cold, but we have not had a lick of snow, so soon there will be no sign at all that we even had Christmas around here. Nothing but a few extra pounds, a few delightful memories, and this soap, in one of the bathrooms.



And since we're CDC-compliant around here, it too will be gone soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Creepysoft.

Stoked up the old laptop and got nothing for a minute. Then came the sans serif messages.

Hi.

Uhhh... hi yourself. 

We've updated your PC. 

Good of you. 

All your files are exactly where you left them.

Ohhhhhhkay. 

You are a naughty boy, aren't you?

HEY!

So no, I didn't get that last one, but rather a message concerning new features to get excited about (NB: No excitement followed) and a warning to not turn off the PC while they updated

But I think I'd almost rather they used a stentorian tone and all caps. 

WARNING! THIS PC HAS BEEN UPDATED! DO NOT PANIC!


The sly, friendly approach comes across to me, anyway, as more Killer Clown than Mr. Rogers. Like something sinister is going on....

Microsoft probably tests these things with consumers, but they may be consumers from Seattle, which shouldn't count. Seriously, I think a lot of us are put off by the fake-friendly approach these days. Best-case scenario is someone is trying to sell us something. Worst case is someone wants our mortal remains to wind up in his crawlspace. Eventually.

The problem is that we don't hear it when we get the stentorian tones and all caps. ALL CAPS has become the medium of the most mentally feeble Internet trolls. And there's just such a vast quantity of noise. Warning labels on meds have to come with black boxes around the important bits, because for the one or two warnings about things that will kill us, there are 452 warnings about reactions suffered by the hypochondriac-American community. Most of all, we are all adolescents now, and used to ignoring the shouts from Mom and Dad.

Look, Microsoft, I promise I am paying attention when I ramp up the PC and see what looks like the old Blue Screen o' Death, okay? No need for the soft sell. Just write "Updates have been made to your PC software" and tell me what to do. You can even use serif fonts. I won't panic, I swear. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Movie cereal.

Do you think that when Ben Affleck decided to become an actor, he was hoping to wind up on a cereal box? Probably not.

But here he is, all the same.


That's actually the back of the box. Here's the front. 



It's a General Mills cereal, and I guess it's supposed to be Batman Cereal, but as you notice, there is no actual name on the box. Just a shot of the brawny Bat chest. There's also going to be a Superman cereal, but I haven't seen that one in stores yet. The Batman cereal is strawberry/chocolate; the Superman cereal is said to be caramel crunch. 

I was surprised to see Bat Cereal in the store this early, since the Superman vs. Batman movie doesn't come out until March 25. Then again, I reviewed Star Wars cereal back in July, five months before that new picture opened. Why wait? 

Well, let's cut to the superpowered chase: What does it taste like? 


You get the advertised flavors, chocolate and strawberry, off those little corn/oat bats. There is a dusting of chocolatey something on the outside that gives it a slightly different consistency than most kid cereals. While the strawberry has a mild form of that phony strawberry candy taste, it's not actually artificial. General Mills has made a big deal out of removing artificial colors and flavors from its cereals, including this one. And yet there's nothing on the ingredients list to indicate where the strawberry flavor comes from (like, say, "strawberries").

That Batman---what a man of mystery.

Thinking of bats and General Mills cereals made me wonder if this was just re-purposed Count Chocula with strawberry flavor and without the marshmallows, but it's a different texture and shape from the breakfast of the cheerful undead.


So I give the thumbs-up to General Mills for producing an original and tasty movie tie-in product. We should hope the movie has this much taste and original thought.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

On the 10th day of Christmas.

"No no NO NO NO!! You guys aren't supposed to be here for two more days! And where the HELL are my Lords a-Leaping? Has ANYONE seen the damn Lords a-Leaping?"

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What will boys be named in 2016?

The data for 2015 is not out yet as of this writing, but the Social Security Administration has posted the rankings of names from 2014. These are boys' and girls' names for newborns in that year by popularity.

I would guess that 2015 won't be much different than 2014, which would mean that Noah would still enjoy a strong surge of popularity for boys. Frederick was wallowing down around #497, which means our hopes of a big rebound have yet to be realized. I never knew a single Noah growing up; like a lot of Old Testament names, besides Michael, it had lost a lot of juice. Now it's all the rage.

These things do change year by year, though. Top Ten 2014 names like Liam and Mason and Ethan will give way to others. Maybe Ezekiel or Tad or Amminadab. Who knows?

I would have thought Francis would have gotten a huge boost in 2014, Pope Francis being so popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike since his elevation in 2013. But it only rose from #505 to #478. Sure, it jumped over Frederick, but that's not the papal name elevation one would have expected. And Frank is a great name. I've had lots of buddies named Frank.

It got me wondering if there were other papal names that ought to be revived, names that could use a dusting-off for boys. Maybe one of these could become popular boys' names for 2016. A lot of these men became saints, so it's a double tribute.

Linus (2nd pope)
Would be great, but will forever be the kid with the blanket now.

Hyginus (9th pope)
Sounds nice 'n clean, doesn't it?

Felix (three popes and two antipopes)
Nah; will always be the neat guy.

Innocent (13 popes, 1 antipope)
I just can't see it catching on.

Urban (8 popes)
This I can see catching on, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Like kids getting named "Brooklyn."

Sylvester (2.5 popes, 1.5 antipopes -- questions about Sylvester III)
Despite movie tough guy Stallone, people seem to be stuck on Sylvester as the name of a lisping cat. Hopeless.

Agapetus (2 popes)
Maybe would get traction in the Deep South, or in Park Slope.

Hilarius (46th pope)
Best name ever! But what a curse if he had no sense of humor.

Telesphorus (8th pope)
Impressive, but the kid would go through life with absolutely no one pronouncing his name properly. Sad.



Celestine (5 popes, 1 antipope)
Lovely name, but probably considered effeminate in the U.S.

Lando (121st pope)
Yes, really. Forget it.

Hormisdas (52nd pope)
Nah.

Zosimus (41st pope)
C'mon, that's awesome! Zosimus! Potent! Even its nicknames would be excellent! Zossy! Zozz! Zosman! Definitely deserves a look. Make it happen, moms!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Man of the Year.

So here we are, 2016, and all the clams we can eat. What are your New Year's Resolutions?

Really? Is that right! You don't say! Well, well.

As for me, I've decided to look for a new role model for this year. Someone for whom I have great admiration. Someone we can all look up to and learn from. Someone famous, and yet someone familiar. Someone named Fred. Of course, I refer to:

Fred Flintstone? The cartoon character?

Yes, my imaginary objector, Fred Flintstone. Sure, he may not seem like much of a role model---loudmouthed, temperamental, fat, stuck in the stone age, etc. But I say his virtues far outweigh his defects. Here are my 10 reasons why Fred Flintstone is an excellent example to me and others:

1) He's a family man.

Fred is capable of noticing other women, and has been in the company of some fabulous ones, from the dangerous Madame Yes to the star Ann-Margrock to all the ladies running for Miss Water Buffalo. But he is only interested in his wife, Wilma. She may get jealous from time to time, and he's been known to sneak out for bowling and other manly pursuits, but she knows his love runs deep.

2) He's ambitious.

Call them get-rich-quick schemes if you will, but Fred can't be faulted for thinking small. He's tried crazy inventions, contests, songwriting, short-order cooking, acting, auto racing---he's even been willing to appear on TV in drag to win Wilma's bake-off when she was ill. He tries going to college at night to improve himself and his job. His plans to make his fortune may go awry, but he never gets down for long.

3) He's good in an emergency.

Unlike other cartoon men, especially cartoon fathers, who are completely useless dodos in times of crisis, Fred does the right thing when the rock chips are down. Woman going into labor? Fred drives her to the hospital in a school bus. Alien invasion? Fred chases away the Fred duplicates and saves the day. When everything is going to hell, you want a man like Fred.

4) He's comfortable with himself.

Fred knows he's chubby and has a big mouth and doesn't care a bit, unless someone really puts the screws on him, some killjoy who loves to shame people for fun. When you get right down to it, Fred really likes himself and others, and greets the world with bonhomie, until the world spits in his face. Then he's not afraid to defend himself, either.

5) He has a good conscience.

When Fred does something wrong, Fred cannot live with himself. He tries, as when he takes credit for his pal Barney's heroics, but he can't, and has to make things right. When faced with the villainy of the Green Goose he wants to walk away, but finds that he must confront the danger whatever the consequences, lest his and everyone's children grow up in a world ruled by evil. When he and Barney accidentally join the army, they do not try to lie their way out, but see it through to the end. Ultimately, Fred is a man of his word.

6) He's a real man.

Fred's a strong man, a man who hauls rocks out of a quarry, a man who can work an honest day and bring home an honest day's pay. A man who enjoys manly pastimes, like golf and eating and practical jokes and hanging at the lodge and a good smoke. A man who can drag an entire team of high school boys over the goal line. But he has his all-too-human flaws. Despite his powerful conscience, Fred can lie, chisel, and talk about others behind their backs, but when he knows he's done wrong he makes amends. Fred's been through a lot, including a well-known addiction to gambling that has plagued him in Rock Vegas, caused him to lose his stuff to Arnold the hated paperboy, and even made him neglect his baby in a parking lot. Fred struggles to conquer his addiction, though, and is all the better for it.

7) He's loyal.

Fred will do what he must for those he loves. When he thinks Barney is counterfeiting money, does he let his pal get caught? No, he spends his own money to protect his friend. To make extra money for the baby Wilma is expecting, Fred works nights driving a cab. The people in Fred's life knows that he's true blue.

8) He can adapt to extraordinary circumstances.

Green aliens with superpowers, jewel thieves, amnesia, killers, doppelgangers of tycoons and kings and spies, filling in for Santa Claus, time travel---whatever life throws at Fred, he adjusts as best he can. He may complain, but he never says die.

9) He's talented.

Fred is often getting knocked for his lousy singing voice, and yet he finds success as pop singer Hi-Fye, and again as part of a group singing an advertising jingle. His singing fails to chase away the Swedish musicians staying in his house, so how bad could it be? Hey, he sung on stage with Ann-Margrock! And remember, he also started a national dance craze with the Flintstone Frantic. The guy is a natural!

10) He's cheerful.

Despite the overbearing nature of his boss, his mother-in-law, and virtually every salesman in Bedrock, despite all the adventures he is roped into against his will, despite his hard job and his occasional problems at home, despite any and all adversity, Fred cheerily greets quittin' time and all of life's other little victories with a hearty "Yabba Dabba DOO!"

In addition to all this, he's perfectly used to life in the stone age, which is where we'll all be if the enemies of America and Western civilization get their way.

So come on, everybody! Let's hear it for Fred!