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Friday, February 27, 2015

Rant #1,386: Short Sleeves

No, we're not talking about short shorts here, although I would love to talk about that topic at another time.

I am going to speak today about short sleeves.

I hate long sleeves.

They cover up my arms, itch me, and I feel that they are constricting, holding me back from what I am doing.

I almost always wear short sleeves, no matter what he weather condition.

When it was recently two degrees, I wore short sleeves.

No sweater on top, simply a short-sleeved shirt, and, of course, a jacket when I ventured outside.

I know I have worn long sleeves, but my lifestyle doesn't warrant it.

I am almost always warm, although I will say that the recent cold spell we have had in my neck of the woods has at least made my feet cold.

But at work, they keep it seemingly at a constant 80 degrees, and yes, I mean year-round.

It is ridiculously hot at work, and yes, I have asked co-workers if they keep it so hot in their own homes, or do they simply soak the heat in at work like a sponge, and transfer it to their homes, where they keep it at 60 or so.

I do not receive an answer.

Otherwise, I am pretty much warm all the time.

And no, I am not going through menopause--or whatever they call it for men--I am just always warm, and have been this way as far back as I can remember.

It is both good and bad.

During the winter, it is good, because I need a minimum of heat to be happy.

During the summer, I can't seem to get cool.

As a teen, when we moved to Long Island and I finally got my own room, I used to keep the window open almost year round.

My mother, who is always cold, asked me that if I had to keep the window open, to please keep my door closed so the heat would not escape.

As an adult, my wife is always cold, so no windows open, but I guess I give off enough heat for her to be nice and cozy.

But I did buy her a desk heater just in case.

So, while today I am not wearing a short-sleeved shirt, I do have it rolled up so it is one.

As the old song said, I am too hot for my shirt.

But it is only because I am warm the way it is.

Right, said Fred.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Classic Rant #35 (June 19, 2009): I Hate Ampersands!

I hate ampersands, or the character that represents the word "and."


As a writer, I think it is simply lazy when people use this symbol instead of writing out the word. I mean, how difficult is it to write out the a-n-d? If you are writing, it takes a second. If you are typing, it's three key strokes and you are done.

I also hate it when corporations use the ampersand in their names, such as Procter & Gamble. What is wrong with Procter a-n-d Gamble?

In our Internet world, people look to shorten their messages by using electronic acronyms in place of words, such as LOL, BF, etc., and in this world, the ampersand has gone through a revival, because many computer users use it to shorten their messages.

However, maybe I am a traditionalist, but I can't stand its use. When I am writing, I avoid it like the plague.

It's a-n-d for me, and it will always be a-n-d.

& I dnt cr f nobdy lks it.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rant #1,385: Going Through the Drill

After nearly 58 years on this earth, I have come to the following conclusion:

Of all the doctors that I have to go to for one thing or another, the one I hate to go to the most is ...

Drum roll please ...

The dentist.

Does anyone actually like to go to the dentist?

Yes, we need our teeth checked. Oral hygiene is very important for our state of being, our state of mind, and our state of health.

But going to the dentist is a real chore, because whatever they do, I know it is going to be uncomfortable, hopefully just when they are working on me but possibly afterwards too.

My teeth were a mess as a kid, growing in every which way, and I need to wear braces for several years to straighten everything out.

As an adult, I went literally decades without having much of a problem with my teeth--maybe a cavity here and there, but literally, I probably went about 30 years with no headaches--or toothaches--related to my teeth.

Since I was in my late 40s, I have had nothing but problems, and a lot of it doesn't have to do with me, I feel, but it does have to do with the dentists I have used.

I had a very fine, and a very old school, dentist when I was growing up. He fixed my teeth while he ranted and railed and raved at me for not taking care of my teeth. He actually was my mother's dentist as a child, so he knew me pretty well, and he put things into my mouth to last a lifetime.

And when he died, and I went to other dentists, they literally did last me a lifetime--until other dentists thought that they needed to be removed and replaced with newer replacements, if you will.

Since then, my mouth has felt like it is falling apart.

Yes, a lot of it has to do with age, but I have since, over about the past 10 years, had a variety of dental maladies including broken teeth, broken crowns, broken fillings ... you name it, I have broken it.

Just last night, after a long and hard day at work, I had to go in to get not only a crown replaced, but to have a filling replaced.

My mouth felt uncomfortable after the work was done last night, and I couldn't eat until late.

This morning, my mouth still feels a bit uncomfortable, and I am still trying to figure out what side to eat on, or at least eat on the most. I have gone back and forth, and one side feels just as badly as the other, so I guess I am going to have to give it some time to settle in my mouth.

I absolutely hate going to the dentist--as a kid, I was so nervous that before going to my mom's old doctor, I went somewhere else, where I was literally told to go somewhere else by the dentist because he could not handle me--and I still do.

They are all nice, but why, really, does one choose to be a dentist from all the other medical areas one can choose from?

The bottom line is to help people, I know that, but why be a dentist? Why not be a proctologist?

I have no idea what the thought processes are, but I guess I have to look at them as a necessary evil, even though they aren't really evil at all.

Just like death and paying taxes, one guarantee is that you are going to have to go to the dentist, and I am happy that I am done with that, at least for right now.

However, this weekend, my son has to go to the dentist, and guess who will be taking him there?

I really feel for my son, but I have been there and done that, and I guess it's now his turn.

Good luck! I hope they find nothing but a good set of choppers in that mouth of his.

Classic Rant #34 (June 18, 2009): Network Television Has Lost Me

I don't watch much network television anymore, whether it is on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, or the CW or whatever they call it now.

I just don't have the interest that I once had.

Sure, I do watch a couple of things: Lost, Survivor, even ridiculous shows like Wipeout and Big Brother.

However, as far as weekly episodic dramas or comedies, I just don't get too excited about them anymore. Lost is another story. It is such a weird and quirky show, that I almost have to watch it, although I believe the quality of the earlier episodes has not been evident in the episodes of the last two years.

As far as other weekly shows, I guess I am tapped out. At 52, these shows are not developed for me anymore. I have sampled a few, and I don't find them interesting at all.

I remember that this phenomena--and change in my viewing habits--began with the show Friends. So many people raved about it that I felt I should tune it in to see what all the fuss was about. I remember the episode--it was about one of their elderly neighbors passing away, and the main cast members' reaction to his demise. I don't think I laughed a single time, and I never watched the show again.

I also couldn't get into Seinfeld. I sampled that too, but although I don't remember the episode, I don't think I laughed a single time. Funny, I went to school with him--I wasn't a friend of his, as I was a freshman in our high school who just moved to Long Island and he was a senior--but I do remember him pretty clearly.

And I have watched numerous episodes of CSI, but I simply cannot get into the show at all. To me, it is like watching an encyclopedia.

I imagine there are some good shows on network TV, but I haven't found them yet. Not that the few that I watch are any good--surely Big Brother and Wipeout are pure trash--but the ones I do watch kind of keep my interest.

What a far cry from when I was a kid, when I watched everything from Gilligan's Island to Dark Shadows to The Monkees to The Andy Griffith Show to Dragnet to ... well, you get the idea.

I guess TV simply is not as important to me as it once was.

However, I do watch numerous TV DVDs. I am currently hooked on The Mod Squad, and have Room 222 and some others just waiting for me to dig in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rant #1,384: Brain Cramp

My brain works just fine.

It is 57 years old, going on 58 in a few weeks, and I can remember things that happened more than 50 years ago with a clearness that even I am impressed with.

And I hope it stays that way. My grandmother had Alzheimer's, and there is no worse way to go out in this world than having that terrible, awful disease.

Whatever the case, last week, I had a real brain cramp that no one could rectify, but myself.

I don't know why, but sometimes the mind wanders, even when you are using it and are very busy, and that is just what happened to me at work in the middle of last week.

All of a sudden, I started to think about a game or toy that I played with not as a little kid, but as an older kid, maybe when I was 11 or 12 or 13 years old.

It was like an abacus, but the balls were not set into the game, the marbles used could move independently and could actually fall off the game if you were not careful.

It was some type of counting game, and you could ask the game mathematical questions, and it would give you the answers.

You could also compete against the game, and you would never win.

It sounds like a very early, non-electric version of a computer, and that is really exactly what it was.

But what I could not figure out was its name. I simply could not remember what it was called.

I went all over the Internet during my lunch break to try to find out what this game was called, and I came up empty.

I went onto Facebook, and nobody knew what I was talking about.

But again, my mind was searching its memory cells a bit more after a few hours of this consternation, and it was becoming clearer to me what it was called.

Was it NEM, or NIM, or NOM, or MEM or ... I could not figure it out.

This pretty much went into the next day.

I still used the Internet to try and check on this thing, but to no avail.

But then, again, my brain worked beautifully. I think I remembered the name!

Yes, when I checked Dr. NIM, I hit paydirt.

This game or toy or early computer or whatever you want to call it came out in the late 1960s, and it did just what I said it did.

It played number games with the user, and it remarkably always won out.

I was completely fascinated with this thing as a pre-teen, played it all the time, but somehow, it completely faded from my memory, until that moment last week, decades after I last played it.

Doing some research, it actually was the basis of a very early electronic computer too, so it was really more than a game or a toy, it was more like a template for something bigger and better.

I searched around, and no, it is not made anymore. Through the years, several people have sold their Dr. NIMs on the Internet through eBay and other sources, but right now, it isn't being sold, at least online.

I would love to have another one, and I am on the lookout for one as we speak.

If you have one, and want to sell it, please contact me. If the price is reasonable--I have seen them go for maybe $25 or so, a lot more than the $5 or so the thing originally cost--maybe we can make a deal.

I would love to play Dr. NIM again. It will bring me back to a different time and place, and will exercise my brain a bit.

Dr. NIM is one doctor that I wouldn't mind visiting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Classic Rant #33 (June 17, 2009): Baseball and Steroids-Sosa What?

I am a huge baseball fan, a big fan of the Yankees, and this entire steroid mess we, as baseball fans, have been put through has been a horror, putting a major smudge on the game we love. Every time we hear a new name--McGwire, Clemens, ARod, Ramirez--we cringe even more.

Well, a new name has been added, even though this one was really not much of a surprise. Sammy Sosa, who testified before Congress that he did not use steroids (or barely did, since he said his English wasn't too good), has reportedly been named as one of the players on the infamous list for using Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs as they are called in our acronym-happy society. Sosa was always suspect, but no one had anything on him, reportedly until now.

As a baseball fan, I am all tapped out on this mess. When I hear another name mentioned, I shrug my shoulders and basically say, "So what?" Was Sosa any different from dozens of others who used and abused these drugs? More importantly, did he abuse this stuff before these substances were deemed illegal by Major League Baseball? People forget that Mark McGwire broke no rules when he supposedly used his PEDs--none were in place at that time for his drug of choice, andro.

I know this is cheating of the highest order--not only are you cheating on the field, but many of these substances are so dangerous that you could be cheating on your life--but when I hear another name added to the list, it doesn't faze me anymore.

The game is cleaner now, although guys like Manny Ramirez still try to buck the system.

Personally, although I am not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, I can't understand why anyone would use these things anyway. They scare me just by what's in them, and why can't athletes get what they get out of these substances more naturally? I am sure that many players don't go this route, so why do some think they are smarter than the rest?

So, Sosa has been added to the list. Yes, his name, with his 600-plus home runs, is sullied for eternity.

But does it change my love for the game? No, it doesn't.

It is, and will always remain, America's National Pastime.

If you want to see real baseball being played by players who really care, take in a Little League game. Sure, these are just kids, but as a former coach, I can tell you that these kids really love what they are doing. Major leaguers should have it in their contracts that they must attend a few local Little League games each year--not only will it show them players who really, truly love this game, but it will bring them back to their roots, when they felt the same way about baseball.

I played Little League baseball until I was 15--it wasn't in a registered Little League, it was our community's league--and my love for the game has continued to this day. My son played until he was 12, and he loves the game too.

Sosa on steroids--so what? The game will survive his lapse in judgment.

Rant #1,383: Peanut Butter!

I have to preface this Rant by saying that I am not a nut person.

I generally do not like nuts, whether they are pistachio, cashews, or whatever.

I do not gobble down nuts like some people do ...

But I do love peanut butter.

To me, peanut butter is not only nourishing, it is sentimental, one of the most nostalgic foods people of my generation ate to our heart's content when we were little.

Whether alone or with jelly--and by the way, I hate jelly--peanut butter conjures up your young life. When you eat peanut butter on a slice of bread, you are eight years old again.

But some people cannot eat peanut butter. They can't even be around peanuts, because they are allergic to them, and they can get very sick from them, and in some extreme cases, exposure to peanuts can be fatal.

It is amazing to think about this, but the very generation that lived on peanut butter spawned the generation of kids where this problem first came up.

Most schools ban peanuts and peanut butter on their premises, and foods that use any extraction of peanuts must be listed, and many restaurants also follow suit with their menus.

It is a terrible thing that some kids cannot eat peanuts or peanut butter ... but there many be some changes afoot to allow even the most susceptible kids to enjoy this childhood treat.

In the first, researchers have come up with a peanut patch, much like a nicotine patch for those who want to quite smoking.

Worn on the arm, the patch allows kids who were allergic to peanuts to take in a minimum amount of peanuts a day, like maybe four peanuts. This would equal out to about a dab of peanut butter, but for these kids who were highly allergic to peanuts, it is something truly amazing.

It is also something that when worn, will allow them to be around and ingest foods that have peanut-related ingredients in them.

The second is something perhaps even more remarkable.

Researchers in England, at King's College in London, have given infants thought to have a low tolerance for peanuts low amounts of nut, and they have found that over time, these infants build up an immunity to peanuts, and when they reach beyond the toddler age, they can actually enjoy peanut butter and peanut products just like everyone else.

The babies used in the research were checked to make sure that they didn't already have a peanut allergy before they were fed foods that included peanuts.

More research needs to be done, but by giving these infants just a slight amount of peanuts in their diet, they can fight off whatever ill effects they might have had if they didn't go through this regimen.

Simply amazing, and no, that therapy is just experimental, it is not in the U.S. yet.

So someday, with all of these advances in tow, perhaps all kids will be able to enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, and overall, we won't have to deal with anyone with peanut allergies anymore.

We will just have to deal with kids who hate peanut butter.

Believe it or not, my two kids, whose parents reveled in peanut butter as kids and still love it as adults, hate peanut butter.

They won't eat it, don't like it, and to me, they are truly nuts.

But to each his own.

I guess it means more peanut butter for my wife and I.

And make it chunky, if you please.

Classic Rant #32 (June 16, 2009): Writing Instruments: Just Put the Pen to the Paper

I am a writer, so an essential tool that I use is a pen.

There are many different types of pens, but I prefer your usual, run of the mill ball-point pen. As long as it writes, I am happy. When it is empty, I get rid of it, and move onto the next pen.

I know that pen companies need to sell their product, but some of the newest "features" to pens--like cushions, wide bodies, different types of inks, and the like--kind of throw me for a loop.

Who needs all of these features--don't we just want to have a pen that writes?

Purchasing a pen is not like purchasing a car, although the pen companies want you to believe that one is akin to the other.

Personally, I just want a pen that writes.

BIC pens--France's greatest contribution to the modern world, as far as I am concerned--are the perfect types of pens for the jobs that I use them for.

Pen companies I guess must make pens more than they really are. People admit to be car salesmen, but have you ever heard of anyone who admits to being a pen salesman?

Pens should be disposable and not too thought provoking. Heck, the local bank here gives out pens for free. I don't see car dealers doing the same.

Again, just give me a pen that writes. Once it is done doing its job, it goes in the waste basket, and the next victim finds my hand.

And don't get me started on all the different types of pencils out there ...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rant #1,382: Coming Soon

The weather was again a disaster this weekend in my neck of the woods.

We had snow, rain, sleet, hail and heaven knows what else come down on Saturday, followed by a day in the 40s in temperature on Sunday, which made for maximum mush all over the place.

With temperatures plummeting again later today into the single digits, what we have on the ground will resemble an ice carnival, sorely in need of a Zamboni.

I have not stepped out the door yet, but with lots of existing snow and ice melting yesterday due to the balmy heat we had, I am sure that a lot of that stuff is still around in some form, ready to freeze later today and overnight, making for some potentially perilous driving and walking conditions in the coming days.

I will find out soon enough; my first foray outside will be to retrieve the morning newspaper, and I am sure it won't be too pretty.

But hope is on the way.

When I retrieve the morning paper, I will automatically turn to the back page, the sports page, as I have done for years, I will see stories about the two sports running full steam ahead right now, basketball and hockey, and I will read about how the Knicks, once again, and how they lost yet another game.

Then I will get to the real meat of the sports pages, and realize that this muck we have been dealing with will all be a memory in just a few weeks.

Yes, spring training has started in both Florida and Arizona, and once baseball begins, you know that spring, summer and nicer weather is just around the corner.

More than any other sport, baseball's pre-season is just so important, not just to pitchers, catchers and position players, but also to the fans.

Yes, hope does spring eternal, and even the worst teams have a chance in the spring.

As teams limber up their bodies for the six-month season, fans are also limbering up.

Yes, there is snow on the ground, and for a lot of us, snow on our temples, but when baseball starts, we all turn into little kids again, watching players who are--if you are my age--half as old as I am, or even younger.

Yet, even the most grizzled baseball fan becomes eight years old again, remembering his own experiences playing little league as he watches the professional players prepare for the season.

And yes, this annual ritual signals that tank tops, shorts, and flip flops are just around the corner, even as today, we battle the cold and ice.

That is why, in spite of what the doomsayers say, baseball continues as our national pastime. No other sport makes us kids again even as we watch it as adults. It is a six-month athletic soap opera that not even the WWE can compete with.

The other sports are fine, but when it comes to mixing nostalgia with the present, no other sport galvanizes us as much as baseball does.

So, with all the snow on the ground and the frigid temperatures at hand, and as I pass by the stories in my morning paper that signify winter, when I read stories about how the players are preparing for the coming season, it just warms me up all over.

Play ball!

Heck, I wish the season started today, I really do.