Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If I know what it is, I won't eat it.

What are today's school's coming to? Last week, 9-year old Jake's 4th grade class took home permission slips for kids to be able to eat chocolate covered grasshoppers. Apparently, the teacher brought some in and challenged the kids to try it. Of the 20 kids, 19 brought back the slips signed, 10 actually ate them and only one of those suffered the dread projectile vomit. Jake manned-up and ate one, and proved to himself it was no big deal. Sheesh. And yet, Jake turns his nose up at peanut butter.
My dad used to love to throw one thing in my face all the time; it was the simple fact that as a young boy, I loved anchovies on pizza until I found out anchovy was a fish. He said when I was very young I ate all kinds of fish without complaint, but at some point decided I hated fish--this is something that pretty much continues to this day. I still remember the salty, strong and exotic taste anchovy brought to pizza, but I also remember the first time that, knowing it was fish, I really LOOKED at it and wondered exactly what part of the fish it was, etc... That's the problem, aside from stuff that really truly tastes bad, we also get too good at visualizing what we're really eating.
Every kid I've known has had a food phobia of some kind. The list includes green veggies of all kinds, onions, mushrooms; and even hamburgers, which I consider strong proof that aliens are among us. Some kids have grown out of it, some not, or not yet. I used to think "they don't know what they're missing" but I'm past that; each has favorite foods that they dream of in the perfect meal, so the beauty of food is not completely lost on them.
The plain truth is, there are some foods that you just don't want to know what's in it.
Other foods I loved as a child, but then "inexplicably" changed my mind:
Goat's Milk Fudge. I looked forward to road trips to the Smoky Mountains where you could get this until I found out it really does use goat's milk. I thought it was just a name. Like as in hamburger doesn't really use ham, etc. The thought of somebody pulling on those tiny little nipples, getting that "milk?," echhh!
Maypo. This was an early maple-flavored oatmeal and was really OK tasting. The problem was the advertising blitz featured animated spokesman "Marky Maypo." I got mercilously teased by everybody who knew my name. Somehow that changed the taste--it had to go.
Apple Pie. Loved it until I had some in which the cook didn't completely remove the core fiber-skin along with the seeds--the coarse sheath that surrounds the seeds is extremely unpleasant and spoils the texture. I just wrote-off the pie after that.
Bologna. For some reason, I can occasionally "forget" what's in hotdogs and sausage and still enjoy them, but the original discovery of what's in bologna has stayed with me. In a big way.
Tripe. Just kidding, I never, ever liked this--for God's sake, do you know what it is? Dear Lord...
I'm not a complete food snob, I still love a sandwich that never failed to gross out my lunch-mates at elementary school:
Liverwurst, swiss cheese, onion and mustard on dark pumpernickle. It was my Mom's recipe, made as always with love.
These days, I can remember anchovy with nostalgia and less distaste; maybe I'll put it on my bucket list to revisit one last time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Am Affronted

I thought we, as a society, had moved beyond simplistic blanket statements about race, gender, blondes, and so on. But no, I got a slap in the face while reading the latest issue of AARP magazine (don't laugh, there are some great articles, and most of the pictures are of people so old it makes me feel pretty darn good...). There I was, in my most sacred sanctum, the bathroom/library; when I came across a review of Rachel Getting Married. Not a movie I'd see, except under extreme duress from a female companion; but I do tend to read everything in magazines when I'm "in the zone on the throne," so to speak. This article described a scene-stealing moment by actor Bill Irwin, in which he demonstrates "men's nearly universal preoccupation with the one and only correct way to load a dishwasher."
Again, well.
I speak here for myself, but if I must, I will also stand up for my brethren as I am sure we are all equal in our… affrontedness. There is, in fact, Only One Correct Way To Load A Dishwasher. How, exactly, do I know this? Because I Read The Directions that came with the dishwasher. That's right. I am aware that we, as a gender, are also accused of Never Reading The Directions. I will have you know that on most occasions... OK, sometimes... well, maybe if they are short enough and it's mostly pictures, I do indeed Read The Directions.
But hey, I'm a flexible guy, so let's be clear here, my goal is not rigid conformity--I just want a clean spoon. If you load the spoons down in the silverware tray, they might, well, spoon, and the water and detergent can't clean. There are other corrollaries that apply to plates and tall glasses, but if you, dear reader, insist on poo-pooing The Directions, I will defer and move on.
How about related "baseless" stereotypes?
About Not Reading The Directions. There is a reason we men don't do it: it hurts. That's right, physical pain, of the excruciating variety. But we are stoic and don't want to let on, so we wing it and sometimes get it right without enduring the torture. And by the way, sending warranty cards in is for wimps.
About Not Asking For Directions When Driving. This one is simple, we men know what you women don't--after asking directions, the fellow we asked is snickering. Yes, snickering, which somehow translates into the aforementioned physical pain.
About Not Asking Directions When Shopping. It's a lot like driving, but having worked in a hardware store, I can tell you there is both snickering and mealy-mouthing.
About Our Tendancy To Collect Used Fabric Softener Sheets. You'd best let this one lie, at least I'm doing the laundry.
About Not Going To Chick Flicks. You've got it wrong--men don't mind a chick flick as long as it's a comedy. Take us to a downer and we might cry--'nuff said. And might I add, we need to destroy all copies of "The Notebook" immediately.
I may have to rethink reading the AARP mag if they persist in promoting these hurtful statements! Oh, who am I kidding--the wife won't let me take anything else in the bathroom for fear it will get "spotty," whatever that means. Maybe the next issue will deconstruct the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to insist on some older models... well, its a thought.
As far as "Rachel Getting Married," now I'll have to see it, just to make sure that guy got the dishwasher right.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A New Standard of Excess

I note there are many comments lately about the woman who had octuplets. I have to say, though I had a sense of awe and wonder over past years with the news of quints, sex- and even sep- tuplets, my immediate thought this time was a kind of disgust. Yes, mom is ecstatic (even though she already has 6 children) and her doctors are quite proud of themselves, but hey! We don't need to explore new territory on human proliferation. We have proven quite adept and successful at it and are in no danger of extinction (at least by procreation).

When I think about the struggle in "third world countries" to control population and thereby improve quality of life, I have to wonder about sloppy or at least careless human husbandry in "first world countries" where families apparently have no limits whatsoever (regardless of means to take care of kids). Ms Suleman, if you really wanted more kids, did you consider adoption? Doctors, if you gave her fertility treatments, can you really say you have no way of controlling or limiting the number of eggs fertilized, or were you literally going for a record? Despicable either way.

As population grows, we face food and water shortages, not to mention the carbon impact on global warming from the rampant growth of energy and resource consumers. More people, more pollution, and in case no one recently mentioned it, we tend to populate arable land, thus removing it from crop productivity. I just can't see any up-side to endless growth, unless it betters our chances of another Einstein--but would that really be worth it?

I'm happy the lady and her children are all well, please believe me. She hasn't broken any laws, legal, moral or ethical, at least as we westerners currently hold. But maybe we'd all do well to stop referring to this as the "Miracle" of childbirth and start calling it the "Inevitability" of childbirth. Maybe then we could look at this reasonably and avoid the population equivalent of global warming.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun

This blog is open, meaning anybody can find and access it using the right search words if they don't actually have the address. Although only the three of you have the address (and are automatically e-mailed when I post), I eventually got used to the idea of baring my soul a bit and fantasized about some random person seeing it and adding a comment. Actually, looking forward to it, even if it was unflattering or outright profanity. The idea of someone finding this blog out of the millions out there struck me as pretty cool.
The other day I thought I'd see how accessible it really is: I googled the phrase "The Truth Eludes Us" and found millions of hits. After looking through the first ten pages or so, and shooting ahead a few hundred at random, I could not find my blog. More telling, none of the hits I looked at were even part of a blog, let alone the title of one. So I googled the title and the word "blog;" again, I could not find my blog. OK, time to quit fooling around; I googled my blog title and the exact title of one of my posts, which I thought I made-up and was very distinct and original, "The Pavements of Summer," and told google to get the exact phrases. Now it gets interesting--my blog was on page 2, which means an entire page of entries contained these words/phrases and aced-out my blog. Most interesting was an article entitled "The Truth Eludes Us: The Pavements of Summer." It was about nuclear weapons, of all things. I was stunned on several levels:
First, that someone else strung those exact phrases together. Second, I thought I had come up with an original phrase "pavements of summer," I even played with different combinations of words before i decided these best described sidewalks. Last, how in the world do these phrases connect to nukes?
When I used these phrases, was I experiencing some sort of subconscious recall of random terms I came across in the distant past? Or is it possible that in the info age, there is truly nothing new under the sun, as postulated in no less a tome than the biblical book of Ecclesiastes?
There's more evidence of the latter...
--I have a daily e-mail reminder to use the commercial search engine from in order to enter in their various sweepstakes. It is puerile, I admit, but it's over quickly and maybe the prize patrol will come to my door and...but I digress. To get it over with, I often type nonsense words or random keyings into the keyboard and always get dozens or more results. The point is, I completely make up words, and they are in the web--try it!
--I use the name "Ambivius" for my blog name; when I created it, it was supposed to be a cutesy fusion of "ambivalent" and "oblivious." Guess what? Ambivius was an actual ancient Roman actor, and he gets 10,000 hits on google. Even if you spell it ambivious, which would have been a more correct fusion of the two words, you still get 139 hits.
--I've googled my name, who hasn't; and though I didn't find me, I really wasn't surprised there are many, many people with my first and last name, though many fewer with my middle initial --and I think I'm alone if I use my full middle name; but when googling my father Roy Austin Stephens, there are at least 6 out there and none of them are him. I mean come on-- ROY+AUSTIN+STEPHENS?
--Suffice to say, all of you, my children, have dopplegangers in the web--and I have found you all at least once among the many--a pleasant surprise!
Have you ever turned on the radio and the exact tune you were thinking about is playing? Or think about someone right before they call you on the phone, or better, pick up the phone before it rings and the person you were going to call is on the other end?
There is a whole school of philosophy whose premise is there are no coincidences, but if so, then what the heck does it all mean when something weird goes down?
I realize all of the above is explainable through finite sets of variables (i.e., name combinations) and vagaries of the mind--in fact, recently scientists have offered a complete, thorough and authoritative explanation for the experience of deja vu. And yet, I can't really accept that somewhere out there, in theory, millions of monkeys are at typewriters randomly key-punching in the exact replica of "War and Peace."