Twinkies and Orange Cupcakes are BACK!!!

Go Organic Cow

 

After a brief hiatus, Hostess Twinkies and Orange Cupcakes are back or soon will be.  And thank goodness.  I had not realized just how addicted I had become to the succulent cupcakes that are teaming oozing with 55 ingredients.  I’m not sure which ingredient had me so completely hooked, but I think it was Polysorbate 60.  I do.  One of the more common, yet controversial components of the orange cupcake is the partially hydrogenated canola oil.  I don’t why they don’t just fully hydrogenated the oil, but I guess to make a profit, Hostess had to cut some corners.  One of the more baffling ingredients in these delicately delectable treats is beef fat.   As a unrepentant beef lover, I have to say that these cakes melt in my mouth like a rare Filet Mignon topped with a thin coat of melted blue cheese butter.  I just have one question for Hostess:  is that beef fat grass fed?

 

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Gators Crave Gatorade

AmericanAlligator

 

Gators love Gatorade.  It was made for them back in the 60’s, and they are addicted to it.  One of my sources, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that a band of gators from Florida and Mississippi who participated in a focus group overwhelming favored the Orange flavored Gatorade and I think I know why.  The florescent colored sport juice of crocks and gators contains an addictive ingredient that reptiles crave – brominated vegetable oil.  They love the stuff.  Those who fish gators in the swamps of the deep South know this and squirt Orange Gatorade on their baits and hooks.  Gators can’t resist.

And now gators are being deprived of the juice with the oil they so love.  It’s true!  Gatorade removed brominated vegetable oil from its recipe and now the gators won’t bite and many have been seen on the banks of the Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida swamps with their mouths wide open, transfixed, and in a state of extreme thirst.  It’s an ugly sight.  The good news is that some gators have taken to Orange flavored Vitamin water, bottle and all.

The Majority Does Not Rule on Background Checks

IMAG0545-1

Senators voted down the bi-partisan Manchin amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases by a slim margin, 54-46. Actually, the 54 who supported the bill lost to the 46 who voted against it.  How could this be?  A simple majority doesn’t carry a vote?  You mean the side with the fewest votes wins?  It might come as a surprise to know that a simple majority doesn’t win in the Senate anymore.  Because of a rules change, too complicated to explain here, it takes 3/5 or 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate.

If people kill and not guns, how could anyone be against background checks at gun shows and on the Internet, where they are not currently required?  How do expanded background checks violate the 2nd amendment?  Should convicted felons, fugitives from justice, drug addicts, and people involuntarily committed to mental institutions have the right to bear arms?

Contrary to what the NRA says, the bill doesn’t create a national registry of gun owners; in fact, it makes it illegal for a federal officer to use information obtained from background checks to try to create one, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Gun control is just common sense.  It’s not about the 2nd amendment at all.  It’s about keeping our streets, schools and public spaces safer.

My Take as a Bostonian on the Marathon Bombings

Boston, MAI live in Boston, but am not afraid.  Yes, I have heeded the Governor’s advice to stay inside today, but not out of fear.  I am a little annoyed, actually, that the media has proclaimed Boston is in a state of lockdown.  We are not locked down.  People are free to move around if they wish and have been doing so freely all day.  No one has been detained for venturing out.  Golfers near my house were free to play 18 holes today and let me assure you that many did.  Call the recommendation to stay inside want you want, except Marshall law; I just call it common sense.  I am not going to prowl around looking for the bomber or insert myself into the investigation.  I’m not going out to take Instagram photos of the riot tanks in Watertown.

Another annoying aspect of the media coverage is just how many things “journalists” have gotten wrong. The New York Post identified and published a photo of the wrong guy as one of the bombers.  Second, in a rush to get the breaking news scoop, media outlets reported that the suspects were dark-skinned, then White, all before the official video and still photos had been released by the FBI.  Third, reports circulated that the two were brothers of 19 and 21 years of age; the oldest suspect that authorities killed in a gunfight turned out to be 26.  Fourth, the media has repeatedly reported with certainty that the brothers are refugees from Chechnya; they are, at least, according to one of the uncles, from Kyrgyzstan, though another uncle seemed to confirm their Chechen ethnicity.  Fifth, various reports stated the two had been in the country for just 2 years, when in fact, if we can trust the facts, they came in 2001 and had been living legally as refugees in the country for 12 years; the youngest suspect even became a U.S. citizen on 9/11/2012, of all dates. Not that all the discrepancies will make a big difference in the outcome of the case, but it does raise some concerns about the integrity of the information we receive in the age of the continuous 24 hour news cycle.  And while the 19 year old suspect has yet to be tried and convicted of anything, there seems to be little doubt as to his guilt with all the eye witness surveillance video.  And I hope he is captured alive so that authorities can learn as much information as possible about motives, associations and other threats before he is prosecuted.

But mostly, I am angry that terrorists have been living among us. I am angry that they committed an act cowardice against innocent people at the Boston Marathon. There is nothing, nothing at all that can justify the calculated killing of innocent people.  These terrorists murdered three and maimed hundreds with a dirty bomb.  They carjacked a civilian at gunpoint,  wounded an MBTA official, killed an MIT police officer and got into a firefight with police officers.

What would compel one to commit such heinous crimes?  One plausible and admittedly unsubstantiated theory (and one that is not so original) is that the oldest brother, who authorities killed in the shootout, had gone abroad, received training with a terrorist group, become radicalized, made or obtained some bombs and organized the attack with his brother.  It seems doubtful that they were lone wolves who snapped.

Whatever the case turns out to be, it is clear that any War on Terror cannot be a conventional war fought by countries, as the failed Bush years proved.  The War on Terror cannot be a battle of competing religions.  No, the best way to fight terrorism is to be vigilant, but reasonable; to seek justice, not revenge; and to refuse to be terrorized.  The American ideals of democratic governance with an emphasis on individual rights, freedom of religion, tolerance, community, and the peaceful pursuit of happiness is a package that cannot be destroyed by a terrorist attack.

And one more thing:  Americans, let’s not forget that we are all immigrants.  We must denounce all acts of violence and terrorism, but be tolerant and supportive of peaceful, hard-working, newer immigrants who reside among us and cordial and welcoming to international tourists and students visiting from foreign lands no matter observed differences in dress, accent, appearance, religious or political affiliations.  I am certain that my great city of Boston and one of my favorite cities, New York City, will always be welcoming and hope that other U.S. cities will be too.

Finally, and importantly, let us never forget the 3 Boston Marathon bombing victims and the 176 wounded and their families and the slain and injured officers.  Boston will never forget and has set up The One Fund to assist impacted families.  Rest assured that the bomber will be brought to justice.

Postscript:  Authorities apprehended the surviving suspect who had been hiding in a boat.  He was taken alive and transported to a local hospital.  The mayor tweeted “we got him”.  What a relief! Cudos to the coordinated efforts of the Boston Police, the MA State Police, the FBI, The AFT, Mayor Menino, and Governor Patrick all of whom conducted themselves professionally and with extreme concern for public safety.  Thank you!

The Masters – It’s all about the Sounds…and Tiger

I’ve been watching the Masters Golf Tournament on and off for the last few days.  I’m not a big golf fan at all really, but for some reason, I enjoy watching it.  Maybe it’s just the sounds of the birds, and the occasional claps and roars when someone makes a nice shot. Actually, I think that’s it for me –  the sonics.  I like the sound the club makes when it strikes the ball – it’s an odd sound effect that interests me.  The flapping of the flags on the green, the occasional jet engine overhead and the drone of a blimp motor add layers of character to a pretty straightforward and often boring, but challenging game.

And the challenge.  The game sometimes reminds me of pool.  I wonder if the best players are good at billiards?  And I am sometimes reminded of mini-golf, with the rolling hills and the custom slopes and all the perilous things about like sand bunkers, strategically placed pit vipers and rattlers, and trees, rocks, pine needles and alligator infested ponds.

The buzz this year seems to be for the Aussies who have never won the Masters.  And of course there’s the 14 year old Chinese phenom, Tianlang Guan, who made the cut but shot a 77 in the last round to effectively end his bid for a top 10 finish.  And Tiger is always the story, with the ball drop thing and the 2 stroke penalty.  The whispering announcers were saying he should have voluntarily disqualified himself.  Right.  The truth is if Tiger had DQ’ed himself ratings would have dipped to alarmingly low levels, that is unless an Aussie were atop the leader board – and one is not – or one of the old guys like Ben Crenshaw or the 14 year old were in the running and they are not.  No, the story will be Tiger’s hunt for another Green jacket and maybe a snake bite or a close call with an alligator.

Divine Masculine Art Installation Q/A

Denton Storm

In preparation for the Divine Masculine Art Installation that I am attending organized by my daughter and artist Pampi of alpoarrentao Productions, folks were asked to answer four questions.  Here are my responses:

1. If you could convey anything to your adolescent self, given all the experiences you have had since then, what would it be?

Don’t spend so much on albums because in 30 years you can get them for free on Spotify, (with ads)

2. Looking back, what are some people, advice, events – anything – you are grateful you had during adolescence? Why?

My sister’s advice to get and stay involved with whatever matters to me, and that translated into high school debate, which literally changed my life and way of thinking. I’m grateful to my mom for forcing me to take piano lessons even though I can’t play, because I can appreciate better what it really means to have talent when I hear it. Oddly, my love of keyboard music – all kinds, came from my own failed attempts. My dad introduced me to the concept of patience.  He’d always say “hang in there”.  And it made me feel better – that and music, my brand of thorazine.   My grandfather had a lot of patience too.  We’d fish all day and catch nothing and enjoy every moment on the lake.  It was good to know that it really wasn’t all about the catch.  While in college, my friend John was my visa to a world outside the Southern states – my ticket to Chicago, NYC, Europe and my eventual passport to Boston where I remain happily uprooted and rooted today; a domestic immigrant with documents.

3. Looking back, what do you wish you had had in adolescence to help you transition from childhood to adulthood? Why?

I didn’t have much guidance really – lots of good general advice, you know, do your best, follow your passions, work hard, do right, earn enough to support yourself, and all that, but the advice came without instructions – it was like “figure it out on your own”.  It took me a long time to figure things out.  Funny, to this day, I can’t understand instruction manuals.  I just try stuff out, “let’s see, this way – no that way, what does this do” and that sort of thing. I don’t like maps much either – I sense my way around.  I guess I could have used a map as an adolescent, or Google or Frommer’s Guide to Life or something.  I’d have gone to a different college too most likely, but I have no regrets and am thankful to my parents and grandparents for the sacrifices they made and support they gave to ensure I got an education.  And I met some great people along the way, including my wife and our children. Didn’t need a map or Match.com for that.  Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to inventing the Internet anyway back in my day.

4. What is something you are going through now that you think additional guidance in adolescence would have helped you figure out earlier or make easier for you now?

Environmental guilt. If only I had known about the harmful impacts of styrofoam, aerosols, plastic water bottles and those campfires and all that leaded gas my parents burned in the family gas guzzling Chevy Impala. As I kid, I didn’t recycle, or compost.  I ate genetically altered corn.  I carried a heavy carbon footprint.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to the Earth Day organizers?  Things changed a little for me after hearing Ralph Nader speak when I was 18 and I began to eat sunflower seeds and granola bars.  I became more environmentally conscious. But by then it was too late.  I could have saved the planet and I did not.  If only PowerPoint had been invented sooner, Al Gore might have really made a difference.

Emporia State Wins the 2013 NDT

How’s this for a Final Four:  Georgetown, Oklahoma, Emporia State and Northwestern.   No, it’s not a Final Four from the 50’s.  It’s not even a basketball tournament.  But it is a tournament, and one far more demanding on the mind and body than running up and down a court.  No, it’s not a chess match or an engineering design competition either.   Did you say baseball?  Good guess, but that would be wrong too.  DEBATE.  The National Debate Tournament (NDT) recently took place at Weber State. The final round featured a brilliant team from Emporia State University who presented an alternative interpretation of the national debate resolution to take down an amazingly talented duo from powerhouse Northwestern.

Ryan Wash and Elijah Smith made history this year by being the first African American team to win the NDT and first from Emporia State University and the first team to win two national championships in the same year – the NDT and CEDA Nationals.  They defeated the Northwestern team of Peyton Lee and Arjun Vellayappan in the final round of the NDT on a close 3-2 decision, but not in the way you might think.  As the Affirmative team, Emporia State argued that they could not and would not debate a meaningless national resolution and challenged Northwestern to examine the oppressive role policy debate plays in negating personal experience and identity as critical starting points to meaningful discussions on issues.  They feel as long as oppressive frameworks remain, their voices will not be heard, that “the personal is political” and that until the debate community understands this,  many will find no home in debate.  In Cross-X, Ryan Wash responded that we should tie “theory to the flesh”.  In a reference to the Wiz, Smith and Wash implored Northwestern to “ease on down the road together” with them.  Northwestern did not.  They argued that some framework for debate is necessary, that without topicality parameters, the Affirmative has an unfair advantage because they could talk about anything making it impossible for the Negative to be prepared.  And this strategy proved to be their undoing.

All 4 debaters finished among the top 25 in total speaker points in prelim rounds out of 156 debaters in the tournament:  Lee finished 2nd behind top speaker Andrew Arsht of Georgetown (last year’s NDT champion with partner Andrew Markoff), Wash 5th, Vellayappan 7th and Smith who recently converted from Lincoln Douglas debate to policy debate rated as the 23rd best speaker.

I did not judge the round, nor could I have, but I did read the 11 page critique of one of the judges, Scott Harris, the Kansas debate coach, who voted for Emporia State SW. It is an interesting read and it helped me understand the round better which I listened to earlier here: I have mixed feelings about the debate, as did Harris.  Like Harris and Northwestern, I believe in the importance of topicality.  And I also concur with Harris and the Emporia State University team that policy debate needs to be way more inclusive than it is.  The debate community needs to welcome discussions that tie “theory to the flesh” and allow debaters to relate to their core being to include racial, gender, class, sexual orientation, religious, ideological, political, and geographic considerations. There needs to be fewer debate cards and more clash of ideas situated in this diversity so debaters can speak directly to one another and gain new perspectives so that we can in fact one day “ease on down the road together” toward a more perfect democracy.  Debate is not a game.

Final Four Mascot Upgrades

I usually don’t write about sports, but I could write exclusively about sports and have virtually written nothing but posts about college hoops during March Madness.  But now it’s April, and time for the Final Four and a new name for the event.  Let’s christen it April Hoopla or something. And now that that is out of the way, I have to say something about the mascots of the Final Four teams.  If you’ve been following any of my posts, you will know that I have proposed some new names for the team mascots:

I like the Shockers of Wichita and the fact that it refers to a grain, but I prefer the Wichita State Linemen after almost native son Glen Campbell’s classic tune “Wichita Lineman”.  It’s odd, but I can’t say the name of the team without first saying As Falls Wichita, so Falls Wichita Falls after the great Pat Metheny Group album.  Therefore, I’ve renamed the entire team who will be referred to henceforth as As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls Linemen. And the linemen may very well fall to Louisville.

Louisville.  Which Louis anyway?  King Louis?  Louis Armstrong? It’s all so confusing.  And the Cardinal.  Is it a color, a bird, the member of the Catholic clergy? Also confusing.  So let’s get rid of the bird, or whatever it is and replace with a more concrete cultural reference.  Now Kentucky has a lot of horses, booze and caves, right?  I was thinking to call them either the jockeys, the bourbons, the bootleggers or the spelunkers.  For me, Spelunkers has the best ring.  Louisville Spelunkers.

Michigan is a fishing state.  No one even knows what a wolverine is.  I had to look it up and no it’s not a baby wolf – it’s in fact a weasel.  Michigan, you are better than that.  You could be a sturgeon or a muskie.  I like the sound of muskie better.  Michigan Muskies.

Syracuse.  The Orange is lame as is mascot Otto the Orange, great grandson of the Mr. Kool-Aid man. I’m just going to give the mascot an upgrade from Orange to Blood Orange.  The Syracuse Blood Orange.  A Muskie vs. a Blood Orange – now that should be one fierce battle!