Bee Careful

Here’s a seasonal safety message from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At Ease, Civilians! But don’t be TOO easy.

I’m here to remind you that this is the week before Labor Day, so there’s lots of traveling going on and picnics are happening everywhere. People are in their relaxed, summertime frame of mind. It may seem like fun to you, but from my perspective that’s a dangerous combination, especially compared to wintertime when you just assume that something bad involving extreme cold or loss of traction is going to happen to you in the next ten minutes.

Winter is harsh and difficult by nature. Summer is soft and easy. And you’ve had so much of it leading up to the last day of August, your guard could very well be down. I’m here to tell you, just like our nation’s military, you should always be trying to re-up your guard! You never know when you might have to re-deploy to respond to a new threat!

Why, you ask? What could happen?

Bees! Bees could happen to you at the end of summer. Wasps, yellow jackets, bumble bees, all creatures with pointy back ends are of great concern to me, and they should be to you as well! Some specific advice:

- Always remember to look INSIDE the open pop can before you take a great big drink out of it. Because you don’t want to have a bee in your mouth anymore than a bee wants to be in there! A human mouth is a gross, scary place to be, and if you were caught inside one, you’d panic and would do anything to get out.

- If you decide to go rolling down a grassy hill in celebration of the end of summer, be sure to conduct a careful survey of the terrain. Ground nests, once disturbed, are like those clown cars at the circus – there seems to be no end to the number of scary individuals who come pouring out. And why shouldn’t they? If a huge fleshy thing rolled over your house, you’d be upset too!

- Some people roll on the ground or jump in a lake when under attack by bees. This is NOT a good escape strategy. Rolling on the ground is what you do when you’re on fire. Jumping in the lake also works to resolve a flaming-clothes situation. But bees can find you in either of these scenarios, and will simply wait for an opportunity to inflict their portion of pain. The best approach is to run like crazy, pulling your shirt over your head to keep them away from your eyes. If you do this, the bees will get tired of chasing you, and they’ll also become helpless with laughter. But it is always a good idea to have your bee attack escape route mapped out at all times. Make sure your intended path doesn’t cross a major thoroughfare or a scenic overlook.

Even a single angry bee can set off a disastrous chain of events! The bee in the shirt of the bus driver, the bee in the hair of the horsewoman, and the bee up the pants leg of the construction worker have caused far too much havoc and heartbreak. So never, ever stop thinking about your next random encounter with our tiny, stingered citizens. Give them the space and respect they need!

Securely Yours,
Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty

This strikes close to home for me, since I was put in the hospital by a few bee stings when I was ten years old. I have been known to do a vigorous but spastic “bee dance” whenever one is nearby – an upsetting scene for everyone, bees included.

Got bees?

Nice Guesswork If You Can Get It

I have been known to construct an entire conversation between two people, playing both sides for maximum amusement. Putting words in mouths is an entertaining pastime and is easier work for an introvert than actually talking to strangers.

For this reason alone I tip my hat to the missionary who tore the knob off Clyde’s door this weekend. Clyde detailed his encounter in the comments attached to the Saturday entry, Bumper to Bumper. Say what you will about the evangelist’s theology, it does require boldness to profess your faith door to handle-less door. How does one muster the courage? Perhaps he had imagined how his conversion of Clyde would go – the greeting, the pitch, the resistance and the struggle, a key phrase uttered, a light goes on in the darkness, the opening of the floodgates, some weeping and the tearful conclusion. Maybe it does happen that way sometimes, I don’t know. But I wager when this fellow approached Clyde, he did not know Who He Was Dealing With. Still, you need an active imagination to succeed in this world. Why not use a little positive visualization and picture events unfolding in some way that benefits you? Fate will rewrite it soon enough. Sometimes you have to make stuff up and hope it’s at least partially true.

I thought of this while reading commentator Glenn Beck’s assessment of President Obama’s most deeply held religious beliefs. Beck has examined Obama’s underpinnings and finds them wanting. Since I doubt the president has time for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart theological discussion with a Fox News personality, Mr. Beck must have distilled this intensely personal information by filtering it through the heavy air of Washington D.C. at the Big Beck Rally this past Saturday. Opponents are so much simpler to defeat when you can handle their side of the conversation too. Trust me, I’m doing it to Glenn Beck right now and it’s very easy because he’s not saying a word!

In our media landscape today, whether you know what you’re talking about or not is hardly the point. The key is to get your version of the truth out there. Wrong or right, but especially if it’s amazingly, provocatively wrong, stuff takes on a life of its own.

One more instance of making things up – the head count for the Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Here’s how the numbers were presented in Felicia Sonmez’s Washington Post Story:

Estimates on the size of the rally have varied widely. According to one commissioned by CBS News, 87,000 people attended the event. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), who also spoke at the event, told a reporter afterward that she thought more than 100,000 people had attended … Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking at her own event following the rally, said that no fewer than 1 million people had been in attendance.

What, nobody went for a billion? Leave it to our own Michele Bachmann to top everyone in this random number generating derby. She even beat the event’s organizer, whose method was so exact he called it somewhere between 300 thousand and 650 thousand. Perhaps he relied on the crowd estimation technique I claimed to use back when I was a reporter – count the number of legs and divide by two.

Obviously the total was a moving target, so you can choose any number that sounds good for you. Remember there’s no penalty for making stuff up.

What’s the biggest crowd you were ever in?

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Bumper to Bumper

This week’s massive highway jam in China made me strangely happy, and I’m feeling pretty guilty about that. I get fidgety in slow traffic and am cheered whenever I’m gliding down the interstate and see that the opposite lane is backed up, simply because I’m not stuck on that side.

It’s schadenfreude, I know. Taking pleasure from the misfortune of others. It’s a silly reaction for a couple of reasons. Slow traffic on the other side of the interstate can easily trigger a gawker slowdown on my side, which can turn into a real smugness dampener.
And then there’s the air.

As I drive past any line of backed up cars here in the U.S. I can almost see a cloud of frustration swirling around the vehicles. Or is that exhaust? People tend not to turn off their motors, even if they’re going nowhere. Lungs ache at the thought of the air quality along China’s 10 day, 60 mile long stoppage. Add to that the fact that many of the bumper-to-bumper trucks were carrying coal to feed the country’s rapidly growing energy needs, and its easy to see this Chinese jam as both a hydrocarbon generating and hydrocarbon generated monster.

And it’s back!

What do you do when you’re stuck for days in the middle of a thicket of overloaded coal trucks? Get out, play cards, sit in the shade, talk with your fellow sufferers, sleep and pay ticket scalper-level prices for food and water. And make up limericks.

One summer, en route to Beijing
The road was a go-nowhere thing.
When the drivers got out
To see what was about
Their new settlement lasted ‘til Spring.

How do you handle gridlocked traffic?

What Time Is It?

There is a divide between professional golfers and ordinary golfers that we ordinaries long to close. The game is so fickle and unpredictable and the small variations that make a big difference are so incomprehensibly tiny, it is possible to imagine that some day, for no reason other than the whimsy of a random universe, I will step on the course and play, not like myself, but like Jim Furyk.

In reality, that will never happen. If the professional/ordinary gap is threatened at all, it is by scenarios like this one: Furyk has a dead cell phone, his alarm doesn’t go off, he oversleeps, misses his tee time and is disqualified from a potentially very lucrative tournament.

Oversleeping. How common. Although some are more prone to it than others.

In 25 years of doing a weekday morning radio show that started as early as 5 am, I can recall oversleeping two times. In each case I was about one half hour late and both times my duties were handled by an extremely capable co-host. I felt off my game for the rest of the day, and there were other ramifications too. I developed a blister on one foot because I rushed out the door with putting on socks, and my shirt was 15% more wrinkled than normal but nobody said a word about it, perhaps out of politeness. No harm done.

But oversleeping can he hazardous.

If, for instance, you’re involved in a bankruptcy proceeding and are ordered by the court to appear at a meeting of your creditors and then don’t show up because you overslept and later you still don’t show up even though your attorney calls you to ask “where are you?” and even later when the marshal calls of course you promise him you will surrender yourself at the courthouse within an hour and a half but instead you jump in a car and go with your girlfriend to Florida with this crazy plan to hide out in a boat because you harbor a wild fantasy that you will never have to come back to face the music, then, well, you could wind up in jail.

A good alarm clock and a little common sense will help you avoid many problems.

Have you ever been penalized for oversleeping?

State Fair Time!

The Minnesota State Fair begins today, so take some time to end your summer properly with a visit to the great get together. When I go I have my usual favorite things to do, and so does everyone else. My things and your things are not always the same things. The rules that govern time and space pretty much require that any one individual will have to pass up many, many Fair features in order to enjoy their special places, experiences and foods.

This year the Fair has worked that unavoidable fact into their promotion, inviting people to narrow down the field by selecting their “Fair Four”. The lists are then posted on the Fair’s website. Take a look. Last time I checked there were over 400 entries. I wonder how many there’ll be by Labor Day?

Everybody eats their favorite food at the Fair.

As usual, I intend to visit the Animal Barns, one of the French Fry stands, the Art Building and the Sky Glider. Somewhere along the way I’ll have a milk shake. Ah, that’s five Fair things. Next year’s promotion, I expect.

On my list of new things to do is to watch some high school wizards battle it out by proxy in the education building. There’s a robotics display, and today it’s Edina vs. North Branch at 10, noon and 2. May the best gizmo win!

For new food, I might have to go to the Fried Fruit stand for fruit salsa and tortilla chips, or to the Fudge Puppy stand for a Caramel Apple Puppy. These fruity mouth fresheners may pave the way for some other new offerings – camel on a stick, deep fried balogna and corndog pizza. Yum!

Going to the fair?
Discuss your strategy.

Patiently Waiting

Everyone is relieved that the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped by an underground cave-in have been found alive. At the same time it is frightening to think of the ordeal ahead of them. It is estimated that it may take until Christmas to drill a tunnel large enough to lift them, one at a time, out of their rock walled prison 2300 feet underground.

It is very, very difficult to imagine what this must be like, starting with the depth of the underground chamber. How far 2300 feet? It’s the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building stacked one on top of the other.

The space they occupy – how small? It’s 530 square feet, described as the size of a studio apartment. Oddly, you can buy a party tent that is roughly that size on Amazon for $530 dollars.

The notes suggest you use this canopy for a wedding reception or as a carport. There’s no mention of what it would be like as a dark, hot waiting room for 33 human beings for four months straight. I doubt that most wedding guests would stand for it, even with the mimosas and free hors d’œuvres.

God help these miners and their families. I pray they all survive and are mentally healthy when they emerge, and that their resilience is an inspiration to the world.

It would also be nice if they could receive royalties for the various ways their story will be told. People trapped underground at their jobs for 16 weeks shouldn’t have to go back to work, ever. No doubt there is already talk of a reality show to mimic this catastrophe, though I suspect even the publicity hounds who populate our network airwaves would never agree to submit to this level of extreme mental torture.

A playwright somewhere could already be at work on a first draft of the stage version, though there are clear obstacles. Most theaters can’t afford to put on a 33 character show and it would be difficult for 11 actors to do triple roles. Even if they could, blocking would be a nightmare, and how long would it take to get through the happy ending scene with each man getting hoisted, one after the other, into the fly space above the stage? And didn’t they already do that with Grizabella in Cats? The critics would yawn and call it derivative, no doubt.

A major motion picture is more likely. Surely there are 33 “A list” actors in Hollywood who would love to be drenched in fake sweat while painting a picture of emotional despair and the ultimate triumph of human will over adversity. That’s Oscar grade material. The studio executives would work their usual mischief, tweaking the story to make it palatable for a U.S. audience. For instance, it would be necessary to have some of the miners be starlets whose coveralls were shredded almost to bits by the violent air blast that washed over them after the underground rock slide. And one of these female miners might have to be pregnant. With a due date that coincides with the estimated Moment Of Rescue. But you know how that’s going to turn out. Rescuers won’t be able to lift her to the surface while she’s in labor, so the more cowardly characters (Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, William H. Macy) opt to leave her underground even though some terrible danger (floodwaters, earthquake, cave bears) approaches. The noblest miners (Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep) elect to stay behind and face the worst of it in order to stand guard over mom (Anjelina Jolie) and her baby, Pepito (a Jolie-Pitt child yet to be named).

Let’s hope for a story that’s genuinely happy enough to be mishandled this way.

Name your favorite disaster movie.

Under the Radar

Here’s a note from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, poster boy for the campaign against social promotion in our public schools.

Hey Mr. C.,

Well, the re-start of school is coming up in a couple of weeks, though for some of us it feels like school never ends. I’ve been a sophomore so long I don’t even have to think about what I need to have to go back. My folks bought everything in bulk about five years ago. I have a pallet of notebooks, a barrel of pencils and about a half ton of computer paper so I can print out all my assignments. My dad wondered if we could buy sheets with “F” and “incomplete” already scrawled across the top just to save the teacher some time. Ha ha.

I know 10th grade better than most of the teachers, and I can tell you for sure that it hasn’t changed all that much. Except this one thing, and it’s really bugging me. The food is different. Every time I go back there are more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer meals covered in melted cheese. It’s getting so I don’t even recognize the smell of the cafeteria anymore! They talk about making healthy choices and eating locally grown food and getting lots of exercise and the whole thing gives me this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach because I’m afraid I won’t get to eat wiener winks for lunch ever again!

One cool thing about summer – with my folks at work all day I can pig out on donuts, pop and ice cream sandwiches. Going back to school is going to be a kind of dietary cold turkey and I don’t know if I’m up to it. I might go into some kind of low calorie shock if all I can have for lunch is a rice cake and some raw carrots.

You have a lot of connections, right? I’m wondering if you can get word to the people who make those potato chips in a can and see if they can create some that lay perfectly flat – flat enough so that a single chip could hide between the pages of a book. I know those snacks are squeezed out of a machine anyway. It shouldn’t be more complicated than just twisting a dial somewhere to get the wave out of those round goodies. I figure a 320 page book has space for 321 Stealthy Chips, which ought to be more than enough to get me through the morning most days.

And if they like that idea, maybe a whole line of Stealthy Snacks would be a big money maker, like cheddar puffs that look like acne. You can stick them to your face first thing in the morning and leave them there until you’re feeling a little hungry. When the teacher isn’t looking, grab that pockmark off your forehead and pop it in your mouth! We could call them Cheese – Zits!

I have plenty of great ideas for sneaking bad food into the health crazed prisons that our school cafeterias are turning into, but I need somebody on the “outside” to make the connection to the multinationals for me.

Whaddaya say? I’ll share some of my Gummi Pens with you!

I told Bubby there’s no chance of a deal. I’m actually in favor of the healthy food push that’s going on in school cafeterias, and if he doesn’t like the new menu choices he should finally apply himself to his studies and try to graduate so he can choose to dine on French fries all day as a free, unhealthy adult. Now that I think of it, maybe he failed all these years just so he could keep eating turkey gravy over toast every other Wednesday. This might be just the thing to get him to turn his work in on time!

What was your favorite school lunch?