Love in the Time of Consumerism

IMAG1209

The thing with Valentine’s Day is that it’s just a day, like any other, or at least it should be.  Must we be told or reminded to love our loved one/s? Ideally, one should try to love special people each and every day.  Are chocolates, flowers, and dinners out, the ultimate expression of love, or consumerism? If you want to support your local businesses or something, do it all the time, not just on holidays. Hey, wine and chocolate are complimentary goods and healthy in moderate doses.  I say if you want to prop up the chocolate industry, Hallmark or some winery, buy their stock directly or invest in mutual funds that hold the companies you hold dear. Buy the way, Evan Williams 1783 small batch bourbon pairs nicely with lemon merengue pie for whatever it’s worth, which incidentally would be about 50 bucks, the two.

Below are some of my favorite love quotes, that resonate today and any day.

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” – Paulo Coelho

“It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.” – Agatha Christie

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent van Gogh

“Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.” – David Byrne

“About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.”   – Rita Mae Brown

“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients – care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”  – Bell Hooks

Love,

Ribbie

Mowing Lawns for a David Lee Roth IRA

One heck of a lawn

One heck of a lawn

When I was a kid, I got my first job as a paperboy.  I must have been 14 or 15.  I started out on a bicycle, pitching the paper with pretty good accuracy.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d fling the paper with mixed results from my dad’s MG midget convertible.  It was an evening paper during the week and morning paper on the weekends.  During the summers, I’d also mow lawns in my neighborhood for like 15 bucks a pop.  I don’t even remember what I did with all the money I made, but I’m certain I didn’t save much.  I had a little savings account and think at one point had about 40 dollars in there which earned a few pennies in interest a year.  I set up a savings account just to get one of those passbooks which I thought was pretty cool.  The thought never occurred to me to set up a retirement account with my lawn mowing money as Cliff Goldstein suggests in the article, Put your teen’s lawn-mowing money into a Roth IRA. And if either of my parents had suggested it, I would have thought they were crazy and made some snide remark about David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

Retirement? Why my life had just begun.  I wasn’t working to set aside money for the day I could no longer work. I worked because I needed spending money, not saving money.  Money for baseball cards, chips, candy bars, sodas, movies, records and of course gas for the mower.  I could sure blow through money, but I always worked hard for it and believed in the spirit of making cold hard cash. I was even a member of the FBLA in high school, although ironically I never became a businessman or a business leader of any kind. I was an English major and later became a teacher and administrator.

As a young teen, I doubt I earned enough to even meet the Roth IRA minimum initial investment requirement, which is  something like $1,000.  I don’t know how much kids can get for a lawn these days, but I suppose if it is the right lawn in the right neighborhood, they could earn a couple hundred a day.  And if they are lucky enough to have parents who would match their contributions, and kick in some bonus spending money, a Roth IRA wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.  And in June of 2015 when the feds raise interest rates, I recommend channeling money into a cheap bond fund.  Always buy low and hope by retirement age share prices will be much higher. This earned income is essentially sheltered so that it cannot be considered as an asset for financial aid when the kid is ready to go to college.  But who knows, your teen may not need college if he/she makes it big in the lawn mowing business.  It could happen you know:  imagine your teen as a contractor with a novel logistics app to help coordinate an army of fellow teens mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow.  Your kid might be able to contribute to YOUR retirement plan!

DSC_0032

Mattel Not Doing So Well

And you know why, in a word, Barbie, at least that’s what some industry experts argue.  I don’t know if kids still play with dolls, but they apparently don’t play with Barbie and Ken anymore, despite the newest incarnations –  Haunted Beauty Mistress of the Manor and suave Gianfranco Ken.  Unfortunately, Shamrock Celebration Barbie, Barbie of the White Woods and Malibu Barbie didn’t fare so well and the price reduced Chilean Barbie never caught on.

So what is Mattel to do?  Firing the CEO is a start – someone else besides Ken and Barbie should take the fall.  I mean the two have had terrible agents these past few years and sadly, Ken and Barbie are no longer relevant.  And I don’t know if kids still play with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, but they should if they don’t and not the video game version but I’m sure there’s an app for that. Mattel should bring back all the classic cars just as released in 1970 and create a new market for all the aging, nostalgic baby boomers out there like me.

But here’s the thing that could bring prosperity back to the company.  The Creepy Crawlers machine.  Remember that? You poured some flavored goop into a mold, closed up the heated contraption, which was sort of like a waffle iron or a George Foreman Grill, to produce a edible insect.  They tasted pretty awful, about how you would expect an insect to taste, but the concept was far out and just a little bit dangerous which made it all the more desirable.  Mattel should bring back the Creepy Crawlers machine with updated goop flavors to suit the modern palate, say, pomegranate crisp, chipotle infused root beer, rainforest spearmint, mango mist and almond crunch.  I’d buy one and I bet you would too.  You’re welcome Mattel and good luck!

Why Boston should not host the Summer Olympics

IMAG0368

Dear Reader,

Boston was selected to compete to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which I think is a really horrible idea for the following 5 reasons:

  1. Friendliness. Not that Boston couldn’t be a good host city.  It could and most likely would be, if people were on their best behavior.  However, Bostonians are not generally known for their friendliness, but neither are they, or I should say, we, as I live here, neither are we hostile.  At best we are indifferent to tourists, and sometimes, maybe quite frequently, mildly annoyed at them but otherwise reasonably tolerant.  International tourists will not find the sort of southern hospitality they might have encountered elsewhere, say in Atlanta during the 96 Olympics – you know, “how ya’ll doin?”, ya’ll doin aight?”, nor will you find the curiosity factor, “where ya’ll from?”. To Bostonians, unless you live in the neighborhood where you were born, you are an outsider and will be given the cold treatment, which is a survival mechanism, so don’t take offense. The best you can hope for is to get honked at to get the hell out of the way, or to receive a “you all set?” from your waiter.
  2. Food.  Boston has some good food, but does not compare to other major cities in the U.S. like NYC or Chicago and doesn’t really have a very attractive local culinary staple, unless you count Clam Chowder, and in my book soup doesn’t count.  And lobster, well, that’s Maine’s claim, not Boston’s.  Try finding a good barbecue, a brisket, a cheesesteak, or even a decent pizza – and sandwiches in the city, forget about it.  Make your own.
  3. Parking.  There is none. Period. And traffic is bad enough as it is, the Big Dig notwithstanding. Bostonians are notoriously bad and rude drivers and the roads here are little more than cow paths.  There’s no grid pattern for navigation purposes which renders even GPS useless.
  4. Accommodations.  I think most tourists would have to stay outside of Boston – way outside, like Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut because there just aren’t enough beds.
  5. Venues.  They’d have to be built, because there’s not much here besides the Reggie Lewis Track Center at Roxbury Community College, the basketball gym at the Garden, the Football stadium in Foxboro, out in the sticks – over an hour from Boston and the soccer field at Pagil Playground. Boston would have to build something like 4 stadiums costing upwards of a billion dollars, not to mention the added expense of all the security needed. Ultimately this will mean higher taxes for Bostonians. Look, Boston is so congested with buildings and narrow alleys that they’d have to tear old stuff down to build the new.  If Boston were selected, they should just build out on the Boston Harbor Islands,which, by the way, has good views of the shipping lanes, Logan Airport and the occasional whale.

I’d just be happy to host another World Series and leave the Summer Olympics to the Romans.

Respectfully,

Ribbie,

Boston, MA

New Musical Car Names

DSC_0154I’ve written about this subject before and come back to it today after being on the road this morning and finding myself bored.  While in heavy traffic, I began processing the names of car models.  I saw a Honda Odyssey, a Honda Fit (more on the Fit in a future post), a Dodge Dart, darting in and out of lanes only to be stopped like the rest of us at a traffic light.  Let’s see, there was a Toyota Venza whose name perplexes me – Venza?  Is this short for Venezuela? Or is the meaning a bit deeper?  In Spanish there is a phrase – sin verguenza which essentially means without shame and indeed the driver seemed to have no remorse for tailing me closely and then sharply passing me on a winding road.  I should add that the Venza was nearly impaled by an oncoming Impala.

One of my favorite car names on the road is the Hyundai Sonata, although I don’t particularly like the car.  I think automakers should turn more to classical music forms to name new models or rename tired and boring old ones.  Here are just a few I would recommend: The Mitsubishi Mazurka, and it’s mid-size companion the Mitsubishi Rhapsody; the venerable Hyundai Scherzo; the Ford Fugue and a hybrid version, the Ford Fantasie; the Chevrolet Concerto, (Chevy should bring back the Caprice Classic); the full-sized Pontiac Polonaise and the sporty Pontiac Poco Adagio (Do they even still make the Pontiac?) Dodge flopped with the Neon so why not repackage it as the Nocturne? I could go on for days with Italian names, but let’s just go with the Fiat Finale and the Fiat Tutti micro car, to replace the monotonous Fiat 500.  I never much liked the Lincoln model names, so let me suggest The Lincoln Largo (to replace the Navigator) and a new compact and fuel efficient Lincoln Lento; I could have fun with the German makes, but let’s keep it simple – the VW Waltz, and the concept car, the VW Variation on a Theme.  BMW just numbers their cars, so they need a refined BMW Bagatelle.  Here’s one make I forgot about and so have most Americans – Buick.  They are definitely on the right track with the Buick Encore, but they steered off course with the Buick Enclave so how about renaming it the Buick Berceuse, which in musical terms means lullaby and would be the perfect auto for a family with a crying baby suffering from colic and insomnia.  And I know the theme here is classical music, but I am going to deviate a bit and rename the Buick LaCrosse the Buick Jai-Alai.  And last on the list, Volvo, the old Swedish make needs a makeover for its infamous station wagon box.  I’d suggest the Volvo Vocalise.

Coda: For good measure, I’d rename the Nissan Leaf, the Nissan Conductor and the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Impromptus.  By the way, cudos to Nissan for the Versa Note, and the Nissan March, but whatever happened to the Stanza? And Honda, what did you do with the Prelude?

DSC_0237R

Air Bags on Board your Flight?

Avensa_0001

Who knew airlines had air bags?  I didn’t.  I guess it makes sense.  A bag for the air, to accompany your travel bag and the omnipresent barf bag.  Did you know that on Frontier flights long ago, a barf bag had the word Occupied printed on it so that when you left to go to the restroom, you would put it in on your seat so nobody would take it? This was back in the day of festival seating.  But where was I?  Oh, air bags.  I was actually surprised to know that planes had them.  And maybe they don’t all yet, but Boeing has been working on them and not without complications. At a Boeing plant, there has been at least one fatality and several accidents to technicians working with the air bag systems.  In the Reuters article published just a few hours ago, the bags are called seat-belt bags and it referenced a seat air bag inflator.  Work was being done on a 777, a plane widely flown the world over.

I’m all for increased air safety, but I don’t see what purpose an in-flight air bag would serve.  Imagine the things activating when a plane hits a pocket of turbulence. What if a kid full of sugar kicks the seat back too hard and one goes off? There’d be screaming and widespread panic.  Or what if the things are actually in the seats and one goes off and sends an unsuspecting, unseat-belted passenger through the cabin roof. On the other hand, I suppose an air bag would protect passengers from rough landings, but would do very little to cushion the blow of a crash.  Not to make light of the practical aspects of an air bag, whatever they may be, but I do seem to remember back from my days as a high school debater that the airbag propellent, sodium azide, is a known carcinogen.  If you add this potentially toxic gas to the mix of cabin air which is not exactly rocky mountain fresh, you may find the need to reach for the barf bag, and then the oxygen bag and finally a gas mask.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like my car air bag, I think, unless it’s one of those suspect ones that Takata made that spews shards of metal once deployed, and it may very well be one as I own a Honda.  Wouldn’t it be awful to be saved by an airbag from the impact of a crash only to be killed by the bag’s shrapnel or toxic gas?

Air travel is pretty safe so I say we leave things the way they are.  Let’s stick with seat belts and barf bags.

The Earth Ends Here

DSC_0853
If you really want to go down south for a beach vacation, try the seacoast towns of Chile between Mirasol and El Quisco including Isla Negra, where Pablo Neruda once lived, that form a stretch of the Pacific Coast about as far south as it gets. Far out kind of far south too. So far out that I am convinced the earth ends here. I don’t mean the end of the earth in a derogatory way necessarily, although there are aspects of the landscape and climate that are harsh such that the locals indubitably lead a hardscrabble life. And I don’t mean end of the earth literally as if our fair planet were flat and something like only 200 years old. I am not a science denier but of course don’t deny that there are many who do. And as proper as these beaches are in their own right, they are somewhat otherworldly. One beach at Punta Altraca has capital ocean waves with sharp rocks and a beach, but one without sand, or so it seemed – rocky, but finely ground rocks, not quite sand, granulated – the texture of instant Nescafe.
DSC_0920We saw the sunset on Canelillo Beach which sits below a steep hill near Algarobbo where we are staying. The roaring ocean waves slap razor sharp black rocks.  The impressive breakers create violent splashes.  Hardscrabble cactus patches grow on the side of the hill going down to the beach. Groves of barbed wire protected cactus flourish and rot in the same lot. Precious pine trees and other species stripped of bark stand tall. This is where the earth ends.

The End of the Earth

The End of the Earth

Blood Moon and Mushrooms

BloodMoon

I looked for the blood moon this morning, but all I found was an orange sky, which could have been a product of industrial pollution and not the lunar eclipse.  So I went back to bed.

Blood moon.  Makes me think of a blood orange, which I didn’t even know existed until just a few years ago.  My first encounter with one left me bruised and traumatized.  I thought someone had injected the orange with blood.  I threw it away as if it were medical waste and repeatedly washed my hands.  On the subject of oranges, I like them ok, but don’t much like peeling them.  You know why?  The juice from the orange peel gets inside my finger nails and stains them, making me look like a heavy smoker or a man with a fungus issue.

Speaking of fungus, I used to despise mushrooms, but I have room for them now that I’m a little more cultured.  I especially like them stuffed or marinated.  I’m not a shroom snob though.  I couldn’t tell you much about the morel, or a truffle other than they are deliciously expensive.  But I do know that some mushrooms can kill you and others can make you fly and at least a few have medicinal properties.

The blood moon, the blood orange, and the mushroom that the Spanish speaking sometimes refer to as el champinon or simply el hongo, are on my mind this rainy tax day morning.

USA, Russia, Norway AHEAD in Medals Count but which Countires REALLY Dominated?

Image

Ok, I had planned to provide daily Winter Olympic commentary, but I’ve fallen a little behind – a lot behind.  In fact, I sort of stopped watching the Sochi Games – well I tune in here and there and have lately wondered when it will all end.  Will the Games last the entire Winter which would take us to March 19th? They are the Winter Games after all. But they’ve run out of events or at least I thought so until I tuned in this morning and saw snowboard parallel slalom. Wow!  Kind of neat actually.  It’s parallel in the sense that 2 snowboarders zigzag down parallel (in different lanes) weaving in and out of flags trying to “carve” clean and fast lines to best the other rider.  And they are riders in a sense.  You ride, not race a snowboard, right? Anyway, it’s all a little silly really, but fun to watch and it’s over in a flash – it’s like the the twitter version of blogging.  Speaking of boards, what if the snowboarders skied on surfboards.  I’d like to see surfboards on the half-pipe. Imagine if you slipped up at a restaurant and ordered oysters on the half-pipe. But what I actually want to write about are patterns – patterns to the medals.  So if you haven’t been watching the Olympics and just want to know which countries are doing well in what and want to know how los Americanos are doing by comparison, this service is for you.

Let me preface the results reported below by saying that this might be a spoiler alert, or might not be. I’m not sure what you know or have or have not seen or what has been aired or what has yet to be aired tonight.  All I know is that the Games are nearly done.  Maybe some exhibition stuff, a Hockey match or two and perhaps a parade of champions or whatever they do left to go. You know what I think would be neat is for the athletes to compete in sports they don’t do for the last few days.  Bobsledders do Luge.  Lugers do Skeleton.  Sliders do Bobsled and so on (are Bobsledders sliders or just bobbers?) Figures skaters could do Freestyle Skiing; Snowboarders the Giant Slalom (on their snowboards if they like). Freestylers could do Ski Jumping. Hockey players could try the Half-Pipe on skates, Curling or Figure Skating. Short-Trackers could do Speed Skating and so on.

Final Spoiler Alert……What I find interesting is how some countries dominate in certain events. The Dutch completely dominated the world in Speed Skating.  Norway showed us all how to do the Biathlon, Cross Country and Nordic Combined.  Canada, with it’s tradition of Monarchs showed it reigns supreme in Curling and Hockey, it appears.  The Canadians also showed us how to Free Style with style.  The Chinese simply shredded up the Short-Track.  The host Russians danced their way to glory in the opening ceremony and on the figure skating ice, much to the delight of Vladimir Putin, no doubt.  Actually, Putin could be nicknamed Poutin over the Russians poor performance in Hockey. The Americans had the upper hand or perhaps lower leg with respect to Snowboarding events.  The Germans Lugers slid down the track with speed and precision and literally jumped off the charts on the hills of Sochi, normal and long along with Poland.   So, here are the medal results for each event by country of dominance compared to the USA for all you competitive American readers out there.

Figures Skating – Russia.  5 medals, 3 Gold.  USA – 2 medals, 1 Gold

Alpine Skiing – Austria 7 medals, 2 Gold.  USA 5 medals, 2 Gold

Snowboarding – USA 5 medals, 3 Gold. Russia 4 medals, 2 Gold

Freestyle Skiing – Canada 9 medals, 4 Gold. USA 7 medals, 3 Gold

Hockey – Canada 1 medal,1 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Cross-Country – Norway 11 medals, 5 Gold. USA 0

Nordic Combined – Norway 4 medals, 2 Gold. USA 0

Biathlon – Norway 6 medals, 3 Gold. USA 0

Ski Jumping – Germany and Poland 2 medals, 2 Gold (each). USA 0

Bobsled – USA 3 medals, 1 Gold.  Canada and Russia 1 medal, 1 Gold (each)

Luge – Germany 5 medals, 4 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Skeleton – Russia 2 medals, 1 Gold. USA 2 medals, 0 Gold

Curling – Canada 2 medals, 2 Gold.  USA 0

Short Track – China 6 medals, 2 Gold. Russia 5 medals 3 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Speed Skating – Holland 21 medals, 6 Gold. USA 0

Boring Winter Olympics Needs Some Tweaks

I’m tiring a bit of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It’s partly that the events are a little dated and redundant.  It’s partly because Bob Costas is missing  – he really is the best in the business in my opinion. By the way, what exactly happened to Bob’s eyes?  It all seems so suspicious, but I don’t want to start any rumors.  Other than Bob’s eye infections, Shuan White’s failing to podium, the embarrassing interview of Bodi Miller and Lindsey Jacobelis’ unfortunate repeat fall, the games have been mostly drama free, probably much to Putin’s relief.  My tiring of the games is also partly do to the fact that I have no sense of what is live, taped, or whether an event happened today or yesterday or tomorrow.  What is the time difference anyway?  Russia has what, 9 time zones?  It’s today here and tomorrow there or something weird like that.  Also, the excitement of a single broadcast is gone because you can get Olympic news coverage anywhere anytime – a tweet here, a video there, headlines all over the Internet and spoiler alerts on all the TV news broadcasts. NBC has been covering the Sochi Games nonstop on MSNBC, CNBC, NBC and the USA Network, where you can catch niche sports like team curling and snowboard cross. 

So I won’t just whine about everything, I do have four solutions to offer to keep the Olympic Games relevant for years to come. 

First, the International Olympic Committee should do away with ski jumping on two hills.  Why do they have both a long and normal hill.  I say the skiers should just go down one hill, the hill.  Same deal with the short and long skating programs.  

Second, one of everything.  The bobsled is too complicated.  It should be just 1 man or woman, not 1, 2 and 4.  I mean we might as well have coed mixes or a medley of nations – a bobsled team made up of 4 randomly selected athletes from different countries. They’d have to argue over whose boblsed to drive and who the driver would be.  But it would promote peace on earth.  And no qualifying events either.  Just one race, run or game for everything.  And 1 athlete from each country for everything except hockey and curling.  No pairs skating, no snow relays, or whatever it is they do in cross-country.  Team ski-jumping, come on – boring.  Team ice-dancing?    

Third, Tweaks.  I probably said this 2 years ago, but I think those skiers with the guns are a little spooky.  I know it’s tradition, but if the gun thing must continue, why not have them carry shotguns and instead of hitting those easy carnival type targets, have them hit clay pidgins or skeets with shotguns.  And curling, how many rounds do they go before a winner is declared.  It’s about 5 rounds too many.  And curling, really, it’s not a sport, or it’s as much a sport as say ice-fishing.   

Skeleton.  Why not have these sliders go down head first on their backs.  I imagine it has been done before on Jack Ass or some show like it.  But these athletes could pull it off in style. They would probably need to wear protective thermal thinsulate armor, though.  Maybe Pierre Cardin could design some tricked out suit of sliding armor for the American sliders.  I’m also thinking of an event where the ski jumpers go down backwards and then rotate in midair for the landing – maybe even do another trick or two like the free stylers. It can’t be that hard to do.    

And finally, all the events should be held outdoors, all of them.