Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Wa Pic - Texas Fold 'Em

 "And that's when Danny knew Jake was not only cheating, he was not going to chip in a little gas money either."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In marriage, all you need is those two little words

"Why don't you pick up a turkey breast for dinner?" my wife suggested as I headed to the market, and my typically dormant impulse to ask for more specifics did not, unfortunately, even twitch. It is hard to imagine how a person can misinterpret two words, "turkey" and "breast," but marital history has proven that if anyone can pull it off, I can.

The way my route takes me through the market, I pass through the fancy deli first. There, behind the glass, was a turkey breast. Two, actually. In its prime, it had clearly been the Pamela Anderson of turkeys. I told the deli lady I wanted it. There was even a sign, "Turkey breast." I was getting The Right Thing.

She rang it up: $75. My heart began to pound. That can't be right, I thought. You can get a whole turkey at Thanksgiving for $30. I reached for my phone, the phone I always have when I shop, the phone which keeps me from buying The Wrong Thing, and found that I had left it in a cup holder in the car.

I would have said to the lady, sorry, that's not what I need, I'm looking for the cheap turkey for commoners like me, I mean have you looked at my shoes? But English did not remotely seem to be her first language, and she also appeared to have some mental disabilities. I did not think I was going to be able to explain why I was rejecting the breast(s) without her claiming some sort of sexual harassment.

Those of you who regularly shop for hunks of meat will already know that they may be found over in the regular fresh-and-frozen meat aisle with the butcher, and nowhere near the $20 prepared-today potato salad. I did not.

So I brought home the bird boobies and tried the "Well, you SAID get a turkey breast" argument, but my wife wasn't having it.

"Not the $75 prepared kind," she said. "Why didn't you call me?" A note for future litigants: the cup holder defense does not hold water.

Filled with righteous indignation that a major supermarket chain would dupe hapless husbands so callously, she returned the bird and bought The Right Thing. It's only a stop-gap measure, though. Christmas is just around the corner, and I've never been very good with ham.

. . .

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Slackoff Sunday is the new Black (Friday)

You know Black Friday, of course, and Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but do you know what today, the first Sunday in December is called? Nothing. And that needs to change.

I am proclaiming it Slackoff Sunday, a day when the last spoonful of turkey carcass soup from Thanksgiving is finally consumed, forced down, really, with a sigh of grim relief. A day when no shopping is done, cyber, brick or mortar, and no effort, including gardening, especially gardening, is expended.

Some of you may already call a day like this "Sunday." I get it. Sabbath. Day of rest and all that. But during the holidays, if you want something to stick, you have to slap a name on it.

To protest the commercialization of the season, some people boycotted Black Friday by not shopping. That is what I am doing today, to protest the hectic pace which gardening has reached in recent years around the holidays.

It begins with Halloween. I have to mow the lawn so kids won't trip on their way to receive the candy I've slaved away to provide them. My philosophy has always been, the thicker the grass, the softer the impact. Society disagrees.

Then Thanksgiving rolls around, and I have to snip and edge and make the yard pristine so that all the snowbird relatives visiting my neighbors will eat their hearts out and decide to move here, thus keeping real estate values high.

Then there is December. Some of my neighbors put manure on their lawns to...well...I don't know exactly what that does, except make me feel a little queasy, like I am a cowboy who has somehow missed the cattle drive.

December is the month when I take stock, cut down that dead tree, pull the weeds that have been feasting on my water table all summer, hard labor like that. When Slackoff Sunday takes off, all that will be in the past.

See, Slackoff Sunday is really only a gateway day. Once it is cemented into the culture, I will implement phase II, which I like to call "Slackcember." This will go beyond not gardening and not shopping to encompass areas like not wassailing.

I don't mean I don't want things to be festive. Permitted activities will include handing me hot cider. But as the year comes to a close, I just want any finger I lift to be descending on the button of a remote.

. . .

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brains. They're not just for zombies any more.

If you are currently eating, I recommend you skip this column, which contains the words "tapeworm" and "inside" and "brain" in close proximity.

You may have recently seen this story in the British press, how a guy suffering from severe headaches found out he had a tapeworm in his head. It was a rare species from Asia known as "Spirometra erinaceieuropaei" (literal translation, "horrific brain resident.")

The patient was a 50 year old British Chinese man who made frequent trips home to Asia, where according to doctors, he must have done one of three things:

  • Eaten tiny infected crustaceans from a local lake
  • Eaten raw reptile meat (you know, like ya do)
  • Had a raw frog leg poultice applied to his eyes

Yes, that last one is an actual, current Chinese remedy for sore eyes, and also, for me at least, for having an appetite.

The larval tapeworm, as bored by its stay in deceased frog meat as a teenager at an Eagles concert, can evidently sense the heat from a person's eyes, and the allure of travel is lit within its tiny breast. Next stop...your brain pan.

The result is a disorder called "sparganosis," which can trigger severe headaches, memory loss and seizures. So also, I imagine, can the knowledge that there is a #@!!&! worm in your skull.

Using MRI, doctors tracked the worm's movements for four years before they took a biopsy. No word on whether, at any point, the worm was spotted slurring the word "Braaaaains!" with a slack jaw and dead eyes.

Actually, it turns out the thing does not even have a mouth. It appears to absorb nutrients directly through its body, which is somehow even creepier.

Surgeons managed to remove the worm, which they pronounced a "benign" version. Unless you count the four years of splitting headaches. But they meant that the more aggressive species lays eggs, which then feed off the brain as they grow, often causing their human hosts to become politicians.

The lesions the worm left behind in the man's brain still cause him problems, and, scientists say, are probably roughly equivalent to those received while watching a full episode of "Duck Dynasty." But remember, this problem is highly preventable, either by fully cooking your gator to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, or by canceling your cable.

The moral of this story is clear. People who strap dead frogs to their faces should have their heads examined. Quickly.

. . .

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I'm being followed by a moon salad; moon salad, moon salad

NASA has announced plans to attempt to grow plants on the moon, and it is starting with turnips.

When I was a kid, I would have been happy to hand mine over to NASA for a moon shot. Rather than orbiting Earth, my turnips tended to end up on the narrow ledge of wood underneath the dining room table.

I hope some day, if all goes well, NASA will expand their lunar ambitions to okra and rutabaga. Maybe Brussels sprouts. If we can send a man to the moon, we can certainly eradicate these scourges in our time.

Oh yeah. They are trying to grow them. Well, to be fair, this is only experiment one, and they chose turnips, basil and cress as test subjects because, after polling astronauts about what they crave most after months in space, a T-bone did not even come up once.

So NASA is creating a little pod which will hold seeds in a nutrient sheath, and release water to them at the appropriate moment. The pod will then shoot a selfie after five days to determine if anything grew, and transmit the picture back to Earth.

Scientists are hoping for signs of "circumnutation" and "phototropism," but then again, aren't we all?
The trip is planned for late next year, and I look forward to the night when I can look up at the moon and know there is a tiny salad up there, and that humans have finally gone verifiably nuts.

True, growing mass quantities of produce on the moon would enable astronauts to live there without the need for constant resupply from Earth, freeing up the payload bays of incoming rockets for other crucial items, like DVDs of "Downton Abbey."

But I sort of wish instead of basil they would haul chia seeds to the moon, and the whole thing could be one giant chia head in space. Albert Einstein, say. Or Lincoln.

Of course, the conspiracy-theory part of me suspects that all this is just a cover for a very well-hidden pot farm, well out of reach of law enforcement.

The truth is less entertaining. NASA is using a private space firm to deliver the seeds, a first step toward the eventual commercialization of the moon.

So it is possible that one day an astro-miner will drill amidst a field of corn as high as a Venutian's eye.

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for titanium salesmen.

. . .