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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Examining Mucus - The Origin Of Snot

For the past few days, I have been under the weather. Nothing serious, just a common cold. Granted, it knocked me for a loop, made me take to my bed in a haze of NyQuil-induced psychedelia, tuned my voice down an octave, rattled me with fever and pulled a recurring and deliberate cough from the depths of my chest cavity that made the neighbors' already-skittish dogs howl for their Dog-Gods and piss without reserve. I may have changed the Earth's orbit slightly with the days of ceaseless coughing - I have a letter out to scientists regarding this and should hear back shortly. I am relatively certain I heard my downstairs neighbor in turn argue, then butcher his feral live-in hussy in a heated argument over the ruckus.

These things aside, I have weathered the storm admirably - some might say heroically, but I am of modest nature and prefer not to beat my own courageous drum. What is left after the fever and outright misery is the hollow bellows of a cough that I cannot shake - it has the sound of a fat man attempting to play a Sousa march on a basoon and tuba. Simultaneously, while standing knee deep in dirty water in one of those huge concrete tunnels built for vast sewage - like the one in "The Fugitive", where Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones finally come face to face and Harrison Ford says "I DIDN'T KILL MY WIFE!" and Tommy Lee says "I DON'T CARE!" and Ford jumps and great excitement ensues. One of those tunnels. Really loud and obnoxious. I have startled and frightened my co-workers over the past couple of days with the sounding of this great klaxon of impending doom, which I am mostly thankful for, because I don't like most of them and prefer to be left alone, in peace with my brilliance.

But the main source of worry was not the cough or the fever. Neither was it the fact that I never remember tasting such misery when battling a cold in my youth, which could be a faulty memory or the fact that my resistance has gone the way of the dodo, the wooden nickel and good old-fashioned common sense. What bothered me most about being down with the cold was the sheer volume of mucus that was produced by my ailing body. For Christ's sake, if I could have bottled and sold my output over the last week to some twisted auto-manufacturers that had built cars that ran on snot, I would have been a bazillionaire of Howard Hughes magnitude. And just as gross, funneling the mucusitic overflow into mason jars, hastily and diligently hauled away by my cowtowing Mormon aides.

I have destroyed what was left of a box of Kleenex and most of a roll of double-ply toilet paper, not including what has been used at work to sop up the mess, where the snot-volcano still rumbles. I Googled "Where does snot come from?" in one of my miserable hallucenagenic hazes and learned the boring fact that it is produced from various glands located around the body. The nose-snot - mucus (which is different from throat-snot, which is phlegm) is produced to keep foreign particles from being whisked into our noses, sinuses and presumably our brains. This is why if we emerge from a forest fire, we have soot stuck in our noses. Without mucus, the soot would apparently proceed straight to our lower cortex, at which time we would lose our ability to tap-dance, fold a flag or do anything but scream the words "FIRE - BAAAAAAAAAD!" when under extreme duress.

None of this explains exactly why my body felt the need to churn out the stuff like the Amish making butter. It makes no sense. I could have walked through three forest fires, a chicken farm under investigation for a lawless disregard of spooky-chicken-disease-code and the back room of a black-market Alabama funeral home and not needed this much mucus. And if I did, I should probably go live with Jesus anyhow.

While Google has done little to ease my mind over what seems to me to be an extravagant overindulgance of production, I have yet to find anything online detailing how exactly I should deal with my dilemma. Part of me is quite proud that my body is capable of producing anything other than bitter memories, animosity amongst my dearest or paranoia with such zeal - I suppose I should be proud. At the same time, I would feel odd bottling it, even if it got me into the Guiness Book of World Records - which would be awesome. I blow my nose again and sigh and launch the heavy tissue toward the garbage can. Sometimes I make it and sometimes I don't. At some point, the entire weighty mess will all have to be cleaned up and carted off, dumped and become the problem of the garbage men. Or the overachieving hoboes. Somehow, it seems like such a waste.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stevie Williams - The Art of Burning Bridges

The act of burning one's bridges is historically an expression used to signify staking everything on the success of one venture or another, usually battle. In ancient Rome, Generals used to sometimes destroy the bridges or sabotage their own army's means of retreat to ensure that their men put up a chippy fight - there would be no turning back, so it was fight or die. That'll show them.

In recent times, the term seems to have taken on a more modern twist - still hinging on the fact that there is no turning back, but also insinuating that somehow one has managed to wind up alone and adrift through some action of their own, either on purpose or unwittingly.

Stevie Williams is a caddie from New Zealand, best known for manning the bag of Tiger Woods for over a decade and earning millions of dollars in prize money, making him the richest athlete in his native country. I was unaware that caddies were considered athletes, which makes this fact even more ironic. He was relieved of his caddying duties earlier in the year, when Tiger decided he could use a change, what with his scandalous divorce, injuries and difficulty regaining the form that had won him thirteen majors. After being let go by Woods, Steve Williams put on one of the best self-destructive displays of bridge burning ever. Judging from Williams' subsequent behavior, I have a hard time imagining how Tiger kept him around as long as he did.

Steve Williams - Bridge-Burner, Extraordinaire

New Zealand is a tiny little island, located Southeast of Australia, and was originally populated by a feisty tribe of Polynesians known as the Maori. Mostly peaceful, the Maori were reasonably quiet until Europe poked its head in and showed the natives how to use a musket, at which time the entire bunch went haywire and tribes with muskets would attack and capture tribes without muskets, thus disrupting a quiet history with an explosion of unsavory bloodshed, courtesy of the morally corrupt Europeans, no doubt aided in part by the thieves, scoundrels and malcontents sent from England to occupy neighboring Australia and torment the Aborigine.

New Zealand - Little Brother to morally corrupt Australia
There is a lesson in there about being feisty, but I digress. My point is that New Zealanders may be saddled with a long-standing history of a certain lack of decorum, dating back to the days of the ill-mannered musket wars. Judging by Williams' recent lack of discretion when speaking of his ex-employer, there can surely be no other explanation other than struck-by-lightening or hit-by-pitch for his unsportsmanlike behavior.

Looping for Adam Scott and securing his first post-season win, he was asked by the media (who must have stampeded over the winner Scott to get to the spurned caddy) how it felt to get this win, Williams gushed that this victory was the most fulfilling of his entire career. “I’ve caddied for 33 years, 145 wins, and this has been the best week of my life,” Williams told CBS television after the final putt dropped on Adam Scott‘s eighth career win. What? I guess the 13 majors and millions of New Zealand doubloons in the bank were all simply a prelude to this regular-season win somewhere in Ohio, near Lake Erie.

Woods took the high road and shrugged off Stevie's backhanded dig. For a change, we all kind of admired Tiger for keeping his mouth shut. But Stevie wasn't finished - not by a racial long-shot.

Recently, Williams spoke out in Shanghai at an awards dinner for caddies. I don't know what kind of awards they give caddies at such an event - I would assume it would be for things such as "neatest handwriting", "best club-cleaning" or "quickest to figure out 10% of a golfer's winnings, after taxes". Apparently, there must be an award for "most racially offensive remark" or "most brutal use of a pitching wedge": When asked about Scott's win at Bridgestone. "It was my aim to shove it up that black arse..." Williams was quoted as saying.

Again, Tiger took the high-road, gracefully accepting Williams' apology when it was offered - at least publicly. For all we know, he may have already paid for a band of angry Maori to roust Williams from his sleep, shoot him with a musket and chop him into chum for the man-eating ocean dwellers off the coast of New Zealand. Just sayin' - you never know.

All I know is that I once felt that Williams had been given the shaft and that Tiger had shown bad form for sacking the caddy who had stood by him through all his transgressions. Williams had defended Tiger ruthlessly on the links, swiftly dispatching sly, nebbish photographers with a well-placed kick to the lens, or a rough "snatch and toss" of a camera into a nearby pond.

But Stevie, with his rough-hewn New Zealander ways has managed to make Tiger look like a sympathetic character and that is no easy task, these days. Hmmmmmm... Maybe that's been the goal all along and this is a master plan worthy of the marauding Maori. If these little digs somehow manage to restore some of Tiger's public luster this could be one of the most effective PR gameplans of all time.

Perhaps Williams hasn't picked up his last check from Woods after all and is taking it on the chin for the benefit of his former friend and employer. And maybe the crafty caddy hasn't burned his bridge in the end, but simply helped shore it up with his harsh words. I would like to think that Williams is not so much ill-tempered and lacking discretion, but simply sly like a fox. Let's look at it that way - I'm certain New Zealand would approve.

Sly like a Maori Fox

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face: An example

I always wondered what that comment meant - "you're just cutting off your nose to spite your face..." What the heck? I suppose that this is a warning against some massive over-reation that could turn out to be more self-destructive than helpful... Or just a warning against slicing off your nose. Kind of grotesque, but apt, I guess. Maybe I would have said "Throwing out the fridge to spite the house", or "Tearing out the gas tank to spite the car", but it matters not. At least it wasn't "Feeding the kids to wild badgers to spite the family" and that's something.

Anywhow, I found a sterling example of a restauranteur cutting off his nose to spite his face - more literally, cutting off a high-falutin', free-spending client base to spite his business. Here's the skinny...

This fancy-pants restaurant owner in New York - let's call him "Mario", because that's his name - compared the banking industry to Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin over how the industry leaders "have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands"... Apparently, the bankers, regardless of how much toppling and redistribution of wealth they have accomplished, have taken severe umbrage to being compared to a couple of vicious, wartime criminals responsible for the death of millions of innocents.

The bankers' response has been swift and bloody - a virtual Blitzkrieg on Mario's livelihood. One of the wealthiest industries in the world, most of whom are headquartered in New York City, have issued a boycott on Mario's establishments - the results of which could cost the restauranteur millions of dollars. With a menu featuring $15 appetizers, $20 first-courses, $30 main courses and $15 desserts, this boycott is costing Mario an average of $80 per boycotting individual, not including wine, taxes and gratuity. With wine ranging from $30 to $200 per bottle and more, this is a vicious, expensive kick to the checkered trousers.

The banks have declared to their staffs that they will no longer fund business lunches or dinners at Mario's restaurants and have strongly suggested that their employees no longer frequent these eateries - one claiming that he would rather "eat off a hot-dog wagon" than set foot in one of Mario's establishments.

So, here's the thing - the hell with the bankers. Who needs their filthy lucre anyhow - the way I see it, if the bankers stop indulging their banking hunger at Babbo and Del Posto, that will open up more tables for the common folk to come in and have dinner at a restaurant where they might have had difficulty finding a table previously. I have paid more for dinner in Phoenix than what Mario is charging - I would eat there - it sounds good. I like a good grilled ribeye - yum...

However tacky and politically-incorrect Mario might have been for comparing the banking industries to a couple of the most evil war-time criminals in history, I'm sure he was only voicing the frustrated opinion of millions of business and home owners in the country who have had zero luck when trying to work with these bankers over the last few years. Judging from the figures that I have mostly skimmed, there has been little success and the frustration is justified. Perhaps he could have compared the bankers to tomb-plunderers, or pirates... I doubt many of them eat at his restaurants.

All that said, Mario did indeed cut off his nose to spite his face - the lucky part is that I think the face has another nose that will spring up right behind it. And it will be a more handsome nose, I think.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Woman Steals Sandwich - UPDATE!

It appears as if the Great Safeway PR Machine has been rolled into action. If you recall, a pregnant lady and her husband were arrested for stealing a couple of sandwiches at a Hawaiian Safeway and their little daughter was taken away for safekeeping by the authorities while Mommy and Daddy sat in jail. No word was mentioned of what happened to the $50 in groceries they did purchase while the pair sat in stir. The couple had picked up the sandwiches while shopping and ate them as they made their tour of the aisles, then neglected to pay for the goods they had eaten. Even if the ommission of the sandwiches was not an oversight, I wrote that I thought carting them off to the hoosegow and snatching their daughter away was a bit overkill for the situation. I also wrote that the value of the sandwiches was $10 - apparently it was only $5, which actually makes the actions twice the overkill.

Not that I think stealing is right, mind you - I simply think that making the pair pay for the sandwiches and telling them sternly not to eat goods not yet purchased while they shop, regardless of how pregnant and famished you are, might have been a more prudent route for the management.

Regardless of my thoughts on the matter, Safeway has come out and stated that they will drop charges against the couple. Their child was returned, they got out of jail after posting $100 in bond and presumably got their $50 in groceries back. All should be right. Safeway also says that they will graciously rescind the year of banishment from the premises that had been levied against the two.


By "forgiving" the thieves, Safeway has gone on the offensive with their defense. I am assuming that by taking this stance, the couple will feel so relieved that they are off the hook that they will not allow the simmering anger, humiliation and sense of injustice boil over into litigation. A good strategy - the mom has already come out and humbly apologized for neglecting to pay for the sandwiches and to say how grateful she was that this entire "horrifying" experience is over. Bravo, Safeway - it worked!

Here's my bet: Within a couple of weeks we will see more articles about this incident and the articles will involve litigation, more use of the word "horrifying" and eventually a settlement that has been reached to the satisfaction of all parties. I fear nothing will be written about the store manager being ceremoniously disemboweled in the parking lot and his head skewered on a pole for all to see for bringing on this firestorm of horrified disbelief and subsequent shame onto the once-squeaky-clean grocery chain. I am not a litigious person - in fact, it would be tough to find a litigious bone in my body, even using a litigation tuning-fork. That said, I hope the couple sues Safeway and that the settlement pays for their childrens' education and sets them up to live comfortably in Hawaii for the rest of their felonious lives.

There is a moral somewhere here. It may be that life will be easier and people happier all around if everyone just took the time to use a little common sense before they jumped into some irrational action.

Of course, it might just be that you should pay for your sandwiches.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pregnant Lady Arrested For Stealing Sandwich - That'll Show Her...

I was so appalled today by a news story that I read the whole thing, and if I read it properly, Safeway is in for a shit-storm. Apparently, a family decided to relocate to Hawaii - who wouldn't - and went shopping for groceries with their little girl. Mom was pregnant and they got lost on the way. So far, so good - how you get lost on the way to the store, I do not know, but I assume that Hawaii is overgrown with tropical trees and vines and there are snakes everywhere, so I give them a pass. I would probably wander around lost and staring upward at the untrustworthy trees myself, but then again, I am a pusscake and fear all things nature.

The family of three and a half made it to the store without incident, but Mom was famished and a little weak from the tiresome hike, what with being pregnant and all the inherent dangers of the walk. So, Mom and Dad grabbed a couple of sandwiches at the Safeway and ate them as they shopped. I assumed that they shared some with their daughter. The story did not say so, but it would be rather prickish not to, even if you were with-child and famished. At the end of their shopping expedition, they paid for $50 worth of groceries and proceeded to leave. Buuuut, they neglected to pay for the sandwiches and here's where things went south.

The family was stopped outside the store and accused of stealing the sandwiches. Fair enough, however, it's not like it was some shady homeless guy who had stuffed a handful of bloomers down the front of his pants, paid for a Slim Jim and split, in search of the nearest Mickey's Big Mouth - this was a family, toting along not only their youngster, but one in the oven. The family, supposedly realizing their error, offered to pay for the sandwiches. I'm sure there was a discussion on the food's deliciousness and how grateful the shoppers were that they were available to keep Mama from collapsing in distress, but the management and security team at Safeway would have none of it. They hauled the family up to the office, called the police and had the pair of adults arrested and their child taken away to protective custody.


How does something like this even happen? Granted, the $10 might have added an additional twenty percent to the purchase's bottom line, but I am nearly certain that the time and money wasted on this bad publicity, karma, and judgement will far outweigh the profits on the deli-meats. If I were King, I would have probably stopped the family on their way out, mentioned the sandwiches and then after they had offered to pay for the food, would haved shooed them on their way and voided the price of the goods at the customer service desk so my inventory would be in line. Or, I might have let them pay for the goods, if I didn't like the looks of them. Either way, I probably would not have called the authorities - not even in Hawaii. It just doesn't seem to be the right thing to do.

I understand that there are laws and laws need to be upheld. However, there is the letter of the law and the common sense that weaves its meandering way through our lives. We need to find a nice median on which to base our decisions. I say the same thing when I watch sports. Or attend a parent/teacher conference.

It is important that we are stewards of our communities and work in a diligent fashion to uphold the laws and bylaws that are the glue that keeps us safe, sane and relatively trouble free, but at the same time, we need to allow compassion and common sense to throw their two-bits into the pot. I hope the couple sues Safeway and I hope they win, so that this incident acts as a warning for all who do not think before they act. It may be that the facts have not been completely disclosed and this was a case of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde having their way with the sandwiches of Hawaii, in which case I will eat crow (preferably grilled and served on a toasted sourdough with some spicy mustard and bitter greens), but until that time, I will continue to carry the torch for the pregnant and the famished.