Monday, January 31, 2011

One too many

As in "one too many snow days," or "professional days" in the case of today. Either way, all this snow and ice and sub-freezing weather and being stuck inside for days on end was bound to result in drinking.

Just didn't think it would be the stuffed animals. Then again, they have a history of misbehaving.

Also, I caught them watching this. (Which is probably not safe for work or homes where young children may wonder in and ask you embarrassing questions. Am so ashamed.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where'd everyone go?

Oh yay, more snow. (That would be sarcasm, for those of you not from NYC.) And two more storms on the way. Yippee. (More sarcasm.)

And schools are closed. Again. If this keeps up, by the time school ends for the year, it will already be time for them to go back. (Really, is it asking too much for my kid to have a full week of 8 to 4 school? I can't remember the last time she had a full week, or a full day.)

For those of you in Florida, Southern California, and New Zealand, this is what you have been missing. The first picture of what used to be known as our deck was taken after the last big storm, earlier this month. The last two -- where you can no longer see signs of our deck furniture (or much of anything else) -- I took this morning. And that one at the top? It's the spouse shoveling snow OFF OUR ROOF. Personally, I don't think they do the snow justice.

(Btw, here in the Northeast, split-level igloos are all the rage.)

If you don't hear from me for a while it's because either a) the roof collapsed, b) I collapsed while trying to shovel all that snow, c) I fell out my second-story office window trying to break up the ice that has taken residence above it again, before it does more damage, or d) I spun out in my Mini while trying to make it to my chiropractor. (I should seriously attach a plow to the front of my bumper. I nearly didn't make it up our little hill yesterday. Very scary.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I may be sticking my neck out here

But don't you think someone at the Santa Barbara Zoo would have noticed that one of their female giraffes was packing on a little weight?

I get that Masai giraffes are good at hiding their pregnancies, but how do you hide the fact you're carrying a 106-pound, 5'9" giraffe calf? And then hide the fact there's suddenly a new giraffe in the enclosure? Oh, I know: Some kid just left her 5'9" 106-pound stuffed giraffe in the giraffe exhibit! (See the video.)

(Giraffes must be Scientologists.)

Anyway... meet Daniel, the newest giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo, a not-so-little ray of sunshine for a cold, snowy day (at least here in the Northeast).

For more about Daniel the baby Masai giraffe, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Exercise in peace, Jack LaLanne

Fitness pioneer and healthy eating guru Jack LaLanne finally ran out of juice at the age of 96 yesterday. Didn't even make it onto a Smucker's jar. Guess all those push-ups and jumping jacks and abstaining from sugar and meat, alcohol and nicotine couldn't keep old age and pneumonia from claiming one of fitness's finest. Or else God wanted a new personal trainer.

I actually interviewed Jack LaLanne years ago, over the phone. He must have been in his 80s at the time. We had a great time chatting. Must have talked for nearly an hour. (As I recall, I was also abstaining from sugar and carbs and meat and alcohol at the time, for health reasons.) He even invited me to come visit him and Elaine (is Elaine LaLanne a great name or what?) in California. (I declined.)

And although many people are more familiar with Jack LaLanne as the feisty old king of the juicer, this is how I will always remember Jack (née François Henri):

Whenever I stayed with my maternal grandparents in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, we would always watch The Jack LaLanne Show in the morning, and do our exercises along with Jack. (Thinking about doing jumping jacks and push-ups with my grandparents, contemporaries of Jack LaLanne's who died many years ago, actually brings a tear to my eye.)

So in honor of you, Jack, I'm going to do an extra 25 jumping jacks and push-ups this morning. Exercise in peace.

Note: For more on Jack LaLanne, read this sweet obit on NPR by Tom Goldman.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to raise a smart, happy kid

Wouldn't it be nice if there was some formula parents could simply follow and -- presto! -- you'd have a smart, happy kid? But there isn't -- despite what all those parenting books and psychologists and now Tiger Moms* have to say.

Think about it: We all know people whom we think are wonderful parents who have an unhappy kid or a kid who doesn't do well in school (or worse).

And we all know people we think are awful parents ("I would never treat my child like that") whose kid winds up being the class valedictorian and/or the most popular kid with tons of friends.

So clearly, a part of having (notice I did not say raising) a smart, happy kid is luck. (That is, some kids are just born having sunny dispositions and/or an aptitude for learning, while others are wired to be unhappy or due to some chemical or congenital or genetic malfunction have difficulty learning.)

That said, there are things you as a parent can do to help your kid get better grades (without doing the work for her) -- like surrounding her with books, reading to and with her, fostering good study habits, helping her study for tests, and encouraging and rewarding good grades (though not with bribes or coercion).

And there are things you can do to help your child be happy, or at least feel good about herself -- like spending time with her, doing things she wants to do or introducing her to things you think she might enjoy; telling her "I love you," every day, and meaning it; being a good listener; encouraging her passions and praising her (real) accomplishments; and not belittling her and telling her she's stupid or fat.

But there is no "formula" or book that can make your child class valedictorian or the most popular kid at school.

*Btw, I keep saying "smart, happy" because while I think it's important to cultivate a love of learning in your child (which IMHO I believe is the key to long-term academic and professional success), I think it's equally important for children to enjoy life, and to be able to do things that make them happy. Unfortunately, I have encountered too many parents who don't give a hoot about their child's happiness, just their grades (see Mom, Tiger). And what's the point of being "smart" if you are effing miserable?

Disagree with me? Leave a comment. But please keep it civil or I will delete it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No pants required

I give you the 2011 NYC No Pants Subway Ride, orchestrated by Improv Everywhere:

Over 3500 exhibitionists, ranging from a few months to 76 years old, took off their pants and rode the New York City subways in the name of art and improv.

Pants off to you guys. Very cheeky of you. The thighs have it.... OK, I'll stop now.

Btw, I'm guessing that all those people who looked surprised were tourists. No pants on the subway? Eh, just another typical day on the MTA.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dear Winter, we are THROUGH

To tell you the truth, I never really liked you. You were always so cold to me. Icy even. Pulling one snow job over me after another. But I put up with you because I used to think snow was pretty. Not any more.

Now you've finally done it.

Usually when you dump a lot of snow on me, you soften the blow with a couple of unseasonably warm days that melt it all away before any damage is done. But not this year. Nope. This year you had to go outdo yourself. As if 18 inches of snow were not enough, you had to go dump another 18 inches on top of it. And now you're sending me freezing rain?

Furthermore, as if I didn't feel like I was already in prison you had to go and stick bars of ice all around my house. Yeah, very pretty... until one stabs you in the heart. (On the plus side, the snow vampires seem to be keeping away.)

And that cute little trick with the water you pulled in our living room? Not so cute. Though the living room did need to be painted. Just wasn't counting on having to also replace a couple of walls and the bay window and the chimney and the roof.

And for crying out loud, couldn't you have left my office alone? (Though, I admit, climbing out my office window -- which is two stories up -- and banging all the ice off it and the gutter with a hammer did feel kind of good. But did that stop all the water leaking in? No. FYI, all that ice you see in the picture at right? Gone. Oh yeah.)

So Winter, I'm through with you. Done. You are no longer welcome here. Take your snow storms and freezing rain and wind chills and go find some skiers to screw with.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Pluto, now the zodiac. Is nothing sacred to astronomers?!

For those of you who haven't yet heard, everything you thought you knew about the zodiac, specifically what sign you were born under, is all wrong.

Thought you were a Cancer? WRONG! You're actually a Gemini.

Put another way, this is not the Age of Aquarius but, per astronomers (scientific killjoys* who are not to be confused with astrologers, aka unscientific merchants of hope), the Age of Capricornus. Which, I don't know about all of you, just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Confused? Just watch this video. Or read this article on why your horoscope is wrong. (The Cliff Notes version: Because the Earth wobbles, which stars appear when shifts. And over the last 2,000 years, the star field has shifted so much that the zodiac -- or horoscope -- signs are now nearly a month off.)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also, there are now 13 signs in the zodiac, not the neat dozen, thanks to the addition of the unpronounceable Ophiuchus, "the snake holder." (Bet I know a lot of guys born under that sign.)

For those who are curious as to what their "real" horoscope sign is, here is a list of the "new," scientifically accurate horoscope signs and their dates:
  • Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.
  • Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.
  • Pisces: March 11-April 18.
  • Aries: April 18-May 13.
  • Taurus: May 13-June 21.
  • Gemini: June 21-July 20.
  • Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.
  • Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.
  • Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.
  • Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.
  • Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
  • Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17.
  • Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.
You can also see a nifty zodiac before and after table on this Wikipedia page.

So, what do you all think about the new and scientifically improved zodiac? Or put another way, What's your sign? (Leave a comment on the blog.)

Me? I'm stung that I'm no longer a Scorpio but but... a Libra. Now I know how Pluto felt.

*Except for you, Alyssa. ;-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jets vs. Patriots: This time it's personal

I just love me some good football smack talk, though I think the Jets are asking for trouble talking smack about the New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady right now (especially considering the whooping they got the last time they played them).

[NOTE: This video, which I found after I wrote this post, is probably NOT safe for work -- that is, if you are familiar with Rex Ryan's verbal stylings.]

Do you really think calling Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an a-hole is going to help the Jets cause, Antonio Cromartie? Or do you think it's an invitation to a major butt-kicking?

As for Jets Coach Rex "Footloose" Ryan, a media gift who keeps on giving, if the Jets beat the Patriots this Sunday, no one will care what smack he talked about Tom Brady or the Patriots. In fact, sports talk radio hosts (yes, I'm talking to you, Craig Carton) will sing his praises come Monday morning. But if the Jets lose.... (Yeah, yeah, Patriots fans, pipe down.)

Btw, Jets and Jets fans have not been the only ones talking smack about this Sunday's big big AFC divisional playoff game between the New York Jets (of New Jersey) and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Patriots Wide Receiver Wes Welker had a few choice foot metaphors for Rex Ryan and the Jets. And this Pats fan (see video, below) also has some opinions about Sunday afternoon's Jets - Patriots matchup.

[NOTE: This video is also not entirely safe for work, unless you are a Patriots fan.]

But let me ask all of you. (All five of you.) What do you guys think about football smack talk and, more importantly, about this Sunday's big game between the Jets and Patriots?

Let me know via a blog comment.

And even though we took the Pats in the NFL playoff pool (hangs head in shame)... GO JETS!

UPDATED 1/17/11: Jets won! Jets won! Still can't quite believe it. To Pittsburgh -- and beyond!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

View from a snow storm

I haven't turned on the Weather Channel yet, but I'm guessing we got well over a foot of snow between 8 o'clock last night and 8 o'clock this morning, when I took these three pictures.

This, btw, would be the THIRD MAJOR SNOW STORM we've had in just over two weeks. And I am starting to feel as though I live in Buffalo, not Southern Connecticut.

Anyway, here's the picture I snapped earlier of our snow-covered deck, taken standing up. (I'm 5'2" with my slippers on.)

And here's what the deck looks like from our cats' point of view:

Note: To see what the deck looked like after the first snow storm (back on December 26-27), as well as a professional photographer's fantastic short time-lapse video of the storm's affect on his deck, click here.

Oh, and here are the icicles that now hang from the deck overhang:

And here's my art shot of our backyard after the last snow storm (which took place less than a week ago):

I used to think snow was all magical and pretty. Now? Not so much.

I am also terrified of the prospect of having to shovel our walkway and around the garage. (And no, there is no one who will do it for us.)

Wish me luck, people! Updates to follow...

UPDATE #1: The sun is out! Here's hoping this means no more snow. Also, here's a (slightly) better picture of the icicles, which I thought were cool:

UPDATE #2: While I was cleaning and doing laundry and working, the spouse was out shoveling the front walkway and around the garage. Went much faster than I thought, so I have been relieved of snow shoveling duty. For now. In other news, the plow guy has yet to show up, so we're still snowed in.

UPDATE #3: I can see my driveway! Thank you, Jimmy the Plow Guy! (Of course, it's going to be a skating rink after it refreezes.)

UPDATE #4 - 1/13/11: The sky is falling. Or rather the ceiling above our bay window is. All the snow and ice that built up in the gutters and on the roof above the living room bay window is now making its way into our living room. While I like the idea of an indoor pool, I don't want one in our living room. Been mopping and laying out buckets and receptacles -- and moved all the furniture out of the way. But if this keeps up, we are seriously screwed. The worst (?) part, we have already replaced our roof -- TWICE -- in the last 10 years and replaced all the windows to prevent this from happening.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Next Cat Internet Star

Watch out, Maru, there's a new Internet Cat Star on the rise.

Live from Hong Kong, it's Murphy the Cat!

I just love the puss on that puss.

I know, it's not a box, but it's close!

And doesn't wittle baby Murphy cat look cute in his wittle baby cap and booties?

Me, I am totally impressed that they* got their cat to a) wear a baby cap and booties; and b) hold still long enough for someone to photograph him in said cap and booties. (They actually had him in two baby caps!)

Thanks for sending me the pix of Murphy, E.! Now how about some Murphy the Cat videos? :-)

All I can say is, watch out, Maru, there's a new cute cat on the Internets!

*"They" being my first cousin, E., and her husband, R., who live in Hong Kong and are expecting their first human child later this month.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What happened to civil discourse?

Is it just me, or has society become less tolerant, more vociferous, and less willing to politely agree to disagree?

Case in point: The reactions to yesterday's horrific, tragic shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords was to meet and speak with her constituents.

Heated and emotional responses and speculation are always to be expected after such events. But I was still shocked by some of the discourse -- and how quick people were to point fingers and hurl abuse, often just because someone disagreed with them. I was even more shocked to find myself the subject of such abuse -- me, someone who never attacks anyone and always tries to see both sides. And all because I left the following, somewhat hastily written, comment on my two go-to political blogs.
Speaking of Sarah Palin, Piers Morgan tweeted this article in HuffPo about a possible Palin connection. (Doubt there’s a hard connection, but still, downright eerie.)

Also just watched Obama. Kind of chilling. Bill Clinton would have been in tears one minute, pointing a finger and going ole fire and brimstone the next. Obama, on the other hand, was… Obama. Sigh.
Now, I am not completely naive about the perils of blogging, or commenting on blogs, and was expecting that someone would comment on my comment (and not necessarily in a nice way), but I was totally unprepared to be viciously and personally attacked, which several commenters on the blog Balloon Juice did -- even though the ringleader started off by admitting he may have misunderstood me (which he clearly did). Of course, that didn't stop him and his cohorts from attacking me.

I was so shaken (literally, I was shaking and felt momentarily afraid), I quickly got off my computer and had to take some deep breaths.

After somewhat recovering, I was curious to know what if any reaction the comment had received over on Rumproast. There too there was some confusion about my reaction to Obama's press conference. (Was I saying Obama didn't handle the situation properly? That he was a bad President? To which my answers are "no" and "no."*) However, unlike on Balloon Juice, I was not viciously attacked for my opinion. And the calmer, quieter, civil (though disagreeing) responses made me realize I had done a poor job of communicating what I meant on both blogs (and that some people -- not the people who commented on Rumproast -- are just pricks who get off on making other people feel bad).

The experience has also made me question, not for the first time since President Obama was elected, whether the politics of hate has grown stronger -- and whether civil discourse, and arguments based on fact, if not endangered, have become exceedingly rare, with people preferring to attack one another, and spew inaccuracies and invectives, than engaging in well-reasoned debates, or politely agreeing to disagree.

What do you think?

UPDATED: Just read this New York Times article, titled "A Turning Point in the Discourse, but in which Direction?" which I wanted to share. Betty Cracker also has a great post titled "What a leader would do" over on Rumproast, which I likewise recommend.

*Just so you all don't attack me for my comment (above), what I meant to say was that listening to the President describe the shooting was chilling, NOT that Obama was. But that yes, sometimes, such as in this case, where a nine-year-old girl was brutally slain, I miss former President Bill Clinton's more emotional response. Which is not to imply that a) Obama did a bad job at the press conference or b) that he's a bad President, which is how some people took my comment.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Jets fan's AFC playoff game prayer

[Scroll down the page to see A Jets Fan's Prayer for this Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers. GO JETS!]

In honor of tonight's NFL AFC Wild Card Playoff Game between the 11-5 New York Jets (of New Jersey) and the 10-6 Indianapolis Colts* (at 8 p.m. ET on NBS), I have composed the following prayer for Jets fans to recite before the big game.

A Jets Fan's AFC Wild Card Playoff Prayer

Our Jets team, which art in Indy,
hallowed be thy defense.
Thy offense come.
Thy will be done
on the Colts,
as it was on the Bills and the Steelers.
Give us tonight our first post-season win,
and forgive us our penalties and interceptions,
as we block and tackle those who seek to score against us.
Lead us not into defeat,
but deliver us unto the Super Bowl.

UPDATED 1/16/11 in honor of today's big AFC divisional playoff game between the New York Jets (of New Jersey) and the New England Patriots (of Tom Brady):

A Jets Fan's AFC Divisional Playoff Prayer

Our Jets team, which art in Foxborough,
hallowed be thy defense.
Thy offense must run.
Thy blocking be done
on the Pats,
as it was on the Colts and the Bills.
Give us this afternoon our next playoff win,
and forgive us our penalties and interceptions,
as we block and tackle those who seek to score against us.
Lead us not into defeat,
but deliver us unto the Super Bowl.

UPDATED 1/19/11 as I begin my next vigil, praying for yet another Jets win, this time at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this Sunday, January 23. (Hey, the other two worked. Maybe a three's a charm. Or not.)

A Jets Fan's AFC Championship Game Prayer

Our Jets team, which art in Pittsburgh,
hallowed be thy defense.
Thy offense must run.
Thy blocking be done
on the Steelers,
as it was on the Colts and Pats.
Give us this Sunday our next big win,
and forgive us our penalties and interceptions,
as we block and tackle those who seek to score against us.
Lead us not into defeat,
but deliver us unto the Super Bowl.

J-E-T-S, goooooo Jets!

*Can you say "re-seed"?!

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Vanna be on Wheel of Fortune

If I was only 10 years younger, five inches taller, and blonder, I would so enter the Wheel of Fortune "Vanna for a Day Contest." (Just click on the link to go to the Vanna For A Day Contest page.)

I mean, who wouldn't want to be Vanna White for a day -- and get paid to gracefully turn a few dozen letter boxes and read promo copy for 22 minutes a spin on Wheel of Fortune? Sign me up!

(Btw, for those of you unfamiliar with the Dr. Dave song "Vanna, Pick Me a Letter," you have to check out this video. Just ignore the intro material.)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I loved Wheel of Fortune growing up, back when Chuck Woolery was the host (and Susan Stafford was the hostess). And have been known to occasionally watch since. (The spouse and I also have fond memories of watching the Italian version of Wheel of Fortune, known as La Ruota della Fortuna, when we were cycling through Italy many years ago.)

So if you think you've got what it takes to be the next Vanna White, go ahead and enter. (The contest runs through February 7.) And send me your audition video to post! :-) Though personally, I think Kelly Ripa has a lock on getting it, what with her on air audition on Live this Thursday (jump to 10:36 on the clip).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anyone know who's going to win Super Bowl XLV?

Cause I got an NFL Post-Season Playoff Bracket I could use some help filling in.

(Click on the NFL Post-Season Playoff Bracket Pool picture below to see a larger version.)

Let me know your picks. And if you're correct, I may cut you in on the action. (Note: New England Patriots fans excluded, but thanks for playing.)

Me? I'm torn, especially concerning this weekend's first round of the AFC playoffs. As a Jets fan, I am rooting for the Jets, but I'm nervous about the Colts. The other AFC game is much easier. I'm rooting for (and picking) the Baltimore Ravens over the Kansas City Chiefs.

As for this weekend's NFC playoff games, I'm going with the New Orleans Saints over the Seattle Seahawks (who should not even have been allowed in the playoffs with a losing record -- talk about Who dat?!). But the Green Bay Packers at the Philadelphia Eagles game is a toughie. Anyone?

Also, I completely agree with Mike and Mike over on ESPN and this guy that the four AFC games being played this weekend are being played in the wrong stadiums. I know why they are being played where they are, but it's just wrong that the teams with better records are on the road. Time to re-seed.

As for round two of the playoffs, I've been second-guessing myself all week. I mean, how do you not pick the New England Patriots to win against the New York Jets or the Indianapolis Colts? Though I think both teams are worthy opponents, and the Jets did beat the Pats early on in the season. I also find it hard to bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers (even though I loathe "alleged" rapist Ben Roethlisburger).

And I think the Atlanta Falcons will probably beat whomever they face (the Saints or the Seahawks). Though I think the Chicago Bears could lose to the Eagles (assuming the Eagles beat the Packers) if Michael Vick (I know, I know: What about the DOGS?!) is having a good game.

Speaking of the Eagles, even though I HATE typing this, I think it's possible we could have an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl this year, Eagles vs. Steelers, though I'm sure the even money is on the Patriots and Falcons, the two NFL teams with the best regular season records.

Decisions, decisions....

Brother, can you spare a pick?

UPDATED 1/9/11: Well, thanks to the spouse (who picked the Colts over the Jets in our bracket pool, despite my wanting to pick the Jets), we are currently 0-2. Woohoo! Thought I'm not too upset as my Jets made it to the next round. Go Jets!

UPDATED 1/17/11: Well, so much for the NFL playoff bracket pool! But you know what? I don't care! GO JETS! To Pittsburgh -- and beyond! How awesome would a Jets - Packers Super Bowl be? (Rats. Probably just jinxed it.)

UPDATED 1/24/11: Well, now we know: Packers vs. Steelers. (My gut was right about the Steelers -- and SHF was right about the Packers.) Until next year, Jets fans...

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's a panda! It's a cow! No, it's a panda cow!

Meet Ben, the miniature panda cow! (Though technically, wouldn't "Ben" be a miniature panda bull?) Ain't he cute? And he's one of only 24 miniature panda cows in the world!

And no, J-THREE-O, we are not getting a miniature panda cow, even though I gotta admit Ben is pretty cute.

For more on Ben the miniature panda cow (I just love typing "miniature panda cow"), click here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Can't Miss New Year's Resolutions

Admit it, every year you come up with a bunch of well-meaning New Year's resolutions that you know you're not going to keep, but you make them anyway. So this year, why not make some resolutions you might actually keep?

Presenting... 10 Can't Miss New Year's Resolutions!

1. I resolve to get up in the morning. Or at least try to.

2. I resolve to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Unless Conan or Jimmy Kimmel or Jon Stewart has on someone really good.

3. I resolve to exercise. Once in a while.

4. I resolve to eat healthier. Starting next week. Or the week after.

5. I resolve not to complain between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

6. I resolve to be nicer to people. When they are not pissing me off.

7. I resolve to do that thing I've been meaning to do. When I get around to it.

8. I resolve to spend less time on the computer and more time with people. On the computer.

9. I resolve to not be envious of all the cool stuff other people have. Just as soon as I get all that cool stuff.

10. I resolve to stop making New Year's resolutions. At least ones I know I'm not going to keep.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011!