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Sunday, October 15, 2017

What I Learned on My Italy Trip


Coming soon, photos and a mini travelogue of my recent trip to Italy with my sister. In the meantime, here are some things I learned on the trip.

1.     If, on your flight to India two years ago, you thought you had quite a bit of time left on your passport, “quite a bit” will turn out to have been less than two years.
2.     Yes, you can get a passport renewed within 24 hours in the metro New York area, but only if you have an extraordinary nephew and wonderful good friend who live in Westport and Stamford, CT, respectively.
3.     Yes, your sister will still be speaking to you when she has to go on ahead without you for a day and drive back to the airport to pick you up when she is still jet lagged from her own flight. (You need to co-sign the car rental papers in person.)
4.     Those who said you don’t need an International Driver’s Permit, just a U.S. driver’s license for a car rental were 100% correct. Which is too bad, because that photo they took at AAA was awesome. (The one taken at the CVS in Stamford at 11:30 pm for the emergency passport renewal, on the other hand, looks exactly like how you felt at that point.)
5.     Those who told you not to get Amex Travelers Checks because no one accepts them anymore were also 100% correct. (And, yes, they are the same people who nixed the idea of an International Driver’s Permit.)
6.     If there is a seat on a regional flight that is below the cubby with the equipment for the flight attendant’s emergency demo and opposite the cubby with two oxygen tanks, it will be assigned to you. Since you boarded early, you were able to find an empty overhead for your carryon that was still in the same aircraft. But that inch you shrank over the past two years was enough to make you struggle to reach those bins.
7.     If there is a seat on the transatlantic flight that has a broken footrest, it will be yours. Ditto for the hinky electronics that won’t let you easily drag a playing card where you want while playing solitaire.
8.     If you ask five people in Puglia (Tabacchi shop owners, hotel concierge, postal clerk) how much it costs to send a postcard to the U.S., you’ll get five different answers.
9.     If you bring postcards home to mail them after you get back, you’ll need to trim them to get the postcard rate. It turns out most Italian postcards are slightly larger than the USPS template allows. Or at least the ones you bought.
10. You can still have a fabulous trip even if it started out with a fiasco of your own making. But that’s only because your sister has been studying Italian and was willing to be your travel agent, trip planner, banker, accountant and translator.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Holidays for Foodies


A recent ad in an insert in a local paper announced that September 20 is National String Cheese Day. String Cheese? Seriously? I could believe National Cheese Day (June 4). Or even National Cream Cheese Day (none, not even for Bagels and Cream Cheese, although Cream Cheese Brownies Day is February 10). But String Cheese? I don’t think so.



Contrived holidays used to be made up by greeting card manufacturers, so they were mostly sentimental ones. When did the food industries hop on this bandwagon? And why? What are we supposed to do on National String Cheese Day, other than eat more of it? Will there be contests to see who can stretch the longest string? Will there be String Cheese Festivals, full of clowns with sticks up their noses or in their ears? Will we have String Cheese eating contests, like the hot dog ones, but without the buns?

I did some quick research and was amazed at the number of food-related holidays in the United States alone. They went on for pages. Here are just some that involve cheese. For a complete list, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_food_days#United_States.
We have Cheese Fondue, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, and even Cheeseball Days. Those are all in April. Then there’s Cheesecake Day, and of course Mac & Cheese Day (July 14), and even a Cheese Pizza Day (September 5). National Double Cheeseburger and Cheese Toast Days are both on my birthday, making for a cholesterol-laden double whammy.

I’m marking my calendar for the foodie days that will tickle my taste buds. On the first Saturday of February next year, I’ll be celebrating National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. On March 5, I’ll surround myself with several bags of Cheez Doodles. I’ll mark National Schlumpia Day on May 24, if I can find out what Schlumpias are by then; they certainly sound like fun.

I considered putting National Tapioca Day on my list (June 28), since my husband would certainly join in that celebration. But then I saw that Tapioca Pudding has its own day on July 15. Too confusing. Besides, I’d prefer National Rice Pudding Day. Or Crème Brûlée or Flan. None of those made the list I was using, but Rice Balls did. Go figure. (What is a Rice Ball, anyway?)

Another surprising omission from the list is National Peeps Day. I’d put that on my calendar in a heartbeat. Maybe it was left off because Peeps is a brand. But then, so is Cheez Doodles, and it's on the list. I searched for Peeps Day separately and found several possibilities. One is the day after Easter, which sounds right. That would make it a floating holiday. True Peeps lovers know that any day you can find a box of those chicks after Easter is a Peeps Day.

I noticed that November 15 is earmarked Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. But it’s not until November 29 that we get Throw Out Your Leftovers. That sounds like poor planning to me. I wouldn’t want the stuff I cleaned out of the fridge stinking up our kitchen for two weeks. Besides, November 29 is also National Chocolates Day. It’s a no brainer which one will go on my calendar.

The last three holidays listed for December are quite predictable. The 27th is National Fruitcake Day. My mother made wonderful fruitcakes, by the way. The 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day. (That might have been better for the day after Thanksgiving.) And December 31st is National Champagne Day. Or night, more likely.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I think holidays should be reserved for the things in our lives that deserve to be celebrated. It’s great that we have not just Mothers Day and Fathers Day, but also Grandparents Day. (Great Aunts Day would be a nice addition.) The major holidays that match various liturgical calendars are fine by me. But—no disrespect to Druids and Wiccans, we don’t need to promote a Summer Solstice Day. And we certainly didn’t need a National String Cheese Day.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Are You Racist and Don’t Know It?


Some friends recently posted comments on Facebook that they don’t hate Black people (or words to that effect). My first thought was: “The political positions that offend you and the memes you share tell a different story.” Upon reflection, I realized that these people honestly believe that they aren’t racist. I’m beginning to understand that for many of them, their feelings may be based on white resentment—a resentment they may not even be aware they harbor.

Carol Anderson’s recent opinion piece in The New York Times: “The Policies of White Resentment,” explains much of this mindset. She wrote:
 “If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that… has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.”
Ms. Anderson went on:
“The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rageWhite resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back…” and “…to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.”


Demonstrations of white nationalism in Charlottesville, VA and the resulting protests provide evidence of what can happen when this previously-contained white rage erupts in America’s cities.

Consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble has a new TV commercial that addresses the issue of bias in people’s lives. In it, Black moms have “The Talk” with their children about recognizing that they may experience bias—especially unconscious bias—in their lives. They discuss the need to be prepared to deal with it safely. P&G is hoping to start a dialogue on this important but sensitive topic.

I’ve always been a supporter of diversity in the broadest sense of the word. Not because it makes me feel noble, but because it adds layers of color (no pun intended) to my existence. My life is so much richer because of my gay friends, my friends of color and of a variety of ethnicities and religions. You can get a measure of this by scrolling through the faces and names of my Facebook connections (but please don’t).

Out of curiosity, I did a count of how many of my FB human connections are people of color. It’s about 14 percent. Based on the latest census information, that figure should be 25 percent. This tells me that even with my appreciation of diversity, I have room to grow my circle of friends to be more reflective of the rest of our country. I’m certainly not going to set racial quotas for my Facebook friends. But I will pay more attention to how enthusiastically I reach out to people of color as I meet them in my daily activities.

I challenge anyone reading this to similarly take account of the diversity of his or her own connections. You may be surprised to uncover a hidden racial bias in your life. How you react to that knowledge is up to you. But if you choose not to take account of your own biases, don’t act so surprised when you’re called out as a racist.

The truth is: we all can do better. And if we don’t want more Charlottesvilles, we should.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

You Won’t Believe What Makes Us Fat


Like many women my age, I have difficulty losing weight. Let me be honest here. It’s a struggle for me to keep from putting on the pounds, never mind losing them. As a result, I tune in to news items that provide any clues as to what makes us fat. The past several weeks brought a bonanza of new information. Unfortunately, most of it will prove useless for me.

The first surprise is that a dirty home can make you fat. According to the July 12 NY Daily News, researchers at Duke University discovered a link between dust particles and weight gain. In laymen’s terms, the chemicals in dirt can change our body’s metabolism, resulting in more fat cells. Actually, it was mice’s metabolism, not human’s, but what starts with mice eventually finds its way up the food chain.

My friends know I’m not exactly a model homemaker. I’ve often said that I clean the house twice a year or when we’re expecting company, whichever comes first. We don’t socialize much. I’m not sure if that’s a cause or an effect of my cleaning schedule. Either way, it explains a lot about my expanding waistline.

A few days after the dirty home tidbit I read that decluttering your home can help you lose weight. The June/July AARP magazine ran the article: “To Lose Weight, Put Your Home on a Diet.” In it they reported: “Studies suggest that the same genes that cause people to hoard stuff can lead to obesity.” They surmised that this harks back to primitive times when supplies of food and rocks (for protection) were amassed to ensure survival.

When we put our Providence house on the market, my real estate agent was brutal about having me get rid of the clutter. Sure enough, I shed some poundage, and not just the weight of the items I was donating or throwing out. My body trimmed down a bit, too. I assumed my weight loss was because I was carrying so many boxes of books from our third floor to the first. Apparently the loss was also due to the decluttering process itself.

Although I know that I should continue to shed belongings, I’ve reached the point where there’s not a lot of stuff here that’s just… well, stuff. Most of my clutter has a lot of history and emotional baggage tangled up in it. So there’s not much hope of a new decluttering phase helping me to lose weight. Besides, not much of it is food or rocks, so there’s obviously something else involved besides primitive survival genes.

The third news item on this topic was an article from Cell Metabolism that I found in thecut.com and it was the unkindest cut of all. It seems that researchers at UC-Berkeley conducted a study that suggests that smelling your food before you eat it could cause you to gain weight. It has something to do with the body’s sense of smell being tied into storing fat instead of burning it off. I’ll bet anything it’s those damn survival genes again. This is a distressing finding.

How many times have you said: “Just let me have a quick whiff of that Death by Chocolate cake before you eat it”? OK. Maybe it was more like: “Just let me have a teensy forkful of that cake,” but still. Now we can’t even sniff something decadent without risking ballooning up? It’s bad enough I have to sleep with earplugs (to drown out my husband’s snoring and my cat’s nighttime “hunting”). Now I’m going to have to eat with a clothespin on my nose. Life is so unfair.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Confusing Terms Explained


You’ve probably noticed that Republicans and Democrats are constantly disagreeing on items in the news and on what might or might not be a legal issue. Sometimes it seems as though they don’t even speak the same language.

In a way, this is actually the case. Many times, the conflict occurs because of subtleties of meaning. There are a lot of confusing terms being kicked around. One side hears A when the other side thinks it actually said B. Today I’m explaining the nuances of some terms we frequently hear.

Let’s begin with a trio of confusing ones: matter, inquiry and investigation. Apparently, the FBI prefers to refer to an activity as a matter when they’ve just decided to look into something potentially fishy. They don’t want to say they’re conducting an investigation if they might have to back peddle. Clinton defenders claim that’s why Loretta Lynch told James Comey to refer to the emails fiasco as a matter.

Once there’s a whiff of smoke, agents will likely launch an inquiry to look for the fire. An inquiry is a gathering of more extensive information to decide who should be grilled like a rib-eye on your Weber. Most inquiries lead to a full-fledged investigation. In my opinion, if someone comes to your door to ask a few questions, it’s an inquiry. If they bring you down to their office and suggest you might want to have an attorney with you, we’re talking investigation.

Another way of putting this trio in perspective is that agents look into a matter, conduct an inquiry and pursue an investigation. The IRS will look into your tax return as a matter of course, conduct an audit if they find serious irregularities and pursue legal action against you if they think the money they recover will earn them a promotion.

This means that the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the recent presidential election and attempts to influence the outcome is serious business. Earlier inquiries into alleged hacks of Hillary Clinton’s private server—not so much.

Which brings us to another group that’s in the news a lot: allegedly, assumedly, supposedly and ostensibly. “When should I use which one?” you may be wondering.

Allegedly means something has been claimed by someone, usually without proof. It’s used mostly for legal cover. When in doubt, allege something happened or is true, as in “Donald Trump’s allegedly small hands.” (Unless you’ve actually measured them…)

Assumedly is what you believe to be true, based on available information. “Assumedly, Donald Trump should cut down on that chocolate cake.” Supposedly is what someone else claims to be true. “Supposedly, Melania feeds Donald too many Slovenian desserts.” These two are matters of opinion, not facts.

Ostensibly means it was demonstrated through someone’s actions or words. They want you to think something is true, but that’s often a cover for a different reality. “Trump refuses to release his tax returns, ostensibly because he’s being audited by the IRS.” Or “Ostensibly, Melania remained in Manhattan through June so that her son could finish his school term there.”

Our final grouping is wiggle, waffle, vacillate and clarify. These all have to do with how someone explains his changes in position on an issue. Or tries to.

Wiggling is done rapidly, with minimal sense of direction. A person wiggles when he just doesn’t want to get pinned down. Listen to any of Sean Spicer’s press conferences for some excellent examples of wiggling.

Waffling, on the other hand, is done more slowly than wiggling, and usually eventually results in a single switch in someone’s opinion, though it can take awhile to get there. Mitch McConnell waffled on calling for a vote on the Senate’s health care bill before the Fourth of July recess. He definitely would, he probably would and then he didn’t.

Vacillating is a back and forth motion, first to the left, then to the right, on a fairly regular tempo, like Trump’s position on certain aspects of health care insurance. It won’t be heartless. But even if the Senate version is as mean as the House one, pass it anyway. It won’t be repealed without immediately replacing it. But if they can’t pass a replacement, just repeal it. Someone who is vacillating my never reach a final decision on the issue at hand.

Clarify is an archaic term that means to carefully explain what you mean so there is absolutely no confusion about your position. No one in politics does that anymore so you might as well purge clarification from your lexicon.

I hope you’ve found these explanations edifying and elucidating. As you can see, it’s often difficult to be certain which term to use Just pick your favorite. No one else seems to care anymore anyway.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Camelot—The Stolen Promise


When President Kennedy was assassinated, I was a college freshman. My classmates and I can all tell you exactly where we were when we heard the news of his death. We were stunned; we struggled to process what had happened. But we were on the cusp of profound societal change, including the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. We weren’t afforded much time to grieve. We weren’t given the chance to reflect fully on what we had lost. We had too many other weighty issues to address.

Some of today’s political analysts would insist that, had Kennedy finished his term, he would have made his share of mistakes and would not be so revered by my generation. While that may be true, we can never know for certain. This year would have been Kennedy’s 100th birthday. To honor that, PBS aired for the first time the 1961 film “JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala.”

Washington, DC had been paralyzed by a freak snowstorm the day of the gala, on the eve of JFK’s inauguration. The narration included entertaining anecdotes about the complications that caused for both the performers and the technicians. As I expected from a PBS special, this was well produced and beautifully narrated. What I did not expect was the emotional impact that program had on me. I’m not sure exactly where during the special I became aware that I desperately needed a box of tissues.

My first thought was that the cause of my waterworks was seeing all the entertainers that are no longer with us, Frank Sinatra in particular. But Jimmy Durante’s soulful and prophetic rendition of September Song (It’s a long, long time from May to December) toward the end of the program made me realize it was something more profound. His song and the companion narration elicited a long-overdue catharsis. I was finally fully grieving the loss of the promise of Camelot.

As so many others had before us, my generation entered college with the hope of a new and bright future. But unlike the others, we began our journey to adulthood, to our own social responsibility, with a young and vibrant leader at the helm of our government. We hadn’t even finalized our fields of concentration when that hope was taken away from us. Not just taken—wrenched away.

What hit me while watching “The Lost Inaugural Gala” was the realization that the promise of Camelot had been stolen from us. Who knows what glorious things our generation and our country could have accomplished in those “shining moments” that would have been? It’s one thing to celebrate one’s fiftieth college reunion and ponder “the road not taken” when the choice was one’s own. To look back and realize that someone erased that path from the map just as you were approaching the fork is something else altogether.

Most of us would admit that we have experienced some bright and wonderful accomplishments, both personal and societal, over the past fifty years. But one truth remains for my generation, made all the more poignant with the drama and the controversy of the current administration. We did not choose to bypass Camelot. Its promise was stolen from us.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Keeping On Not Doing What I Should Not Be Doing


About a month ago I decided to make yet another effort to peel off a few pounds toward a goal of improving my overall health. Each time I go through this process, I’m less successful than on the previous attempt. This round led me to one of those “aha!” moments as to what seems to be happening. That in turn revealed a truism about my broader behavior.

My fitness attempts consist of two behavioral categories—things I should do, and ones I should not do. For example, I should exercise, and I should not eat sweets or a lot of cheese. I’ve discovered that I’m much better at the “not doing” than I am at the “doing.”

Other than my morning sit-ups and stretching on the floor, I’ve had very little exercise over the past months. (I use the term sit-ups loosely.) Oh sure, I walked a mile or two about once a week. Maybe twice somewhere along the way. But if I want to get fit, I need to be walking about three miles at least three times a week. What’s worse, I’ve missed those daily stretches a few times. I used to do them religiously.

On the other hand, I’ve been quite good at avoiding sweets and cutting down on cheese. I simply don’t bring it into the house in the first place, or I bring very little. I no longer eat ice cream right out of the container.

What about other things I’m not doing that I should be doing? Practicing my saxophone for one. Jazz band practice has been canceled three weeks in a row, giving me a good excuse to skip my own preparation. And you may have noticed that what used to be my weekly blogging schedule shifted to bi-weekly some months back. I posted only once in the entire month of April. Then there’s the pile of mending waiting for me to tackle it.

To be fair, there’s a psychological impediment to the mending. Last September, I went to fetch another sock whose toe had a hole. By the time I walked to the bedroom and back, my cat Kallie got at the needle and thread and swallowed it. When I couldn’t find the needle and saw her making funny movements with her mouth, I knew what had happened. (She tried this once when I was still in the middle of darning.) A rushed visit to two vets and $2,100 of endoscopy later, Kallie was fine but I remained traumatized.

As you can see, I’m not highly accomplished at performing any number of tasks on my to-do list. On the other hand, I perform better at avoiding the interdictions I’ve put upon myself. At least I used to be. I’ve already mentioned the sweets and the cheese, but there have been non-gastronomical no-noes as well.

In particular, I’m thinking of my decision to avoid baiting Trump lovers with my blog and Facebook posts. I took the high road sometime last summer. Not long after, I switched to the bi-weekly posting schedule. It seems once I couldn’t post political satire, the well began to run dry. I stayed high for many months, unrewarding though it was, thus proving that I’m quite good at not doing what I should not be doing.

I have absolutely no idea what these proclivities say about me. Perhaps they reveal a tendency toward laziness, something buried for many decades that has been released via the freedom of being retired. More likely, they’re just random connections without even a metaphysical explanation. After all, I came down off the high road in February with barely a second thought.

I decided I was missing out on altogether too much fun by not jumping on the political satire humor train. That’s when I wrote the post: “Post-Election Mental Disorders” and submitted it to Reader Supported News. They picked it up, the first of six in a row that I’ve sent to them that they’ve accepted.

I guess that means I’m actually doing something, rather than not doing it. I’m staying off the high road. I’ll drink to that. Actually, no I won’t. Cutting back on wine was another item on my “not do” fitness list. Darn! Oops. Not darn. Too dangerous around Kallie. On that note, I’m going to stop writing this now.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Handling Trump’s Communications Style


The world needs help communicating with President Donald Trump. His speaking style has been described as “discursive.” In layman’s terms that’s “rambling,” but I prefer the synonym “circumlocutory” because it conjures up images of him wandering a room while he’s speaking. His listening style is harder to explain.

Trump is generally assumed to have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), with the attention span of a young child. News of Trump’s trip to the Middle East prompted tips being publicized on how speakers can maximize chances of having him listen to what’s being said. For example: Keep your message short. Very short. Use Trump’s name in every paragraph; Trump loves to hear his name mentioned. (I’ve used Trump five times in this paragraph, assuring it will get read.)

I have another suggestion for how to handle Trump’s communications style. It’s taken straight from the news, including an article in the May 22 Time magazine. In a word: fidgets. Or as Time calls them, fidget spinners. SNL even did a skit on them.

Yes, fidgets. Those inexpensive thing-a-ma-jigs that kids are… well, fidgeting with in school these days. Psychologists claim that the device can help children with ADHD pay attention better in class. The idea is that kids don’t have to look at them to work them, but the constant… well, fidgeting (again) with the contraption helps dispel excess energy, allowing better focus.

Many teachers disagree, but the jury is still out on this trend. Besides, what does it matter? If there were real science behind these gadgets, Trump wouldn’t believe it. When the President is involved, there’s no downside to relying on fake science. Plus, fidgets don’t require a lot of physical activity. That should be a big selling point with him.

Dear Lord, what a simple-minded solution we have available! Here’s some advice for Reince Preibus. Get Trump a passel of fidgets. Make sure there are plenty of them wherever he’s likely to wander during the day. Don’t get the plastic ones; they’re too noisy. Get ones with metal ball bearings. Or better yet, the ceramic ones. I hear they’re the best for spinning. They're faster and quieter and they last longer. But make sure you don’t get ones that are too big. Keep in mind how small Trump’s hands are.

Picture it: Trump with a pile of fidgets. Then if the media described Sean Spicer’s press briefings as spin zones, no one would be able to call them fake news.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lessons in Lexicography for FBI Director Comey


The recent Senate hearings with [now former] FBI Director James Comey exposed his need for lessons in lexicography. Here are just a few of the words and phrases for which he doesn’t seem to fully understand proper usage.

Let’s start with “mildly nauseous.” Comey told the Senators, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.” Before we go further, we have to question “might have had.” Ya think? But our job here is to focus on the lexicography, so let’s move on.

Vocabulary.com tells us that most folks use nauseous when what they really mean is nauseated. They explain that nauseous “should be reserved to mean causing that feeling, not having it.” They provide the example that cod liver oil has a nauseous taste. Modern dictionaries have given up making this distinction. We’re willing to allow Comey the common usage, although the historical one is a better description of the effect his actions had on much of the country. But he still needs a lesson on this.

“Mildly nauseous” is what someone gets when they step into a boat that is docked on a lake that gets a few waves now and then. Or how you feel on a roller coaster as it ascends to the top of its arc, before that hurtling plunge that sucks your stomach up into the back of your mouth. This feeling could also be the first sign that you caught that nasty flu going around. Or how a woman sometimes feels during the initial few weeks of her pregnancy, often providing the first sign that she’s expecting.

What you should have felt, Mr. Comey, was not mild nausea. It should have been the cold-sweat-producing panic of knowing that what you did was so indefensible that you need to chew on the insides of your cheeks so you don’t give in to a full-blown hurl fest. Much like how that pregnant woman feels well into her first trimester. Or the sensation a cancer patient has when he’s about two thirds of the way through six cycles of chemo treatments. If you’re unclear on this, go out into the middle of the Atlantic in a dingy during hurricane season.

We need to at least mention “Lordy,” generally used as an interjection to express surprise or to make a statement more forceful. We know you weren’t surprised by what you did, because your testimony was a studied effort to convince the Senate that you had carefully thought out your choices. That leaves us with adding force to your explanations.

You can’t just appropriate cultural expressions willy-nilly. If you’re from the South, you get to say Lordy, as long as it’s repeated. “Lordy, Lordy!” Your bio says you were born in Yonkers. The farthest South you got was the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. You need to find some more appropriate way to put your questioners off balance. Maybe something like, “Yo, Adrian!” Think about it.

On to those pesky doors you saw, Mr. Comey. A choice between one door marked “Really Bad” and the other marked “Catastrophic.” You said you picked the lesser of two evils. Your defenders say choices often are not black and white; they’re shades of gray. You recognized the shade on the Really Bad door you picked as the gray of a pinstripe suit. The door marked Catastrophic was brightly colored and it had a figure in a skirt on it. Forget shades of gray. You went for the door with the figure in pants because it looked like you.

Let’s do a lexicographic tour of “catastrophic.” Dictionary synonyms are cataclysmic and apocalyptic (foretelling the destruction of the world). You seem to have lost all sense of scale on this one, Mr. Comey. If you get two inches of water in your basement after a thunderstorm, that’s really bad. If your home washes away during a hurricane, that’s catastrophic. Katrina’s flooding of New Orleans was a catastrophe. A rise of three feet in sea levels by the end of this century due to global warming could be apocalyptic.

The election of a female President of the United States would not have been a catastrophe. It would have been more evolutionary than apocalyptic. And that thundering sound you heard the day after the inauguration was not the Four Horsemen. It was the pounding of hundreds of thousands of women’s heels marching on the Capitol. Get used to it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ten Signs Your Leggings Are Not Pants


Are you unsure whether the leggings you’re wearing will qualify as pants for United Airlines check-in? Here are ten signs that they will not pass muster for that or any other fashion police scrutiny.

1.     We can read the name of the week on the fanny of your underpants through them.
2.     Your waistband has converted your muffin top into three bagels and another part of your anatomy into two scones.
3.     The color of your leggings starts out black at your ankles, but by the time they reach your thighs, they’re light gray with beige undertones.
4.     We can count the hairs at the first letter of that place where the Village People thought it was fun to stay.
5.     You don’t need to bend over for us to see your plumber’s butt.
6.     You had to pull so hard to get them on that they are now footless, but they didn’t start out that way.
7.     Honey Boo Boo’s fan club elected you president and you aren’t even a member.
8.     Your thighs are still jiggling like Jell-O five minutes after you sit down.
9.     We’re actually grateful that you wore a thong underneath them.
10. Your smart phone refuses to take a full-body selfie of you and the Geek Squad can’t find a technical explanation.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these criteria, best to change into a pair of blue jeans before you leave for the airport. Or else put on a long tunic from Omar the Tentmaker’s latest fashion catalog. You might find last season’s styles on sale at Walmart.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It’s A Mad, Mad World


Perhaps everyone went mad some time ago. Maybe I’m just noticing it more with the Presidential election behind us. Whatever the explanation, I’ve no doubt that we now live in a mad, mad world.

This notion really hit me when I heard about women in a Boston-area retirement home knitting sweaters for chickens. They provide their distaff skills for fowl that can’t keep warm in New England. These are apparently tinier birds that shed their feathers in winter months or ones that come from tropical climates. The video that accompanied the piece was adorable, and a spokesperson said egg production has improved since the birds began wearing these jumpers. It still seems like a madcap endeavor to me.


Keeping with the subject of animals, but sadly in a cruel way, a group of poachers broke into the rhino enclosure in a wildlife preserve in a Paris suburb one night. They shot and killed a rare white rhino and sawed off one of his horns. Rhino horn, when powdered, is believed to have “medicinal properties” in some Asian countries. It’s maddening that animals aren’t safe even in zoos anymore. I wish someone would cut off the erect appendages of everyone in the supply-and-demand chain for this exotic powder.

Next we have a report of a $26,500 fine for a Calgary man who tied 100 helium balloons to a lawn chair almost two years ago. His lift off went up about two and a half miles, creating a danger for airplanes. No word on whether he was still in the chair at the time. Also no explanation of why it took this long to decide the fine, which can easily be calculated to be $265 per balloon. Crazy Canadians. At least he wasn’t playing “Around the World” on the saxophone while he soared. (That was for you, Lynn.)

In the realm of good news for those on fixed incomes, we have a quote from Charles M. Becker (not Decker) of Duke University, by way of Time magazine. “Trailer parks can be thought of as gated communities for people who aren’t so wealthy.” Yeah. And jails can be thought of as gated communities for criminals, while insane asylums are gated communities for those who have gone mad since the election. They have waiting lists.

Since I can’t avoid talking politics if the subject is a mad, mad world…
Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, one of the President’s spokespersons, answered Martha Raddatz’s question about the alleged Obama wiretaps with: “I will let the President speak for himself.” Newsflash: dictionary definition: “Spokesperson: a person who speaks for someone else.” It’s not: “Spokesperson: a person who let’s someone else speak for himself.” Maybe she meant to say: “I will let the President tweet for himself.” We can’t fault her for that.

Finally, still on politics, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, is also quoted in Time, saying: “I didn’t want this job.” We’re not sure that Trump wanted his new job, either. But Steve Bannon and Mike Pence would sure love to have it. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo…

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Public Bathroom Safety Tips


President Trump rescinded Obama’s order allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. SCOTUS refused to hear a case challenging the repeal. This pretty much guarantees that the only males using a ladies room will be peeping Toms or worse. Years ago I had such an encounter with a peeper in a Manhattan office building, so I put together these safety tips for women who are seated in a stall when they realize they’re being watched.

1.     Slam your knees together. The slapping sound your thighs will make should frighten the peeper off. Even if not, this will limit his view severely.
2.     Be thankful you wore clean underwear with no holes. Your mother would be proud of you.
3.     Stay calm. Getting excited will only make you have to use the john that much longer. See items 4 and 5 for ways to calm yourself.
4.     Consider legitimate reasons the peeper may have for being there, such as:
·      He’s a freelance photographer working on a spread
·      He’s doing market research for a toilet paper company
·      He’s an industrial engineer trying to cost justify automatic toilet paper dispensers
·      He’s an investigator hired by the insurance company to test the building’s security
5.     Whistle, sing or hum a favorite tune, but avoid such provocative songs as:
·      For Your Eyes Only
·      Hey, Look Me Over
·      Jeepers, Creepers, Where’d You Get Those Peepers?
·      Sitting in La La, Waiting for My Ya Ya
6.     Mutter phrases of discouragement such as, “I hope my doctor was wrong about the herpes…” Or, “Gawd, I ruin more pantyhose on my rough knuckles now that I’m taking karate lessons!”
7.     Carry on a casual, one-way conversation with his feet in the next booth. If he responds, keep him talking. It will give you more time to get your pants up. When you’re ready to leave, say, “Well, it’s been nice chatting” even if he hasn’t answered. If he thinks you’re daft enough, he’ll lose interest.
8.     Do not take time to flush. It puts you in the vulnerable position of having your back to the door. Besides, half the time people don’t bother to flush anyway.
9.     Do take time to wash your hands. If you don’t, the peeper could paint you as a loose woman with vile habits. And your mother would die if she found out.
10. Use a different ladies room the next time you have to go.

Copyright 2017 Elaine M. Decker