Category Archives: Culture

I Can’t Afford to Save any more Money

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I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day.  The store had several sales going on:  buy one get one free, buy two get three free, two for five dollars, etc.

As my wife placed each of these items in our cart, I’d ask “do we need that?”  And she looked at me like I was daft and said, “but it’s buy two get three free.” Needless to say, we had a cart full of groceries by the time we made it to the checkout lane.

Yes, I recognize that I am the cart boy.  My job is to push the cart and keep my opinions to myself (Obviously, I need a bit of retraining).  Still, I can’t help wondering how much money do we have to save before we’re not really saving money?  Buy two get three free is an awesome deal, but what if you only need one?  Hopefully, we’ll never need five boxes of Pepto-Bismol.   It would be okay if it were extra bonus packs of Reese’s Cups—Just saying.

I can’t really complain (Even though I am).  My wife doesn’t go shopping all that often and is a frugal shopper.  She actually trained me on how to not spend money(Hmmm, there’s a lesson in there somewhere).  She likes to come home from one of her discount stores and show me the receipt that states how much money she saved.

Whoever came up with that scheme is a genius.  You Saved 23 dollars!  Of course, you had to spend two hundred to do it, but that’s beside the point.

I guess I’m just becoming one of those crotchety old men who complain about money.

Don’t touch the thermostat! 

Turn off that light switch—it ain’t free you know.

What’s wrong with those shoes that a little duct tape won’t fix? 

It tears my stomach up, I tell you (Maybe I will need all that Pepto after all).

I’m not sure how this happened.  I used to blow money like it was going out of style, and now I wear my slippers until I can feel the floor through the soles (and will go through a couple of rounds of duct tape before admitting defeat).

I guess we all have a little Scrooge in us, and it gets worse with age.  I think I need a vacation from it all.   Wonder if I can get a cheap flight to Vegas?  I hear you can drink for free while playing the penny slots.

 

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Rules of the Road

Traffic Light

I’ve driven all across the country, and I have taken the driver’s test in several states over the years (California was, by far, the hardest test).  I had to renew my driver’s license this past year, which was basically an online renewal form.  It got me wondering how I’d fare with the driver’s test today?  Have the rules changed in recent years?  Driving around Charlotte, it sure seems like it.

So in case you’ve never driven in the Queen City, here are the rules of driving in my neck of the woods:

  1. Proper Lane Etiquette
    1. The left lane is for normal driving and the right lane is for passing unless you are coming up on an exit and then you must drive 10 mph less than the speed limit.
    2. If it is a three-lane road, the left lane is the driving lane, the middle is for passing, and the right lane is for Sonic the Hedgehog style driving (you must be going twice the speed limit and you earn kudos if you do it with your cell phone attached to your chin).
  2. Stop Signs
    1. Stops signs are optional.
    2. At a four-way stop, whoever hits the gas first has the right of way.
  3. Traffic Circles
    1. Unlike stop signs, you must come to a complete stop at every traffic circle (It is okay to stop here and check your cell phone for text messages).
    2. When you decide to go, make sure to do it slowly so that everyone must wait for you to find your exit from the circle.
  4. Traffic Lights
    1. As is common in many areas: Green means go, Yellow means go faster, and Red means floor it.
    2. Stopping at a red light is not required for the first 15 seconds or 3 cars whichever occurs first.
    3. No Turn On Red signs are just for decoration.
  5. Left Turn Lanes (Designated left turn lanes have the most complicated rules of all)
    1. If you are the first driver waiting in the left turn lane, you must play with your cell phone while you wait.
    2. Once the light changes to a Green Arrow, you must meticulously time your approach to the intersection so that yours is the only vehicle that can make the green light.
    3. The normal red light rules don’t apply. Once the first car perfectly times the green light, 5 more cars are allowed to run the red arrow (there is no time limit).
    4. If the light changes to a Yellow Flashing Arrow instead of a Green Arrow, you have the right of way as long as you beat the oncoming traffic to the intersection. Actually, it is like a game of Red Rover.  As long as the chain of turning cars is not broken by oncoming traffic, they maintain the right of way.
  6. Finally, using your cell phone while driving is standard practice. If you are not playing with your cell phone while driving then you are a novice and should be sent back to driving school.

I guess it’s a good thing I could do an online renewal.  I’m not sure I would pass the test today.

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Everything has been Done Before

What is so bad about a cliché?

I see the comment sometimes in critiques — “This is a cliché.”  Some people say it so much that pointing out a cliché has become a cliché.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

My first response is usually, “So what?”  I guess I don’t get why people get all in a tizzy about it, especially if it’s in dialogue.  People do still use clichés when they speak, don’t they?  Or is it just us older people who are stuck in our ways.

So what is a cliché?

A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought, a stereotype or electrotype.

It sounds bad, right?  Or is it?  I think originality can be overemphasized in some literary circles over telling a good story.  The best storytellers know and use every trick in the book.  Old or new expression, does it really matter as long as you tell a good story?  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right?

Maybe it’s because I live in the south.  We like our clichés down here, and they’re as numerous as fleas on a hound dog.  It’s part of the vernacular.  Telling a southerner to stop using clichés, is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.   You might as well be talking to a fence post.

So my advice is don’t get your knickers in a twist over clichés.  Just go with the flow and enjoy the story.  The occasional cliché won’t hurt anything (unlike this post).

Oh well, it is what it is.

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Filed under Culture, musings, Philosophy, Writing

The Perfect Snack

We all have our dietary weaknesses.  That one food that tempts you more than any other.  Maybe it’s a cheeseburger, or pizza, or ice cream.

Reese's

I know it will come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog, but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my dietary Achilles heel.  I mean, whoever came up with this perfect snack food should be canonized— Saint Harry of chocolate-peanut butter goodness, patron saint of snack time and hyperactive children.

Harry Burnett “HB” Reese invented the snack in 1928 in Hershey, PA.  He worked for The Hershey Company as a dairy farmer but was inspired to start his own candy company.  Inspired is the only way to describe this delicious treat.

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As a fantasy author, I’ve been asked what historical period I’d like to live in if I had my choice.  The answer is easy— anytime after 1928.  Can you imagine life without the peanut butter cup?

“Hey Georgie, finish your porridge and you can have a nice piece of fruitcake.”

No thanks, I think I’ll stay in the modern world and use fruitcake as a doorstop like any sensible person would.

If you have never eaten a Reese’s cup, don’t deny yourself any longer.  Head to the nearest store and grab a pack.  Don’t be fooled by all the choices either.  The standard double-pack is the only way to go.  These standard size cups have the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter.  The minis have too much chocolate and the Big Cup has too much peanut butter.  And don’t worry about the white chocolate, dark chocolate, crunchy, or any other variant.  Why mess with perfection (Although the Reese’s Fast Break bar is pretty good too if for some unfathomable reason the store is out of cups).

I could go on until the Hershey dairy cows come home, but now my mouth is watering and I have to run out for a little bit of chocolate-peanut butter heaven.

“Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”

peanut-butter

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Food for Thought

 

Eating bugs

I ran across this article on the BBC news feed about eating insects.  People dine on insects in many countries.  It is not that uncommon as it would seem to some of us westerners who are grossed out if our food is one day past the date on the label (and don’t get me started about leftovers).

You see people eating insects on Survivor or Fear Factor and shudder, but is it really that big a deal?

According to the article:

  • Most insects are 100% edible
  • Many insects are high in calcium, zinc, iron, and protein
  • They produce less greenhouse gas than animals
  • Insects absorb the taste of your chosen seasoning and add a satisfyingly crunchy texture
  • Insects could be the sustainable food of the future

I don’t know about you, but I’m game to try most anything when it comes to food.  My criteria are simple:  If it smells bad or looks nasty, I won’t eat it (and if it tastes bad, I won’t eat it a second time).  In the case of insects, I don’t think the smell would be the issue but the looks.

For one, we westerners have a hard time eating something that is looking back at us.  Also, it is a freaking bug.  We’re supposed to smash them, not eat them.  Although, shrimp is just a bug from the ocean, right (maybe not technically, but close enough).  I love shrimp.  Maybe a nice juicy grasshopper smothered in cocktail sauce would be just as tasty.  I’ve eaten escargot after all, and what’s more unappetizing than a snail.

So I guess if I visited a country that had bugs on the menu, I’d give it a try.  If they started raising grasshoppers on the farm down the street, I’m game.  I don’t plan to become the great insect hunter in my yard though.

Maybe it’s time we lose some of our food phobias and give insects a try.

And for you writers out there.  I do tend to write about food in my stories.  Now I have a few more items to add to the menu.

Pass the Beetle, please.

 

 

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I’m not Fat – Just Ask the Internet

I looked in the mirror the other morning and was shocked by what I saw.  Where did that belly come from?  I know it wasn’t there yesterday:

fatman

Of course, this is a bad time of the year for gaining weight.  It’s getting cold outside and I’m getting less active (“less active” is code for I’m eating too much junk food).  Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, and Christmas cookies don’t help.  A dedicated person would probably fight the junk food temptations, but I decided to try another approach—Internet research that proves I’m not fat (Because you know sitting in front of the computer is going to help burn that fat away).

I just have Big Bones: 

I’ve half-jokingly used this excuse for a few years.  What does it actually mean to have big bones and does it have any effect on how you carry your weight?  A couple of years ago, I read that a rule of thumb is to wrap your middle finger and thumb around your wrist.  If they touch, then you have a medium frame size; if they overlap, you have a small frame size; and if they don’t touch, you have a large frame size.  Mine don’t touch, so I figured I have big bones.

There is actually an online calculator that is a bit more accurate (or at least makes you think it is a more scientific approach).  I tried it, and it confirmed that I have a large frame size.

So what does this mean?  Basically, I can carry weight better because of my bone density.  Also, I can adjust my BMI number by about ten pounds.  So instead of being 30 pounds higher than my ideal weight, I am now only 20 pounds higher.  I’m pretty sure that still makes me fat.

  I’m preparing to Hibernate:

According to my highly technical research (The internet never lies), we tend to gain a few pounds in the winter because our bodies are preparing for a period of food shortage.  So when it gets cold, we eat more to prepare and our body responds by increasing its insulin resistance so we can store more fat.

Basically, the reason I ate too many Reese’s Cups at Halloween and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving was because my body told me to prepare for winter.  It’s not my lack of self-control at all.

So another 5 to 7 pounds is because of this process.  So now I’m only 13 pounds overweight.  Still chunky, but not as fat as I thought.

It’s just water weight: 

Most people’s weight can fluctuate from day to day or week to week.  I know that my weight can fluctuate up to about 10 pounds from one month to the next.  According to several health and wellness sites I visited, the average person’s weight can fluctuate from 5 to 7 pounds, and water is the main culprit.  I know I drink about a gallon of water a day—have for years.  Hey, I like water.

A gallon of water weighs roughly 8 pounds (see, that’s my power plant background coming out), so I’m going to make a leap of tangled logic and say that I retain about 8 pounds of water.  That brings me down to 5 pounds overweight.  What the heck, who isn’t 5 pounds overweight?

So there you have it.  I’m not fat, I’m just big-boned, retaining water, and preparing to hibernate for winter.  Whew, that was too much work.  Wonder what we have around here for a snack?

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Turkey Time!

It’s Thanksgiving in the old US of A.  I love Thanksgiving not just for the food, but for the cooking of the food.  Yes, I love to cook, and I always look forward to a day in the kitchen.  Sounds odd right?

In modern America, being a foodie is a badge of honor, but that means eating out not cooking in.  Forget that mess.  Eating out is okay when I’m too tired to cook, but the food tastes so much better when you make it at home.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for my kitchen.  It has plenty of storage, and counter space, and all the utensils and condiments I need to create a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

So while you’re driving miles down the highway to your in-law’s house to avoid cooking, I’ll be in the kitchen humming away and enjoying the tastes and smells.

My wife will be watching football or one of those boring Thanksgiving Day parades, rolling her eyes at me for enjoying the kitchen.

Of course, I’ll get the last laugh.  Afterwards, while I’m lounging on the couch in a turkey-induced haze, she’ll be on cleanup duty.

I cook, you clean — it’s the best deal I ever made.

 

 

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